We are being asked to do some “social distancing”: staying at home as much as possible, and maintaining physical distance (minimum 2m/6ft) from people from other households when we’re out. Some of us are in “quarantine”: staying at home for 2 weeks because we’ve recently traveled outside Manitoba, or because we think we might have been exposed to COVID-19. None of us, yet, are in “self-isolation,” but that might come: staying home because we have contracted the virus.
This is hard, but necessary, for us to follow these mandates from health officials. How can we stay connected with other people, people we love? How can we stay connected as a church, our community of faith whom we love?
Here are a few ideas. These move from lower-tech to higher-tech, but even if you’re not a “techie,” read on! You can figure this out, or we or someone you know can help you.
1) You can pray. Maybe that sounds “too spiritual” in a time of pandemic. But we believe that we are all connected by the Spirit who is within us and among us, and when we pray, even with “wordless groans” because we don’t have the words, the Spirit works within us and among us, across any distance, to bring encouragement and strength and comfort and peace and joy (Romans 8:14-39). Please pray for each other. Pray by name, recalling each face. And see the church website for some prayer resources just posted today.
2) You can call someone up and go for a walk with them. Social distancing measures mean that people from different households should maintain a 2m/6ft distance between each other. But you can still walk and talk 2 metres apart! As the weather gets warmer, take advantage of that by going for a walk with a friend from church.
3) You can call someone up on your phone and talk. You can send them a text or an email and start a conversation thread with them that way. That MMCer who sits on the same pew as you? That friend from church you haven’t talked with for a couple weeks? Contact them and ask how they’re doing, what they’re up to, what they’re reading/crafting, what they’re thinking about through all this.
We were in the middle of updating our church directory when COVID-19 hit. Our 2018 directory is our most current. If you have any changes to the directory since then—you’re not in it but you’d like to be, you’re in it but you’d like to not be, you’ve moved or changed phone or email since then—please let Robyn know in the church office.
4) You can keep up with church notices, find church resources, and participate in church “virtual worship services” online.
The church Facebook page is updated most often with updates and links. If you’re on Facebook, go to our Facebook page here and click to “Like” and “Follow” Morden Mennonite Church. If you “Like” and “Share” individual posts, more people will see them. If you find you are not seeing all MMC’s Facebook posts, you can go to “News Feed Preference” under “Settings,” and add Morden Mennonite Church to your “Prioritise who to see first” list.
The church website is where the “virtual worship services” will be posted each week. This website is also the main online hub for information about “COVID-19 and MMC,” for resources for spiritual growth during this time of physical separation, and the like. Church services and resources are under “Blog/Sermons/Services,” and COVID-19 updates are under “COVID-19 and MMC.”
If you want an email update every time the church website is updated, you can sign up for that service: scroll down, the sign-up is on the right side.
5) You can meet together virtually by video call. This allows you to see the other person’s face, to see their smiles and facial expressions. Have someone else (or a whole family!) “over to your house” for after-supper tea by video call. Play a game with someone else by video call. Knit together with someone else by video call. Have a book club by video call. Read Scripture or pray together by video call. Care groups, set a time aside each week when you meet up by video call. Committees, consider using Zoom to meet.
Here are a few options, with links to “how-to” information and videos:
+ FaceTime (for Apple products): info here
+ Facebook Messenger (for both Apple and Android): info here
+ Zoom (especially good for multiple individuals to meet, free for short meetings): info here
Let’s stay connected as a church! Grace and peace to you through these trying times.
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 virtually in this service of worship.
Preparing for Worship
We continue our Lenten journey with Jesus on this Fourth Sunday of Lent. The theme for this Sunday is “Show Us Our Blindness and Restore Our Sight.”
If you are able, consider lighting three 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 three of them so far.
Call to Worship
Here is the Call to Worship based on Psalm 23 and led by Esther J. Please read along below as you listen.
Leader: The Lord is our shepherd!
People: We have everything we need.
Leader: God leads us beside peaceful waters and right paths,
comforting us through the valleys of despair,
and preparing for us a rich feast.
People: We have more than we need.
Leader: God anoints us for healing, strengthening, gifting, and blessing.
People: Our cups overflow with goodness and mercy.
All: We will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Listen to Linda P. playing “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” This was a piece that Ruth D. had commented to Linda that she had especially appreciated when Linda played it during a worship service last year.
Our generosity is a reflection of the depth of our experience of God’s grace. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Cor 8:1-2).
