- Wednesdays until November 29 -- Praying Jesus' Prayer study continues at 1:30 pm in Boyle Lounge.
- Monday November 6 -- UCW meets at 7:00 pm.
- Thursday November 9 -- Church cleaning bee at 9:00 am.
- Thursday November 16 -- Worship service at Extended Care Wing at 10:45 am.
- Saturday November 18 -- UCW Bazaar
- 4 Sundays starting November 26 -- The Music of Advent & Christmas Study Group 7:30 pm
- Sunday December 3 -- 1st Sunday of Advent, communion service. Soup & sandwich lunch and tree-trimming party following the service.
- Sunday December 3 -- UCW meeting at 5:00 pm. Potluck Supper and gift exchange.
- Wednesday December 6 -- Board meeting at 7:00 pm.
- Sunday December 10 -- Buy Nothing Christmas Bible Study 2-4 pm.
- Sunday December 17 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent, Congregational Pageant and White Gift Sunday
- Sunday December 24 -- 4th Sunday of Advent celebrated at 10:30 am. Christmas Eve service at 7:00 pm.
- Sunday December 31 -- celebrate the New Year at regular Sunday worship at 10:30 am.
December 31, 2006
December 28, 2006
December 26, 2006
The Scripture Readings for this week are:
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
- Psalm 8 (VU p.732)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: Revelation 21:1-6a
- From the Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
The Hymns will be:
- 59 Joy to the World
- 74 What Child is This
- 87 I Am the Light of the World
- 96 Will You Come and See the Light
The Sermon title is Beginnings, Endings, Resolutions
Early Thoughts: Out with the old, in with the new. Once again it is time to bid farewell to another year. It is a time for looking back at what has happened over the last 12 months (as a glance at newspapers and news TV will point out) and reflecting on what we have learned and experienced.
What has 2006 brought us? What did we gain from the year? What do we leave behind? It is always good to reflect on where our path has taken us. But of course that is ony half of the New Year's celebration.
As we prepare to countdown to midnight we do so with hope and anticipation. We look forward to what awaits us in the next 12 months. What new challenges and celebrations will we find? What surprises are out there waiting for us?
A common part of New Year's celebrations has been the making of resolutions. Of course most of these resolutions may end up being honoured more in the making than in the doing. But there is something about a new beginning that incites people to make promises about how they will live, something that I think is tied in to that feeling of hope as a new year begins.
Our Scripture lessons for New Years remind us of many things. Ecclesiastes reminds us, in those words made famous by the Byrds, that to every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. Revelation reminds us that God is the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end and that God is making all things new. And the Matthew pasage reminds us of our ethical duty to care for those around us.
As we look back on the year that was and forward to what may be may we pledge ourselves anew to live out God's call to be peolpe of faith. And may 2007 truly be a year of blessing for all of us.
December 19, 2006
The Scriptures will be:
- The birth of a child foretold: Isaiah 9:2-7
- The story of a baby, angels, and shepherds: Luke 2:1-20
We will sing lots of carols:
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- Angels from the Realm of Glory
- Go, Tell it on the Mountain
- O Little Town of Bethlehem
- 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime
- It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
- Joy to the World
- Silent Night
There will not be a sermon in this service (everybody can cheer now). There will be a poem --Christmas Bells--, a story -- Pippin the Christmas Pig, and a drama set in Bethlehem on the day after Christmas mixed in throughout the service. Before singing Silent Night to close the service we will each light a small candle to show God's love shining through our world.
December 18, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Micah 5:2-5a
- From the Gospel: Luke 1:26-35
- Responsive Reading: Luke 1:47-55 (VU p. 898)
- From the Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25
The Hymns will be:
- 9 People Look East
- 62 Once in Royal David's City
- 48 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- 35 Good Christian Friend Rejoice
The Sermon title is The Nativity Story (Truth, Myth, and Faith)
Early Thoughts:Every year people have a great debate about the "truthfulness" of the Christmas story. In fact, one of the five fundamentals of fundamentalism is to believe in the historical reality of the virgin birth (the other 4 are the inerrancy of Scripture, "blood" atonement, bodily resurrection of Christ, and that Jesus will come again). But is that even the point of the story? Is it really the point of Christmas?
It is my belief that people have largely forgotten (or have never been taught) that truth and fact are not neccessarily the same thing. This appears to be especially true where Scripture is concerned. Some people have invested so heavily in the belief that Sripture is, in some very literal way, the exact Word of God that to talk about Scripture stories as anything other than historic fact is very threatening. This has shown up frequently on in the discussions on WonderCafe. AS a result they claim that to question the historicity of th birth naratives is to toss out any reason for Christmas at all--or even to collapse the whole foundation of Christian faith.
But there is another viewpoint. Truth doesn't have to mean factually accurate. Truth can often be told through mythic stories as well as, or even better than, through attempts to be historically accurate. It is my belief that this is what we see happening in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke.
Of all the writers in the Christian Scriptures only Matthew and Luike find it important to discuss the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. That alone may suggest how (un)important the event was seen by the early church. And those two stories are totally different. They describe a different set of events and have a different geography. They can not easily be made into one story and yet remain faithful to the text.
Please join us this Sunday as we look at the birth narratives, at what may have helped shape them, and how they show us the inter-relation between truth, myth, and faith.
December 12, 2006
- we discussed the Emerging Spirit campaign being produced by the national church
- we talked about potential Board members -- we are looking for 2 people to fill 3-year terms, 1 for a 2-year term and 1 for a 1-year term
- we reviewed the financial statements
- we circulated a Structure Document for review. THis may be brought to the Annual Meeting for congregational approval (or for information with a later special meeting for approval).
- we talked about a couple of issues for the new Board to deal with after the Annual Meeting on (which will be on February 4, 2007).
The next Board Meeting will be on January 16, 2007. It's primary focus will be preparing for the Annual Meeting.
December 11, 2006
All are welcome as we tell and sing the Christmas story. Will you be an angel, a shepherd, or one of the Magi?
December 04, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Malachi 3:1-4
- Responsive Reading: Luke 1:68-79 (p. 900 in Voices United)
- From the Gospel: Luke 3:1-6
- 1 O Come O Come Emmanuel (verses 1,3,5,7)
- It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (insert)
- 20 On Jordan’s Bank
- 9 People Look East *NEW*
The SErmon title is Wake up, Wash up!
Early Thoughts: Every year in Advent we talk about a very strange man. He is a cousin of Jesus, born just a few months before Jesus. His name is John, but we usually refer to him as John the Baptist.
The story of John's miraculous birth appears in the first chapter of Luke (this week's responsive reading is the song John's father Zechariah sings when he is born). The next time we see him he appears in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. THe early Christian writers looked at the stories about John and looked at the prophetic books where it talked about a messenger who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah. John, it appeared to them, must be that messenger. And so, as we prepare for Christmas we hear stories about John and his preaching.
John's preaching (found in Luke 3, as well as the other Gospels) was anything but comfortable. He preached repentance with a capital R. He calls his listeners a brood of vipers and warns them about wheat being separated from chaff, with the chaff then being destroyed. John apparently saw his mission being to convict the people of their sin. And in this he stood in a long tradition.
The prophets of Jewish Scripture quite often call the people to account for their behaviour. In fact, it can easily be argued that this calling to account was their main raison d'etre, not foretelling the future (it is only in looking back that people said "Hey, they were predicting what is happening now"). And they did this out of love, love of God and because of God's love for the people. God calls us to account so that we can change our behaviour. GOd sends messengers to remind us how we can do better not so we can avoid some future punishment but because God wants us to grow. As we once again prepare for God to break into our world it seems appropriate that we should spend some time talking about repentance--a word which really means to change directions.
