As there has been cancellation due to weather, here is the whole series so you can follow:
Lenten Candle Lighting Liturgy
First Sunday: Seeds In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering our Jesus’ sacrifice, that he is the Bread of the World. We remember how Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness, and the temptations we face to look for sustenance elsewhere. We are reminded that through Christ our needs are fulfilled.
We light this candle on this first Sunday of Lent, remembering Christ’s perseverance and praying for Christ’s strength in our lives.
(light the first candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and we begin to plant seeds for the future harvest, may we remember how Christ became broken for us, and that through Christ we will hunger no more. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen
Second Sunday: Earth In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that Christ has offered us new life here on earth, that God so loved the world that he sent his Son, so that the world might be saved through him. While we await the heavenly kingdom, we prepare for God’s reign on earth.
We light this candle on this second Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s assurance of new life through the signs of spring in the earth.
(light the second candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and bulbs are preparing deep in the earth, dear God, may we be ready for what you are preparing to grow in us. Nourish us so that we might bear spiritual fruit. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Third Sunday: Water In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering all the ways God throughout history has delivered the people, through the Red Sea, crossing the river Jordan, and through the waters of our rebirth at our baptism. We know Christ is the spring of living water, and through Christ we will never thirst again for eternal life.
We light this candle on this third Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s love for us through his son Jesus the Christ, that we might have new life in him.
(light the third candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and the rivers fill with spring waters, dear God, may we be filled with your love. Let wellsprings of living water spring up in us. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Fourth Sunday: Sand (or Mud) In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that life was brought forth from the ground in our creation, and that new life for one man was created when Jesus took mud from the ground and made a blind man see. As his eyes were opened for the first time, so our eyes are opened to the need for hope and healing in our world. We light this candle on this fourth Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s promise for all of us, new life here on earth, and eternal life hereafter.
(light the fourth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that it is you who gives us new life on earth, that we might know your love and peace, and share your love with the world. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Fifth Sunday: Stone In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that death no longer has a hold on us. Through Christ we are freed from the cold stone of the tomb and know the warm embrace of the light of life.
We light this candle on this fifth Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s redeeming grace, and that new life comes out of death. We remember the former covenant written on stone, and the new covenant, written on our hearts, that we are God’s children, and God’s promise is life forevermore.
(light the fifth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that spring comes only after a long winter, that new life, eternal life, comes only after passing through death. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Palm Sunday: Wood In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that long ago God planted the Tree of Life, and yet it is on a tree that Christ is crucified. We are again reminded that life comes out of death, and we are promised that death does not have the final word.
We light this candle on this Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s faithfulness through the cross upon which our Lord was crucified, that death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for Christ triumphs over death.
(light the sixth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that you are the one who calls life out of death, that you are the Lord of our lives. In the name of Christ, may we have the strength found in him to journey towards the cross. Amen
Call to Worship
S.- Lent calls us to journey, this and every day, following Jesus
wherever he leads us.
P. - Lent calls us to journey: to the place where God covenants with
us, to receive the new names we are given.
S. - Lent calls us to worship together, to tell future generations the
P. - Lent calls us to practice justice, to bring God's hope to all people.
S.- Lent calls us to faithful living, to trust the One who gives us life.
P.- Lent calls each of us to take up our cross, to trust the One who
bears it with us.
S.- Lent calls us to journey with God.
P. - Let us worship God, who walks with us, this and every day.
We've come again to the beginning of the season of Lent. It
began a few days ago with Ash Wednesday, and we'll walk this
sombre and sometimes lonely road all the way to Easter.
And, as Lent begins, we are reminded of Christ's call to deny
ourselves, to take up our own cross, and to follow in the steps
of Jesus. It's a difficult thing, this call to discipleship, and it
comes as we find Jesus and his disciples on their way to
Jerusalem and his inevitable death.
Lent is the quiet time of preparation leading up to the passion
and joy of Easter. It's a time when we followers of Christ reflect
upon our own shortcomings and find ways to grow in our
relationships with God. It's a time when we make decisions to
put life's distractions aside so that we can direct our focus to
our relationship with Christ.