If you would like to keep up your church giving by cheque or cash, you can mail your cheque to the church office. You can also 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.
Confession & Assurance
Here is the Confession & Assurance led by Esther J. Please read along below as you listen.
Leader: The Lenten season calls us to reflection and repentance. Let us confess together.
God, we confess that we are quick to judge others
and not acknowledge our own sins and weaknesses. (Pause)
We confess that we do not always follow your example
because immorality, impurity, and greed are part of our lives,
and obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes come from our lips.
God, we need your light to shine on us
to expose the things we say and do that are not pleasing to you. (Pause)
Forgive us our sins. (Pause)
Though your hearts were once filled with darkness,
now you are full of the light of the Lord.
This light within you produces what is good and right and true.
Let the Holy Spirit fill you and move you.
Walk in the light for now you can see.
All: Thanks be to God!
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 Worship Committee: Tina H. (chair), Lora B., Margie H., Elsie W., and Michael P. Pray for them as they adapt to our changed circumstances with the suspension of in-person worship services.
Those facing significant personal challenges. Let’s especially remember Jake D., Andrea D., Carri and Steve and Thomas and Sam and Aidan K., and Mike and Jess and Ellis and Ruthie D., as they grieve Ruth’s passing this past week. May they 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 be open to new ways of seeing: seeing ourselves, seeing one another, seeing the world, seeing God with fresh eyes. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
Here is a prayer that seems especially relevant to us in our times. This is HWB 729, read by Loretta L.
Listen to Thomas K. play “Vocalise” by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Although this recording is from an earlier time, Thomas played this yesterday at his beloved Nana’s memorial service – our beloved sister in Christ, Ruth D.
Here is the Scripture Reading from John 9:1-41, adapted from The Voice translation. The Scripture is read by Esther J. (narrator), Joel K. (Jesus), Erin K. (disciple, formerly blind man, blind man’s parent), Milo K. (person, religious leader), and Jude K. (another person, another religious leader).
Note that John’s Gospel speaks negatively of “the Jews” and “the Pharisees.” This is not a reference to all Jews through history and today; the author of John’s Gospel himself was likely a Jew, and of course Jesus was a Jew. Rather, in John’s Gospel “the Jews” and “the Pharisees” are a kind of caricature, highlighting negative characteristics of some religious leaders in Jesus’ day in order to make a point about Jesus.
This colouring page has been created by Nata Silina and was downloaded from SuperColoring.com according to Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.
Here is Michael’s meditation on our Scripture texts: “Show Us Our Blindness and Restore Our Sight!”
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 a time when you felt like, “I once was blind, but now I see”?
Are you open to God showing you some “blind spots” you might have in your life, where you are not seeing things as they truly are?
What might you do this week to connect with God and affirm God’s presence in your life?
Extinguishing the Light
During Lent we are extinguishing one candle each Sunday as we follow Jesus toward the cross. Here Esther J. leads us in this. Please read along below as you listen. If you lit three candles at the beginning of the service, you can extinguish one during the pause in Esther’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 Esther J.
Go into this week with this song in your heart and on your lips. This is “Open Our Eyes, Lord,” from Divine Hymns. This song was chosen for us by Loretta T.
We continue our Lenten journey with Jesus on this Third Sunday of Lent. The theme for this Sunday is “Show Us Your Living Water in Barren Deserts.” This Sunday, some of our Morden Mennonite youth led us in worship, led in turn by Kristy. Because some were unable to join us this Sunday due to health concerns, we are including several recordings from the service here. Grace and peace to you all!
Prelude (music by the youth, led by Loretta and Joel)
Call to Worship (led by Kristy, Sara, and Matthew)
Song of Praise (HWB 55 “Let’s Sing unto the Lord,” led by Lora, Joel, and Irene)
Confession & Assurance with Special Music (led by Kristy and Rylee; music by Adalynne)
Scripture Reading (John 4:5-42; adapted from The Voice, read by Milo, Ian, and Coral)
Meditation (“Show Us Your Living Water in Barren Deserts,” Kristy, with reading by Jude and Milo)
Closing, Benediction, and Sending Song (led Kristy and Rylyn; “Here by the Water” led by the youth with Loretta and Joel)
As a precaution against the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with Manitoba Health guidelines and directives:
The church building is closed to public access until further notice. If you need access to the building for a necessary purpose, please contact the church office or one of the pastors.