This weeks reading from Malachi is another example of the prophetic voice calling the people to be changed. Here the prophet speaks about God's people being cleansed by refining fire or fuller's soap. When metal is being refined it is put into a blast furnace so that any impurities can be burned away. THe prophet is reminding us that God can remove our impurities and turn God's people into gold and silver.
When I was in youth group as a teen one of the songs we often sang was called Refiner's Fire. It made made use of this imagery, saying:
Purify my heart, let me be as gold and precious silverAre we willing to be woken up to how we need to change and how we need to help change our world? Are we willing to let ourselves be washed with fuller's soap? Are we ready to be refined? These are the questions Malachi and John ask us. Being woken and washed is part of the life of faith, they are a part of what happens when God is active in our lives. And so, they are a part of our preparing for the coming of Emmanuel, God-made-flesh.
Purify my heart, let me be as gold, pure gold
Re-finer's fire My heart's one desire
is to be holy set apart for You Lord.
I choose to be holy set apart for you my master,
ready to do your will.
Purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy.
Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within
November 27, 2006
The Scripture readings for this week are:
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Jeremiah 33:14-16
- Psalm 25 (VU p.752)
- From the Gospel: Luke 21:25-36
- Advent Hope (insert)
- 9 People Look East *NEW*
- 2 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
- 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
The Sermon title is Stay Calm, Be Brave, Wait for the Signs!
Early Thoughts: As we begin the church year we have a very strange reading from the Gospel. Every year we start preparing for Christmas with a reading about the Second Coming. ANd it really doesn't seem to fit. After all, we are preparing to celebrate the first coming, not the second.
But what we prepare for at Christmas is the time when God breaks into our world. And this happens all the time, whether we are expecting it or not. So we are called to look around and be aware of how GOd is becoming known here and now.
In reading the writings around the End Times it sounds terrifying. As we look around for "signs" that match those writings in our modern world it is still terrifying. Wars and hatreds abound, famine and starvation are realities, injustice seems to flourish. It would all too easy to lose hope.
But we celebrate the God who breaks into our world bringing peace and hope, justice and righteousness. ANd because of that we can in fact (as the folks at the Dead Dog Cafe remind us each week) Stay Calm, Be Brave, Wait for the Signs.
Stay Calm. There is hope for the future. Panic only raises the general anxiety level. Be Brave. We have a steady and sure support in God who will not leave us alone. Fear is the opposite of the Love of God. Wait For The Signs. Look around to see what God is doing. Be ready to notice God acting in our midst.
In a few short weeks we will tell again the story of a baby born in a stable. We will sing again about God becoming known. The story is ongoing, as long as we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
November 20, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: 2 Samuel 23:1-7
- Psalm 132 (VU p. 855)
- From the Writings of the Early Church: Revelation 1:4b-8
- From the Gospel: John 18:33-38a
THe Hymns will be:
- 710 Shall We Gather at the River
- 268 Bring Many Names
- 356 Seek Ye First
- 27 Tomorrow Christ is Coming
The Sermon Title is The Kingdom of Truth.
One of my favourite parts of the passion story falls in this reading from John. WHat better contrast between the way of Jesus and the way of the world than to have this exchange between Pilate and Jesus. Really though, my favourite version is the way Andrew Lloyd Webber put it in Jesus Christ Superstar:
Pilate: Then you are a king?
Jesus: It's you who say I am. I speak of truth, and find that I am damned.
Pilate: But what is truth? Is truth a changing law? We all have truths, are mine the same as yours?
What is truth anyway?
One of the issues that has come up a number of times in the 2 weeks of discussion on WonderCafe is the question of truth. SOme people within the Christian church hold that there is an absolute truth, manifested in Jesus the CHrist. Others of us find that most of the so-called absolute truths are somewhat subjective and arbitrary.
THe issue of truth is important. ANd I do believe that there are some truths which transcend all of our bickering and squabbling. I see those truths as the ones which last, which stand the test of time. At one point it was a "Truth" that the world was flat. AT one point it was a "truth" that colour made a difference in the worth of a person. Those truths don't stand up. BUt truths like "you should love your neighbour" or "God calls us to care for each other" tend to be more long-lasting.
The other thing about real truths is that our understanding of them can change with time. 230 years ago the founders of a nation wrote "These truths we hold to be self-evident, that all men are created equal". Well in the intervening years the interpretation of all men has changed greatly. The truth is still there, it is just understood more fully.
That is how I see it happening with the Kingdom of Truth, GOd's Kingdom. There is truth that goes beyond our definitions and boundaries. AS we grow closer to an understanding of God's truths we grow closer to that time when "thy kingdom come, thy will be done" is more than just a phrase we pray together each week. That will be the time when it is a description of life here and now.
November 13, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: 1 Samuel 1:14-20
- Responsive Reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (on insert)
- From the Gospel: Mark 13:1-8, 24-37
The Hymns for the week are:
- 333 Love Divine All Love’s Excelling
- 713 I See a New Heaven
- 688 O Day of God Draw Nigh
- 424 May the God of Hope Go With Us
The Sermon title is The Coming of Trouble
8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs (Mark 13:8)
The 13th chapter of Mark is not pleasant reading. It is a passage that talks about coming troubles, about fear and destruction, about the end times.
At issue for us is not how soon the end-times are coming. For 2000 years now there have been people who were convinced that they were right around the corner. In fact, it could easily be argued that the end-times are always just around the corner but the corner keeps moving ahead of us. At issue for us is how do we live in the coming of troubles.
I am struck by Mark's use of the term birthpangs. It seems so right to me. We all know that birth is not a happy go lucky event. Often it is hard and painful and there is an element of danger. That seems to be how change happens in the world -- a lot of yelling and crying (and sometimes cursing) with an undercurrent of danger and the knowledge that life will never be the same again.
Jill Warner has a song called Life in the Goo, The title comes from the birth of Butterflies. As children we are often given the impression that the emergence from a cocoon is easy. In fact the new butterfly has to fight its way through the gooey mess that was the cocoon before it can dry its wings and fly. Jill suggests that often this is what the life of faith is about. The chorus goes:
Life in the Goo, what's a body to do
Some days you don't know if you'll ever get through.
But God has promised to be there for you
so every now and then you live your life in the goo.
Somedays you don't know if you'll ever get through the troubles that come when the world is changing. But the truth is that God has promised to be there in the troubles. Goo is a part of life. But we can make it through. And the real promise is that it will all be worth it in the end. In the end there will be something to show for it. A newborn hope, a newborn world. We have to go through the birthpangs, but there will be something to show for it eventually (sometimes labour takes an awful awful long time).
November 08, 2006
The other study will be a one-timer. On Sunday December 10 from 2-4 all are invited to share in a Bible Study put out by the folks at Buy Nothing Christmas. Information about this study in particular will be sent out to the other churches in town with the hopes that it will become an ecumenical event.
For more information about these studies please talk to Gord.
November 06, 2006
What Emerging Spirit campaign?
Emerging Spirit is an initiative focused on establishing and nurturing a new relationship between the United Church and Canadians, especially those between the ages of 30-45 who are one of the first Canadian generations to grow up largely outside of the church.The team has done a wide range of research into how best to connect with this age group. THe campaign will include a special website, magazine ads, and opportunities for churches to learn more about being welcoming congregations (there will be a training event for this in THunder Bay at the end of April).
