Virtual Service – Pride Sunday – June 13, 2021

8:30 am

June 13, 2021

Welcome to virtual church!

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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

• Pet blessing service on Sunday, June 27th.  If you would like to have your pet blessed, we invite you to contact the church office to book a time before Friday, June 18th to come and have your pet blessing videoed.  Rev. Gill will bless your pet, and take a picture/video of you all, to be included in the virtual service on Sunday, June 27th. No words need to be spoken by you (or your pet), Rev. Gill is happy to do all the talking.  Let’s share our family pets, our blessings, with one another.
Bell ringers  We are looking for volunteers who would like to be part of a group of people who take turns ringing the bell on Sunday mornings at 11:00am at Walton Church. If you are interested in helping out and learning how to do it, please contact Val through the church office.
• Children and youth are invited to view this week’s virtual Sunday School lesson online. This week we’re celebrating equality, inclusiveness, and God’s amazing love. And guess what? There’s a verse for that!
• Walton’s prayer chain is open. Confidential prayers requests can be sent to office@waltonmemorial.com
• If you need Rev. Jim for a pastoral emergency, please email him directly at jamescgillwuc@gmail.com.

Welcome

Hello and welcome to virtual church at Walton. This Sunday is always a very special day for Walton as we commemorate Pride Month, and celebrate and emphasize God’s inclusive love. Pride is a celebration of equality, the freedom to love whomever you choose, and to love yourself the way God made you. In our worship today we affirm that Walton loves love, that we celebrate equality here, and that everyone is welcome at our church.

This service is also a celebration of diversity and a rejection of hate. This week in particular we are saddened by the horrible attack on members of London’s Muslim community. We offer our prayers to the family and friends of those killed and in particular 9 year old Fayez Afzaal. And we remember before God all victims of hate crimes, of every religion, creed and colour.

So wherever you are and whoever you are, welcome, and let us worship God.

Call to Worship

In this time of worship, let the colours of God’s love come alive for us.
The blue of the lakes and seas, refreshing us.
The brown of the earth, grounding us.
The orange of a blazing sunrise, uplifting us.
In worship we affirm God’s nurturing love.

The pink of a gentle sunset, comforting us.
The green of trees and forests, sheltering us.
The black of night, bringing peace and rest.
In worship we affirm God’s caring love.

The yellow of inspiration, encouraging us.
The red of embracing life, energizing us.
The purple of imagination, emboldening us.
In worship we proclaim God’s empowering love.

Move through us God, to feel your acceptance, to accept your forgiveness and to trust in your word to us.

Opening Prayer

Accepting and inclusive God,

Thank you for the diversity of all creation, through which you have given us our vibrant, colourful world. Thank you for our unique place in your world, helping to form a kaleidoscope of ideas and dreams.

Remind us today that all are loved in your creation: friends as well as those unknown and unfamiliar; those with roots in this land, as much as refugees and travellers. All belong to your grace.

Open our hearts to recognize your love for each one of us. Help us affirm that you care for us not only when life is working out, but especially when we struggle and lose our way.

Inspire us today to see that you work through each one of us in unexpected and surprising ways. Awaken us to trust in your love and purpose for us. 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

What is your favourite colour? We each have our favourite colours.

The thing is with colours if you put them all together, side by side, they create a rainbow. They need to be together for us to appreciate how each one is different, and beautiful in its own way. It’s the same with people, God made each one of us different. Everyone is unique and the rainbow of people is made up of all those different people that God created. Each person is loved, and created differently, exactly the way God intended.

Why today do we have the rainbow flags out? Why do we have the coloured chalk on the wall outside the church? We are celebrating Pride. Yes we are!  And we want you to know that we believe as a church, that anyone in the rainbow of colours of God’s creation is most welcome here. Everyone is welcome at Walton, ALL of God’s children.

I think that is wonderful, and that makes Walton what it is. The diversity, the inclusiveness, it is fantastic.  We are very blessed as a church! We are blessed with a diverse, colourful rainbow of people in our church family.

Let us pray: O God, we give thanks for the rainbow in the sky, often we give thanks over the lake for double rainbows. We give thanks for the gift of colour, O God. We give thanks for the difference of all the colours of your people, the way you created them and us, special and unique. Together we form a rainbow, we form a family of faith. Bless this day, each of us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Anthem: “A World of Difference”

 

Scripture Reading:  Ezekiel 17: 22-24, Mark 4: 30-32

Israel Exalted at Last
Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.

On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar.Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind.

All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?

