The long road

Worship on the Sixth Sunday of Easter
05 May 2024    10:00 am
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Brad Childs                Elder: Heather Tansem
Music Director: Binu Kapadia           Vocalist: Vivian Houg

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

Call to Worship
L: Let us sing to the Lord a new song,
P: for God has done marvelous things.
L: Let us make known the Lord’s victory,
P: for God’s steadfast love covers the whole earth.
L: Let us sing joyful praises,
P: and join all creation to worship God’s holy name.

Opening praise: Forever God is faithful

Prayers of approach and confession

God, you are known to us in scripture and you are known to us in our experiences but you are also beyond our knowledge and our comprehension. We come together not because of strength but because we need to be lifted up. We come to put our attention for one hour of the week on something clearly beyond ourselves. We come to dedicate time to the God we know and yet still strive to fathom.

God of all power and new life we come, humbly, bowing our heads before you, aware of your holiness and majesty knowing that in most things we are powerless and lowly. We come hoping to be received as humble servants but when we pray we feel like more than that. Many of us are invigorated by the morning. Yet many come today with reservations or doubts or simply come weighed down by the burdens we carry. Here we experience your willingness to walk beside us and share the weight of our load.

Only you can meet us in the heights and depths of human living. Only you can lead in the way of fulfillment. Only you are worthy of our worship. Thus we join with all creation singing your praise. To the seas’ roar, we add our melody. To the song echoing in the hills, we add our harmonies. To the voices carrying long distances through the prairie fields, we add our tone.

Despite our experiences of grace, we are not always faithful to you. We do not always live up to our calling to be your people. We seek joy in the strangest places. We tire of the old, old Story and seek happiness in novelty. We seek out swear words more often than true ones. We seek easy roads rather than the right paths. We play with the fires of addiction, compulsion and greed and wonder why we have so little fulfillment.

We are more attentive to the voices around us that sanction self-interest over love of neighbor or stranger and we wonder why peace is so elusive. We fail those you have given us to love and wonder why we feel so insecure.

Forgive us, Lord. And we ask for your help to live up to our best intentions and help to be the best that we can be and prayerfully even beyond. Help us use the energy of our regrets to change our ways. Fuel our desire to walk in your way. Energize us to pursue your purposes. Make us yours and only so. Bless the days ahead and lead us in all truth. Forgive us, change us, send us, defend us and make us new. We offer our prayers through your son, Lord Jesus Amen

Response: We come to ask your forgiveness, O Lord

Assurance of God’s pardon

The God of the Scriptures comes with fire to burn away what is unclean. But like gold being refined in the flames, what is left behind is more pure. In confessing our trials and our failures and in our promises to do better, our God refines the souls of the faithful. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God amen.

We listen for the voice of God

Song: There’s a spirit in the air (764: vss 1, 3, 5, 6)

Scripture readings (NRSV): I John 5:1-6 & John 15:9-17 (NIV)

Response: Glory to the Father

Message: The Long Road

While a college student, Heidi Neumark took a year off from Brown University to be part of a volunteer program. It was sponsored by a group called Rural Mission. Heidi was sent to Johns Island—off the Carolina coast—where she learned from the sons and daughters of plantation slaves who allowed her to sit and listen-in as folks sat around telling stories.

In her words: “The most important lesson I learned on Johns Island was from Miss Ellie, who lived miles down a small dirt road in a one-room, wooden home with an outhouse and one small cooking pot. I loved to visit her. We’d sit in old rocking chairs on the front porch, drinking tall glasses of sweet tea, while she’d tell me stories often punctuated with unique expressions that would leap from her river of thought like bright, silver fish. ‘Girl, I be so happy I could jump the sky!’ she’d say.

It’s the kind of phrase where you know what she means without understanding what she means. And Miss Ellie was full of them.

I never could find out Miss Ellie’s precise age, but it was somewhere between 90 and 100. The sad part – maybe she didn’t know herself. She still did everything herself. She still chopped her own firewood, stacked in neat little piles behind the house. She was committed to work hard and to relax.

Miss Ellie had a friend named Netta. And Netta, whom she’d known since they were small girls had been a good friend. In order to get to Netta’s house, Miss Ellie had to walk four miles through fields of tall grass. This was the sweet grass that Johns Island women make famous baskets out of sold at Easter all around the state. But it was also home to numerous poisonous snakes: coral snakes, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and copperheads. It was home to all manner of venom.

