January 29, 2017 – Stewardship

We deviated from the lectionary with the stewardship campaign.

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Working Preacher – Commentary, Dear Working Preacher 1, Dear Working Preacher 2

Word & World

The Freedom of Obedience

Delete repeated word

Composition of the human body

 

St. Luke’s United Church
January 29th, 2017
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Hymn Call By Earth and Sky MV 135

Call to Worship:
One: What brings you here today?
Any who identify: A sense of duty.
One: What brings you here today?
Any who identify: The commitment to community.
One: What brings you here today?
Any who identify: The opportunity to celebrate and give thanks.
One: What brings you here today?
Any who identify: A need to experience the Holy.
One: What brings you here today?
Any other reasons: …(Please share other reasons)…
One: Whatever brings you here, I’m glad that you came. Thank you for joining me as we worship.

Lighting the Christ Candle & Centering

Opening Prayer:
Source of Abundance,
As we gather this hour, may it be filled with learning, and reflecting. May we be filled with Grace and Spirit. May it be so.

Hymn Jesus Bids Us Shine VU 585

What is Stewardship?

Readings Matthew 5:13-16

Hymn All Praise to You VU 297

Salt & Light
Sometimes it’s a little too easy to focus on the negative. We finished the year with a deficit. There are so many fewer people here on Sunday mornings than there used to be. And I’m going to stop right there. No one needs to be reminded of the ways they wish they were different. It’s something though that many people do constantly. Not only do people do it to each other, but the media does it. Society has adopted a culture of “telling it like it is”. But there’s a difference in “telling it like it is” and being rude. Unfortunately, so many times it’s rude.
I’m going to suggest that we use this stewardship campaign to start a culture shift. I’m going to start with our scripture for this campaign:
Together, we are salt of the earth and light during shining out into the night.
Let me tell you how we are salt of the earth. Salt is a natural product of the earth. In fact the elements that make up table salt as we know it also makes up around 15% of the human body. Too much salt though can be bad for the body. Salt is natural balance. And so are we. We work hard to achieve natural balance. A balance of theology, a balance of age, a balance of lifestyles and backgrounds. We work hard to ensure we have a balance of rentals and church events, income and expense, old and new, familiar and challenging. We work hard to be balanced, and for the most part, we’re doing ok. So we’ll keep on working at the balance thing.
When I think of light and being light to the world, I think of lighthouses. Lighthouses show the safest route to take to reach the destination. Lighthouses are a sign that someone is out there, caring about people they don’t even know. We are lighthouses in our relationship with the Marguerite Centre, in our donations to the foodbank, in our desire to offer affordable meeting space to numerous community groups, and in our efforts to welcome refugee families. We work hard to be a lighthouse, and we’re doing well.
We’re doing well at being salt and light, but that doesn’t always mean we’re successful with all of our pursuits. Sometimes we need to look at what doesn’t feel successful and figure out what we learned from it. For example, we had a bit of a deficit this year, not huge, but still a deficit. During council’s pre-AGM meeting we discussed why we didn’t have the income we anticipated, and where we spent more than expected. We decided to be a bit more open about our costs, and more open about how we fund our expenses. Stewardship already had our stewardship campaign prepared, so we have woven in educational elements to hopefully clarify what our financial situation really is. Now in this two weeks, we are hoping to discover what you love about St. Luke’s and the United Church as a whole. Learning what’s is important to each other will not only spark us to be saltier and shine our light further, but hopefully it will help us to fall in love a little more with St. Luke’s and the United Church as a whole.
So here’s my story of why I give.
I have always been a United Church person. As many people do in their late teens and early twenties, I drifted away from the church. Not far mind you, but I was ready to leave. All it would have taken was one negative encounter. Luckily, that didn’t happen before I began to understand my role in church world and why I loved the United Church so much. I love how the United Church welcomes people who are different. I love how we are more about living our lives authentically than we are about keeping up appearances. The United Church is ok with my insecurities and my questions, accepting me for who I am and not asking me to change. I love how we speak up for those who are not in the majority, not only in our own communities, but across the country and across the world. As for, the reasons I love St. Luke’s, I love our dedication to each other, I love our openness to trying new things and our desire to grown into who we are as people of faith and as a community of faith. What do you love about St. Luke’s? What compels you to give your time and talent to St. Luke’s? What compels you to give?