It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;  yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Morning Message:  “The Appearance of Love”

What does love look like? You think you know? Appearances can be deceptive.

When I was at university, I worked part-time in a department store; similar to The Bay or Nordstrom, except that, this being Australia with milder weather, the whole front of the store on the ground floor was open to the street. The street in question was a pedestrian mall, bustling with shoppers and tourists and so inevitably, buskers.

One busker in particular stands out in my memory – he would turn up every weekend without fail and serenade the crowds, playing on a gum tree leaf. The tourists loved it for the few minutes they would stop, but imagine the most piercing sound and a scant repertoire of tunes being played throughout a four-hour shift.

So you can imagine my initial reaction when, driving along Bronte Road one day, I saw a busker standing on the sidewalk playing a guitar.

The associations sprang instantly to mind: irritating, unwanted, does he even have a permit?

Except, appearances can be deceptive. Because when I broadened my perspective, away from the musician and took in the wider scene around him, I realized he was playing on the street opposite Amica, the seniors’ residence near Walton, and every resident with a window facing the street was enjoying the camaraderie and entertainment of an afternoon concert in these isolating times.

Appearances can be deceptive.

I had another similar moment of cognitive dissonance walking one evening through Riverview Park. Someone had willfully, deliberately spread litter along the trail. Whoever would think sticky notes were a suitable addition to our beautiful natural space?

Appearances can be deceptive.

I stopped and looked at the first note, pressed on to the end of a tree branch. It read: “To whoever is reading this. I hope you know that although I may be a stranger, I am rooting for you. I am cheering you on.”

I found four other similar notes, offering encouragement that “the world is a better place because you’re in it” and that “you deserve the love that you give to everyone else.”

What does love look like? Appearances can be deceptive.

The sticky notes, and their unreserved inspiration, reminded me of a man in the US who placed a sign in his yard proclaiming, “I love you.” Below that he wrote, “I know we’re strangers, but people hate strangers every day, so why not love.”

It is perhaps the most Christ-like yard sign you’re going to see, reminding us that the essence of God, as witnessed in the life of Jesus, is abundant love.

The Boston priest, Brother Jim Woodrum, writes, “We cannot love God if we do not love our brothers and sisters and recognize the love God has for them. We cannot adore the beauty of our diverse God if we do not seek it in the faces of the diverse community God has created. We cannot receive the assurance of God’s mercy, gracefully shown to us in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, unless we are willing to [offer] that same mercy.”

For as Christians we are called to affirm that God’s love is a blessing for all, given freely, reaching people and places that might make us uncomfortable, challenging our assumptions of what is proper or acceptable.

Our reading from Ezekiel today shows us that this has been God’s modus operandi for thousands of years. Ezekiel was addressing the people of Israel as they struggled to cope with their exile in Babylon. They were a devastated people, attacked and suppressed by a far mightier political power, and as a result, spiritually lost and abandoned.

Except, as Ezekiel tells them, they are not abandoned; God has not forgotten them. And while to the Israelites, at this point, the power of God’s love might feel as insignificant as a twig, the twig itself will “produce boughs and bear fruit.”

God’s love will defy their expectations of human strength and power, and “become a noble cedar” where “every kind of bird will live,” where “winged creatures of every kind” will find shelter and safety.

Professor Fred Gaiser asks, “Who is included in the ‘every kind of bird’ that is invited to nest in God’s noble cedar?’” I think the answer is clear – who is not?

Ezekiel’s imagery proclaims God’s inclusion, protection, and acceptance – just maybe not in the way we’d immediately expect. This is a love that constantly challenges and surprises us, and calls us to challenge and surprise others with God’s welcoming love.

Buskers, litter… what about graffiti? Could God’s love emerge through a gang of teenagers defacing a wall? Of course it could. And Walton regulars will guess that I’m referring to our now-annual tradition where the Senior and Junior youth groups decorate Walton’s front wall in rainbow colours to celebrate Pride Month.

It is a joyous and exuberant tradition that overthrows outside expectations of how a church should behave and, in their place, proclaims that God’s love is abundant, and inclusive, and given freely to all.

The frequent waves or honking horns from passing cars that the painting crew receive are witness to the power of God’s love to surprise and embrace. Inevitably, the chalk fades, and so I was delighted to read a few weeks ago that Oakville council has authorized three rainbow sidewalks to be painted in the town, one of which will be at the intersection of Bronte and Lakeshore Roads, just next to Walton.

