Somewhere over the rainbow (Brad Childs)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am  , 2022
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering  as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Glynnis McCrostie
Elder: Jane de Caen

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: We see light, hope, joy;
P: We bring heart, soul, mind and body; we share blessings and fears;
L: We bring faith and doubt.
P: With all that we are and all that we have, let us worship God.

Opening praise: O come to the altar

Prayers of approach and confession

Lord God, you are the one true God. To know you is life eternal, and to serve you is joy and peace. You have created all that is, and the whole universe rejoices in your majesty and power as its maker. Your glory is above the earth and the heavens, and yet you have chosen to live among us, and to raise up your Son for our salvation. For this we give you praise and adoration, not perhaps as we ought, but as we are able.

God of love, your son gave his disciples one commandment: that they should love one another as he loved them. We claim to love you, but we struggle with loving the people we see around us each day, not to mention those far away. On the one hand your command sounds easy. But it is not. We struggle to forgive; let alone “love” those who have hurt us. We expect so much from others, but little from ourselves. And quite frankly some of our “neighbors” in this world are actually much harder to love than others. But that shouldn’t really matter.

Sin fills the alleyways here and abroad. People seek war, torture, violence of every kind. Women are held under violence, violators and oppressors. How does one “love” these neighbors? Too often we have to admit that we don’t really know. That kind of love eludes us. And that is why we ask for help. Because, our care is often shallow but our desire for love is deep, our concern for others is thin but our wants great, and demands for patience endless but our tempers short.

So, forgive us and help us to grow in love for you and one another. Help us even to love those who seem unlovable. Perhaps that is how we end circles of violence. Forgive us and make us anew.

Response: We come to ask Your forgiveness

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

Hear and believe the good news, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, the old life is gone and the new life has come.  We do not need to be perfect. We cannot be. And so he had to be perfect for us. In Him, You are forgiven… forgive one another, and be the new creation you were called to be.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: He’s got the whole world in His hands

Story: God has the world in God’s hands but God does that by using our hands to do the good work that needs to be done.

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: Great is Thy faithfulness

Today’s Message

Scripture readings: Psalm 147 and  Revelation 21: 1-6

Response: He heals the broken-hearted

Homily: “Somewhere over the rainbow”

When it was released during Hollywood’s golden year of 1939, The Wizard of OZ was not the perennial classic it has since become. The film did respectable business. It received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, but only won two: Best Song and Musical Score. It wasn’t until its debut on television that this family favorite saw its popularity soar. The (AFI) American Film Institute recently ranked the adaptation of the L. Frank Baum’s novel as the sixth best move of all time. Part of the film’s allure is the simple, yet fantastic, story.

In the story, Eleven year old Dorothy Gale (an orphan from Omaha, Nebraska) goes to live with her Aunt and Uncle in Kansas. There she becomes understandably dissatisfied with her dull grey life. After a run in with a local woman (Miss Gultch), Dorothy dreams of some place “over the rainbow” where life is better than her current situation. Her auntie Emily encourages her by saying, “Why don’t you find a place where there isn’t any trouble” Talking to her dog, Dorothy replies, “A place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? Oh, there must be. But it’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train or a car. It’s far, far away; behind the moon, beyond the rain.”

Because of all the turmoil in her life, Dorothy decides to run away. But after a change of mind she gets caught up by a tornado before she can reach the storm cellar doors. When she awakens, she finds that she, Toto, and the farmhouse have landed in a faraway place called “Munchkin Land”. And that is when you notice it. It: the dull grey of the black and white film has gone. Now the movie is bright and bursting with vibrant colors.

From there on I would bet that most of us know the story. In her quest to return home, Dorothy sets off for the Emerald City to meet the mysterious miracle worker, the Wizard of OZ. Along her journey down the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy meets the Tim Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. All are dissatisfied with their own lives as well and believe they can find what they are looking for in the Emerald City. Of course everything works out for the best in the end and they all find what they were seeking after.

Is there a place called OZ? Is there really an Emerald City… A city made of precious gems with golden streets? This is the true theme of the Baum’s book. Whether or not Dorothy actually traveled there in the film or if she just experiences a dream is left up to the audience. At the films end we are supposed to wonder if there is such a place… a place where there isn’t any trouble.

A couple of months ago, my friend Ross Lockhart was here. He’s at Vancouver School of Theology. And he made a joke that I found a little odd. I’ve heard him tell it before. He said that it’s hard to preach heaven in Vancouver because people in Vancouver think they already live there. On the one hand there is a lot of truth in that statement. On the other… I’m not so sure. Yeah there are bright flowers everywhere, but there’s also a lot of grey. And really no matter where we live: Vancouver or the North West Territories, Hawaii or Alaska, the world will always have it’s dark days. More to the point, so will the lives of all the people that live there. Pain, loss, financial woes, disease, age, death, tears… we can’t escape these things. The cold hard truth is that we all live in L Baum’s picture of the real world made all the more real by the image of a monochromatic grey Kansas.