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
The Offering is a perfect time to practice being a steward. It is a time to examine what you are able to give and where it can be best used for the good of the whole.

Offertory Though I May Speak VU 372 v. 2

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR become a commitment to living as salt and light to the world. Amen.

Prayer Music Pure Love MV 31

Prayers of the People
Ending with the sung Prayer of Jesus.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Go Make a Diff’rence MV 209

January 22, 2017

No reflection this week from me, I was away for a family emergency and a parishioner offered to take over that part of worship.

St. Luke’s United Church
January 22nd, 2017
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Hymn Jesus Saw Them Fishing MV 113

Call to Worship:
One: The theme today is all about the call: the call to live your life the way Jesus modeled for us. For some of the disciples, the call rang out in the form of Jesus voice across the water.
All: Sometimes, the call is hard to hear.
One: As we prepare ourselves for worship, let’s listen for God’s call.
All: We will listen with our ears and with our hearts.

Lighting the Christ Candle & Centering

Opening Prayer:
May this worship be filled with the joy of hearing and understanding the call to be followers of the way that Jesus taught. May it be so.

Hymn Dear Lord, Lead Me Day by Day VU 568

Fishing for People

Readings Luke 5:1-11

Hymn He Leadth Me VU 657

Gordon Earle

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
The call can be answered in many ways, including with your offering.

Offertory Though I May Speak VU 372 v. 2

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR become a commitment to living the way that Jesus taught. Amen.

Prayer Music Pure Love MV 31

Prayers of the People
Ending with the Prayer of Jesus.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Behold, Behold, I Make All Things New MV 115

January 15, 2017

Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Textweek.com
Patheos, Patheos 2, Patheos 3
Working Preacher – Commentary 1, Commentary 2, Commentary 3
The Labyrinth Way
Moving Beyond Mending Our Walls
Left Behind and Loving it
The Listening Hermit
Elijah
Robin Mark on the Days of Elijah

St. Luke’s United Church
January 15th, 2017
Words of Welcome and Announcements

Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada.  If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship.  We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information.  If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Hymn       Let Us Build a House      MV 1
Lighting the Christ Candle & Centering
Call to Worship:
One:  These are the days.
All:  These are the days of justice.
One:  These are the days of the kin-dom.
All:  These are the days we celebrate.
One: These are the days we worship.
All: These are the days.

Opening Prayer:
God of prophets and pilgrims,
We pray that this hour might be a time of homecoming.  For those of us who find it comforting, we give thanks.  For those of us who find it an awkward homecoming, we pray that they become stronger because of it.  May it be so.

Hymn         A Light is Gleaming           VU 82
Catching Up.
Readings      Luke 14:1-30
Hymn      We Meet You O Christ    VU 183
These Are The Days
Here’s a surprise: Jesus’s first sermon was unpopular. Anyone who has preached enough to know the box you are supposed to stay “in” knows that anytime you step outside the norm and challenge people, suddenly you find yourself on the receiving end of harsh criticism. It was a Meryl Streep/Donald Trump kind of moment. Jesus called the authorities out and they reacted poorly.
