Sunday ZOOM (from the Sanctuary Message “Ministry – and a challenge for Dayspring”

We gather to worship God

 Music prelude

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

Opening words
L: O sing to the Lord a new song
P: Sing to the Lord, bless his name
L: Declare his glory among the nations
P: For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised

Opening praise: Here I am to Worship

Call to worship
L: Give the king thy justice O Lord
P: For he delivers the needy

L: He has pity on the weak and needy
P: From oppression and violence he redeems their life
L: May there be abundance of grain in the land
P: On the tops of the mountains may it wave

Prayers of approach and confession
Holy God, we come before you this morning in praise and adoration.  We marvel at your creation and the beauty of the changing seasons.  We take pleasure in the rejuvenation that is occurring around us as winter transitions into spring.  Praise and glory be to you who created all of this out of nothing.  Praise and glory be to the wisdom of your only begotten Son who redeemed the world with his blood.  Praise and glory be to the Holy Spirit who moves unencumbered wherever she wishes and enlightens the world in faith.  We particularly praise you at this time of Easter that you adopted us as your children through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  O holy trinity, keep us as your own, and each day move us to declare: holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty!

O God our father, you know that this past week we have fallen into temptation and done wrong.  We have brought shame to ourselves, anxiety to those who love us and grief to you.  God, in your mercy forgive us for Jesus’ sake.  Help us to be brave enough to allow you into every corner of our being and to confess our sins to you,  to ask forgiveness of those we have hurt, wronged and injured, and to do all we can to put things right again.  Keep us from excess remorse and regret and help us to rise above the errors we have made.  Help us to walk with Jesus and be so guided by your Spirit that in his company we may do what is right.

We praise you and ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, through all eternity.  Amen.

Response: Glory, Glory Hallelujah

Assurance of God’s pardon
We have this assurance:  Paul the apostle says to us “but God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive through Christ.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  This is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.”  Be assured that your sins are forgiven.

Response: Be still and know

Prayers for God’s help and guidance
Holy and gracious God, as we now turn to scripture, our childrens’ moment and our message, prepare our hearts to hear your word.  May your Holy Spirit give us wisdom and revelation, so that, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know the hope to which Christ has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance among us, and the greatness of his power for those who believe.  Amen.

 We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time
Jesus Loves me  #373
Lord’s Prayer

 Solo: The Lord is my Shepherd        

Scripture readings: 

Psalm 23                  responsive
Acts 4:5-12,             NT(NRSV)
John 3:16-24          NT(NRSV)
John 10:11-18         NT (NRSV)

Ministry – and a challenge for Dayspring”

This is the fourth Sunday of Easter and our bible readings for today demonstrate something unusual.  Not only has the ministry of Jesus not ended with his death but with the coming of the Holy Spirit, it is amplified and about to begin to spread throughout the world.  The two passages from the gospel of John which we have just read record Jesus’ claims to his ministry, his explanation of what is to happen to him, and the power that he has to overcome death.   He is telling the disciples this before it happens, and I am sure that at that time it made little sense to them.  Then some time later in Acts, we read how Peter and John have been arrested for healing the sick and read the record of Peter’s reply to the high priest.  These passages record a clear transition of the ministry of Jesus to the Christian church that was born on the day of Pentecost.  The disciples are out actively doing the work that was done previously almost exclusively by Jesus himself, and boldly preaching Christ crucified, dead, buried and resurrected.  This was the foundation of all the preaching of the apostles and early church from this point onward and they stuck to this message in the face of persecution, ridicule, scorn and indifference.

What has happened?  We last saw Peter outside the house of the high priest crying in shame at having denied ever knowing Jesus, and the disciples hiding in the upper room with the doors locked for fear of the authorities.  Now they are standing in the midst of the same authorities, holding them responsible for the death of Jesus and proclaiming that he has been resurrected and that this is God’s proof that Jesus is the messiah.  The answer to what has happened is that there had to be some life changing event, not only experienced by Peter, but also by all the disciples, for such a dramatic change in behaviour.   This event had to be a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus.  There is no other reasonable explanation for such change.  Rather than the authorities managing to eliminate Christ, his disciples have become so emboldened that the church has been born and his ministry is going to eventually spread around the world.

So what is ministry?  Ministry has many faces and is hard to pin down with precise definition.  Rather than attempting to define ministry, I am going give you an illustration of what it is.  The Rev. Gerry Graham was minister at Centennial Presbyterian Church in Calgary.  We attended Centennial some 35 years ago before we came to Edmonton.  At that time Judy and I had two daughters, and we suffered the nightmare of every parent.  Our oldest daughter, Carla became suddenly ill during her grade 1 year and over a period of several months developed chronic heart failure and died.   We had arranged with her doctor that she would be able to die at home, and within an hour of her death, Gerry Graham arrived.  He gathered Carla’s body in his arms and with tears running down his cheeks and falling onto her face, he recited the 23rd psalm.   That image is seared into my memory.  My friends, I can think of no better illustration of the essence of Christian ministry: the church being present with those in their hour of greatest need, in their darkest moments.