The next step to fall into place will be the website WonderCafe. This website is set to go live on November 7. THe office has just received a binder of information about how best to utilize this website in local contexts. ASk Gord about it if you are interested.
More information about Emerging Spirit is available by clicking on any of the links in this post. More information about the Living the Welcome training event will come out in the new year.
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
- Psalm 127 (VU p. 851)
- From the Jewish Scriptures: 1 Kings 17:8-16
- From the Gospel: Mark 12:38-44
The Hymns for the week are:
- 401 Worship the Lord
- Thankful Living, Joyful Giving (See Insert)
- 603 In Loving Partnership
- 506 Take My Life and Let it Be
The Sermon title is The Gift of Giving
Early Thoughts: IT is that time of year again -- Stewardship season. And there are few better stories in the Gospels around Stewardship than that of the Widow's Mite.
The widow is highlighted not because of the size of her gift, but because of its nature. Although it is small, it is a bigger part (or percentage) of what she has to live on. It is more sacrificial.
There is a flaw in much of our stewardship talk. The flaw is in how we talk about our gifts. On the one hand we are sometimes afraid to ask for gifts (is a gift still a gift if it is asked for?) and so we say "give whatever you can afford/whatever you want". On the other hand, we sometimes talk about stewardship as the gift we owe to God. Both of these are flawed because they degrade the gifts.
In the first instance we fail to highlight the importance of the gift. Not surprisingly, churches which answer the "What should I give?" question in this way tend to get smaller gifts. If we don't show whay we feel stewardship is important then those who we are educating (whether we know it or not we are educating them) will also not see the gift to the church as important--we end up giving what is left, only to find that there is little "left".
The second approach (which often includes tithing) makes our free gift seem more like a debt that needs to be paid. Gifts to God, however offered, are not payments of a debt. They may well be thank-offerings, gifts of gratitude. But they are never something we owe to God because we owe God nothing. All we have is a gift from God -- and a true gift comes with no expectation of payback.
The beter approach lies somewhere between those two extremes (not important and a debt). We need to find those ways that we awaken a desire to give sacrificially. We need to be able to explain why we give, why we find it important to give. And let's be honest, we need to name that if we make giving a priority it might mean that something else will get the "leftovers".
In the end it isn't the amount of the gift that matters. In the end it doesn't really matter if you give to God's work through the congregation, or through the Mission & Service fund, or through some other way. What matters is that you give. What matters is that we become aware of our own giftedness and respond gratefully.
There is a danger in highlighting the passages we use this Sunday as well. The story of Elijah may lead us to think that if we give we will be rewarded -- indeed there is a movement called the "prosperity gospel" that teaches just that. This is not a gift, it is an investment. And remember that the rewards God gives are not always so measurable. With the Gospel passage we may see ourselves as the widow, giving all we have/can. BUt maybe we are like the rich in their finery making a show of the gift. We need to remember that a gift, when truly given, needs no fanfare. It can be quietly slipped into the plate or under the office door. Believe me when I say that such quiet, yet large and sacrificial, giving happens all the time in many places across the country.
COme and enjoy some food and fellowship while also browsing the Baking, crafts, sewing, knitting, books, and crocheting up for sale. Get a jump start on Christmas!
Also, be sure to check out what treasures are waiting for you on the "New To You" table.
November 03, 2006
The story behind the song, links to audio only versions (and links to the video) as well as the lyrics and melody can be found here
November 02, 2006
Make your hearth fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.
People look east and sing today: Love the guest is on the way.
( verse 1 of #9 in Voices United words ©1928 Eleanor Farjeon. Used with permission under License #C6531 LicenSing—Copyright Cleared Music for Churches)
“…the time is near of the crowning of the year”. Can that really be right? As I sit down to write this the wind is, literally, howling outside. Soon we will be scraping frost from our windows and snow from our walks. These are signs that the crowning of the year is coming? That can’t be right.
But what if it is? What if the crowning, or at least one of the crownings, of the year really is coming? That would be a cause for hope. That would be a cause for celebration.
In fact it is true. The coming of mid-winter, with its darkness and cold, also brings us reminders of the Light of the World, the Light that can never be blown out. We face the forces of hopelessness in our world, whatever they are, with the story of a baby’s birth. The crowning of the year is the news that we sing “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come!”
Angels announce with shouts of mirth Christ who brings new life to earth
Set every peak and valley humming with the word the Lord is coming.
People look east and sing today: Love the Lord is on the way.
(verse 5 of #9 in Voices United words ©1928 Eleanor Farjeon. Used with permission under License #C6531 LicenSing—Copyright Cleared Music for Churches)
Soon we will once again tell the story and sing the songs about the birth of a baby. But more than an infant boy in long ago Bethlehem we sing about the hope that is reborn in our hearts. Indeed the time is near of the crowning of the year. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, God-With-Us, is coming into our lives. Alleluia!
October 29, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Ruth 1:1-18
- Psalm 146 (VU p.868)
- From the Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
The Hymns for the service are:
- 326 O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
- Let There be Peace on Earth (Insert)
- 660 How Firm a Foundation
- 675 Will Your Anchor Hold
During Children's Time we will be looking at Remembering and Peacemaking in honour of Remembrance day coming up.
Early Thoughts: “Be still and know that I am God.” “Let go and let God.” “In God we trust.” In the end it is all about trust. The life of faith that is. In the end being faithful relies on our ability to trust in God rather than (or perhaps as well as) in ourselves and the people around us. That is what the Psalmist says here. The works of human beings will come to nothing but trust in God “who keeps faith forever”.
But that is easy to write a poem about. It is easy to write a sermon about. It is even easy to write a devotion about. What is hard is to do it. In the end, when the foot hits the pavement, it is terribly hard to “let go and let God”. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells his listeners not to worry about food or clothing. “Look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field” he says, “God provides what they need, how much more will God provide for God’s children”. But still we worry, still we find it hard to trust in God.
Actually let’s be honest. Some days it is awfully hard to trust anyone. People still ask of course. What is an election campaign but a bunch of people saying “trust us, we know what is right”? Or then there are television commercials, which may be more subtle but still tell us to trust that this product will make our lives better. Or then there are the closer ones, the friends and loved ones who ask us to trust them with our own hopes and fears and lives. So we take the plunge, we put our trust in a government, or in a company, or in a person. And sometimes it works so we go on to trust some more. But sometimes we get burned. And when we get burned badly or often enough we give up on trust. We join the Psalmist in proclaiming Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish (verse 4). Maybe that is why we find it hard to trust God, because we have given up on trust in general.
Or maybe it is because we don’t like to give up control. Maybe that is why it is so hard to trust both in God and in the world. To trust someone else means giving up a degree of control. The deeper the trust the more control we give up. Part of growing up, we are often told, is taking charge of your own life. The goal of life, we are often told, is to be able to control our own destiny. Putting our trust in God, who has an annoying habit of turning the world upside down, goes against this idea of being in control. On second thought, maybe that is actually the whole point.
Maybe the point is that we don’t need to be in control. Maybe the point of life is that we actually aren’t in control. The Psalm claims that trusting in God is the path to happiness. Trusting in God who turns the world upside down is the path to happiness. Some people claim that we can trust in God because God has a plan, because God is knows what will happen next. I actually don’t agree. I believe that God has a hope, but that our free will frustrates and diverts God’s hope. Free will keeps God guessing about what will come next. I believe we can trust in God because God sees the big picture, because God is in it for the long haul.