The reason for their upset: Jesus told them that no one was going to save them but themselves, and what they were working towards wasn’t necessarily for them. What they were called to do was for those less fortunate and for future generations.
The year of the Lord’s Favor had been happening every 50 years since at least the time of the book of Leviticus. It’s sometimes called “The Year of Jubilee”. The Year of Jubilee was an opportunity for the poor and oppressed to change their position. Instead of owning slaves, the wealthy Hebrew people were encouraged to treat people as employees paying them a minimum sort of wage, but in the Jubliee year, they were encouraged to relieve all debt of their employees. This wasn’t an action that was in the best interests of the employer – they would be losing money. I’m sure a number of the employers likely looked for loopholes and ways to get around freeing the debt-load. However, it was good for the employees, and simply put, it was the right thing to do.
Jesus was preaching about the Jubilee year and the time of Elijah, a time when miracles happened for those who need them the most. Jesus had no fear when it came to saying things people didn’t want to hear. He had no time for useless practices that were set-up just to make people feel better about themselves for a time being. His point in this particular case was why wait 50 years to relieve debt, when you have the ability to relieve the debt now. Why should one person sit in comfort, making all the money, when others don’t get to sit at all and still end up in debt? Popular message if you are talking to poor people. Absolutely not popular if you are talking to people who are only interested in accumulating wealth. Depending on how it’s phrased, it could be popular when talking to the middle class. In this particular instance, it wasn’t a popular message, so either the crowd was upper class and Jesus, someone from a lower class, was challenging their power or more likely, Jesus is talking to his middle class counter-parts. I suspect some of his particular phrasing is lost in the translation, but my hunch is that Jesus was talking to overworked people. People who had decent jobs, but they certainly weren’t living a life of luxury. Maybe in their minds, they were just getting by and barely hanging on themselves. Maybe they were exhausted emotionally and financially and felt they could stand some rescuing themselves. A familiar kind of setting for many of us. An insult almost, when you feel like you are giving it your best shot, but no one else is joining in. They probably were pretty mad. Here’s this young person full of himself, coming into their community after leaving it and telling them what to do. What business did he have? He hadn’t earned his dues. They were the ones who had spent so many years looking after things and now they were going to have to save themselves? Who was this disrespectful person? It’s a familiar song and dance of the generations, and I’m sure ten years later the same people who chased him out of town were somewhat embarrassed about the whole situation. If they were alive now, I imagine they would shake their heads in disbelief at their own actions. But still they chased him out because he wasn’t dreaming their dream. Something they had worked their whole lives toward…and here was the next generation saying they were changing the dream. There are two ways they could have responded to this situation: one is with anger that their dream is not being carried out the exact same way they had imagined it (this is the response they chose) or they could have been proud that the next generation saw enough value in their dream to add to it and to try accomplishing it another way. What dreams are you picking up? What dreams are you letting go of? Will you let go in anger or with pride in what you’ve been able to accomplish and where it will go with new leadership?

Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
This is the year of Jubilee.  If we work together, all can join in the Jubilee and experience peace.
Offertory     Though I May Speak     VU 372 v. 2
Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR become the trumpet blasts that sound the year of Jubilee. Amen.

Prayer Music     Pure Love     MV 31
Prayers of the People
Ending with a sung Prayer of Jesus.

During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice.  A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction
Musical Blessing     Behold, Behold, I Make All Things New     MV 115

 

January 8, 2017

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Working Preacher

Working Preacher – Jesus’ Baptism

Wikipedia:

St. Luke’s United Church
January 8th, 2017
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Hymn Sing Till Sundown VU 78

Lighting the Christ Candle & Centering

Call to Worship:
One: We come today to grow light: To nourish our light, to ignite our light, to prepare to pass the light on to others.
All: In our worship we celebrate our abundance and we acknowledge our losses. Together, we work for justice, strive for equality and dream about peace on earth.
One: Together we sing our faith, speak of our experiences, and share our hearts.

Opening Prayer:
Spirit of Gentleness, be with us as we worship and pray, sing and share, celebrating your love present in us. Amen.

Hymn Song of Thankfulness and Praise VU 101

Epiphany Moments

Readings Luke 3:1-22

Hymn Hail to God’s Own Anointed VU 30

Dear John….
It’s been an interesting week of pondering John the Baptist. The feast days for the Epiphany otherwise known as the visit from the magi and the Baptism of Jesus both fall on January 6th. Different faith traditions and even different popes had different priorities about what should be celebrated during Christmastide. The lectionary which is a joint effort of numerous traditions chooses to alternate the years. This year, it’s the Baptism of Jesus of the Sunday after Epiphany. If we were part of a faith tradition that celebrated all feast days, we likely would have celebrated Epiphany on Friday and the Baptism of Jesus today. Because we in the United Church tend to be a little more relaxed about feast days, we’re left to fill Sunday with both topics. Most of us choose to alternate. So this year we’re looking at the Baptism of Jesus, more specifically, looking at John the Baptist’s role in that event.
I have to admit; I love John the Baptist. He spent many of his young adult years in the wilderness, wearing clothes made of camel hair and eating locusts with honey. He didn’t drink, nor did he cut his hair. When he wasn’t in the wilderness, he was protesting the actions of society, challenging people to live better lives. He was humble enough to recognize that Jesus was the stronger leader, but still worked with him to fulfill a common goal. He did his own thing, but had no problem sharing his ways. In my mind John is the picture of resilience. I can’t imagine that he would have been terribly popular. He was constantly pushing people to be better, to do more, to love harder. He looked different. He refused to drink. He ate bugs for Pete’s sake. I’m sure he was ridiculed. But still he got up every day, bushed the dirt off, and made his way into the crowd to try and convince people to think of others instead of themselves.
We’re not so different in the United Church. We seem to specialize in being different, in challenging people to be better, to do more, to love harder. Sometimes we look different and do odd things: our worship is less formal, we’re quite open about who we love, we celebrate everything, and we practice something called essential agreement – meaning we’re ok that we have a variety of words to describe our understanding of God and what we are called to do, as long as they are in the same spirit which is a spirit of loving kindness and the good of the whole. Oh and we’re like John the Baptist in our preference of Welches over wine.
We too, are resilient people. We face ridicule from other churches from time to time. We deal with declining population and how that impacts church. We face changes in church trends. We face challenges from people inside and outside of the church. We rise, and sometimes we meet the challenge, and sometimes we don’t. But we continue to accept the challenges put before us. Similarly, as the United Church, we challenge government and society. Sometimes they pay attention and sometimes they don’t, but we still keep challenging power and privilege hoping that we can narrow the gap.
On Christmas Eve, we heard the call – Jeff sang it as John the Baptist did. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” then John baptized the people, giving them a new beginning and a chance to make a better path for everyone. I’m going to ask you now again, just to reinforce it. In a time when people no longer understand what it is they are called by God to do, what will you do to make a path so that others have easier access to God and to the good of the whole? How will you help others to prepare for the presence of Divine Love, when they don’t even understand what that is? How will you give people fresh beginnings? What new beginnings are you making yourself? Prepare ye the way of the Lord otherwise known as what can we do to make the world a better place? What challenge are you looking at this week? Will you practice resilience? May it be so.

Hymn When Christ for Us You Were Baptized VU 99

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Today we remember our abundance: people, places, things. We give thanks for all that we have, and give what we can.

Offertory Though I May Speak VU 372 v. 2

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR be a sign of our compassion for others and our desire reach out. Amen.

Prayer Music Pure Love MV 31

Prayers of the People
Ending with a sung Prayer of Jesus.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Behold, Behold, I Make All Things New MV 115

January 1, 2017

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Story Path

Text Week

Working Preacher

Rex Hunt

Onbeing – Parker Palmer’s 5 Revolutions

St. Luke’s United Church
January 1st, 2017
Hymn Where Two or Three Are Gathered MV 14

Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Lighting the Advent Wreath & Centering

Call to Worship: (L Van Leer, adapted)
One: We light this Candle on this, the first day of a new year, letting go of what has been,
All: Open and hopeful for what may come,
One: Renewed, restored, ready to live Life fully anew.
All: May we move forward with intention.

Opening Prayer: (M Rose, adapted)
God of surprises,
startle us with truth we do not see,
amaze us with your power and grace, beckon us, and lead us far above restricted hope and narrow faith. May it be so.