So let’s talk for a few minutes about our ministry here at Dayspring.  I want to focus on a specific aspect of our ministry, one that has been present all along but inactive for several years due to outside circumstances.  It has suddenly come alive this last few months:  it is the ministry to refugees.  In Canada there are essentially two ways that we can support refugees.  One is by forming a group of people who will make an application to the Department of Canada Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and guarantee financial and social support for a refugee family.  This is known as a “group of five” application.  The second way that refugees can be supported is by what is known as an “institutional application”.  For the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D) is the body that oversees this process.  Every year, the Department of Canada Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship allocates between 70 and 90 places for refugees to PWS&D, who then receive and priorize applications for sponsorship among the Presbyterian churches in Canada.

Both the group of five process and the institutional application process are active in our congregation.  This past winter, a group of five was formed by five individuals in Dayspring with the support of their families, and an application has been prepared and submitted to Canada Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for Sabir Aziz and his family, refugees from Pakistan currently living in Trinidad.  You will know Sabir from his attendance at our Zoom worship services and his presence in the chat rooms.  Because this sermon and service are public, I will not give any additional details about the circumstances of Sabir and his family, but if you are interested, I am sure he would be happy to talk with you in the post service chat room.

Under the institutional refugee application process, Dayspring has had applications for two families before PWS&D for several years.  This month we received notice from PWS&D that both have been approved for the 2021 refugee allocation.  I am now going to give you a few details of these families, but again, as this service is a public event, will not identify names or full details for both privacy and also political reasons.

The first family is Syrian, but fled to Turkey.  This family consists of parents and two young daughters.  Their sole crime was to be living in Idlib and the husband refused to join the Syrian army during the assault on that city several years ago during the ongoing civil war.  Idlib is now in the hands of a terrorist group and the family cannot return.  Five years ago, their uncle, a Canadian citizen living and working in Edmonton approached Dayspring to sponsor his nephew and family under an institutional application.  We, through our Session, agreed to do so, and for four years have repeatedly put his application in front of PWS&D.  Until this year the applications were unsuccessful because there were so many families under greater immediate threat.  This year the situation changed with the Turkish government threatening forcible repatriation to Syria where members of the family would face imprisonment or worse by either side in the war.  Accordingly, the application of this family was approved by PWS&D in their 2021 allocation.

The second family is a family of three from Iran.  They converted to Christianity and immediately started facing persecution within Iran.  After months of pressure, things came to a head when demands were received requiring them to appear before an Islamic court.  They fled to Turkey where the Iranian secret police are active and still following them.  Three years ago, their sister in law who is a Canadian citizen working in health care for the government of Alberta came to Dayspring at the end of one of our morning services and asked for help.  We agreed, and placed an application for this family with PWS&D.  This family also faces forcible repatriation from Turkey to Iran, and as a result their application was approved in this year’s allocation of places.

What then is our ministry to these two families?   Well, first, they need institutional support for their applications, which we have already provided and will continue to provide as we work through the documentation process with PWS&D.   Housing for both families will be provided by their family members in Edmonton.  Some financial support for groceries and living expenses, to the amount of $1,000 per month for one year will be needed by the Syrian family.  There will also be some social support needed in helping to arrange schooling and taking family members to medical appointments, language upgrading classes, etc.  Both families are well educated: the husband of the Syrian family is a software engineer, and his wife is a teacher.  The husband of the Iranian family is an accountant and his wife has the equivalent of a grade 12 diploma.  This particular family also has good English skills, having lived and worked in Australia for two years.

Accordingly, at the Session meeting tomorrow evening, our Mission and Outreach Ministry team will be asking that we authorize our treasurer to establish a refugee fund that can be used to accept financial donations towards the support of the Syrian family.   We also will recommend that at the appropriate time in the process with PWS&D, we form two teams of volunteers, one for each family, to liase with the supporting family members in Edmonton and assist the resettlement of each family as needed once they have arrived.  Therefore, at the appropriate time, we will be asking for people to volunteer some time to help these families.

Let me just go back now and read you something written by the Christian family from Iran.  I have edited this slightly so that the writer cannot be identified.  In response to a question from PWS&D “is there any change in your current situation compared to last year” this person wrote:

We applied for international protection from the Turkish Immigration office, and we are physically and systematically quarantined.  Physically means that we are not allowed to leave the city until the court replies and there has been no reply as yet eight months later.  Systemically means that our ID card information has been removed from the Turkish government computer system, meaning we cannot rent a new house, we cannot do any personal administrative work, for example, shut down the previous water, electricity and gas or register a new address. 

There is no financial or moral assistance and health and asylum insurance is cut off, we are not allowed to work and illegal work leads to deportation.  We have to cover all expenses ourselves while we are not allowed to work.

Another oppression and pressure in this period is that by deleting personal and identity information in the computer system of the government, no school will enroll our daughter, while the right to education is one of the most basic rights.  She is currently studying because she enrolled in the same school 3 years ago but if she wants to change her school for any reason, such as if we move, they will not enroll her.  All these pressures are in line with the Turkish policy of cooperation with the Iranian regime to put pressure on asylum seekers and also to put pressure on the European Union to receive financial aid.  When grants are given by the Europeans, they are not allocated to us.