We tend to live in the grey. And we too, often long for The Emerald City – a place with where there isn’t any trouble. A place where every tear will be wiped away forever and death and mourning and pain are gone.

Somewhere around 65AD John of Patmos found himself in exile from Rome. Tacitus had taken him and many others perceived as political threats, out to the three largely uninhabited Sporades, (Northern Greek Islands). John was left stranded on one of these three. It was called Patmos. There he stayed on a tiny island feeling hungry and lost; imprisoned for his faith with a few others. Elsewhere Christians were being hunted down and killed. They had turned to Christ to find love and forgiveness and because of that they also found hatred and intolerance and death.

Confused, in hiding or on the run Christian people were terrified. And they needed a word of encouragement. They too were looking for “a place where there isn’t any trouble”. John wrote specifically to the Christian communities. But it wasn’t all encouraging. He addressed his letter to 7 ancient churches. He has kind and harsh words to speak. But in it too he reminds them all that the suffering that they face in this grey world is not the end… he tells them that someday they will find themselves standing in a city like no other; made of precious stone. He told them they would walk streets of gold, and that tears and pain would be nothing but a fuzzy memory of some far off place lost and never to be found again. He tells them of a place where even “death would be no more”.

John tells them that God will provide a place of solace; “a new heaven and a new earth”… a holy city, and a new Jerusalem to replace the one of smoldering ashes.

Now it bears mentioning that John has a vision of heaven given to him by God, but we would be mistaken if we were to take what he says exactly at face value. Now that might sound strange coming from my lips but there is good reason for saying so. You see, John doesn’t mean all of this to be taken exactly at face value. Most of his images aren’t meant to be taken literally.  In fact, he’s not really sure what he’s talking about either. See John has a vision of heaven but… he admits freely that it’s beyond explanation.

Repeatedly he writes, “it seemed like” and “something similar too” and “what looked like”. Yes, he talks about gates of pearl and precious stones (emerald city anyone) and golden streets (yellow brick road anyone), but he does so because he lacks the ability to describe the full and true beauty he sees. It seems the Apostle Paul was correct 20 years earlier when he wrote that “no mind can possibly fathom what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Last year I came across this story. It’s about a Christian who somehow got obsessed with the idea of taking some of his wealth to heaven. Now he knew the Bible clearly teaches that you can’t take it with you. But so obsessed was he with this desire, that he just prayed & prayed & prayed that God would give him permission to take some of his wealth to heaven with him.

Finally, his persistence in prayer paid off. God spoke to him & said, “Okay, enough already! You can take one suitcase with you into heaven.”
Next the man finds himself in deep thought. “What do I take?” he thought. “What are the most valuable things that I can put into my suitcase?”
Well, he finally decided, & filled his suitcase full. Then one day he died, & when next we see him, he is slowly approaching the pearly gates dragging his suitcase behind him.

Peter met him there at the gate & said, “Wait a minute. What do you think you’re doing? You’re not allowed to take anything into heaven.” But the man answered, “You don’t understand. I have special permission from God Himself to take this suitcase and its contents into heaven with me.” Paul just happened to be walking by and stopped to listen to this curious conversation.

Peter rubbed his beard & said, “Well, that’s very unusual. I can’t imagine God letting you do that. Let me look inside your suitcase & see what’s there.” So the man dragged the suitcase over, & Peter opened it to see that it was filled with gold bars.

Peter said, “Well, all right. If God said so, I suppose you can take that in if you want.” Peter looked over at Paul and shrugged as the man began to drag his heavy suitcase towards the gate. Curious Paul shouted out to Peter, “Well… what is it? What’s he got in there” To which Peter replied, “Pavement”.

John assures his readers that there is a heaven, a place where there isn’t any trouble and that it is unimaginably better than anyone could ever describe. Where it’s so good that Gold is like dirt. The reality is that… Heaven is far greater than Dorothy or the author L Frank Baum could possibly dream it to be, and far greater even than John can possible fathom as he attempts to describe the indescribable.

John’s vision of Heaven is beyond the imagination… even his. And he’s seen it.

 

He says things like, “there is no longer a sea”. Now while that might sound odd for us today, that was a huge statement for him. Often the sea in the scriptures represents evil or at least the way evil entered into the world. It’s often a stand in for chaos. And it’s also the thing that keeps John stuck on that island in exile. It’s the thing that causes him most pain and keeps him from the people he loves.

John essentially says, nothing will taint this new city. And it’s there that God will “wipe away every tear”. It’s there that death and mourning will no longer be.

For literally two thousand years, people have read John’s words (usually in places or persecution or at funerals) and dreamed of a land beyond the rainbow… beyond the rain. For two thousand years people have dreamt about what it might be like to leave the dull and the grey behind and enter into a perfect heaven beyond description.

