Sunday, September 8, 2013

Years within years: a service for "Children's Church"

There is no sermon this week. Instead, below is the complete liturgy of a service designed to mark the beginning of the school and to help integrate children from our Monday and Thursday afternoon church schools into Sunday worship -- Ian


Welcome and Announcements

The peace of Christ be with you . . .  Welcome to Sunday worship on this damp September day. Today for worship we are trying something different -- "Children's Church." As I mentioned over the spring and summer, I got this idea from Rev. Linda Tomlinson of Lafleche and Limerick.

All of us -- children and adults alike -- are welcome. I hope we will feel blessed by our time together. At the least, this will be a chance for us to experience a different way of worshipping.

Today, I focus on the word "year." The School Year has just begun, and for many of us -- even those who have not been in school for a long time -- the first week of September still feels like the start of a new year. Most of us are back at our normal routines after a beautiful summer.

As school begins again, we will think about all the different years we mark at the same time -- the calendar year, the year of farming, and above all, the church year. We will remember how marking the different seasons of the church year helps us to follow Jesus on his sacred path of faith, hope and love.

Just as in church school, we always begin by lighting the Christ Candle. The light of this candle could represent the love of Jesus, which guides us through all the years of our lives.


Call to Worship (sung together -- two times -- MV#21)

We are going to sing our call to worship today. We used this short hymn at church school this past spring . . . I will sing it through once, and show you the gestures we use with it. Then I will ask us all to stand and sing through this call to worship twice through. So . . . listen first

Open our hearts,
Open our minds,
Open our lives to you,
O loving God.

Thank you for trying that. Please be seated. And now an opening prayer. Let us pray . . .

Opening Prayer

Loving God, we begin with a moment in prayer not only because you are a loving God, but because you ARE Love. You are the one true God who is Love

In our worship today may we feel your loving presence
within us, between us, and all around.

Dear God, we are sorry that there are times when we don't act in love.
Forgive us, we pray, and help us to find our way back to your loving ways in our lives with family, friends and neighbours.

Help us as we work with others for a better world --
a world that will have greater peace, comfort, and love in it.

We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.


So today, we focus on the idea of a year. Before we do the activity that is found on page two of the bulletin, I have some questions for us. Feel free to speak up with an answer if you think you know it.

First, how long is a year? Anyone want to say? Right . . . 12 months. And how many days in one year? Right . . . 365.

Second, who was it that decided a year should be that long? That is, why is a year 365 days long and not maybe 300 days long or 400 or some other number?

Right -- one year measures the length of actual time it takes for the earth to orbit the sun once, which is 365 days. But it is not QUITE 365 days, is it? The actual number is 365 and one quarter days -- minus 11 minutes. The extra 1/4 day explains the need for us to have a leap year every four years. The minus 11 minutes means that our calendar does not observe a leap year in years divisible by 100, except in years that are also divisible by 400. Whew -- it is all very complicated.

Knowing the exact length of the year is important --  for farmers, to know when to plant seeds and when to harvest; and for the church to know when to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus almost 2,000 years ago now.

There is a lot of intricacy and beauty here . . . the steady rotation of the earth (24 hours to one day); the orbit of the earth around the sun (365.25 days); and the coming of the seasons.

So -- my final question -- why do we have seasons? Right! The axial tilt. My nephew Sean, who entered university this week, and who wants to study astronomy, knows how to explain all of this much better and more clearly than I can.

Thank you for thinking about these questions.

We observe a lot of different years all at the same time. There is the calendar year that runs from Jan to Dec; the school year, which runs from Sept to June; there is even a football year. For the CFL it starts with spring training camps; then a two-week exhibition season: a 19-week regular season: and a three-week playoff season that ends with the Grey Cup. That is followed by almost six months off.

The church has a year, and it is different yet again. We begin the church year with a four week season called Advent. It leads into the two-week-long season of Christmas, and so on. Today, we are going to compare the calendar year to the church year. I hope this will help us remember why it is that we come to church. But before I say more about this, I want us all to participate in an activity, which is printed in our bulletins.

Activity -- calendar year versus church year

In the two columns on page two, list five or so major events of 1) the "regular" or calendar year, and 2) the "church" year. Two obvious ones are already filled in as examples. The Calendar Year could include public events or events that are just for your own family . . .

Take a few minutes to write in these columns. Feel free to work in groups if you want. And remember, there are no wrong answers! Once everyone is finished, we will share some of the results . . .

So let's share some of our answers. What about the first column the Calendar year . . .

And what about the second column, the church year . . . . Lots of other things could be put in there, but those sound like the most important things to me.

Scripture readings and Hymn -- VU #352, "I danced in the morning"

The church year helps us remember the story of the life of Jesus. We remember his birth at Christmas, his baptism in the River Jordan, and what he said and did. We remember his long walk to Jerusalem with his friends, which is a season in the late winter and spring called Lent. We remember his final week in Jerusalem, where he was arrested, tried, and executed. We call this Holy Week. Finally, we remember how God raised Jesus to new life on the happiest of all days, Easter Sunday.

We follow Jesus' life every year in our Sunday services. It helps us to grow in love; to work together; and to remember how we are healed by the gifts of God.

There is a lot in the life of Jesus to remember. But did you know that the life of Jesus can be summarized in just one hymn? Next, we will sing such a hymn. It was popular when I was a child and it is called "I Danced in the Morning" or "Lord of the Dance."

