Virtual Service – February 21, 2021

8:30 am

February 21, 2021

Welcome to virtual church!

Each Sunday morning we will be sending an email to everyone in the congregation for whom we have email addresses, offering an abridged Sunday morning service — “virtual church.” For the latest news and updates from Walton, please check our Facebook page, Instagram and website.

Please contact office@waltonmemorial.com if you would like to be added to our email list.

Sunday Service Video (30+ minutes followed by the hymns)

Today’s service will be offered in 2 formats – video and text. If you wish, you can download and print the service from this document – link – or you can read the complete service below.

The hymn-sing is at the end.


Announcements

• Annual General Meeting – Virtually – on Sunday, February 28th at 12:00 pm. Please follow the linked instructions to take part in the Zoom meeting. If you would like an electronic copy of the Annual Report emailed to you, please contact the office. If you want a printed copy please drop by the church on Wednesday, February 17th or Thursday, February 18th between 9am – 12pm. Thank you.

• Cudmore’s Closing this Month – We thank Cudmore’s for being a great neighbour and for decades of supplying Walton with a beautiful live Christmas tree from the East Coast for our Sanctuary. The trunk of the tree over the years has been made into a cross for Good Friday and even used through Easter. Cudmore’s has also loaned us decorations every year to decorate the Sanctuary for Thanksgiving. We will miss our neighbours and wish them all the best in their future endeavours. We greatly appreciate all your kindness and generosity through the years.

• Children and youth are invited to view this week’s virtual Sunday School lesson online. This week we begin our journey through Lent together.

•TAX PREPARATION for people with modest incomes: The Walton Tax Clinic will start up again March 1st, 2021, as part of the Walton Outreach Committee. Due to COVID precautions, we will manage with an “exchange of documents” in the Walton parking lot and follow up telephone calls. If you have an interest in having us assist you, please call: 905-631-6188

• To mark Lent this year – Sadly there can be no Shrove Tuesday Pancake/Sausage Supper. The Outreach Committee would like to suggest a modest program for your household Lenten givings.
– If you choose to participate, you decide on an amount of money you can afford to donate over the period of Lent, which is February 17 – April 4, 2021.
– There are two ways to participate:
1. You make a straight donation of suggested $0.50 per day to the Lenten Givings fund, for 40 days, equalling $20.00. Click here to donate online, or send in your donation marked “Lent”
OR
2. You put a non-perishable item into a box each day throughout Lent, which can be dropped off at the church after Easter (April 4, 2021).
– As we usually ask you to make a financial donation, or to bring a non-perishable item for our Easter food drive, this program would replace that initiative.
– As always, we appreciate anything you can donate, however, the food bank does have a list of “really required” items: cake mixes, prepared icing, dish soap, bar soap, shampoo for both babies and adults, body wash, deodorant, baby wipes, Goodnights pull-ups for girls and boys.
– We miss seeing all of you!

•  Walton’s prayer chain is open. Confidential prayers requests can be sent to office@waltonmemorial.com

 • Church office open by appointment only – Church office hours have been suspended to comply with the provincial government stay at home order. Staff members are working from home and may be reached via their individual email addresses. For general inquiries or to schedule an appointment please leave a message on the church voice mail at 905-827-1643 and/or email the church office at office@waltonmemorial.com. Both the voicemail and email are checked regularly.

•  If you need Rev. Jim for a pastoral emergency, please email him directly at jamescgillwuc@gmail.com


AGM Annoucement

Welcome

Good Morning, welcome to the first day of Lent.
You know why it is the first day of Lent?
Because it says so on my calendar.
Well yes, but the Lenten banners have been put up in the Sanctuary and that is one of the first signs that it is Lent.
The Worship Committee has been here and put up these wonderful lenten banners that were made by the Sunday School and the Youth Groups.
Wow, it is great!
It helps us prepare for this special season of the year. Lent.
If it is Lent are we ready for the journey. Yes we are…. Ok, let’s go…
Here we are on the journey.
That was a quick trip, thanks to the magic of the Silvas’ editing…
Here we are on the Lenten path, for the next 40 days, and what is most important on any journey?
Any journey? Hmmm, I think I know….it is taking the first step.
So let’s take the first step…. Come… join us in the call to worship…

Call to Worship

One: When our days hurt like a wilderness, empty of nourishment, deserted of hope;
Two: You call to us with your Spirit, comforting and sustaining us.
One: If all around us, shadows loom, and our resolve is tested, our faith challenged;
Two: You bless us with your presence, strengthening our hearts each day.
One: Whenever our troubles appear unyielding, the pain unrelenting in our world;
Two: You abide unyielding by our side, your love is unrelenting in our lives.

Opening Prayer

Comforting God,
Amidst the distraction and drama of the world around us, focus our hearts and minds on you and your love. When we look past you and depend on human efforts, reawaken us to your presence. When we feel uncertain and unsettled by change, remind us of your blessing. When events upset us and leave us adrift, give us the confidence of being loved. Reassure us now with your everlasting love and mercy. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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.

