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JANUARY 19, 2020

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Aboard the Silver Whisper January 19, 2020 at 5:30

HYMN: There's A Wideness in God's Mercy

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray. Almighty God, in your tender love for us, you sent your Son to lead us into the way of life. Give us grace to listen to his voice and follow where he leads, that among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely be fixed where true joys are to be found: Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Song of Zechariah Luke 1: 68-79

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old, that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. (4:14-22a)

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

Devil's Island looked surprisingly nice to me. Palm tree branches lean out over the water; small pink and purple flowers dot the landscape; friendly people guide you along the coastal path, and there is even a chapel. Oh, you hear about the shark infested waters and the fierce currents; you see the signs on the cliff edge warning you about slippery rocks and the risks of swimming, but walking on the island feels more like a summer hike than a trek to a devil-infested place.

Now we know that Devil’s Island didn’t get its name because it is a dangerous and demonic land, but because of what happened on that land, because more than 70,000 prisoners were sent thousands of miles away from their homes in France and incarcerated on Devil’s Island, with no hope of return.

The country had known slavery long before it became a penal colony. French Guiana was a slave society, where planters imported Africans to work the land. The slaves’ only hope was for freedom, and the Devil’s Island prisoners’ only hope was the same.

Actually, it seems that the prisoners did have one other hope. It is depicted on the front of this order of service and in the little east window in the prisoner-built chapel and in one damaged fresco there. On the frescoed wall, the figure of Mary holding a dead Jesus has almost disappeared, but a water pitcher and a cloth are clearly seen and are clearly there to be used by the mother to wash her dead son. The window over the altar has the same shape as the pitcher, tipped to pour out its contents. What a poignantly desolate symbol of hope this is, hope that someone would care enough to wash the prisoners tenderly after they died.

We are the lucky ones, not transported to Devil’s Island as prisoners but as free tourists. Yet we know that none of us is really free, for there are many kinds of slavery. There is the enslavement of riches, the bondage of addiction, the slavery of power, the craving for reputation. We are bound up by old memories, old shames, old fears, old sins. We are caught in our cravings, constrained by our histories, and when we hear Jesus say: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives to let the oppressed go free,” we have to wonder what on earth, what in heaven Jesus means.

Jesus gives us clues. He says that he will guide our feet into the way of peace if we follow him. Eugene Peterson’s modern colloquial translation of this passage is powerful.

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead,” insists Jesus. “You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”
Jesus says that if we would be free of the things that imprison us, we have to let ourselves be imprisoned by him, by his word, his way.
I saw this happen. I can tell you a specific story, a particular story that happened in our time, and it is really the story of everyone who has ever found hope by giving up hope, who has found freedom by becoming a prisoner of Christ. The story is about a man I will call John. John was a very successful businessman. John had smart kids, a great wife, an impressive house, and a lot of pressure to keep it all up. He also had an addiction to alcohol. But John was in charge of his life, so he didn’t get drunk in public - until he did. And then his life started to collapse. John was a churchgoer, but he didn’t really know how to pray, and he wasn’t really sure there was a God, or at least a God who cared about him. But one Sunday morning after a bad Saturday night, John stayed in his pew after the service and he looked at his life, and he knew he wasn’t in charge of it any more. John didn’t want to talk to his wife for fear she would leave him; he didn’t want to talk to his doctor for fear she would reveal his secret; he didn’t want to talk to his friends for fear that they would stop investing their wealth with him. A few tears came to John’s eyes, and as he wiped them away and looked up, the miracle happened. John saw a stained glass window beside him with the prophet Zechariah saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and set them free.’ John doesn’t know why he saw it, why he read it, why it meant anything to him, but he knows one thing. He knows that he felt overwhelming fear that he wasn’t free and that he would never be free and that he needed help.

On Tuesday John was at a rehab center where he gave up his pride and gave up his fear and gave up thinking he could get sober through his own efforts. Twenty years later, John works his AA program and knows the truth of Zechariah’s words. “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

There’s more to John’s story; as there is more to every story. But the point of it is simple. There is hope. Jesus promised it: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he said, “because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”

How we come to freedom is different for each of us. Not many lives are radically changed by stained glass windows. But many lives are changed when we stop in our tracks and admit that we are not free, and then listen and look for what God would have us do. It is not easy to let go. It is not easy to start trusting God. It is not easy to sit in silence and hope. But unless we do, we will never be free.

It is not easy to do the work God sets before us, but when we do, life starts to change. Those in thrall to wealth find joy in giving something away. Those who hire publicists to create a false reputation about them find their true worth tutoring inner city kids who would never learn to read without them. Those who don’t have a clue what prayer means discover it by sitting on a rock and getting still.

When John the Baptist was barely a week old, his father, Zechariah, spoke the prophecy we said this morning: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and set them free.

Zechariah is filled with the hope that accompanies new life. It is hope for all people: Jews and Gentiles, insiders and outsiders, rich and poor, blind and lame, tax collectors and sinners, women and men, old and young, fishermen and farmers. The hope is for the freedom to be God’s beloved children, to use the gifts we are given, to know, really know that the Spirit of God is upon us.

As Zechariah waited, as the prisoners and the slaves on Devil’s Island waited, we all wait for holy freedom. Jesus promises that we will find it when we put our trust in him.

The Prayers

Gracious and loving God, you sent your Son Jesus to come to your people and set them free. Cast your eyes of mercy upon us as we entrust our prayers to you. We pray for your Church; fill it with truth and peace. Where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; and in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, where it is divided, reunite it.
Make us holy and righteous in your sight.

We pray for the leaders of every nation, that they may work together to bring peace to all your people.
Call us to remember your holy covenant.

We pray for those who bear the scars of poverty and emotional desolation, those who live with debilitating pain and anxiety; and those who are imprisoned.
Shine your light upon those who dwell in darkness and heal those who are broken.

We pray for those whom we love, those who have raised us up when we were in need, those who taught us our faith, and those who forgave us when we failed.
In your tender compassion, support and bless them.

We pray for our world, for the lands and seas through which we pass; open our eyes to the beauty of creation.
Make us good stewards of your bountiful gifts.

We pray for ourselves that we may repent of our sins and failings and seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.
Come to your people and set them free.

We pray for those who have entered into eternal rest, remembering Sylvia Leigh, frequent passenger on the Silver Whisper, and for Sylvia’s husband Geoffrey and all who mourn.
Guide our feet into the way of peace.

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, "Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:" Give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. 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 and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all
evermore. Amen.

The Dismissal

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Pianist: Lech Wos
Lector: David Wilson
Altar Guild: Jane Kline Usher: Douglas Kline

Expected time of the next service: January 26 at 5:30 The Lord’s Prayer

Posted by HopeEakins 13:39 Archived in French Guiana

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