So today we begin our Lenten journey, along the roads that
Christ traveled towards Jerusalem. We will pause with him as
he preaches. We'll wait with him while he teaches. We'll watch
as he heals, and as he performs miracles. We will focus our
energies on this journey that we walk with him, as we deny
ourselves and take up our own crosses, all the while
remembering that Easter is coming, and that the promise of
Easter makes this a journey of hope.
But, here we are at the beginning of the road, and our first stop
is in Judea. We stop here for a moment to watch Jesus teach,
and then lift some children into his arms.
And there, friends, is a great opportunity for a nice neat
segue.... For whenever a road trip and children are mentioned
in the same breath, the inevitable question pops into our brain:
"Are we there yet?"
As absolutely ANNOYING that question can be when you're
cooped up in a car for hours and hours and it's hot, and the kids
are fighting, and the radio's too loud, and every little thing is
driving you CRAZY and Wait What was I talking about?
Are we there yet? It's a good question to ask, in this very
specific circumstance. Unlike the disciples accompanying Jesus
on his journey, we have the benefit of perspective. We know
how the journey is going to turn out. We know that the tomb
will wind up empty. And that's wonderful. And we'll welcome
that day with Hosannas and Alleluias and rejoicing. But,
because we happen to know how the journey ends, we tend to
forget about the hard road we walked to get there. To look at it
another way: We focus on eternal life with God, and sometimes
we tend to forget how we are called to live now. It's easy to
feel like we've arrived at the destination, that we are "there". A
wise person once remarked: "You're never THERE. You're
always HERE. And HERE is at the beginning of a long road. HERE
is where we are called to deny ourselves, to pick up our own
cross, and to follow Christ.
So let's take a little time today to think about some of the
things that hinder us from doing these things, and from
developing our relationship with God. What are some of the
things that get in our way of our relationship with Christ.
When the little children in today's reading started making their
way towards Jesus, who exactly tried to keep them away? It
was his own disciples, wasn't it?
We have to keep something in mind here: Jesus was on his way
to the cross, and HE knew it. That shadow must have always
been close to his mind. But, even though he knew the hardships
he was bound to face, he still took time to teach, and to spend
a few moments with these children. He had time to take them
in his arms, and he had the heart to share a smile with them,
and perhaps play for a while.
But his disciples wanted to keep these kids away. Not because
they were mean, or anything, but they felt it was their job to
protect Jesus. Jesus had not shared the exact knowledge of
what was coming with them, but they knew quite clearly that
tragedy did lie ahead, and they knew that he carried a heavy
burden. They simply didn't want Jesus to feel bothered. They
couldn't imaging that he actually wanted all these kids around
him. But Jesus said: "Let the children come to me."
And the lesson that followed, about Children and the Kingdom
of God, is a great way to answer our Question: What are the
things that hinder us from journeying with Christ?
esus is ALWAYS ready to receive us into his presence, but
sometimes things get in the way... Sometimes our good
intentions get in the way, like the Disciples who tried to stop
Think about those children; about children in general: Children
possess many traits that make them an ideal example of people
worthy of the Kingdom.
First, think about a child's humility. With few exceptions, most
kids are embarrassed to be the centre of attention. Young
children generally don't strive for pride or prestige; they
haven't yet learned self-importance.
Children are also obedient. Ok, wait, wait I'm just now
thinking about my own kids and how that's patently not true.
Ok, kids are not always obedient, but I like to think that a kid's
NATURAL instinct is to obey their elders, at least for the first
few years. Let's put this one aside for now.
Children are trusting. This one is easier. Young kids recognize
that they need guidance and help, and they trust people who
they believe know better. A child's trust can be seen in the
child's confidence in other people. It's almost unique to young
children that they do not naturally expect any person to be bad.
I enjoy watching the TV show, "Big Bang Theory." There's one
episode where the main character, Sheldon, a brilliant
theoretical physicist with absolutely no social skills, is trying to
learn how to make friends. His efforts land him in a bookstore
where he has gone to find a book about how to make friends.
The salesperson in the bookstore directs Sheldon to the
children's section, where Sheldon picks out an appropriate
book, "Stew the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo," sits down in one
of the child-sized chairs, and proceeds to pick up a conversation
with a young girl sitting across the table. The girl talks openly
with Sheldon, clearly thinking nothing about the fact that this
adult is sitting here reading a child's book, nor about the fact
that Sheldon wants to be the girl's friend. The child has not yet
learned to suspect the world. She still believes the best about
Children also have short memories. I KNOW this one is true,
because every time I ask Quinn to do the dishes or clean his
room, it takes him exactly NO TIME AT ALL to forget
completely. But what I actually mean here is that kids haven't
yet learned to bear grudges or to nourish bitterness. Even when
they're subjected to unjust treatment, the kid can forget, and
forget so completely that forgiveness is unnecessary.