Hymn I Have Called You by Your Name MV 161

Anna & Simeon

Readings Luke 2:21-38

Hymn All Poor Ones and Humble VU 68

The future looks good.
The story of Anna and Simeon is often overlooked in our Christmas celebrations. Anna, a prophetess who worked in a temple with Simeon, an elderly priest. Anna and Simeon were both present at the temple when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus in for his dedication. This would have happened as soon as possible after Mary had healed from her delivery. Traditionally, the first child was dedicated to God, and a sacrifice was made. If you remember back to the Abraham and Isaac story, the traditions prior to Abraham and Isaac required the first born child, itself to be sacrificed. Since that time, Abraham’s descendants had offered a sacrifice, based on the family’s wealth. In Jesus’ case Mary and Joseph were only able to afford two pigeons, the option for poorer families.
Mary had come from the Priestly line, meaning that her family was destined to be priests simply due to their lineage. Kind of like my eyes were destined to be baby blue, because I am a Sangster. Similarly, Joseph was of Royal descent, being from the line of King David. Considering they were in Joseph’s hometown and Mary was from a long line of priests, I wonder if this presentation at the temple was one of those moments of coming home. Those of you who grew up in another church, in another community know what I’m talking about. Or perhaps you were here on Christmas Eve and saw the same thing: the once upon a time “children” in church coming back with kids of their own. I wonder if it was that sort of moment for Anna and Simeon? If they looked into those sweet baby eyes, and knowing the tenacity and leadership that his parents had, just knew he was going to be a real “firecracker”. I wonder if when they held his tiny little hand, they felt a change, if they knew this was the beginning of something bigger than someone who had a good upbringing, charisma, good leadership skills, and a support system to back him up? It’s always such a miracle to me, that someone with societal odds stacked so strongly against him could grow up to do such amazing things. Perhaps Anna and Simeon, when they looked into his still innocent eyes, they could see resilience. Maybe when Jesus was offered a finger to hold, he held on with such a strength that they knew he would be stronger mentally than they could imagine.
In many ways, this is a story of new beginnings. It’s Jesus’s dedication, the start of his religious upbringing. It’s the last thing that happens before Mary and Joseph head for home as a new family. It’s also the start of a social revolution, that comes to a major climatic point 33 years later. Despite many climatic points over the years, the revolution is still going – sort of.
2016 was a year that brought clarity to some people, coaxed others out of hiding and forced even more into hiding. It was the year of many celebrity deaths: Rob Ford, Leonard Cohen, George Michaels, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, to name a few. The Wildfires and subsequent evacuation of Fort MacMurray, a hate crime in Orlando, terrorism in France, Amber Alerts that don’t end well. Numerous local bomb threats, a very negative US election and the election of Donald Trump. More locally, we’ve lost friends and family, dealt with cancer and other health issues, job losses and lots dementia and alztimers moments.
As yucky as all this sounds, we’ve also had many great things happen in 2016: you decided to call me, which I think is great, we’ve welcomed babies and new families into our congregation and families, there have been engagements, awards, and academic and professional advancements. There have been family vacations, summer camps and retreats, new relationships that are life giving and challenges that we’ve overcome and achievements that seemed unachievable reached. 2016 may have had its ups and downs, but 2017 is filled with new opportunity.
Parker Palmer, ministry leader and founder of the Centre for Courage and Renewal published his 5 revolutions for 2017. It’s his way of protesting all of the negative of 2016 without adding to it. I like this idea of having your resolution be for the greater good, rather than just yourself. Parker is committing to:
1. The revolution against our fear of “otherness,” and against those who manipulate this fear for their self-serving ends. – in other words he’s committing to standing up when he sees or hears racism and telling others that even as a white, male, baby boomer – he’s offended and personally insulted by it.
2. The revolution against the state of denial in which most white Americans live. He’s not saying anyone has to give up their privilege, just be aware of it and use it to help others.
3. The revolution against the nonstop attacks on K-12 teachers and public schools. This might not be such a problem for us, but it’s not uncommon to hear of people complaining about our health care system, retail workers and public servants they feel aren’t doing their job when really it’s the expectations that are too high.
4. The revolution against gun-related policies driven by the delusional mentality of policy-makers and power brokers. Parker explains this one to be a mental health issue. That when people feel the need to protect themselves or potentially violate the rights of others to serve their own purposes, mental health issues are at play. Our gun control laws are much stricter than the US, but we still have the same mental health issues that perpetuate control issues and safety for everyone.
5. The revolution against the fantasy that a few of us can live secure private lives while ignoring our complicity in conditions that put many others at mortal risk. I think this one really sums up all his other revolutions. We are interconnected and like it or not the fact that we can live in our safe, secure communities, with clean water to drink and plenty of food to eat, is not the experience of the majority of the world.
These are Parker Palmer’s revolutions. The things he feels he can do to make the world a better place and not just his own life. You might not have the opportunity today to look into the eyes of a future leader who will change the world and make your commitments to change, but you do still have the opportunity to create or join a revolution at play in your own life. What are your revolutionary resolutions this year? How will you act for the greater good? How will you encourage others to act for the greater good? What can you do to change the world? Will you join in the revolution?

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
The future is bright. We have so much to look forward to. This is our opportunity to share.

Offertory Though I May Speak VU 372 v. 2

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR become paths to unbelievable futures. Amen.