The lawyer handling our case before the court is from the Turkish judicial system and not from the UN human rights system and is not accountable at all.

In these very insecure and frustrating conditions in terms of not having the right to reside and the possibility of deportation to Iran and the inability to earn a living, sometimes we are seeing the persecution and assassination of Iranian ideological and political asylum seekers in Turkey by unknown individuals affiliated with the Iranian government.

If we are deported to Iran, a long prison time is waiting for us for acting against the Islamic republic by converting from Islam to Christianity and propagating Christianity to Muslims, participating in physical and virtual church services, having physical and virtual relations with Christians, and engaging in Christian activity and video on the Internet.”

And now listen to the last line in this statement

“On the other hand we have continued our Christian activities on the Internet and in everyday society.”

My friends, do you hear the echo?  “On the other hand we have continued our Christian activities on the Internet and in everyday society.”   It is coming to us down the centuries.   It is Peter and John in front of the Sanhedrin.   It is Paul in prison in Rome.   It is thousands of unnamed Christians over the centuries in thousands of different places.  It is refugees in Turkey.  It is the voice of the Holy Spirit.   “On the other hand we have continued our Christian activities on the Internet and in everyday society”

God grant that we could have such courage!

We are being called as a congregation to provide hope and sanctuary to these people.  The call can be traced all the way back to the transition of the ministry of Jesus, first to his disciples, and then through them to the Church at large.  We stand on the rock of the Church founded by the apostles and are the successors to their ministry, which is the ongoing earthly ministry of the risen Christ.  I encourage you to join in this ministry.   Amen

Song: A new commandment    #225

We respond to serve God

Prayer of gratitude

O God of all grace and goodness, you are worthy of a greater love than we can either give or understand.  Lead us from the sight of the lovely things of the world to the thought of you our creator.   We praise and thank you for your creation and all you richly provide.  We thank you for your Son, his life, death and resurrection.  We thank you for your Spirit that guides and comforts us through the storms of this world.  Enable us through your Spirit to live in such a way that your majesty and mercy are seen by all.

All governments rule under your authority, though they may not know it.  Particularly in this pandemic may they work for the good of those they rule, seeking your justice and peace in every law and action.  Enable those who are engaged in industry and commerce, medicine, research, the media, education, sport and the arts, to fulfil their responsibilities with integrity and an attitude of service.  Comfort and strengthen those who are gripped by this terrible disease, suffer in poverty, or are oppressed by cruelty.  May they know your love and experience your care. Equip us, your people, to display your compassion to all those in need.   We particularly think this morning of all those who have been driven unjustly from their homes and must seek refuge elsewhere.  Inspire your church here on earth to proclaim the gospel of your love in the death and resurrection of your Son.  Refresh and equip us to be your faithful and obedient people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Response: In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful

Reflection on giving

We have been giving faithfully even though there is no offering plate being passed around the sanctuary. It may be a while before we all return to the sanctuary – but what a wonder it is to continue the precious ministry that defines Dayspring. Thank you for your contribution, which comes freely from hearts full of gratitude.

Song: I’m gonna live so God can use me      #648

Sending out with God’s blessing

Go out into the world.  Change your ways.  Do good to others.  Live in peace and harmony with others and the love of God, the peace of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with you always.   Amen.

Response: God to enfold you

 ZOOM Breakout Rooms

Psalm 23 (CEV – adapted)
L: You, LORD, are our shepherd.
P: We will never be in need.
L: You let us rest in fields of green grass. You lead us to streams of peaceful water.
P: You refresh our lives.
L: You are true to Your name, and You lead us along the right paths.
P: We may walk through valleys as dark as death, but we won’t be afraid.
L: You are with us, LORD.
P: And Your shepherd’s rod makes us feel safe.
L: You treat us to a feast, while our enemies watch.
P: You honor us as Your guest, and you fill our cup until it overflows.
L: Your kindness and love will always be with us each day of our lives,
P: and we will live forever in Your house, LORD

Songs for Worship

 Here I Am to Worship

Light of the world, you step down into darkness. Opened my eyes let me see. Beauty that made this heart adore you, hope of a life spent with you.

 Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that you’re my God, You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy, Altogether wonderful to me.

Songwriter: Tim Hughes © 2000 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Reprinted with permission under CCLI, License #3095377​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from CCLI

Solo: The Lord is my Shepherd

Words and Music Jimmy Owens © 1965 by Al Gilray Publishing Co

A new commandment

A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you,

you that you love one another as I have loved you, By this shall all know you are my disciples

If you have love one for another. By this shall all know you are my disciples

If you have love one for another.

Words: John 13:34-35 Music: anonymous

I’m gonna live so God can use me

I’m gonna live so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime! I’m gonna live so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

 I’m gonna work so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime! I’m gonna work so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

 I’m gonna pray so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime! I’m gonna pray so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

 I’m gonna sing so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime! I’m gonna sing so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

Words and music African-American spiritual; public domain

Posted in Recent Sermons.