All these traits.... Humility, obedience, trust. These are the traits
of people who take the journey with Christ and grow as his
disciples. When we find our relationship with Christ strained or
distant, when we find it's hard to walk along that road, it's
usually because we have lost some of these traits. Instead of
being humble, we are egotistical. Instead of being obedient, we
are stubborn. We hold grudges. We blame. When called down a
path towards forgiveness, we hold onto hatred and we cast
Friends, we cannot know the Kingdom if we do not live by the
ideals of the Kingdom. We cannot walk with Christ if we are not
willing to follow his ways. Christ told his disciples, told all of us,
that we must deny ourselves, we must take up the cross. He
knows the way won't be easy. He knows the road is going to be
hard. He has seen what's coming. But he also knows that it's
the only way into the Kingdom.
And it's the path that we need to follow. The journey beside
Christ follows a different path, a road that requires us to
sometimes make the hard choice to put aside flaws in our
characters that keep us from Him. It's a path that sometimes
may lead us in a different direction from some of our friends,
family or others in our lives. A family member might get in the
way if they are skeptical about religion. A friend who doesn't
believe in church might encourage us towards other uses of our
time. Maybe our colleagues might think we should work all the
time, at the expense of family and worship. The list could go on
and on. We normally think of peer pressure as a problem for
teens, but let me tell you friends, it's a perpetual problem for
each and every one of us. The influences of people that we
know and see every day can very easily block our road to hope.
Now, I'm going out on the proverbial limb here, there being so
many apple experts here today, but I learned something
interesting this week about fruit trees. Sometimes, fruit trees
put so much energy into growing up that little or no energy is
invested in bearing fruit. Do you know the solution to this
problem? It's called scoring. The farmers will take a knife, and
they make a deep cut in the trunk of the tree near the ground.
While severe, this wound always produces change, and
depending on the time of year that the tree is scored, positive
change results. And to you experts out there, even if I'm
completely wrong, just go with me for now, would you?
I don't think any of us would deny the fact that when it comes
to our relationship with Christ, we could all bear more fruit.
None of us are "there" yet. There are all places where we could
make a few good cuts in our own lives so that we might grow in
our life with Christ. It can be an act of denial, it requires a
change of life, and it is sometimes even painful. But it is the call
of Christ to all people, "deny yourself, take up your cross, and
I know some of this seems sombre and sad, but what do you
want... It's Lent! But seriously, we NEED to remember that the
call to follow Christ is a call to a life of abundance. The Lenten
road we're starting this morning is ultimately a journey of
hope! Though all these trials we are to walk, through the
denials, and beneath the weight of the cross, we have before us
not only hope, but also the promise of eternal life with God.
This Lenten season we, as Christians, are tasked to examine our
lives. We need to find the roadblocks that keep us from walking
alongside Christ. We need to humbly acknowledge our
shortcomings and our weaknesses.
Like children, we need to be less egotistical, more humble. Less
stubborn, more obedient. Less doubtful, more trusting. Bit by
bit, piece by piece, step by step. And we can always trust that,
like those children, Christ is always waiting to welcome us into
The Road to Happy-ness
The preamble to the US Declaration of Independence says the following:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The pursuit of happiness sets a person on a journey, and this journey takes place on a road, the road to happiness. It is a journey that we all take part in throughout our lives, whether we consciously do so or whether our life circumstances dictate it to us. The Declaration of Independence states that the pursuit of happiness is a basic human right. A right that we all, man, woman, and child not only claim as a right, but claim as a desirable right.
As an example of this journey, a recent movie was made starring Will Smith, called The Pursuit of Happyness. It relates the real life story of a man, Chris Gardner, and his son, and how they lived homeless for a year until, through perseverance and hard work, Mr. Gardner achieved success. Note that the word Happyness in the movie is spelt with a ‘y’, not the usual ‘I’. The reason for this is that Mr. Gardner’s son goes to a kindergarten where some 5-year-old child spelt the word this way.