Actually, Netta’s home was not that far from Miss Ellie’s place, but there was a stream that cut across the fields between the two homes. You had to walk quite a distance to get to the place where the stream narrowed enough to pass. The travel was dangerous. And I admired Miss Ellie, who would set off to visit her friend Netta; full of bouncy enthusiasm, with no worry for the snakes or the long miles or the aching bones.

Still, I also felt sorry for her. Poor Miss Ellie, I thought, old and arthritic, having to walk all that way, pushing through the thick summer heat, not to mention the snakes. And the miles of travel! It was a lot for anyone; certainly a well-seasoned senior!

I felt sorry—until I hit upon the perfect plan.

See, I arranged with some local men to help build a simple plank bridge across the stream near Miss Ellie’s house. I scouted out the ideal place—not too wide, but too deep to cross without a bridge. I bought and helped carry the planks there myself.

Our new bridge was built in a day.

I was so excited that I could hardly wait to see Miss Ellie’s reaction.

I went to her house, where she wanted to sit in her rocker and tell stories as usual, but I was too impatient with my project for that. I practically dragged her off with me. ‘Look!’ I shouted, ‘a shortcut for you to visit Netta!’

I was so proud of what I’d done to help Miss Ellie, that sweetest old lady I had ever met. I’ll never forget that day.

In our reading from today, Jesus tells his disciples “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

It’s one of those nice moments. But of course, it means different things to different people. The question has to be asked, “What does it really mean to love somebody”?

Over the years I have done a lot of weddings and a lot of wedding sermons. You may have noticed that I don’t insert names into forms. I start from scratch with nearly every wedding or funeral service. I don’t just do the same thing on repeat replacing “he” with “her” and call it quits. They are all very specific to the individuals involved.

But all of my wedding messages have one thing in common. In every one, I always make a point to say that “Love is not a feeling, it’s an action”. And that is extremely important.

For example, when the apostle Paul famously lists his definition of “true love” he says, “Love” “is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. True love never fails.”

But here is the rub” Those are all actions.

Nothing on Paul’s list is a feeling.


I am completely convinced that the rise in divorce in recent years is at least in part due to the fact that Hollywood and movie stars and the whole world out there – have convinced people that love is a feeling you have for someone else… that love is some feeling you get. In reality, love is not a feeling you have for someone else, it’s the things you do, in response to a feeling you have about someone else.

We have a whole generation of people raised on a concept of love that is utterly selfish at its core because it’s about what we get out of a relationship. Are you served by this relationship? What do you get out of it? It is often selfishness deputized as love.

The Bible on the other hand has just the opposite concept. In the scriptures, Love is not something you feel about someone else, it’s something you do for someone else. And there are no shortcuts. Love takes work. It’s not getting. It’s giving.

Putting Paul’s words in the affirmative: Love is when you have patience for someone else. Love is when you show kindness to another when you hold humility, and you show honour to someone else. Love is when you reject selfishness, you choose to trust and decide to have hope. You give love.

The Bible says that true love “never fails” because true love isn’t a feeling that can pass with time or emotions, it’s a commitment, a devotion and an action. You can never fall out of “true love” because it’s an action you’ve determined to do and you keep at it even when not deserved.

Jesus takes this idea to its ultimate conclusion.

True love is being willing even to die for someone else. It’s being willing to give up everything for another.

Often modern readers will be a little confused if they sit down with these verses and no surrounding context. So, when Jesus says “You are my friends if you do what I command” it sounds harsh and silly. To be friends we have to do whatever you say? Really?

When you hear those words it’s easy to think – that’s a horrible thing to say. “You are my friends if you do what I command” sounds like the little 8-year-old neighbour-girl Jenny who used to tell my little sister Hannah when they were kids that if Hannah didn’t do A, B and C then they weren’t gonna be friends anymore. It’s mean.

But is that really what he’s saying?… that we need to be perfect and follow him perfectly or will he reject us?

I don’t think so. Remember in Luke 7:34 Jesus is called “the friend of sinners” too.

No, it’s deeper than that.

If you don’t understand your relationship, and your place in God, you’ll find yourself trying to do what only God can do.

Many people in church today are confused, messed up, discouraged, depressed, and unable to praise God the way they are supposed to because they are spending all of their energy trying to be their god. They are trying to bless themselves, make their gospel, heal themselves, promote themselves, climb the latter of success themselves, trying to solve their problems alone, answer their own prayers, trying to cover up for God, because they feel as if he’s not doing it fast enough, trying to make God look good through their human efforts and it cannot be done. We don’t need to be perfect we just need to be His and fully His.