Julian of Norwich is famous for her declaration of trust in God: “all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing be well”. That can be seen as a terribly unrealistic hope, as something only a fool believes, as a “there, there, it will be ok”. But Julian lived in a world that made it almost impossible to be a Pollyanna. Julian lived at a time of plague and revolt and warfare. She knew the troubles of the world but she also had trust in God. Her “all shall be well” was a long-term vision. In the end God will bring things back together. God is in it for the long haul and God is trustworthy, and God will make all manner of thing be well.
One of the challenges of trusting other people, or governments, or corporations, or even ourselves, is that we all tend to look at life in the short-term. We tend to work for our own benefit, not always realizing that what looks good now may come back to hurt us later. One of the challenges of trusting God is that God calls us to do things that just don’t make sense in the short-term. God disrupts our comfort with a vague promise of something better to come. But in the end, that is what makes me trust God. I can trust God because God is working for the time when all shall be well.
One of the classic images of God is that of a loving parent. A loving parent is trustworthy because she works for the long-term health and well being of her child. A loving parent is trustworthy because he is willing to say “you may not like this but it is for the best”. God, our loving Parent, is trustworthy not because we get what we want right away. God is trustworthy because through God, in many different ways, we get what we need. We get real justice (eventually), we get true freedom (eventually), we get food for body and soul (whether we recognize it or not). Thanks and praise to God who is in it for the long haul, who keeps faith forever!
And so we pray:
Creator and Creating God, it is so easy to be cynical. It is so easy to believe that trust is a fool’s game. Help us to remember that we are not alone, that we don’t have to do it all ourselves. Help us learn to trust You in all the ways that we meet You. We pray that in taking the risk to trust You, to trust our neighbour, to trust ourselves, we can move one step closer to the time when all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing be well. Amen.
October 28, 2006
- made a list of Riverview's Strengths and Opportunities
- decided that we will put the No Motorized Recreational Vehicles Allowed signs at the entrances to the upper and lower parking lots.
- decided to order 10 copies of More Voices along with the music CD. That way we can test them out and order more at a later time if we want to do so.
- decided to continue having My Three Sons clear the snow from the parking lots this winter
- reviewed the financial reports as of the end of September, and found that while we are in a deficit position we are in less of a deficit than in the past three years at this point.
- decided on a date for a church cleaning bee, time to get ready for the Christmas season
- discussed that the first Sunday of Advent, December 3, will be a communion service and that we will have a tree-trimming party following worship that day.
- set December 17 as White Gift and Pageant Sunday
- agreed that we will have both morning and evening services on Sunday December 24
- confirmed that we will have 4 vacancies on the Board to fill at the Annual Meeting (February 4, 2007). In order to create a rotation, and avoid having four vacancies in three years time, we are looking for 2 people to fill 3-year terms, 1 person for a 2-year term and 1 person for a 1-year term. That way we have a third of the Board up for renewal each year.
The next Board meeting will be on Wednesday November 29 at 7:00. Members are invited to bring snacks.
October 23, 2006
- Job 42:1-6, 10-17
- Psalm 34 (VU p. 761)
- Mark 9:38-50
- 276 This is God’s Wondrous World
- 268 Bring Many Names
- 579 The Church is Wherever God’s People
- 646 We Are Marching
Early Thoughts: Sometimes Jesus' words are difficult to comprehend. Not because the language is confusing but because we are left shaking our heads and saying "did he really meant THAT!". Verses 42-48 of this passage certainly fall into that definition. Cut off your hand or foot? Tear out an eye? Put a millstone around your neck and drown yourself? Come on now!
Well I don't know if Jesus meant people to take those words literally. But as metaphors they are certainly powerful. Especially the first one in the passage (last in the list above). Verse 42 reads:
42 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.
If anyone gets in the way of those (the phrase "these little ones" does not refer to children but to adults of lowly status) who are trying to follow the path of God, it is better that they did not exist. That is what the verse is saying. But of course, I hear you saying, we would never get in the way. Really? Are you sure?
The last Sunday in October is often called Reformation Sunday. For some this is a time to remember the work of the Reformers who have gone before. But it is also a time to consider the reforming that is ongoing. Semper Ecclesia Reformanda Est--The Church is Always Being Reformed. And in the light of that ongoing reformation we need to look at this verse more seriously.
Maybe, in our natural resistance to change, we do in fact put stumbling blocks and barricades in the path. Maybe we need to be reminded to get out of the way and start to follow instead of insisting "this is how it must be!". And so we have this week's sermon title. How do we help and/or hinder the work God is doing to create and re-create in our midst?
For me, part of the process of getting out of the way is being open to new ideas. But part of it is also remembering who is at the centre. Humans in general have a tendency to become self-centred (obviously there are varying degrees of this). And so we tend to think of how something hurts/benefits us or those around us. Also we tend to think that those who do things differently are somehow wrong. We easily fall into the logic of "whoever isn't with us is against us" -- just ask President Bush.
But Jesus has a different idea. In verse 40 of this passage Jesus says Whoever is not against us is for us. He turns conventional wisdom on its head. But this new wisdom is ever so helpful in the act of getting out of God's way. If we allow that others may not in fact be against us, that they may share a common goal, then it is easier to find God active in the world.
God says through the prophet "behold, I am doing a new thing". Jesus says do not hinder those who wish to follow me. Get out of the way and let God's path be what it is, not just what we want it to be. What new thing will we find as we push past the barricades and follow The Way?
October 19, 2006
As I sit down to write this in early August I find that I am in planning mode. I am considering ideas for Bible Study in the fall and winter. I am planning for my vacation time that starts in mid-August. I am thinking ahead to the guided retreat that I am taking while out West. And, strongly related to the first and second, I am wondering what lies ahead for Riverview United Church...
A common question asked both of individuals and organizations is “where do you see yourself/selves in 5 years?”. 5 years tends to be a common period of time in planning circles (although organizations also need to look 10, 15, or 20 years ahead as well – the larger the group the farther ahead they should look). AS we look into the future for Riverview what do we see?
As noted elsewhere in this newsletter the Board is looking at some of these questions this fall. I continue to believe that Riverview, and Atikokan as a whole, has great potential. But to tap that potential we have to look carefully at who we are and who we are called to be. We are a church; we are not a social club or a nice place to hang out. Our end goal is to grow in faith and share the fruits of our growth with those around us. What do we need to do to meet that goal?
As we openly engage in looking at the future it is my fervent hope that we will not get distracted by those things that are easy to count (bodies in the building and dollars in the bank). As a faith community those numbers are really secondary. I don’t mean they are not important, of course they are, but increasing them really is not our goal. Our goal is to grow in faith. Our goal is to spread the Good News of God’s presence and activity in the world to those who have trouble hearing it. Together we can live out that task. And God will be with us in all our endeavours.
At this start of a New Year may we all be filled with hope and excitement.
Blessings and Peace,
This will be a discussion about our Strengths and Opportunities (you could also call these our Gifts). What are they? The Board would love to hear from you.
October 16, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Job 38:1-7, 34-41
- Psalm 104 (VU p.826)
- From the Letters to the Early Church: Hebrews 5:1-10
- From the Gospel: Mark 10:35-45
The Hymns are:
- 389 God is Here
- 316 Praise our Maker
- 268 Bring Many Names *NEW*
- 684 Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
The Sermon title is Knowing God.
Early Thoughts: The book of Job is a, well different story. And it is a story where, quite frankly, God does not come off looking too good. At the beginning of the story we are told how honourable and faithful Job is. Then, as some sort of test, God allows Job to be stripped of his wealth, his health and his family. In a culture where misfortune equaled having offended God somehow everyone tells Job he must have done something wrong. His own wife counsels him to "curse God and die". But Job knows that he did nothing wrong. Job knows that this is not fair. And Job is willing to tell God so, at least indirectly by arguing with his three friends who seek to defend God. In response God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind saying: "2Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me." (Job 38:2,3).
