Growing up in the Fog

The fog over the cemetery in New Harbour.

A few days ago, I read an opinion piece in the Chronicle Herald called –We are where we live: the cold makes us resilient. 

I feel like I could have written this.  I’ve been saying for years that growing up on the shores of Guysborough County is why I feel like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.  I love being in New Harbour, but when I lived there sometimes the fog and drizzle could get a little overwhelming.  When I think about the first settlers in New Harbour, I wonder how they made it those first few springs.  Hard, rocky soil.  Constant fog.  Mildew because nothing can easily dry out. And those large, lonely rocks.  Even the forage-able food is resilient: Foxberries, dulse, fish, Labrador Tea, small game & fowl.  Really not much vegetation other than moss and scraggly spruce.  The primary industries are seasonal: fishing, forestry, and paving potholes.  Yet, we still survived.

When Bob and I got married, it was important to me for our friends and his family to be there in New Harbour – to understand where I grew up, because I knew it made me different.  I just didn’t understand how.  New Harbour did not disappoint on the weekend of our wedding.  A wicked downpour moved the rehearsal dinner from outside to inside.  The rain continued overnight, washing out a road and filling the large pot holes with rain.  The fog hung heavy in the morning, and it was so cold.  With such heavy humidity, the 130 hand-rolled, fondant roses my sisters and I had made for my wedding cake were drooping, and the fondant on the cake itself, was sweating profusely.  So much for the beautiful cake I had dreamed of.  At least it still tasted good!  Despite the nasty roads, crazy weather and drooping cake, we had a great time.  There was no other choice.  The weather was what it was.  I wasn’t going to reschedule the wedding of my dreams for a hurricane! That’s just the way it goes in the Maritimes.

It’s also how I know that as a church, we’re going to be ok.  Even if the regions aren’t exactly as we’d make them.  Even if the regions are staffed not quite the way we’d do it.  That goes for congregations too.  We’re Maritimers.  We do what we’ve got to do.  Fog, wind and rain or a beautiful sunny day.  In fact, we’re more apt to do it on the rainy day and save a vacation day for the rare sunny one.

The same is true for Nova Scotia.  Yeah, there might be fewer jobs here, and yeah there might be more senior citizens than working aged folks and children combined, but we’re people of the fog.  We do what we’ve got to do, be it looking after neighbouring seniors, who’s children are living out West or laughing at the idea of a million dollar home.  We don’t want that non-sense…that’s just a larger area to scrub mildew from.  I don’t have time for that!  We’ll be ok as long as we keep working together, we’ll come up with a solution to cross the next large pothole in life.  If you can keep your family alive, living on a rock in the fog and eating salt fish and potatoes, you can do anything.  After all, the fish didn’t come out of the ocean salted.  It took a resilient (or maybe desperate) person to think that one up.  We might not have the same problems we once did, but we still live on rocks in the fog.  We’ll think of something.

Chronicle Herald Opinions: We are where we live: the cold makes us resilient

Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3409

https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=3569

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlgregg/2012/03/jesus-subversive-donkey-ride-a-progressive-christian-lectionary-commentary-for-palm-sunday/

https://melissabanesevier.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/old-time-religion-meets-new-time-spirituality/

https://thelisteninghermit.com/2012/03/26/hosanna-save-us-from-self-interest-palm-sunday-b/

http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/year_b_liturgy_collection/year_b_lenteaster/palmsb142012.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)

Hymn And On This Path MV 8

Reading John 12:12-27
Response Sanna, Sannanina VU 128

Call to Worship
One: Jesus dared to live God’s way
in the midst of all the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of life.

All: We too are called to proclaim our faith faithfully
by the way we live, and treat one another.

Silence

One: Jesus wanted his disciples to live passionate,
justice seeking, God centred lives.

Silence

All: Jesus, as human face of God, shared his life
that others might sense the new signs of hope
in their everyday lives.

Silence

Hymn Tell Me The Stories of Jesus VU 357

Theme Conversation Bouquets of Hope
Blessing the Bouquets

Hosanna, Save Us

The crowd has gathered to celebrate their history, to wave their branches in worship and remember all that they have overcome.  They see Jesus, coming into the town to participate in the festivities, riding on a donkey.  Suddenly, the connection hits home.  They have always been able to save themselves by keeping it simple.  They can save themselves once more if they can just remember what Jesus had taught them.

So…the we’re back here.  Back at the parade.  We’ve talked a lot about the political climate at the time.  We’ve talked about the parallels between then and now.  We’ve talked a lot about the week that is to come.  The part of today’s reading that stood out to me was “Hosanna! Save us!”  When I looked a bit more into the word, I learn that it is said with a similar meaning to “God help us!”.  It is a prayer.  These are my 4 Hosanna prayers.