Youth Story: Walton’s Love Your Neighbours Lenten Project

Since this is the first Sunday in Lent, it’s not surprising that we’re talking about Lent in our Youth story this week. Lent is that period of 40 days before Easter when we remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness. He was tempted many times during those 40 days but he kept God’s word in his heart and stayed strong in his faith.

Usually, at Lent, we try to test our faith by giving up something we love for 40 days, but for the past year, hasn’t our faith been tested enough already? Haven’t we all had to give up a lot? One thing that too many people have had to give up this year is hugging. Those who live alone maybe haven’t had a hug for weeks, or even months. So this year, instead of asking Walton’s kids and teens to give up something for Lent, we’re asking them to give something to others instead – a loving hug!

Now, of course, they can’t just go and hug a stranger, so we created an Easter Hug craft that families can download and print at home. We’re asking them to colour in the cards, write a personal message on the back, and drop them off at the church before March 25. Walton’s amazing team of Reach Out volunteers will include the cards in a special Easter delivery to people in the community who live alone or who could really use a hug. It’s just one more way we can do what Jesus commanded us to do: love our neighbours.

Scripture Reading: Mark 1: 9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

Anthem: I Am Not Alone

Morning Message: “Our Days of Struggle” – Gill Le Fevre

And so Lent begins. To quote the preacher, Scott Hoezee, Lent begins “in the worst parts of life in a fallen, broken world.”

And as we begin Lent in 2021, I can’t help but look back to last year with a sense of bewilderment and also apprehension.

It’s been barely a year but feels more like a decade. January 25 marked twelve months since the first case of Covid was confirmed in Toronto. Gradually we began washing our hands more and talking of social distancing. Face masks sold out, and people stocked up on hand sanitiser and toilet paper. A year ago today, just before Lent began, the third presumed case of Covid was reported.

By mid March, events were accelerating. March 11 was perhaps the watershed moment when the NBA suspended its season. The next day Ontario schools announced a two-week closure to follow March break. Within a week, Ontario was in a state of emergency.

We had been thrown into a wilderness.

Overnight almost, nothing was as it had been, even the day before.
All the markers of ‘normal’ life – school, travel, shopping, entertainment – disappeared or were changed beyond recognition.

People talked about “the Lentiest Lent we have ever Lented,” and we joked about politicians in denial, giving up your grandparents for Lent.
We even grew wilderness haircuts, fit only for our desert lives.

Reflecting on all that we have experienced, and endured, perhaps helps us appreciate the drama and urgency of what’s happening in Mark’s Gospel. Because in the passage we heard today, Mark is covering a lot of ground in a few short verses. His pace is so rapid, he makes Twitter look verbose.

Verse 9: Jesus baptized. Verse 10: Spirit descends. Verse 11: Jesus proclaimed beloved. Verse 12: Wilderness.

And notice that Jesus doesn’t head out into the wilderness himself, as if he’s going on a personal retreat. He’s driven out. The English word doesn’t properly represent the intensity of the original text. Mark uses the same word here, as he does when he talks about Jesus casting out demons. Jesus is not being led into the wilderness; he’s violently hurled there. Think of the image of a bouncer at a bar throwing a rowdy patron through a window and out onto the sidewalk.

And Jesus is driven there by the Spirit. The very same Spirit that has just descended on Jesus at his baptism when Jesus was blessed by God and proclaimed beloved.
In an instant, nothing was as it had been, even the moment before.

Whatever plans or expectations Jesus might have had for his ministry – for what would happen after he stepped forward to be baptized by John – this was a startling shift in momentum; an upending of the likely run of events.

Baptism. Blessing. Wilderness?

All sorts of plans and dreams have been upended by our Covid wilderness. Some we still cling to, hoping for a future time when we can take that trip, have that celebration, launch that project, and others we have had to let go.

An example of the withering impact of our current existence is the story of a musician, Thad Cockrell. Thad is a country and gospel singer who has been writing and recording since 2001, garnering positive reviews and plenty of work but without ever making the big time.

He poured his heart and soul into his most recent work – a solo album which was released last June. Even in the summer months, a Covid year is not the year to launch your breakthrough album. Plans for a tour and concerts had to be abandoned, and in Thad’s words, the album “flatlined.”

Thad had had enough of his musical wilderness and so over the new year, with all the emphasis there is on goals and resolutions, Thad determined to find a new career.
But the story doesn’t end there. Unbeknownst to Thad, he was being waited on by angels. Because back in December, in another part of the country, the American talk-show host JimmyFallon broke a light switch in his home.

Fallon decides he can fix it himself and heads out to the hardware store where he is mesmerized by a song playing over the store speakers. Titled, “Swingin,” the piece is an anthem for our Covid wilderness, with the defiant chorus line, “If I’m gonna go down, I wanna go down swingin’.”

Fallon loves the piece, loves the spirit, and decides he wants to have it on his show. So when Thad Cockrell phones his management team in early January to formalize the end of his musical career, he is greeted instead with the news that he’s been booked to play The Tonight Show.

I first read about the story in an email newsletter I receive, and the story there ends encouraging us not to give up because – quote – “You never know who is listening.”

Except we do know.