This reading from Job is the beginning of an extended section (chapters 38-41) where God lists all that God has done. The sense is that God is trying to say "you don't really know and understand me!". And that raises a questions. How do we really know God?
Knowing God is a challenge. Part of the challenge is that there is a part of us that always wants to be able to define God. When we can define something we can limit it, we can make it what we want it to be. But God consistently resists human attempts to define who and what God is, or what God cares about.
Knowing God is a challenge also because, as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part;" (1 Corinthians 13:12). God is beyond our language to describe. God is beyond our experience to comprehend. God is bigger than our conceptions.
So how do we know God? Well we don't, fully. But we are always challenged to be open to having our knowledge and understanding of God broadened. We are always urged to explore how God is present in our lives. And we are always warned not to speak as if our understanding is perfect, or as if we have the inside line on what God thinks. Otherwise we too may hear the voice from inside a whirlwind.
October 09, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
- Psalm 90 (VU p.805)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: Hebrews 4:12-16
- From the Gospel: Mark 10:17-31
The Hymns are:
- 679 Let There Be Light
- 356 Seek Ye First
- 601 The Church of Christ in Every Age
- 427 To Show by Touch and Word
The Sermon is titled The Word Lives -- and Cuts.
Early Thoughts: The Word of God is a Living thing. Scripture is a part of the Word but is not the whole Word. God is still speaking in the world today. (For some thoughts on whether GOd is still speaking click here).
The Living Word of God speaks to us in many ways as long as we pause to hear it. "God's still speaking, are you listening?"
The Living Word of God speaks to offer comfort in our time of fear or uncertainty. "God's still speaking, have no fear."
But the Living Word of God can also cut. God's Word can be (and is) one of challenge or rebuke just as it can be (and is) one of encouragement and forgiveness. And that is the conundrum. We can't just listen to the words we like and call them the Word of God. We have to listen to the challenges and rebukes as well.
This Sunday we will look at the Word and our reactions to the cutting edge of the sword. But to deal with the cut it helps to remember the image of a gardener pruning to allow for growth, or the surgeon cutting away the illness to allow the body to be healthy. In the end that is how God's word cuts -- but that doesn't mean we always like the cutting and healing part of the process.
October 03, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Joel 2:21-27
- Psalm 126
- From the Gospel: Matthew 6:25-33
The Hymns will be:
- #222 Come, Let Us Sing
- #227 For the Fruit of All Creation
- #226 For the Beauty of the Earth
- #884 You Shall Go Out with Joy
The Sermon title is Expectant Thanksgiving.
Early Thoughts: Part of being faithful is being thankful. We give thanks, not to avoid offending God the Giver, but to remind ourselves that we are truly blessed. In a world where it is easy to believe that we have too little, giving thanks pushes us to think seriously about how much we have -- to look at our abundance instead of our scarcity.
But being God's people also means that we are people of hope, faith, and trust (add a little pixie dust and we could start to fly). And so we give thanks not only for what we have received but expectantly, for what may yet come.
The people of Israel were just coming out of a time of famine when God speaks to them through the prophet Joel, promising that :
Joel tells the people to rejoice and be thankful because of what will be. They are told to be expectantly thankful. In the same way Jesus encourages his followers to worry less. God who provides what the flowers of the field and the birds of the air need will also provide for God's people. Hard words to live by to be sure. But when we build a habit of being thankful, when we get accustomed to looking for our abundance then it becomes easier to worry less and trust more.
24The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. 26You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
And behold, Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.(Psalm 126:6)
September 25, 2006
- Psalm 124 (VU p. 848)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: James 5:13-20
- From the Gospel: Mark 11:20-25
The Hymns this week are:
- 457 As We Gather at Your Table
- 245 Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet
- 664 What a Friend We Have in Jesus
- 468 Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ
This Sunday we will also hear a Presbytery report from Elvin, Christina and Josh.
The Sermon is titled Why Pray?
Early Thoughts: There are so many things that we need to do on any given day. There are so few spare moments. There is always some other demand on our time. Why pray? Why take time out to do something that appears so terribly unproductive as pray?
This summer I used a week of study leave to go on a retreat. During that time I met with a Spiritual Director. As I was talking about feeling drained and tired (she suggested having three children 3 and under might contribute to that--you think?) she asked how often I took time to reconnect to the Source. To be honest, fairly little, not enough most likely. Why pray? Because prayer time is where we set ourselves aside from the world to connect with the One in who we live and move and have our being. Prayer is what can empower us to go forward.
When we don't take time to reconnect and re-establish our relationship with God, then God becomes more distant. (Really this isn't all that surprising -- what happens when you don't talk to a friend for a long time?) When we set aside time to pray, to be in conversation with the Holy we can build a relationship that is tested and tried. Prayer is vital to our spiritual health, just as food and water are for our physical health.
In his epistle James says Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them. In his writings Paul talked about praying without ceasing. WE pray because we know we need God in our lives. We pray because we know we can't do it alone. Why pray? Harder to argue why NOT pray. The challenge simply is to make it a priority, to take "unproductive time" and build ourselves for the productive time (besides who is to define what makes some things productive and others unproductive anyway?).
September 20, 2006
- discussed the new Hymn Book Supplement More Voices (see post below)
- decided to purchase a fire safe for the church office
- decided to purchase signs advising that no motorized recreation vehicles are to use the church property (this is due to safety and insurance concerns)
- discussed the questions Who are we? and Why are we here? as a part of Visioning work
- discussed the AGS Charity Campaign and our part in it
- got caught up on the life and work of the church
The next Board meeting will be on Wednesday October 18.
THis book will have over 200 pieces of sacred music for congregational singing. SOme of them will push us beyond piano and organ into percussion instruments, guitars, and a capella singing. THere will be pieces from all over the world, with about a third being Canadian.
More Voices is due to be released in February of 2007 (there is a sampler of 21 pieces that has been mailed to every congregation in the country). Each book will cost $15 but if you pre-order by November 15, 2006 there is a 10% discount available. Also available will be an audio CD (MP3 format) that will sell for $110.
At their meeting on September 19 the BOard discussed whether or not to order some copies. A final decision was put off until the next Board meeeting on October 18. IN between now and then we need to hear from the congregation. What do you think? Should we order this book and how many copies? (It is expected that payment would come from the existing Hymn Book Fund and any new donations to that fund are welcomed.)
September 19, 2006
We are looking for people who are committed to taking an active part in the life and work of the church. We want people who are excited about the possibilities in Riverview’s future. Do you feel called to this ministry? Do you know someone who you think has a gift to share? Let Gord know.
September 18, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Proverbs 31:10-31
- Psalm 1 (VU p.724)
- From the Letters of the Church: James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
- From the Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
The Hymns are:
- 236 Now Thank We All Our God
- 357 Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
- 579 The Church is Wherever God's People
- 649 Walk with Me
Thanks to Lorraine for providing worship leadership this week while Gord is in Keewatin at the Fall meeting of Cambrian Presbytery.
Don't forget that next week, October 1, is Worldwide Communion Sunday and we will join with our brothers and sisters around the world in celebrating the sacrament.