When I saw this, I was struck by a flash of insight which I sometimes get and which bothers me enough to think it through. I wonder why this bothers me until I realize, it’s another one of those God whispers we sometimes hear. We all get them, these whispers from God, but we don’t all pay attention to them, or we don’t always pay attention to them.
So, what did I come up with in my thoughts? Something that we instinctively realize as a part of our spiritual faith. How many times have you heard the expression, ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness?’ Not only do we hear it almost daily, we see examples of it in our own lives and in the lives of others. You see it even in the habits of our children. Christmas gift-giving has come and gone, like it does every year. Some children rip into their gifts, check them out for a few seconds, then go on to the next one. A few weeks later, they often are already tired of these colourful plastic toys and sometimes don’t play with them much longer. It isn’t that they didn’t like what they got. It’s maybe that they got too much at once.
It is the same for us. Look at some Hollywood stars or millionaire athletes and rock stars. How many of them live a life of glitz and glut? How many of them take to drugs and over-abundance of Material pleasures? How many of them turn the road to happiness into the road to suicide? And why? I think of Whitney Houston as one example. She had so much, so much fame, so much fortune, so much talent that she displayed to the world, and so much more she might have shared. Yet, she cast it all away. Why?
I think the big reason why people keep chasing happiness and not finding it is because it always seems to be beyond their reach. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side. We seem too often to be looking for happy-ness with a ‘y’, a series of happy events that are never enough in themselves. Happy-ness with a ‘y’ is a short-term thing. That new dress, that new tv, that new car…I regard these all as happy-ness with a ‘y’, an immature, incomplete, kindergarten happy-ness. These are not happiness with an ‘I’, a complete happiness that we can take with us for the rest of our lives.
These 2 levels of happiness can even extend to out personal relationships, to our friends and partners. When we are dissatisfied with one, when we turn our backs on one, they become happy-ness with a ‘y’. When we endure with the people we know, the people we love, we build long-term relationships, we build happiness with an ‘I’. How do we describe these? How do we keep our happiness long-term? I read recently that the key to enjoying our lives is to be content with what God has given us. When we think about it, He has given us so much, it should be easy to find contentment in His gifts.
I remember a friend of mine some years ago complaining to me about his partner. These are people who had been married for over ten years. They had nice kids, material goods, they had no reason that I could see for being unhappy. So, I asked him a question, “Do you think that she may also find fault with you, and does she dwell on it?” He didn’t know. He had never thought about her feelings and what she thought about their relationship. So, I asked him, “Do you think your partner is basically the same person that she was when you fell in love with her? And is there no way you can do for her what you used to do in the past? When did you last buy her flowers? When did you last say, “I love you?”
I left it as a pregnant question. Contentment is an elusive thing, but certainly not out of reach if you don’t let negative thoughts drag you down.
This Sunday is called Transfiguration Sunday, a celebration of that day when Jesus took three of his disciples up on a mountain top and revealed the power of God to them. To me, it was a clear sign that God’s message to us is that happiness when found in the Lord is a picture so beautiful, so complete, and so utterly beyond description that we can only accept it unconditionally and revel in it unquestionably. As scripture says, “He was transfigured before them.” In other words he became someone who was touched by the divine. No longer seeing Him as a mortal being, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Do we need to be transfigured like Jesus to find happiness? Let me quote an ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu – “
“He who is contented is rich.”
Finding contentment in our lives is finding the road to happiness. Here is what one writer, Leo Babauta, had to say about it:
“There has been little in my life that has made as much an impact as learning to be content — with my life, where I am, what I’m doing, what I have, who I’m with, who I am.
This little trick changes everything.
Let’s take a look at my life before contentedness:
I was addicted to junk food and fast food, and overweight and unhealthy. I bought too many things on impulse, owned too much clutter, and was deeply in debt and struggling to make it to the next payday. I was unhappy with who I was, wanted desperately to change, tried a thousand different programs and books. I was always worried I was missing out on exciting things, and wanted so much to be out doing the fun things everyone else was doing. I was always changing the way I did things, because it seemed everyone else had a better system or tools. I strove to meet goals, because they would get me to a better life.