Unbalanced Power
Before completing my final year of studies at the Centre for Christian Studies, I had to take a global perspectives experience, also called a gpe.  A gpe is a minimum two week experience usually in a developing country, that explores the impact of power and privilege for the people of that country.  For my gpe I went to Guatemala with the Breaking the Silence delegation.  One of the places we visited was the “Million Dollar Road” that was home to the owners of major fruit plantations and to a make shift village of people set up to protest the disappearance of landowners and workers who questioned pesticide use, the ethics of acquiring land and in some cases even the disappearance of others.  We also visited the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala.  When we asked about what was being done to investigate the disappearance of a large number of people, we were given the runaround and told the plantation owners were wonderful people.  We didn’t ask about the plantation owners.  When we asked about impunity (or the corruption of the justice system I such a way that there is no punishment when someone undeniably has done something unjust) the official didn’t believe that existed.  It was very obvious to villagers who told us of the times they witnessed public torture, or were removed from their villages without any kind of compensation.  There’s no way to avoid situations of power, but what happens when power goes unchecked?

Hosanna – Save us from unbalanced power.  God I pray that our government and other governments remember the need for balanced power.  Power that acts for the good of everyone and not just a few.  I pray that I might have the courage to be a balancing voice.  Hosanna.

 Uncontentedness
Do you know the difference between happiness and being content?  A few years ago I read a book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin.  It was a series of twelve experiments researched and designed to increase her happiness.  I think my biggest learning from the book was that you need to be content in order to be happy and that contentedness is a mindset.  No one can determine my happiness or my contentedness but me.  Sometimes bad things happen in life.  Sometimes, if we let the bad things take over, they can swallow us up.  We can challenge this simply by finding one thing to be grateful for.  Personally, I think that is the mark of a resilient person: even in the worst situation, finding something to be grateful or content about.

Hosanna – Save us from our uncontentedness.  God, I pray that I might see things with a lens of contentment.  I pray that with practice, my happiness will increase and that my contentment and happiness will encourage others. Hosanna.

Polarization
It’s easy for me to spout things from this pulpit.  I say it’s easy because I have a lot of privilege.  I was born here in Nova Scotia, to heterosexual, married parents.  I am heterosexual, cis-gendered, of European descent, educated, employed by the largest protestant denomination in Canada.  English is my first language and I’m quickly approaching middle age.  So it’s quite easy for me to say with moderate confidence, to speak my truth and know it will be heard by some, if not all of you for what it is: my truth.  But for these exact same reason it’s also easy for me to assume my sometimes radical thoughts are the norm.  I find it utterly shocking when I meet someone who appears the same as me, yet holds a different set of values…and sometimes even just a different order of the same values.  Different values or a different order of the same values isn’t really a problem though.  It’s my assumption that everyone shares the exact same values and order as me, even though we’ve had different life experiences.  What’s even more problematic is when I assume that the right combination of values for me is the right combination for everyone else, even though we’ve had different life experiences.  This is polarization.  This is what starts wars.

Hosanna – Save us from polarization.  God I pray that I might always be able to keep the life experiences of others in mind as I seek to understand their values and ethics.  I pray that I am able to speak in ways that don’t polarize. Hosanna.

Ourselves
As people lined the street that day in Jerusalem, waving their palm branches in a worship-filled ceremony, Jesus, the local celebrity, rode into town on a donkey.  And the people were reminded that they didn’t to be big and powerful to be happy and to have a good relationship with God and with each other.  All they needed was to remember to love and the rest would fall into place.  Maybe all they needed was to stop expecting so much from themselves.  Maybe that’s all we need to do too.  Maybe we need to be saved from ourselves.

Hosanna – Save us from ourselves.  God, I pray that I will stop sabotaging myself.  I pray that my expectations of myself and others will be reasonable and help me to grow in ways that benefit not only myself, but others as well. Hosanna, save us, Amen.

Music Minstry Hosanna (Praise is Rising)

Minute for Reconcilliation

Offering Invitation
We get through Holy Week because we know how the story really ends. We know about the resurrection. We have hope. Not everyone is able to see hope. Because we can see hope, we must share it, so the hope can continue to grow. The Mystery of Easter is hope. Reconciliation is hope. Our offerings have the possibility to become hope.

Offertory I Thank You, Thank You Jesus MV 188 v 1 & 3

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be A Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
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.

Hymn All Glory, Laud and Honour VU 122

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing Wherever You May Go MV 216

Lent 5 – March 18

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/14/were-in-the-midst-of-an-apocalypse-and-thats-a-good-thing/?utm_term=.3507f1c48656

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3408

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pontius-Pilate

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_the_Great

http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Sparrows

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caiaphas

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn When Hands Reach Out Beyond Divides MV 169

Call to Worship
One: The closer we get to Easter, the harder it can be to hear the story of Jesus.
All: But we tell the stories to remember the past, with the hope that when we are faced with similar choices, we will choose differently.
One: Worship happens when we gather to learn from our collective past and dream into our expanded future. Let us pray:

Opening Prayer
Timeless Spirit, Be with us today as we reflect and as we dream. Encourage us to work towards the good of the whole people of God. Amen.