September 14, 2006
September 12, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Proverbs 1:20-33
- Psalm 19 (VU p. 740)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: James 3:1-12
- From the Gospel: Mark 8:27-38
The Hymns this week are:
- 409 Morning Has Broken
- 238 How Great Thou Art
- 372 Though I May Speak
- 506 Take My Life and Let It Be
This Sunday we will also hear a report from Christina and Josh, who attended the Children and Young Teens event at General Council last month.
The Sermon is titled And a New Year Begins -- What Lies Ahead?
Early Thoughts: There are many things we call "New Year's". One is the beginning of the calendar year on December 31-January 1 (as it happens December 31 will be a Sunday in 2006 and we will have a special New Year's worship on that morning). Then in the church we talk about the liturgical year which starts on the first Sunday of Advent (December 3 this year). But the one New Year which likely impacts our day-to-day lives the most is the beginning of September.
The beginning of September, for many of organizations, marks the beginning of a new program year. Summer holidays are over, school is starting, which means that people will be around rather than out at the lake, and people are starting to fill in their calendars for the fall/winter.
The concept of a New Year intrigues me. It has the ring of a chance to start over. It has the smell of hope and promise. It tastes of possibility. So what can we do with all this newness, this hope, this possibility.
This summer I spent a lot of time thinking forward, musing on what the future may hold. And the question that spurred some of that thinking was How healthy/viable is Riverview as a congregation? Are we thriving? Struggling? Dying? And what do we do next? As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, the Board will be doing some visioning work this fall to look at some of those questions. But it is the whole congregation's job to do that, not just the Board and minister.
Part of the role of paid ministry is to lead. Part of the role is to step back and let others lead. Part of the role is to lay out in words some of what you see as potential hurdles and potential leaping off points. This Sunday I am planning to do some of that. We will hear about some of what is happening in the larger part of the United Church of Canada. We will talk about what might need to happen here. We may even name some of the real struggles that lie in our path. And the hope is that we can start working together to recapture a sense of vision, a sense of what we can add to the life of Atikokan. Only once that vision is present can we move toward greater health and vitality.
August 14, 2006
- August 20 -- Noreen
- August 27 -- Elvin
- September 3 -- Joan
- September 10 -- Marj
As a part of this time Gord will be taking one week of study leave to go on retreat. After his return he will share what that experience was like.
Just as a reminder, General Council is meeting this week in Thunder Bay. Keep up on what is being decided by visiting the UCCan website.
August 10, 2006
- The music of Advent and Christmas -- a four week study overlapping with the end of the one on Jesus' Prayer. Each week we will look at and discuss some of the hymns in Voices United for the Advent and Christmas season (likely one week on Advent and 3 on Christmas, or two and two). If we are able to have musical leadership we may sing some of them as well. Sunday evenings or afternoons starting November 26.
- Exploring the Heart of Christianity -- a 12 week study starting in early-mid January. This study looks at Marcus Borg's book THe Heart of Christianity. As with the fall study on Jesus' Prayer, participants would be asked to purchase a copy ($20.95 plus shipping and taxes) for the study. Also this will be offered in both an evening and an afternoon session should need/desire be there. This study can double as a confirmation program for adults or teens interested in making a profession of faith and becoming what the United Church calls "full members".
- Something for Easter. The Easter story is the core of our faith. I am looking for ideas for some sort of study to meet for the 4 weeks of April to help us explore the mystery of Resurrection.
August 07, 2006
- From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
- Psalm 130 (VU p.853)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
- From the Gospel: John 6:35, 41-51
The Hymns this week are:
- 232 Joyful, Joyful We Adore You
- 20 On Jordan's Bank
- 626 I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
- 422 God Be With You Till We Meet Again
The Sermon will be based on the Ephesians reading and is titled God's Transformation -- How Can we become Imitators of God?
Early Thoughts: The first three times I read this passage I was left wondering what to do with it. Do I ignore it and preach about the upcoming meeting of General Council (which starts this Sunday)? Do I preach on one of the other passages? I simply didn't see what I could have to say about this one. But then I read it again and saw the way in.
This passage is a call to be transformed. It talks about putting away falsehood, about thieves giving up stealing, about putting away bitterness, anger, slander and malice. Then comes the real kicker. It calls us to be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love. Oh yeah, that sounds nice and easy doesn't it?
In her piece Imago Dei Jill Warner writes:
Imago Dei, Imago Dei,
Born in the Image of God are we.
Imago Dei, Imago Dei,
Called to compassion, born to be free.
How shall we live as images of God?
How best reflect the wonder of our maker?
Humbly we will walk, with mercy respond
And know the Essence of Love is always with us. Refrain
How shall we love the neighbour filled with greed?
How best respond to those consumed by hatred?
Look beyond the fear that keeps them from knowing
The Abundance of Love that's always with us. Refrain
©2004 Jill Kirsten Warner
How indeed do we live as images of God? How can we be imitators of God? By letting the Essence of Love flow into and change us. Being one of the people of God means allowing ourselves to be transformed, changed. It means remembering that we are created in God's Image and that we have a responsibility to live that out. That is what this passage is telling us.
It sounds hard doesn't it, to change our ways? But it is possible. That is the key, the important thing to remember, it IS possible. With the help of God it is possible to live as an imitator of God, to let God shine through all we are and all we do. The last verse of Imago Dei says:
Then shall we see the images of Christ.
Then shall we know that God is in our neighbour.
Humbly we will walk, with mercy respond
And know the Essence of Love is always with us. Refrain
©2004 Jill Kirsten Warner
There it is. It is possible. And when we start to live it out for ourselves we see God's imitators living around us too. And if we all start to do that, what a wonderful world that would be.
We will be using Becoming Jesus' Prayer as our study resource. All participants will be asked to get a copy of this book (it lists for $12 plus shipping and tax). However, we can get names and then order en masse through the church office in the hopes of saving shipping costs. More details will be arranged and announced when Gord gets back from vacation in mid-September.
If there is a need/desire this study will be offered at two different times per week -- once in the afternoon and once in the evening. Actual days will be finalized in September. If you are interested in this study please call and leave a message on the phone in the office.
In order to ensure books arrive in time we will need a good idea of how many copies to order by Sunday October 1 (the day of the Harvest Supper).
August 03, 2006
This fall the Board of Riverview will be doing some work around visioning, with the hoped outcome to be the presentation of some proposed congregational goals to the Annual Meeting (which will be on the 5th Sunday of 2007 -- February 4). We will take the first 15-20 minutes of each Board meeting to do this work. There are 4 items of discussion:
- Who are we? Why are we here?
- SWOT analysis Part 1 -- Identifying our Strengths and Opportunities
- SWOT analysis Part 2 -- Identifying our Weaknesses and Threats
- Prioritizing and Goal Setting based on the first 3 discussions (this may require more time and a separate meeting to complete)
IF any congregation members have ideas to feed into this discussion they are warmly welcomed by the Board. Please talk to Gord or one of the Board members. OR, if you prefer, you can put your thoughts in writing and give it to one of us or leave it on the offering plate.
July 31, 2006
- From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
- Psalm 51 (VU p.776)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: Ephesians 4:1-16
- From the Gospel: John 6:24-35
The Hymns this week are:
- 402 We Are One
- 624 Give to Us Laughter
- 331 The Church's One Foundation
- 420 Go To the World
The Sermon will be based on the Ephesians reading and is titled Growing in Faith -- Being Who We are Called to Be.
Early Thoughts: The life of faith is about growth. Only by opening ourselves to growth will we be able to do as the author requests in verse 1 of this passage I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Later, in verses 14 and 15 he writes: We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. The life of faith calls us to be open to grow and mature and develop.