We will hear two short Scripture readings about the origins and the birth of Jesus after which we will sing verse one. Then we hear another short reading in which Jesus calls his first followers, after which we will sing verse two. We will then hear a short reading about the death of Jesus, after which we will sing verse three. And finally, we will hear a reading about the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, after which we will sing the final two verses.

Reading: John 1 1-3 (in the beginning) and Luke 2 4-7 (the birth of Jesus)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made . . .

Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David. He went there with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the Inn.


I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came from heaven and I danced on the earth;
at Bethlehem I had my birth.


Dance, then, wherever you may be; I am the Lord of the dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the dance, said he.

Did you notice how that verse went from the very start of the universe with the stars and the sun and then leapt to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem? Before we sing verse two, we hear about Jesus calling his first followers.

Reading: Mark 1 16-20 (Jesus calls Peter, James and John)

[After Jesus was baptized by John and after his temptation in the desert, he] was walking by the Sea of Galilee.  There he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

When Jesus  had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Now we sing verse two . . .

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
but they would not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
they came with me and the dance went on.  REFRAIN

Now we leap ahead to near the end of the story, the terrible day called Good Friday when Jesus was killed.

Reading: Mark 15 25, 33-34, 37 (death of Jesus)

It was nine in the morning when they crucified Jesus . . . At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon [when] Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

Now we will sing verse three

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
the holy people said it was a shame;
they whipped and they stripped and they hung me high,
and left me there on a cross to die.  REFRAIN

We now hear a final reading before singing the final two verses. This reading tells the story of how God raises Jesus to new life.

Reading: John 20 1, 11-20 (resurrection of Jesus)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance . . .  Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out “Teacher”.

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the religious leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

And now we sing the final two verses . . .

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;
it's hard to dance with the devil on your back;
they buried my body and they thought I'd gone,
but I am the dance and I still go on.  REFRAIN

They cut me down and I leap up high;
I am the life that will never, never die;
I'll live in you if you'll live in me;
I am the Lord of the dance, said he.  REFRAIN

So there you have it. One hymn that tells the whole life of Jesus in five verses. Of course, it doesn't cover nearly everything. But it does remind us of key moments in Jesus' life. This is what we do in church each Sunday as we go through the church year. We hear stories of Jesus. And reflect on how those stories show us the grace and love that helps us live our lives today.

Today, we mark the beginning of a new school year. We have also remembered how the church year helps us to live our lives as followers of Jesus.

Each year may bring us problems or times of pain, but it also brings us moments of joy and love. Any year, is one in which we can remember God's love as shown to us in Jesus. It is this love which heals us and saves us. It is this love which raises us in any moment to new life in Christ.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Friends, let us now commit ourselves in service,
as we worship God with our offering.

We Gather our Offerings

* sung offertory response:   (VU #542)
     We give you but your own, what e'er the gift may be;
     all that we have is yours alone; we give it gratefully.

* Offertory Prayer

Prayers of the People

And now let us pray . . . .

O God, there is so much in life for which we are grateful.
We give thanks for family and friends.
We give thanks for church in which to meet other people who seek to know your love and to learn how to live together in love.
We give thanks for stories and hymns that remind us of the life of Jesus.
In Jesus and in his life, we are reminded of how in all of life's troubles,
You offer us new life that. It is a life within your Love, O God.

Despite your presence, O God, our lives are sometimes troubled.
Today, some of us may be feeling sad.
We may be frightened because someone we know if sick.
We may be confused about how to handle situations at home or school.
We turn to you, O God, for guidance.
Show us the way of Jesus, and help us, we pray,
to know what how to act in tough situations.

Forgive us, we pray, when we stumble or do something we regret.

Today, we pray for people who especially need to be aware of your presence.
We pray for the people of Syria who are suffering from a terrible civil war.
We pray that our leaders will find a way to respond to the violence in Syria a without adding to the violence and making things worse.

The world needs your peace, O God.
Help us to build peace in our families, in Canada, and all around the world.

As we seek peace with justice, we know that we can rely on your Spirit. Let us now take a moment in silence as we listen to the small but mighty voice of your Spirit . . .

May we be inspired but what we have heard to be the people you want us to be, O God.

And all of this we pray in the name of the Risen Christ, our Redeemer and our Hope who taught us to pray together . . .

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever – Amen.


To finish our worship service, we are going to sing a song that we first learned in August. People seemed to like it, so we are going to sing it again this morning. In that way, we should know it even better.

* Hymn: MV #142, "Oh a Song Must Rise"

REFRAIN  Oh a song must rise for the Spirit to descend;
  a song must rise once again
  Singing out God’s praises and glory the faithful voices blend
  Oh a song must rise for the Spirit to descend

From the mountains to the valleys from the desert to the sea
 a song must rise once again.
From the voices of our leaders the voice of you and me
 a song must rise for the Spirit to descend -- REFRAIN

From poverty and riches from the voice of young and old
 a song must rise once again.
 From the free and the imprisoned the timid and the bold
 a song must rise for the Spirit to descend -- REFRAIN

From every house of worship in every faith and tongue
 a song must rise once again
 From the villages and cities a new song must be sung
 a song must rise for the Spirit to descend -- REFRAIN

* Benediction
And dear friends, as we leave this sacred time and place, we go into the world knowing that we do so with the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit both now and always. Amen.

* Sung Amen  (VU #958)

Halle, Halle, Halle . . .

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