True Christianity is not about adding Jesus to my life. Instead, it is about devoting my life completely to Him – submitting wholly to His will and seeking to please Him above all else. It demands dying to self and following the Master, no matter the cost. It’s doing exactly what he did… it’s being willing to give everything.

And then the conversation takes a unique turn. Jesus says 15 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends.”

In ancient times, a rabbi or teacher would have followers and those followers were considered servants. But here Jesus is changing the relationship that He has with the disciples and with us. He now calls us friends.

Interestingly although this was the common word for Talmidim (a Master’s student) this is the last time the word doulos (for servant) or any variation of that word appears in John’s gospel. After this, the word is never used again. Once Jesus called us friends, that became the only way they were referred to from that point on.

Theologians have noted that Abraham was called a “friend of God” (Chron 20:7) in Exodus 33:11 so was Moses. But that’s it. It’s very rare in the Bible for someone to receive that kind of title from the triune creator of the universe. That should say something about the power of friendship. And it should say something about the love of Christ.

Aristotle writes, “To a noble man there applies the true saying that he does all things for the sake of his friends … and, if need be, he gives his life for them” (Eth. Nic. 9.8, 1169a). Plato stated “Only those who love, wish to die for others” (Symposium, 179B).

Plato and Aristotle it seems are in good company.

To the idea that a friend is willing to give everything for another Jesus adds, “14 You are my friendsif you do what I command.”

And once again that comes phrase comes off a tad harsh to modern readers. Jesus will only love us and he will only call us friends if we do what he says. It just feels like little 8-year-old Jenny Mahoney is trying to get my sister Hannah to do something she doesn’t want to.

Do we have to do what God says to be called friends? If we want to be loved or be friends with God we have to obey his every command. At first, this verse makes the all-powerful God of the universe sound like a kid on the playground readying to take his ball and go home, if he doesn’t get his way.

But then again… maybe it’s more simplistic than all that.

See, In this very paragraph, Jesus defined what he meant by this exactly. He said this is my command: “Love one another”. You are my friends if you love one another.

And then he gives an example: “Greater love has no more than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In other words, if you want to be friends you can’t just decide that you like each other. You don’t just get to have warm fuzzy feelings about God or the people around you. You have to do something about it. You don’t just get to take. You have to sacrifice. You have to actually love, not just with your feelings but with your service. Because true love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. You have to give.

The point should be well taken. You don’t just get to call people your friends and then do nothing for them. You don’t get to call yourself of friend of God and then ignore Him. There are no shortcuts to friendship, no shortcuts to real love. It’s a long road. And real Love means action.

For Jesus, the title that was previously given only to Abraham and Moses is now a title that belongs rightly to anyone who knows that kind of love… true love. Many things in this world could cause us to wonder. But one of the most striking is that the bible tells us – the divine being that hung the stars in their place and built the universe atom by atom, and quark by quark, that this same God should want to call us His friends.

And we are. But love has a price. Friendship has a price.

This is not the love of Hollywood. It’s the love of God.

On John’s Island, Heidi Neumark shouted “Look” to Miss Ellie, “A shortcut for you to visit Netta!” And it was a grand gesture which was greatly appreciated. But “Miss Ellie’s face did not register the grateful, happy look Heidi had expected at first. There was no smile, no “jumping the sky”.

Heidi continues to tell the story in her own words. She wrote: “Instead, for a long time, Miss Ellie looked puzzled, then she shook her head and looked at me and said, ‘Child, I don’t need no shortcut.’ And then she told me about all the other friends she kept up with – on her way to visit Netta.

A “shortcut” she noted, would cut her off from Mr. Jenkins, a lonely man with whom she always talked about politics; from Miss Hunter, who so looked forward to the quilt scraps Miss Ellie would make sure to bring by; from the raisin wine she’d get to sample at one neighbour place in exchange for her homemade biscuits; and the chance to look in on the “old folks” (whatever that means to someone over 90) who had “taken ill”.

And then as if she were a parent speaking to a child or a teacher granting a bold and important lesson to a student, Ms. Ellie cocked her head a bit to the side, blinked her dark brown eyes slow and hard and with a pursed little smile she taught… “Child, ‘can’t take no shortcuts if you want friends in this world. Shortcuts don’t mix with love.” (1001 Il. pg325)

Friends… The God of the universe commands you – to love. But remember this, Love is not a feeling, it’s an action. Friendship has a price because love takes work. And “shortcuts don’t mix with love”. So when it comes to friends and loved ones, to God and neighbour…. Always take the long road. Amen.