Many times in my life I have heard church-people complain that things are changing too much. There is often a desire for the faith to literally be "the faith of our fathers" or at least to be the faith of our childhood Sunday School. At the same time there is, in many of the mainline churches at least, a feeling among church leadership that not enough study, not enough growth is happening. If faith development is seen as Sunday School, youth group and confirmation (and in many places that is seen as the tasks of the Christian Education Committee, Adult Bible Study is seen as being somehow different) then we never have the chance to mature in faith.
But of course we don't stop developing when we become adults. Our lives continue to change. New questions come up that don't always fit with the old answers. We need to continue to study our faith, to ask questions of it and about it. We need to keep growing.
Many places today talk about church growth. Most of them are talking about things like building size, number of bums in the pews, number of baptisms, amount raised for ministry (local and broader outreach). But in the end there is only one type of church growth that matters. That is the growth of individuals as children of God, growth in the depth of faith. Without that all the numbers can easily become a social club. Growing in quantity isn't the issue, growing in quality is. (And there is always the, very real, chance that a church which grows in quality will develop such exuberant Christians that they naturally draw others to come and see what all the excitement is about.)
We are all God's children. God's hope is that we will grow and develop as long as we draw breath. What does it mean for us to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (verse 13)? Howw are we pushing ourselves and our faith to deeper levels? What questions are dying to be answered in our souls? Let's talk about it, let's talk about how and where we need to grow. Then let's work together to find ways to make that happen.
As a part of this Sunday some potential ideas for adult Bible Study in the fall and winter will be raised for people to consider...
July 24, 2006
For Scriptures we will use passages that were used in during theme times last week and as each is read we will hear about what that theme time was like:
For music we will be using the overhead (no hymn books at camp) and singing either a capella or to guitar accompaniment.
- Kum Ba Yah
- They Will Know We Are Christians
- Jesus Loves Me (Camp Version)
- This Little Light of Mine
The Sermon will be What Happened at Camp?
July 17, 2006
- From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
- From the Letters of the Early Church: Ephesians 2:11-22
- From the Gospel: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The Hymns this week are:
- Psalm 100 (older words, p. 823 VU)
- 579 The Church is Wherever God's People
- 606 In Christ there is No East or West
- 288 Great is Thy Faithfulness
The Sermon will be based on the Ephesians reading and is titled Walls that Divide -- No MORE!
Early Thoughts: One of the great gifts that Pauline theology has given us is a response to the divisive forces within the Christian church. I remember my New Testament Professor telling of a question asked when he was in seminary. "Was there ever a time when the church was undivided?" The answer: "Probably for the first few hours." In both the book of Acts and in Paul's letters we can see hints of the deep divisions that were rocking the early church. One of the most important at that time was the debate about circumcision and the admission of Gentiles to the church (which began as a subset of Judaism).
In response to these talks about division, Paul gives us wonderful passages like 1 Corinthians 12 (the one about the body parts needing each other) and Galatians 3:28 where he says that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. While this passage from Ephesians may not be as well known or as easily quoted (it really doesn't flow as easily as the body discussion in 1 Corinthians) it is just as good a description of how we are one in Christ.
In recent decades the United Church of Canada has been rocked with the fear (or the threat) of splitting. For a while in the late 20th century reports from General council meetings spoke of the deep anger between the two extremes of the church (there is a story of a bag of excrement being placed (dumped?) on the table of a conservative group by those who disagree and stories of those on the left of the church being accused of heresy and condemned to damnation). The tension still exists. A denomination our size has many sub-groups within it that need to find a way to work and live together.
This summer General Council meets to discuss and discern the future of the United Church of Canada. Discussion about direction setting can be difficult. There are proposals being made that will impact the budgets of congregations, sometimes heavily. It is time once again to remember that what divides us is not as important as what unites us. Ephesians 2:14 says :"For he [Christ] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us." Christ is our uniting focus. Former moderator Walter Farquharson writes "Walls that divide are broken down; Christ is our unity! Chains that enslave are thrown aside; Christ is our liberty!" As we pray for those who will gather in Thunder Bay August 13-19, let us all remember our unity, our ability to agree to disagree and then join hands and heart in song and in prayer.
July 13, 2006
THis year our theme times will be looking at covenant. The final details are being taken care of as we look at Noah and the Rainbow, Abraham and Sarah looking for a land and a child, and the Prophetic call to justice.
And then we will be doing Crafts, and canoeing, and swimming as well. Not to mention food. It is said that an army marches on its stomach--so does camp.
Wish us well and hope for good weather July 24-28!
July 10, 2006
- From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
- Psalm 24 (VU p.751)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: Ephesians 1:3-14
- From the Gospel: Mark 6:14-29
The Hymns this week are:
- 245 Praise the Lord With the Sound of Trumpet
- 352 I Danced in the Morning
- 326 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
- 424 May the God of Hope Go with Us
The Sermon will be based on the Ephesians reading and is titled Adoption and Inheritance: What Family?
Early Thoughts: This week we move into Paul's letter to the Ephesians. The Epistle readings from now until the end of August will be from this letter. This letter may in fact not have been addressed solely to the people in Ephesus. Scholars believe it may actually have been a document meant to circulate around a group of churches for their education and encouragement. It is also thought that Paul himself did not write this document. Rather one of Paul's disciples may have compiled some of Paul's thoughts and sayings into what we now call Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
In my early reading of the passage the word adoption leaps out. Adoption is how the writer describes our relationship to God. Adoption is a special way of entering a family. It has overtones of being chosen. It also has a finality that some things don't. An adopted child is ours in a way that a foster-child is not -- a foster child is a ward of the state (granted that many foster parents bond just as strongly with the foster-child as to their own). A step-child is yours not ours (again remembering that many step-parents don't, in practice, see such a difference). Adoption brings belonging. Adoption means that we are truly part of the family. Adoption means that we are free to share in all that the family has, we become inheritors.
And so as I read these words I hear echoes of the Prodigal Son returning. I hear echoes of the Baptism service where we say that in Baptism we are "named as God's children, claimed by Christ, and united with the whole Christian community". The writer reminds us that God welcomes us as full members of God's family -- not under temporary care, not as part of a package but full members of the family. We BELONG. We are free to share in the inheritance of abundant and everlasting life because we belong.
We are all God's children. How does that change how we live? How does that change how we treat each other? In the ancient world adoption was an important thing, being linked as it was to inheritance. Today we often don't talk a lot about adoption, there is a hint of a stigma about being adopted. But adoption means that we belong. Adoption is a gift. By virtue of being "destined [us] for adoption as his children" God has opened to us the promise of inheritance. What will we do with this gift?
July 03, 2006
- From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 5:1-10
- Psalm 48 (VU p.772)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
- From the Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
The Hymns this week are:
- 410 This Day God Gives Me
- 356 Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
- 266 Amazing Grace
- 884 You Shall Go Out with Joy
For the Children's story we will hear "Saul Learns about Jesus" from The Family Story Bible by Ralph Milton ( this story is based on passages from Acts)
The Sermon will be based on the Corinthians reading and is titled A Question of Authority.
Early Thoughts: Paul had a problem. There were people in Corinth who were challenging his authority. Signs of this challenge run through both 1st and 2nd Corinthians. And so it is that every once in a while Paul takes time in this correspndence to establish his credentials. This is one of those passages.
The first part of the passage works well this way. For a charismatic leader like Paul it makes sense that part of his authority would be grounded on his experiences of the divine. But then he starts talking about his weakness and how he wishes he were stronger. This is a sales pitch?