Prayer Music Pure Love MV 31

Prayers of the People
Ending with the traditional Prayer of Jesus.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Behold, Behold, I Make All Things New MV 115

 

December 24, 2016

Children’s Worship @ 4:30pm

Away in a Manger

Bethlehem Town

Mary’s Boy Child

Family Worship @ 6:30pm

Links of Interest:

Working Preacher

Rex Hunt Progressive Liturgies

Unitarian Universalist Association:

Soujourners – Resistance in the Manger

Presbyterian Church of Canada Christmas Eve Resources 2016 Year A, Eucharist 1

St. Luke’s Slide Show 6:30pm

St. Luke’s Slide Show 10:30pm

December 18th, 2016

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

TextWeek

On Being – Annunciation

St. Luke’s United Church
December 18th, 2016
Love
Hymn People, Look East VU 9

Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Lighting the Advent Wreath & Centering
Advent Chant Phil Porter

Call to Worship:
One: Four candles burn with love. They burn stronger together offering hope, inspiring peace, sharing joy and creating love. Love calls us to do things and be people we never thought possible.
All: One candle offers us hope. Two candles inspire peace. Three candles share joy. Four candles create love.
One: An advent wreath in a circle reminds us that hope, peace, joy and love are a never ending cycle. One can’t happen without the others.

Opening Prayer:
Loving God, we celebrate all that you are and all that you bring to our lives. May this hour be filled with celebration of the Spirit. May we be filled with Love.

Hymn O Come All Ye Faithful VU 60

Jesse Tree Stories

Readings Luke 1:26-49
Annunciation Marie Howe

Hymn Mary, She Sang Love Song

Love
A few years ago I ministered in a community where deteriorating mental health was a huge problem. The pastoral charge’s visioning committee and I sat down to try and strategize ways for the congregations to engage in mental health issues. We had no budget to work with. But we had determination and focus. We knew that our identity statement would guide us, and we trusted the movement of the Spirit.
A year or two into our mission, we thought we would try something different for the Longest Night or Blue Christmas as it’s sometimes called. We’d had little attendance the year before, and I thought maybe the problem is that we were expecting the community to come to us. So what would happen if we did something for the community instead? What would happen if we put our faith on display for the whole community? What would happen if we attempted to maintain a small light for 24 of the darkest hours of the year? What would it be like to publicly acknowledge the grief that people had? People who never darkened the doors of the church, especially on a Sunday, and to say we love you anyway, and we’re right here – if you need us.
Let’s flip to the lectionary reading for a moment. Mary was in a bit of a bind. Pregnant and engaged in a time when it was socially unacceptable to be pregnant while you are engaged. It was something people didn’t even really talk about behind closed doors. It’s only been the last couple of decades that becoming pregnant while you are engaged is a socially acceptable thing. But Mary was called to do this. Not only was she called, but she felt called to be the mother of this child. During what was probably the darkest and loneliest time of Mary’s life, what was the light that brought her hope?
Almost a month ago, I talked about hope and how we need more signs of hope in our society. Some people need more hope than others. And some people only need a minuscule amount. Others still are capable of generating their own hope. Those people seem to be few and far between. Most people need at least a little love in their lives to have hope.
Mary obviously had hope once she and Joseph were able to sort things out. But how did she even have the courage to sort things out? To even utter the words? “I’m pregnant.” Of course some off it was her tenacity, some of it was her relationship with Joseph, but a good portion of her courage surely came from her conversation with Gabriel. We don’t hear about it as often, but Joseph also had a conversation with Gabriel, which I’m sure also helped him with his courage to go against the societal norms of the time and continue his relationship with Mary. Gabriel was the spark of light that they both needed to get through their version of the longest night.
Now I could go to my default at this point and ask you what sparks of light are in your longest night? How do you get through the tough stuff? But let’s be honest here. You’re part of this community and hopefully, if you find yourself in a particularly dark moment, there is someone here in this community that you can talk to, that you gain courage from people in this community. What I want to ask you today, is how are offering hope to the wider community as we head into this literal longest night? How are you giving courage to those who really need to have hard conversations? How are you showing people in general that you care? How are we as a community of faith, filled with strong, courageous people, whose lives have hope and love in them reaching out beyond ourselves to offer hope and love to others? If you don’t know how or what to do, please stop by on Wednesday and join in a 24 hour long candle vigil to bring a small spark of light to the larger community. Tending a small spark might just be the thing you need to do this Christmas.

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Gifts from the heart are the gifts that matter the most.

Offertory

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR be signs of our Love for others. Amen.

Prayer Music

Prayers of the People
Ending with an alternative Prayer of Jesus, found in Voices United, pg 921 or on the screen.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Hope is a Candle Linnea Good

Prayers

No one is ever really ready for Christmas.