We know because Jesus taught us. Jesus taught us that God is always listening, always caring. Repeatedly throughout the Gospels, in different parables and statements, Jesus, again and again, affirms that God listens to our prayers.

But sometimes in life, it’s not enough to be told something. It feels academic. We perhaps know it with our head, but it struggles to reach our heart. So, in today’s reading we get to know because Jesus shows us.

Baptism. Blessing. Wilderness.

It was the essential run of events, so that we can see that, as Jesus enters the wilderness, all he has with him is God’s blessing; the promise of God’s presence. No survival kits or divining rods, no self-help books or desert hacks. Simply the enduring promise of God’s presence.
Now Mark doesn’t go into much detail about Jesus’ days in the wilderness. There are none of the debates with Satan that Luke and Matthew report. Mark’s desert is quieter, lonelier perhaps, and more menacing. 40 days of wilderness, dry and unrelenting. 40 days of wild beasts, watching, stalking, lurking.

The dangers of the wilderness are not removed for Jesus. The wild beasts are still there. Jesus still spends 40 days being pushed and tested. But God will not and does not leave him. Jesus is God’s son, the beloved, and God will not desert him.

The Spirit of God that blessed Jesus at his baptism, and that drove him out into the wilderness, accompanies Jesus, sustains Jesus, and brings him back again. In a tantalizing detail, Mark tells us that angels waited on Jesus; shorthand perhaps for the way in which Jesus was supported by God’s strength, surrounded by God’s love, as he endured the desolation of the world.

Remember Scott Hoezee’s words: “Lent begins in the wilderness, in the worst parts of life in a fallen, broken world.” He continues, “It begins there as a reminder that Jesus is transforming this world by his very presence.”

This fully human God, who knows what it is to struggle and suffer, embraces our lives, meets us in our wilderness, and blesses us. Through Jesus we are supported by God’s strength, surrounded by God’s love, as we endure the desolation of this world. This is the good news that Jesus emerged from the desert to proclaim: that we are beloved by God.

Baptism. Blessing. Wilderness. Or perhaps, for us: Wilderness. Blessing. Baptism.

No matter what struggle or despair we face, God watches over us. And when we accept God into our lives, we are assured of the enduring promise of God’s presence: that God is listening and caring and sustaining us.

Not only are we promised that if we’re going to go down, we’re able to go down swinging. More, so much more. We are promised that God’s merciful embrace reaches out to catch us and break our fall. We are blessed with God’s Spirit to heal and renew us, and through God’s love we are strengthened and sustained to get back on our feet and face another day.

Thanks be to God.

Music: “He Will Carry You”

Pastoral Prayer

Steadfast God,
As circumstances test and shape us, we pray for your presence in our world and your comfort in our lives.

During our wilderness days, be by our side as we struggle with the demands of everyday life. Help those for whom work or school is a burden. Heal those for whom family is a place of hurt or fear. Let us all feel the support of your love.

Through our wilderness nights, be in our hearts as we endure the uncertainty of the future. Help those weighed down by despair. Soothe those kept awake by anxiety. Let us all feel the strength of your hope.

Remind us of the angels serving in your world.

We give thanks for all those who provide us with food. From farmworkers and factory staff to truck drivers and grocery store assistants. For those who contribute to food banks to get meals to those in need. Bless their work, and renew their courage each day.

We give thanks for all those who keep us healthy. Doctors, nurses and research workers, who battle disease each day. Janitors and cleaners and greeters with hand sanitizer, ridding our shared spaces of unseen germs. Bless their work, and renew their dedication each day.

We give thanks for all those who serve in our communities. Those who visit the lonely or support the elderly. Those who keep public transit running or ensure telephone lines and the internet are working. Bless their work, and renew their hearts each day.
Be with each one of us as we navigate the wilderness of our world and grant us peace.
Amen.

Offering of Ourselves, Our Gifts, Our Tithes

Abundant God, you lavish us with love and mercy, help us to share our gifts, pour out your love to others as we give.

♥ by secure online payment from your bank or credit card. Click here to go to our donation page to make a single or recurring donation. Multiple funds (including Sleeping Children) can be included in one donation by using the “Add Donation” button.
♥ by cheque through the mail slot at the Church office entrance or by Canada Post.
♥ by monthly PAR payments. To sign up contact stuart@waltonmemorial.com.

Offering Prayer

Caring God, as you nourish us, help us to share your love with our world. Make us aware of the opportunities to be angels in the lives of another. Inspire us to see the needs of our community and to act, that we might lessen the struggle for those around us. Encourage us to use the ways you’ve blessed our lives, that we might be a blessing for others. Amen.

Benediction

Whatever this day holds, remember that you are blessed by God, supported by God and strengthened by God. When the wilderness looms, take comfort in God’s love, that your life may affirm the good news of Jesus Christ. You are beloved. Amen.


Walton’s Musical Message

This morning on Facebook and on YouTube, we’re sharing a video where Linda shares with us several of our favourite hymns! Sing along!

♬ We Are Gathered
♬ Be Not Afraid
♬ When we are Tested
♬ You are My Hiding Place
♬ Go Now in Peace


In case you missed it…

Here is Rev. Jim’s mid-week update from Ash Wednesday, February 17th