Song: For the beauty of the earth (434)

We respond to serve God: Our time of giving

Reflection on giving: Dayspring is empowered to carry out our mission of worship, service, and care by generously given volunteer time, talent, and treasure. Many thanks to all who give so generously!

Prayer for others and ourselves

Life-giving God, we thank you for signs of renewal around us. From treetops to roadside ditches new life is bursting forth. Vitality is now evident all around us. Our city is becoming green again. How amazing is a renewal? How delightful is birth and rebirth? Who are we that we should be so blessed? And yet we are. Even the greatest losses we’ve ever suffered in life, are only painful because we had something so special in the first place.

  • Deep is our gratitude for your constant reminders of the power of life over death. Deep is our gratitude for the resurrection’s power upon which your church is built.
  • Deep is our gratitude for the simple gift of prayer.
  • Deep is our gratitude for the ability to transform as people, change situations and revitalize the yearnings of our hearts.
  • Deep is our gratitude for love that nurtures life and makes renewal possible. For all that nurtures love, we are grateful: family relationships, friendships, worship, prayer, art, music, rest, play, learning and even our work.

We pray for your love to spill over into the areas of need where it seems too thin.

We pray for our families and for the families of our church where suffering might be found. May loving actions be the mark of our homes. May those who nurture the young and the needy be supported. May children experience their value. May people be treated fairly. We name before you now particular situations in our family and we pray silently to you. …

We pray for the new life slumbering within our church. May it burst forth in ways we cannot imagine. Help, us look for its signs and put our energy into nurturing it. Show each of us one thing we can do for the good of your Kingdom in this place in the coming weeks.  Hear our prayers for this congregation and a thousand other churches in this denomination. …

We pray for the people of Nepal. We pray for aid workers, for those who administer resources, for those who are on the front lines serving those who have been devastated, for generous responses around the world and for the people who offer them. Uphold each individual who has been directly affected and lead each one to new places of safety and care. And Lord, Bless those who think of others… those who give. Amen.

The Sacrament of Holy Communion


Beloved in the Lord, as we draw near to the Lord’s Table, we are to consider the great benefits of this Sacrament for those who come in faith and repentance, and those who hunger and thirst after Christ.

Those who, putting their trust in Christ, desire to lead a new life, and to mature with the gifts of grace, are invited and encouraged to come to the Supper of the Lord for their spiritual refreshment and renewal of strength.

Song: Worship the Lord (555: vss. 1-4)

The Lord’s Prayer (469)

Communion Prayer

Gracious God, we praise your holy name, giving thanks to you with our lips and our lives.

For the power and mystery of your Word by which you created us and called us to yourself, we give you thanks.

For the power and mystery of your Word by which you took flesh and lived among us through your Son, Jesus Christ, we give you thanks.

For the power and mystery of your Word by which you choose common people, forming the church to be the body of Christ in the world, we give you thanks.

Faithful God, we offer you our praise and thanks as we return to you these holy gifts of bread and wine.

Remembering our Lord’s command to take and eat we ponder the mystery of his promise that in this meal we are joined to him and to one another as a holy people uniting heaven and earth.

We offer you our praise and thanks for Jesus Christ, who took flesh and lived among us, was baptized for our sins, taught us your way of truth, loved us in our lovelessness and died that we may have life.

And now O God, we celebrate with great joy the resurrection of our Lord, his presence with us in this feast, and his promise of a new creation.

God of grace and power, you invite us to share in mysteries that are beyond our understanding; in simple trust, we seek the transforming power of your Spirit on this assembly of your people, on these words and actions, on this bread and wine, in order that, by the miracle of your grace, we may be united to Christ and to one another– one in body, one in spirit, one in faith.

Sharing of the bread and wine

The Lord Jesus, on the night before he died, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, he broke it and said, “This is my body, that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, he took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in remembrance of me.”

Every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Song: One bread, one body

The prayer after Communion

Our God, we ask that you would send us out to love our neighbours, to love you and to do so not just with words but with our acts.

Hymn: Amigos de Cristo / Friends of the Lord (476)

Sending out with God’s blessing

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.     Amen.

Response: Benediction (as you go)

Music postlude


The Communion liturgy is based on the liturgies of the PCC’s 1991 Book of Common Worship. 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 specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2024) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material 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.