If we were really all prepared:

if every gift we had contemplated had been obtained;

if every present was beautifully beribboned;

if all the goodies our friends deserve were baked and cooled, and stored just so;

if each and every person we love was gathered for our celebration;

if we never snapped at someone we care about, nor stopped short of being all that we could be…

They truly would be ready – and truly we would not need Christmas quite so much.

So come, Christmas, most needed of seasons.

All  Come Christmas!

Come, Love,

Come, Hope.

Be born in our unready hearts on this silent and holy night.  MMKilloran/edited

 
 

From <http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/year_a_liturgy_collection/year_a_christmasepiphany/christmasevea24122016.html>

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

We come to acknowledge the many colours of Christmas:

Colours of red in the shining ornaments and rosy glow of merriment;

-a time for meeting our memories and honouring favourite traditions.

Colours of green in the trees and boughs of holly;

-a time for seeing signs of new life in the depths of winter.

Colours of white in the snow blanketed fields and the icy breath of cold;

a time for warmth and care of each other and dreams of longer days.

Colours of blue in the deep winter starlight;

-a time when the shadows of loss threaten to overwhelm us.

We gather in this time to find hope;

We come to open our spirits to the courage of living amid all the colours of this season.

(Dr Nancy L Steeves)

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

Blue Christmas

Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Sacraparental: A Blue Christmas Service if you are Hurting at Christmas
Fat Pastor – Longest Night: For Those Who Mourn at Christmas
From Celebrate God’s Presence, Searching for Shalom by Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems

Ornaments handed out during the reflective time at the Blue Christmas

God is near to all who call; their cries are heard. Psalm 145:18-19

 

Call to Worship

All around us we see the lights of Christmas, we hear the sounds of joyful celebration. We come to this service recognizing that this season is often difficult for many and may not be as joyful for us as it seems to be for many others.

As the nights have grown longer, sadness and emptiness, loneliness and pain wrap around the hearts of many. In this season of longest nights, some struggle to put into words that which causes them to feel blue rather than joyful.

For some, a loved one has died.

For others, a friend has moved away. Still others have lost a job, a cherished dream, or a sense of hope.

We might be feeling worried, trapped, insecure, adrift or alone. We may be grieving what might have been but will not be, or grieving over what used to be, but cannot be anymore.

We may simply be in need of a place of quiet and calm in an otherwise busy season.

Whatever may have brought us here we offer to the One born in Bethlehem’s stable, knowing that there is no pain that does not echo in God’s heart, no joy that does not come from God’s hand.

I See Your Pain by Ann Weems

Hymn  Sisters Let Us Walk Together MV 179

Opening Prayer

God of comfort and compassion, hear us as we pray for ourselves and for all who live with loss and loneliness, pain and grief, hurt and isolation. We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow, and peace for the past.

We ask these things in the name of Christ who shares our life in joy and sorrow, in death and new birth, despair and promise.  Amen.

Scripture

Psalm 121

Matthew 1:18-23

 

Hymn Stay With Us Through The Night VU 182

 

Star-Giving by Ann Weems

Blessing the Prayer Shawls

Reflective Music

 

Pastoral Prayer, ending with the Prayer of Jesus

 

Hymn Will You Come And See The Light VU 96

 

Blessing and Sending Forth Into This Silent Night Ann Weems

December 11, 2016 – Advent 3

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

The Liturgists Podcast: Suffering (Part 1)
Working Preacher
Rex Hunt

Rob Bell – “The Robcast” with Rabbi Sharon Brous
Gifts With Vision “Build a Well
Charity Water (referred to in The Liturgist Podcast)

Kirtan Soul Revival (official website)(itunes)

St. Luke’s United Church
December 11th, 2016
Joy
Hymn Still, Still, Still VU 47

Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Lighting the Advent Wreath & Centering
Advent Chant Phil Porter

Call to Worship:
One: Three candles burning brightly offering hope, inspiring peace and sharing joy. Sharing in other’s joy is the gift that keeps on giving.
All: One candle offers hope. Two candles inspire peace. Three candles share joy.

Opening Prayer:
Source of deep joy, we pray that this time together be filled with giving and receiving joy. May we see your presence in the joy of others and experience you in our own moments of joy. May it be so.