All in-person worship services, events, and meetings are suspended until further notice. In lieu of in-person Sunday morning services, we are providing “virtual worship services” online at “Blog/Sermons/Services.” Those without internet access can get these on CD—please contact the church office to receive these.
Church staff continue to serve, working from home or, as necessary, the office. If you have a question or need assistance, please contact the church office at (204) 822-7450 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The pastors are available directly by cell or email.
Church committees, care groups, and other church groups which need to communicate collaboratively are encouraged to use alternatives to in-person meetings. If an email conversation is not ideal, online platforms such as Zoom can provide free video or audio communication for multiple persons.
We encourage you to continue to worship God in faith and hope and serve one another in love. Participate in our online worship services and Zoom prayer meetings and Bible studies. Check in with others, especially those with mental health concerns, compromised immunity, ongoing health conditions, and the most elderly. The Church Ministries Committee (including the pastors) has noted those among us who are most at risk of severe symptoms from this virus. They will be checking in with these people periodically to see how they are doing, what they might need, and so on. If you would like this regular contact from the church but are not receiving it, please contact the church office.
We encourage you to continue your regular giving to the church. Staff and bills still need to be paid, and many programs and services continue as always or are being adapted to changing needs. You can mail a cheque to the church. You can contact the church office if you would like to have someone pick up your offering. There is also the option of giving electronically if you have an Access Credit Union account. Check the church website under “Online giving through Access Credit Union” or contact the church office for more information.
These decisions are being made collaboratively by Lisa B. (Church Council Chair) and Michael P. (Lead Pastor), in consultation with Church Council and the Church Ministries Committee (including Associate Pastors). They are monitoring Manitoba Health guidelines on a regular basis, consulting with other local church leaders and church leaders at other Mennonite Church Manitoba churches, and paying attention to how other local groups are responding to this pandemic.
A Letter from Pastor Michael: March 17, 2020
Dear Morden Mennonite Church family,
Grace and peace to you through our Lord Jesus Christ.
These are challenging times!
As the calendar turned to 2020, few if any of us could have guessed we would be facing a worldwide pandemic in March. This is a serious situation, and we are taking it seriously. I am grateful to God for our governments, health authorities, and medical professionals, along with our church leadership, who are working hard to respond to COVID-19 with competence and compassion. Please pray for them.
I am reminded that God’s people have been through dire situations before. Jesus himself “took our infirmities and bore our diseases,” Matthew 4:17 says, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, when Jesus walked in compassionate solidarity with the sick and disabled and brought comfort and healing. Since then, and even before, God has walked with humanity through even the worst of pandemics. Each time, God has called God’s people to draw near to God, to trust in God wholeheartedly and to love one another courageously.
Although we are suspending church worship services and events, this does not mean “the church is closed.” Remember, we are the church—all of us, you and me and every other MMCer, even “all who follow Jesus, all around the world.” The building is not the church, and Sunday morning services are not all that the church is about.
We are still the church even when we are not worshiping together on a weekly basis. We can still share songs and prayers, Scripture and teaching, blessings and more—which we will do through our church website. We can still love God through our worship, listening for God’s voice together and responding in faith and hope and love.
We are still the church even when we are not gathering together regularly. We can still communicate with each other by phone or electronically. We can still lift each other up in prayer and offer encouragement to each other. We can still be attentive to each other’s needs, especially those who are most vulnerable at this time. We can still love one another.
We are still the church even when we are not rubbing shoulders with others. We can still keep an eye out for our neighbour next door, especially if they are elderly or are already facing health challenges. We can still pray for our neighbours, for our community, for our world. We can still love our neighbours as ourselves.
We are still the church. May we continue to walk together on this journey with Jesus, whatever may come, in faith (not fear) and hope (not despair) and love (especially for our most vulnerable neighbours).
A meditation by Michael Pahl on the Second Sunday of Lent, March 8, 2020, called “Show Us Your Faithful, Loving Presence.” It’s a reflection on the story of Abram’s call in Genesis 12:1-4 and Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in John 3:1-17, part of our Lenten series called, “show us…”
Here is a brief written excerpt from the conclusion:
Of course, the danger in telling stories like that of Albert Schweitzer, or Abram, or even Nicodemus, is that we might think, “Well, they were special—I’m no Abraham, no Albert Schweitzer!”
That’s true, you’re not. You are you, not anyone else. You are you, just as God created you to be.