And as I learned to be content, here was what changed:
I learned to be happy with healthier food, with less food, and my health improved and waistline shrunk. I relied on a good book, spending time with people I loved, going for a nice run … and my debt began to be reduced as I learned I didn’t need to spend money to enjoy myself. I learned to be happier with who I was, and what I was doing, and so no longer needed self-improvement books and programs, no longer needed to try all kinds of new systems and tools. I became happy with myself, with those around me, and with what I had — and so didn’t need to strive to change everything. Letting go of goals helped me to simplify things so I had less to worry about, less to do.
That’s just the start. There is no way to account for the tremendous change that happens when you learn to accept who you are, when you tell yourself you are perfect just as you are, just as God made you, when you love yourself and everything about yourself. You stop criticizing yourself, you are happier, you are a better person to be around, and you can now help others and work without the insecurities you had before.”
Another writer, Joshua Becker, says this:
1. Become grateful. It is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude – they are inseparable. And a grateful person is one who has learned to focus on the good things in their life, not the things that they lack. When you begin to question what you have to be grateful for, just start making a list – a literal list of all the good things in your life. Don’t worry about finishing, you don’t need to. The simple discipline of beginning the exercise will undoubtedly shift your focus back to the many good things you already have.
2. Take control of your attitude. A person who lacks contentment in their life will often engage in “when and then thinking” – “when i get _______, then i will be happy.” Instead take control of your own life. Remember, your happiness is not reliant on the acquisition of any possession. Your happiness is based solely on your decision to be happy – and this may be one of the most important life lessons you can ever learn.
3. Break the habit of satisfying discontentment with acquisitions. For many of us, it has been ingrained into our lives that the proper way to diffuse discontent is to purchase the outward item that is seemingly causing the discontentment. Almost no energy is spent determining the true root of the discontent. Are you dissatisfied with your wardrobe? Go buy new clothes. Not content with your vehicle? Go buy a new one. We have gotten into the habit of satisfying our discontent by simply spending more money. We must break that habit. Understand that material possessions will never fully satisfy the desires of your heart (that’s why discontent always returns). The next time you recognize discontentment surfacing in your life, refuse to give into that bad habit. Instead, commit to better understand yourself and why the lack of that item is causing discontent. Only after you intentionally break this habit will true contentment begin to surface.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing your life with someone else’s will always lead to discontentment. There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and seemingly living the perfect life. But be advised, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions that we make about others. Their life is never as perfect as your mind makes it out to be. You are unique. You are special. And it’s always better that way.
5. Help others. When you begin helping others, sharing your talents, time and money, you will find yourself learning to be content. The practice will give you a finer appreciation for what you own, who you are, and what you have to offer.
6. Be content with what you have, never with what you are. Never stop learning, growing, or discovering. Take pride in your personhood and the progress that you have made, but never become so content that you cannot find room for improvement. Contentment is not the same as complacency. As soon as you stop growing, you start dying.
To me, lasting happiness is found in these things:
The person who agreed to share her life with me.
The three sons we were gifted with by God.
The pleasure of living daily in a blessed land like the Chateauguay Valley.
The good friends we have made here and the blessings of a friendly church family.
The opportunity to give back to God by giving of ourselves some of the time and talent He has blessed us with.
Let us Pray:
Dear God, I pray for happiness.
I pray that I have a cheerful heart.
I pray that others are drawn to my happy smile, my positive attitude, and my face that shines with joy.
Dear God, I know that you have created me and everyone else to be happy, to find joy and laughter in the different stages and experiences of life.
I pray that I express You in my expression of joy.
A cheerful heart is a continual feast.
My outlook is positive, and I feel happy.
My life is a banquet of uplifting experiences.
I feel so good as I release the joy of God from within.
I express God's eternal, loving presence within me.
I pray, daily, that my cheerful heart up lifts me, and brings joy to everyone around me.
In Jesus Christ's name� Amen
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Call to Worship
K. : The buzz of the world interrupts our lives and fills our ears
All: Call us into Your way of life, O God
K.: The complaints of others settle in our mind and cloud our vision
All: Lead us into Your vision of life, O God
K. : The cries of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast pierce our hearts.
All: Guide us in Your example of living for others, O God
K. : Fill our hearts, fill our eyes, fill our ears with Your love, O God
All: Let us be Your hands and feet in the world, O God.
All: Let us worship You together.
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