It’s a simple gesture perhaps, an everyday symbol; but to me it reaches out to our LGBTQ+ neighbours and says, “we see you; our community includes you and affirms you.” And for me that is the essence of God’s love.

Musicians, sticky notes, painting, lawn signs and sidewalks – these are not big and mighty movements. They’re small, maybe insignificant – like a mustard seed. Our second reading today from Mark is a well-known parable found in three of the gospels, but in Mark the re-telling is slightly and crucially different. Mark’s mustard seed grows up to become a great… shrub. Yes, you heard that right, not a tree, a shrub.

Historical biblical scholars have given this discrepancy a great deal of attention and have come to some unsettling conclusions. The mustard plant was not a particularly popular plant in Jesus’ time. “It tends to take over where it is not wanted, it tends to get out of control, and it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas where they are not particularly desired.”

In Oakville terms, the mustard plant was likely the equivalent of the invasive garlic mustard that spreads through our ravines and takes root between fences. It’s unexpected, it’s persistent, it’s uncontrollable; definitely undefeatable.

Just like God’s love.

After all, look at the unexpected and challenging ways Jesus proclaims God’s love, the ways Jesus bore witness to God’s inclusion, protection, and acceptance. He made a Samaritan – an enemy of the people of Israel – the hero in his parable, rescuing a beaten man as the socially acceptable and proper rabbi passed by. He sought out Zaccheus, the tax collector and swindler, and honoured him by dining with him. He ignored the social expectations and religious traditions of the Sabbath, to minister and heal.

In these moments and more, Jesus subverted what those around him expected God and God’s love to look like. The kingdom of God is like a noble cedar: including, protecting and accepting. The kingdom of God is like a mustard plant: unexpected and persistent.

This is what God’s love looks like. The surprising and challenging love that we are called to share, even when it flies in the face of what might be expected. Especially when it flies in the face of what might be expected. And this is the welcoming and inclusive love that we are called to receive. God’s love for each one of us. Even if we think we aren’t the sort of person God would be expected to love.Especially if we think we aren’t the sort of person God would be expected to love.

Appearances can be deceptive.

Thanks be to God.

Pastoral Prayer

Compassionate and understanding God,

You see each one of us as we honestly are, flawed and scarred by human weakness – and yet you accept us unreservedly and love us extravagantly. You call us to bring to you our deepest longings and fears, that you may sustain us, guide us and care for us.

We pray for those who feel unwelcome in society, and for us also when we feel rejected. Be with refugees and those displaced from their homes, searching for a safe place to live. Strengthen those whose difference – of race, gender or sexual identity – has caused them suffering and persecution. Grant them and us the blessing of belonging. Listening God, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who feel isolated in their lives, and for us also when we feel lonely. Be with those who live alone and for whom the pandemic has created unhelpful solitude. Comfort those grieving the loss of a loved one, denied our rituals of mourning by Covid restrictions. Grant them and us the blessing of welcome. Listening God, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who feel insecure in this world, and for us also when we feel unsure. Be with those looking for work or fearing for their current job, especially those forced to risk their health in order to keep working at this time. Support those struggling with their finances and worried about making ends meet and feeding their household. Grant them and us the blessing of hope. Listening God, hear our prayer.

All this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

2nd Anthem:  “Journey of Faith”

 

Offering of Ourselves, Our Gifts, Our Tithes

The four gospels each contain many examples of God calling us to help those in need in our world.
We are reminded that when we help another person in need, we are helping and loving God.
We are challenged to love our enemies as much as our friends, and to give without judgment.
We are encouraged that no gift is too small when offered in God’s name and for God’s service.
Let us now offer our individual gifts to God.

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Offering Prayer

Caring God,

In a world of hostility and division, take these gifts, we pray, and use them to heal the pain of your children. As you have blessed us with compassion, help us recognize those living in fear and offer them safety. As you have called us to welcome, help us recognize those isolated in our communities and offer them belonging. Through our time, our talents and our resources, may we love our world more abundantly. Amen.

Benediction

May God of the sunshine warm you with love and acceptance. May God of the rain showers nourish you with strength and renewal. May God of the rainbows embrace you with inspiration and encouragement.

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 a Rainbow (D Kai)
🏳️‍🌈 All Are Welcome (More Voices #1)
🏳️‍🌈 Kindred in Spirit (More Voices #178)
🏳️‍🌈 In the Midst of New Dimensions (J Rush)
🏳️‍🌈 Sing a Rainbow (A Hamilton)

In case you missed it…

Here is Rev. Jim’s mid-week update for Wednesday, June 9th