But we all have times when God calls us to a new thing. A new home. A new job. A new school. A new neighbour. A new boss. A new teacher. A new reality in our family. A new reality in our health. A new reality in our church.
These new things bring challenges. They bring changes. They are hard. Even when these new things are good, even when we’ve longed for them to come, they are still hard.
But often, right in the midst of that new thing, if we’re ready to see it, God shows up. God shows up, and God invites us to a new journey of faith, a journey of discovery, discovering a deeper experience of God’s presence, a deeper understanding of who God is, who we are, and who God created us to be.
Here’s the paradox in this. God is “the One who was, who is, and who is to come,” as Revelation 1:4 declares. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” as Hebrews 13:8 affirms. The One who created all things in the beginning is the One who sustains all things even now. God is the unchanging God.
And yet God is also the God of new creation, the One who calls out through the Prophet Isaiah, “Behold, I do a new thing!” (Isa 43:19), and through the Prophet John, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev 21:5). God is the One who has revealed God’s self in new ways in Jesus: John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made God known.”
In Jesus we discover both God’s faithful, loving presence at all times, and God’s invitation to new ways of being, thinking, and doing. Through the Spirit of God, the Breath and Wind of God, that always-present presence, that never-containable energy, we find the inner strength and security in God’s love which we need to walk through every new thing that comes our way.
The unchanging God has promised us, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb 13:5)—even through the changes life brings.
May we, like Abram and Nicodemus, be open to moving out of the familiar and comfortable places in our lives as God invites us to new challenges, new ways of being, thinking, and doing. And as we respond to this invitation, may God show us, as God showed Abram and Nicodemus, a deeper experience of God’s presence, a deeper understanding of who God is, and who we can become. Amen.
Join us for three Thursday evenings during March for our Lent Bible Study: “Reading the Bible from the Bottom.” March 5, 12, and 26, 7:30 pm, in our upper foyer (an accessible space). All are welcome!
The Bible was written by people who had known enslavement, conquest, exile, oppression, and imprisonment, and it includes stories of women and children, slaves and foreigners, and other often powerless people. Join Pastor Michael as we learn to hear the voices of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed—the voice of Jesus, in other words—in the pages of the Bible.
A meditation by Michael Pahl on the First Sunday of Lent, March 1, 2020, called “Show Us Your Hiding Place.” It’s a reflection on the story of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11, part of our Lenten series called, “show us…”
Here is a brief written excerpt:
Let me ask you: Where is God in this story?
I know, I know, someone will say, “Well, Jesus is God.” But—and don’t let this shock you too much—that isn’t how Luke portrays Jesus. Jesus is portrayed by Luke as walking in all of our humanness, all our human vulnerabilities. Jesus is portrayed by Luke as the fully Human One.
Here in the desert, as with Jesus down the road in Gethsemane, as with Jesus further down the road on the cross, God does not seem to be in the story. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cries out to God in agony, bleeding through his pores: “God, take this cup from me!” On the cross of Golgotha, Jesus cries out to God in abandonment, bleeding from his wounds: “God, why have you forsaken me!”
For Jesus in those moments, as here in the desert, God seems totally absent.
At home we have a plaque made for us by a family friend for our wedding over 25 years ago. It lists several of the names of God in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. There is Jehovah Jireh, “God Who Provides.” There is Jehovah Rapha, “God Who Heals.”
Isaiah 45:15 gives another name for God, a name which you’re not likely to find in any of these lists of names of God. The name Isaiah gives God there is this: “Truly, you are ‘God Who Hides.’”
How’s that for a name of God: “God Who Hides.” God is “The Hidden God.” Anyone else relate to that? Can anyone else here confess with Isaiah, “Truly, God is ‘God Who Hides’”? I know I can.
But “The Hidden God” is not “The Absent God.” Was God with Jesus in Gethsemane? Was God with Jesus on the cross? Was God with Jesus in the desert? The answer, we say by faith, has got to be “Yes.”
In our Gospel text this morning, you can catch a glimpse of the Hidden God in the opening words of the story: “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” Luke’s Gospel emphasizes God’s presence with Jesus even more strongly: “Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.”
The Spirit of God—the invisible presence of the Hidden God—was with Jesus all the way.
The description of God as “Spirit” is one of my favourite descriptions of God in the Bible. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the word for “spirit” is ruach. In the Greek New Testament, the word is pneuma. Both words literally mean “breath” or “wind.” The Spirit is the very breath of God, the wind of God, the invisible, moving presence of God.