By Noah Richardson
Lenten Worship Service – February, 2013
As friends in Christ we have gathered to celebrate God’s presence as we journey through lent together. I thought it would be appropriate to lead you in a prayer of centering and reflection. I hope these words help you capture the immense gift God gives us through the light of Christ and through God’s love. Friends, let us pray.
Guiding God, you are the light that goes with us,
the light that shines on us,
the light that shines through us.
In this place, the music of your people
brightens our hearts.
In this place, patches of radiant winter sun brighten our days,
while the twinkling of stars bring wonder by night.
In this place, creativity and challenge illumine minds.
As we gather together,
friends praying in the afternoon glow of winter,
We pray with those feel alone.
As we gather here, where your light burns bright,
keep us mindful of places where your light seems dim.
Help us to call to mind all your saints in light.
We pray all of these things in the name of Christ,
Light of the world,
Hope of all Creation.
May we never forget the power of your everlasting light, burning bright for us your people. Amen.
In my years growing up in the church, Lent has consistently been one of my favourite times of the Christian calendar. I love the many pieces of scripture and the way they seem to effortlessly bring forth hope for our winter weary bodies, hope of spring’s arrival. Spring is about new beginnings, growth, rejuvenation and new life, a beautiful metaphor as we approach the renewal of Easter.
As I anxiously wait for the snow to melt, I begin to smell the wonders of spring in the air. The light salty sea breeze, the deep smells of the warming earth and the green grass remind me of God and the wonders of creation. Each time I see a tiny, lonely tulip bulb protruding from the softening snow, I am instantly hit with a feeling of awe for new life. Every part of this season truly reflects rebirth.
When I think of spring, I think of the word planting. In the spring we plant new seeds to grow into something beautiful in our gardens. The way that God helps us grow into ourselves is similar to how sunlight and water help plants grow.
One of my favourite pieces of scripture which is not part of the Lenten lectionary, is from the book of Jeremiah chapter one. The verses describe Jeremiah and his call from God. As you listen to God’s word, listen closely to how our creator calls on us to do a different kind of planting in our lives:
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant,” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).
Each time I read the Call of Jeremiah the words echo in my head. To destroy and overthrow, pluck up and pull down, to build and to plant. Those words have a much deeper meaning to me than just a passage of scripture. When I first heard the Call of Jeremiah I wasn’t instantly hit with a profound understanding of its words. However, after hearing the passage for a second time and then a third I knew that these powerful words were beginning to plant themselves in my head.
As a young boy, as the season of Lent began, I would make a painstaking attempt to give up my indulgences in junk food. Of course being a kid, my commitment to avoiding junk food never went as planned, with a few potato chips somehow sneaking back into my diet. Every year was the same, give up potato chips or drinking pop, disrupting my Friday night snacking routine. In our culture Lent has become a time to give up material things, chocolate, alcohol, coffee. Why during Lent do we make small commitments to give up a bad habit or refusing to eat certain foods? How do such insignificant habits deepen our relationship with God? Instead of vowing to break a habit shouldn’t we really be trying to create good habits?
God reminds us in Jeremiah that we are his people, a people called to action. I often feel like the boy in the passage, like God is sending me into my community to build and plant, to help others and destroy and overthrow. I’ve been thinking a great deal about the message in Jeremiah these past few weeks and it has helped centre me for Lent.
I feel the words of Jeremiah are what ignited my calling to strive for peace in this world. I encourage each of you today to think about ways in which you can build and plant yourself in our community. How can you live God’s word while helping others to destroy and overthrow those things which oppress, those systems and prejudices that continue injustice? The season of Lent should be a reminder for all of us of Jesus’ immense sacrifice on the cross. I believe the true way in which we can show our gratitude for Jesus is through acts of love, tolerance and peace. My one wish for the future is that the next generation will live in a world that holds no boundaries. Where walls are not put up in exclusion, but instead torn down in an act of acceptance and tolerance.
This past month I have literally been living this out through an initiative known as the Active 8 Campaign. Through the cooperation of the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation and the Government of Canada, eight peace driven young people are chosen to represent each of the four Atlantic Provinces. The campaign is inspired by the idea that each of us can make a difference: that small acts by individual Canadians can lead to big change for everyone, everywhere. Through my work as one of PEI’S Ambassadors for the campaign I have been encouraging ordinary people to plant themselves in their communities. Throughout the month of February I’ve watching intently as hundreds of my friends, peers, community leaders and even total strangers logged onto to my campaign website to make a pledge to action. Many were simple acts like pledging to use less electricity or eat more local food. Others were more thought provoking like someone who pledged continue to advocate for women’s rights both locally and internationally by fundraising for campaigns like Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl,” and by educating her students about the harmful representations of gender and sexuality in the media. Ultimately, all of those actions whether great or small all can and will contribute to a stronger world.
Friends, we are all called to be Jeremiahs. Jeremiah was reluctant, and sometimes so are we. We too are called to action, everyday, to love and serve. Do not be afraid to act for as God reminded Jeremiah, “I am with you.” God is lighting a path of change for all of us. God is challenging all of us, as we go about our everyday lives, in our homes, workplaces, schools and communities, to build and to plant as you see fit. Do not say I am too young or too old or too tired. Do not say I have too much to do. Do not say I am too lonely or have too little experience. Do not say my little action does not matter. Friends it all matters to God. Plant. Build. Create. Love. Care.
God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Noah Richardson lives in Summerside, Prince Edward Island and attends Trinity United Church. He is currently serving in the position of Youth Rep for Maritime Conference. Noah is very active in the United Church community as a past participant of the GO Project 2010 in Halifax, Rendez-Vous 2011 and was commissioner to the 41st General Council in Ottawa. He has also served on many UCC committees at the local, regional and national level.