In a way it does. This is the same Paul who said: But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. For Paul the measures of the world are not what is important. In fact Paul claims to think he is not important except in how he can lead people to Christ. Paul challenges the Corinthians to rethink what gives people authority.
And so we who read this passage in 2006 are also challenged to ask what gives people authority. Does being a great war leader like David give authority? Does being a healer? Does speaking truth to those who don't want to hear it (I have a strong suspicion that the people who were challenging Paul's authority may have been doing so because he has chastised them and/or told them things they didn't want to hear)? What is it that gives one a voice of authority? What makes a good leader?
June 30, 2006
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- Sunday June 4 -- Pentecost Sunday, communion service, also Conference report to be presented
- Monday June 5 -- UCW pot-luck at 5:30 pm out at Nym Lake
- Tuesday June 6 -- Board meeting at 7pm in Boyle Lounge
- June 12-18 -- Gord will be on a week of holidays
- Sunday June 18 -- Father's Day BBQ
Starting Monday June 26 the church office will not be open at set hours until September. Heather will be in from time to time to do what tasks need to be done during the summer months. The answering machine and the e-mail will be checked regularly (at least every 2nd day, if not daily) and you can leave a message or call Gord at home.
June 26, 2006
The Scripture readings this week are:
- From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
- Psalm 130 (VU p.853)
- From the Letters of the Early Church: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
- From the Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
The Hymns this week are:
- 333 Love Divine all Love's Excelling
- 260 God Who Gives to Life Its Goodness
- 518 As Those of Old Their First Fruits Brought
- 427 To Show by Touch and Word
The Sermon will be based on the Corinthians reading and is titled What, You Want Me to Give More?
In his Rumours newsletter (To Subscribe: Send a blank e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org), Ralph Milton writes about this passage:
The congregation where I worship is probably typical. We can usually raise money for capital projects, but it's hard to keep up with the operating budget. And it's hardest to get people to give to a generic "world mission."
There have been a series of catastrophes around the world in the last couple of years and some pundits are calling our lack of response "compassion fatigue." It could also be plain, old-fashioned stinginess.
It's hard to say what was getting to the folks in Corinth, but Paul is reminding them that their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem are quite literally starving. They apparently raised some money, but now folks have started holding back. Paul is pleading with them to enter into the pain of the Jerusalem community and to share their abundance more liberally.
Early Thoughts: It seems that Ralph has described a lot of congregations. Certainly in the five years I have been here I have heard repeatedly the line "we need a project, we do really well when we have a project". And it is true. When we wanted to do the roof, or the insulation the money came in. But there is more to the church than having projects. There is that whole mission to be people and witnesses of faith thing.
The "solution" to the problems of compassion fatigue and stinginess may well be to remind people that we witness by our actions, we witness with our chequebooks. Our ongoing project is to live out God's vision for the world as best we can. We do have a project, it just is a harder one to get behind than the new roof or the new windows or the refurbished wall. AS Ralph says, it's hard to keep up with the operating budget. And it's hardest to get people to give to a generic "world mission."
Over and over again the church comes back like Oliver Twist saying Please, can I have some more. And we will keep doing it. But in the end our pleas will not be successful until we tie the request to a sense of what we are doing. We can't guilt people into giving, we aren't a service club that can set membership dues, in the end we have to rely on touching people's hearts and souls.
A wealthy man came to a church office. Chequebook in hand he jokingly said to the pastor, "well here I am to give you my widow's mite. "I don't think you are," the pastor replied. "The widow gave all she had to live on, you will give me some of your excess." Red-faced the man shoved the cheque into the pastor's hand and stormed away. Who knows what he thought about the exchange?
But the story tells a truth. Most of us give from our excess. While we may insist that we give all we can afford we really give all we choose to afford. Paul said to the church in Corinth, we need more. The charities in our lives continue to say, we need more. How will we choose to respond?
June 21, 2006
For the church it is a day to reflect on our relationships with Aboriginal peoples. This relationship is difficult to say the least. Our Methodist and Presbyterian forebears came with the best of intentions and did some, by modern standards, damaging things. They came with a belief that they had the truth and that all other spiritualities were invalid. They came to bring people to God and later worked to assimilate people into mainline culture. Looking back, we no recognize that these things, while also bringing education and skills to live in new ways as the traditional ways were disappearing (largely due to European attitudes and actions) were acts of violence against a people and their culture. (click below for more thoughts)
20 years ago, in 1986, at a General Council Meeting in Sudbury the Moderator offered words of apology to the First Nations people. Since then we have tried to live out that apology. Over the last 20 years we have tried to come to grips with the reality of residential schools and tried to seek a way of helping to repair the damage done by that system. We have established a Healing Fund, monies set aside not for paying lawsuits but for funding projects to bring healing of wounded souls and spirits.
The United Church as a whole has put much effort into restoring Right Relationships with First nations people. As individuals some of us have done a lot and some still have trouble understanding why we keep apologizing for things that happened before we were born. But part of being the church is talking about our community responsibility. As a community we, unintentionally, were part of injury being done. As a community we will help to repair the damage. Sometimes it is up to the children to pay for the sins of the parents.
Other resources around the United Church and First Nations can be found here.
If you want to know more about General Council and what will be discussed this year you can find lots of stuff here. (also click below for some summarizing) There is a copy of the draft agenda and you can also download a copy of the workbook that is being sent to all the commissioners. One of the major reports in the workbook is on clergy compensation (salary and allowances) along with a proposal for some fairly major changes in how that happens. See pages 93-120 in the COMMISSIONS section of the workbook (beware that it is a big download). There is also a discussion around authorizing Laypeople to preside at baptism and communion when no member of the Order of Ministry is available (pages 121-136) along with many other issues big and small.
Decisions made at General Council effect how we operate as a congregation. I encourage everyone to check it out and keep informed as the commissioners have their discussions and make their decisions.
June 19, 2006
- From the Jewish Scriptures: 1 Samuel 17: 32-49
- Psalm 9 (VU p.732)
- From the Letters of the Church: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
- From the Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
The Hymns this week are:
- 374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
- 288 Great is Thy Faithfulness
- 686 God of Grace and God of Glory
- 424 May the God of Hope Go with Us
The Sermon Title is A Suffering Faith.
Actually there are two parts to this week's sermon. First is some introduction. This summer (and much of next fall) it is my intention to preach from the Epistle reading each week. During the summer these readings are from the letters of Paul. So this week we will have a brief introduction to Paul, arguably the most influential Christian writer of the Scriptural period.
Then we will turn to look at this passage. One of the markers of Paul's ministry is that it isn't easy. And from what we have it seems that the church in Corinth was a big headache for Paul. They just seem to be balking at every turn, trying to interpret what he has taught them in ways that are not what he intended.
AS we hear again Paul recounting some of the struggles he has had in ministry I am reminded that this being a follower of Christ thing isn't meant to be a walk in the park, at least not all the time. It takes work, it means putting yourself out there, standing against the "normal", it means subjecting yourself to the slings and arrows of those who would rather keep the same old, same old. Christianity is, or maybe could/should be, a suffering faith.
In the Western world we have forgotten these things. As we have developed a culture where Christianity enjoyed a privileged position we may have lost sight of the fact that the faith is separate from the world (in the world but not of the world as it is commonly stated) and is called to be a counter-cultural voice much of the time. But now the world has changed, irresistibly and irrevocably changed. Now we need to relearn how to be in the world but not of the world, partly because the world seems to have left us behind.
We may not face imprisonment and beatings and torture for the faith. But we are no longer at the center of society either. How do we be church in the world today? How are we called to suffer for our faith?