Hymn Joy to the World VU 59

More Stories from Our Family Tree
Spin Me A Story

Readings Isaiah 61:1-11
Luke 4:16-21

Hymn Joy Is Now in Every Place VU 45

Joy in Suffering.
I’ve listened to two very impactful podcasts lately that just won’t leave me. The first I referenced in my Advent letter. The Liturgist Podcast introduced the idea that suffering runs on a large spectrum. That something that we take for granted can be the root of so much suffering. And the biggest kicker of all is that this particular suffering is needless. The suffering I’m talking about is lack of access to clean, safe water. Now, I’m sure everyone understands that we need water to live. If you were part of the United Church a few years ago, you probably heard about our campaign against bottled water, and if you’ve been to a larger United Church event, you’ll likely notice many folks are toting reusable mugs and water bottles and asking where the fountains are located. Simply put, water is a gift from God and should not be sold for profit.
People suffer from lack of water. They suffer physically. They get sick. People can die from lack of water or from diseases that come from drinking water that is unsafe. People suffer emotionally from lack of water. People walk for kilometers to access water that is safe to drink. Young women will stay home from school because they don’t have enough water for proper hygiene. One person explained to the hosts of the program I was listening to about how lack of water leads to a lack of dignity. In some communities there is only a certain amount of water for each family, and not always enough for each person to drink, let alone wash themselves.
Then I remembered my own experience meeting families in Guatemala, who gave their children pop to drink because it was cheaper than buying water and supposedly safer than drinking the water that was available in their village. The smiles of the children were somewhat unforgettable. After hearing how people all over the world are suffering from a lack of water, I saw a video this week that kind of kicked me in the gut. These people, who have no easy water in their lives, still smile. They still have joy.
This idea that it’s all a state of mind is what Jesus was getting at in this passage. To make the point hit home even harder, he quoted a sacred text, which we also heard this morning. Jesus was telling them they didn’t need to idly wait for a savior to rid them of their oppression. The solution to the problem already existed. They had the power amongst themselves to ensure that they were treated with dignity and respect. There was hope! There would be peace! There will be joy! They just needed some help seeing how.
Jesus read the passage about justice and liberation to people who were feeling misused, maltreated and trapped. They desperately wanted a change. So Jesus read the prophets words about a time of rising up, liberation and freedom in general, then he told them it was all possible not in the future but today. TODAY. All that was required was a change of thinking.
The second impact podcast I listened to was an interview by Rob Bell of a Rabbi Sharon Brous in Los Angeles who is leading in the Emergent Jewish Network, and speaking openly about the need for us to stop worshiping the structures of our varied religions and change the worship container so that we are truly able to focus on the source that challenges us to treat others as we would wish to be treated. You don’t eat the bowl, you eat the soup that’s in the bowl. We can’t seem to eat the soup because we are constantly distracted by the bowl. Not so different from Jesus’ constant sermon: All that’s required is a change of thinking.
You might be wondering where the “joy” is in all this. I’m telling you that the joy exists when you stop worrying about everything else and focus on simply loving other people. Sometimes, you do get burned, but other times, amazing things happen. Getting burned isn’t so horrible when you are focused on simply offering others love. It’s their choice how they use it. I didn’t understand this until this past annual meeting of the Maritime Conference. I had just finished dealing with someone who was quite upset and someone asked me how I could deal with everyone and still keep smiling. I did it because I kept singing one of my favorite songs – a Kirtan hymn actually the words are “I release and I let go, I let the Spirit run my life. My heart is open wide and I’m only here to love.” I’m just here to offer loving kindness, it’s someone else’s choice if they choose to use it well, take advantage of it and me or even ignore what I have to offer. The opposite is true too. When others offer me loving kindness it’s my choice to use it well, take advantage of it or ignore it.
So what are you going to do? Are you going to let go of some of the things that keep you from experiencing joy by focusing simply on loving? Are you going to accept the gifts of loving kindness offered to you even though you wanted something else? Are you going to shift your thinking so that you are focused on what really matters?

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Abundance over flows all around us. Because we are abundant people, we choose to give.

Offertory Laughter Lit The Stars of Morning MV 190 v1

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR offer justice and joy to those in need. Amen.

Prayer Music Never Ending Joy MV 40 refrain, v3, refrain

Prayers of the People
Ending with the traditional Prayer of Jesus, found in Voices United, pg 921 or on the screen.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Hope Is A Candle Linnea Good v3 with story bit, v2, v1