It is a wonderful gift God gave the church through John. It is a dream worth having. It’s the reality that somewhere out there, God has built a perfect home for us. But here’s the twist.

John writes, “I saw” this “coming down out of heaven” … “out” of heaven; “down”… to earth.

See John’s vision is not just some distant heaven – somewhere beyond the rainbow; eternally beyond reach. John’s vision is of a new heaven and new earth – together as one. That’s the end game. That’s the ultimate plan. It’s never been about perfection out there somewhere. It’s always been about perfection here. That was the whole point of Eden. And we messed it up in the very first few pages of the scriptures and the whole rest of the book is about this one things… how do we get in?

Now I’m not saying don’t look forward to a bright and colorful world beyond – somewhere in the heavenly realms. I’m not telling you to forget about that place out there where God is perfectly present and tears and pain are no more. I’m telling you just the opposite. I’m telling you, yes, dream of that place.

But I’m also saying this, lets it make happen here. Even if it’s just on some small scale, some foretaste of what’s to come. Let’s create that place here today. Let’s build that kind of city here. Let’s build that place where Heaven comes down to Earth now. That’s where God is going with all of this anyway. So, let’s make that place where heaven and earth collide happen.

And now is when I get really honest.

I don’t have a clue what that might mean for you. I don’t know how you might do that. But I know that you can. Maybe it’s really complicated. I know a guy (he used to the CEO of San Stores Canada. After the death of his wife, he invested in the stock market only to give the interest away to charities each year. I know this rather odd guy that goes out during rush hour, just so he can let other drivers in when other people aren’t. I know a lady that carries subway sandwich cards with her wherever she goes so that if someone asks her for change she can feed them without concern. I know a woman that when she goes to a coffee shop she puts up a little sign that says, Available For Prayer.

Now we may not know what Heaven looks like exactly… but that seems like a pretty good start to me.

Maybe you find some way to provide a smile this week for someone that cries. Maybe you find some way to momentarily turn someone’s mourning into dancing (even if just for a moment). Maybe you just smile a little more, or let someone in line in front of you at the store, or leave $5 for the lady coming up after you at the drive through, maybe you decide today to do something really big! Or maybe you just determine call someone you care about to remind them that their loved.

I don’t know what it might look like for you. It will no doubt look different for all of us. But this week, I’d like to challenge you to do one thing each day to make Dorothy’s dream, John’s vision, real and present in the here and now, this side of yellow brink road.

This week may we all praise the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. May we hold with certitude, the presence of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven set aside for those who love him. And may we strive not just to reach that heaven someday, but also to bring some small piece of that heaven, down here to earth. Amen.

Song: There’s a spirit in the air

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission. For those in the sanctuary, if you have offering envelopes with you, simply put them in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary as you leave the service today.

Prayer of gratitude

Lord, let our congregation be a witness to you:

  • immersed in scripture,
  • onstant in prayer,
  • joyful in worship,
  • generous in giving.
  • A loving, supportive community reaching out to those in need.

You have been a blessing to us and have blessed us beyond measure,

Held us to remember that we are called to be a blessing to others.

Lord Accept these gifts we offer to your Bride the Church that we might use all that we have in accordance with your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Transition Music

Prayer for others and ourselves

Loving God, in Jesus Christ you teach us to pray and to present our petitions to you in his name.  Guide us by your Holy Spirit, that our prayers for others may

  • serve your will
  • and show your love for all.

Gracious God, you have called together a people to be the church of Jesus Christ.

May your people be one in faith and discipleship, breaking bread together, and telling good news to everyone we meet so that the world may believe you are love, turn to your ways, and live in the light of your truth as we build your kingdom here on earth.

Creator God, you made all things and called them good.  May your planet earth be held in reverence by all people.  May its resources be used wisely and its fragile balance between life and death respected.

Eternal Ruler, in your mighty realm the nations rise and fall.  Hear our prayers for those who rule the nations, that they may learn wisdom and truth, establish justice and mercy, and seek the ways of peace even when it seems impossible to do so.

Ever faithful, you have knit us together as one body in Christ, those who have been your people in all times and places.  Keep us in communion with your saints following the examples of faith and life which they set before us, and help us to do the same for the next generation of believers.

Bring us to the joy which you have prepared for us.

Eternal God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, we now take a moment from the business of the world and we rest in silence. As we do, Lord bring the names and the faces of those most in need of our prayers to mind. Let us see them and think on them and pray for them now.

Perfect Father, we lift up those most dear to us. We present them to you. And we ask much in your name. Stregthen your people, show us which paths to follow, which people need our care and provide us with the gifts needed to affect their lives.

Lord, please accept the prayers of your people, and strengthen us to do your will and bring heaven and earth together; through Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Song: Love divine all loves excelling

Sending out with God’s blessing

“May the Father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own time and way everlastingly happy.”

Response: Amen! We praise your name, O God

Music postlude

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Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specified licenses with One Licence and CLC.

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.