Hymn Precious Lord, Take My Hand VU 670

Theme Conversation

Readings John 18:28-40

Musical Response First-Born of Mary MV 110

Sermon

Roman officer takes Jesus to the high priest

A bit of overlap from last week: Jesus is arrested after Judas tipped off the authorities.  Jesus is taken to Annas, who was a higher up in the priestly order.  Annas questions Jesus, and Jesus responds that he has done nothing in secret.  The police officer guarding Jesus, strikes him across the face and asks him if that was anyway to speak to a high priest.  Jesus asks the officer what he did to deserve being hit.  Annas orders him to be bound and taken to a higher priest.

Peter denies three times

While this was happening, Peter was admitted entrance into the courtyard while Jesus was being interviewed.  Peter and another disciple had followed after Jesus’ arrest and the other disciple knew Annas and arranged for Peter to be let into the courtyard.  The gatekeeper who admitted him asked Peter if he was a disciple of Jesus.  Peter said no. Peter, for his part gathered around the fire meant to keep the guards and gatekeepers warm.  While around the fire, again Peter was asked if he was a follower of Jesus.  Peter said no, but another servant recognized him, and asked “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Jesus?” Peter denied being a follower of Jesus for a third time.

Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas

We aren’t really sure what happened with the high priest, Caiaphas, but by the time morning comes, Jesus has found himself in front of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate was the governor of the region.  The crowds who followed after Jesus left Caiaphas, waited outside, as it was too close to Passover for them to enter without becoming unclean.

Pilate questions the people

Goes out to the crowd that has gathered to question the people.  He asked the people why Jesus had been brought to him.  The people responded that Jesus was a criminal and that was why they had brought him to Pilate.  Pilate suggested that the people take Jesus and judge him by their own laws.  The people responded back that they were not allowed to kill anyone.  That was why they needed to bring him to Pilate.

Pilate questions Jesus

Pilate then goes back in to question Jesus.  It’s a convoluted conversation that ends with Jesus saying “I was born to tell the world about the truth.  Anyone who knows the truth knows my voice.”  And Pilate responds with “What is the truth?”

Pilate finds Jesus not guilty of anything

Pilate goes back out to the people and tells them he cannot find Jesus guilty of anything.  He suggests that Jesus be the prisoner that is traditionally set free by the governor for Passover.  The crowd says no, and asks for Barabbas instead.

Pontius Pilate

Governor of Judea

Talk about a rock and a hard place.  Pilate was the governor of Judaea.  Pilate was notorious for being a strict leader.  His appointment to Judaea likely wasn’t coincidental to the climax of Jesus’ ministry.  Pilate’s authoritarian nature meant that rebel forces were not an issue.

Lived outside of Jerusalem

Pilate’s presence in Jerusalem that night likely wasn’t a coincidence either.   Jerusalem was and still is considered THE Holy place for many Hebrew people. Passover is a major festival in the Hebrew faith, so the city was fuller than usual.  Pilate, as the governor, lived outside of Jerusalem in Caesarea.  So Pilate would have been staying at the governor’s residence in Jerusalem on a somewhat local holiday – just to keep an eye on the situation.

Killed himself after being accused of not giving people proper trials before killing them

So the crowds likely would have been a bit intense, and we find our authoritive leader acting well, a bit mousy.  Oh that I could have been a fly on that wall!  So much of our history was passed along orally, and once things were written down, it wasn’t in English, where there was room for things to be lost in translation.  I wonder if Pilate really was mousy that night or if his trial and subsequent punishment of self-inflicted death a few years later for not giving people a fair trial before ordering their execution had anything to do with the portrayal we see of him in scripture.

Colonialism

Constantine and the Roman Empire

It’s important to remember that the political climate in the first few centuries played a huge role in the current Christian faith.  I was somewhat shocked in my Early Christian History class to find out that Christianity did not explode immediately after Jesus’ death.  It wasn’t until the ruler of the Roman Empire in the 300s, Constantine and his declaration of religious tolerance that the faith began to grow.  Constantine saw the opportunity for political advancement in his alignment with Christianity.  It’s a classic power move: united the minority or those who feel like they are the minority to make a larger majority and turn the power.  It was during this time that the line “suffered under Pontius Pilate” was officially added to the Nicene Creed.

Colonialism of North American

Unfortunately the idea of everyone NEEDING to be Christian stuck, and other leaders went on to use Christianity to their advantage, including the first settlers in North America.  Unfortunately somewhere along the way, people seemed to forget that the Bible is a history for the underdog.  It’s the story of oppressed people and how they over-came their oppression.  It’s a story intended to bring hope to the people.  It was written by the people, for the people.

Game of Thrones – The Sparrow

Cersey wasn’t in control

If you are still struggling to understand how people can use faith to influence politics, I’ll give you a toned down example from Game of Thrones.

Cersey, who I think of as the Evil Queen – sorry if you are team Lannister, wasn’t in control.  Her son was.  Even though she had a huge influence in his life, as King he held the control and the young king was infatuated with his wife.

The faith was corrupted

The faith leaders at the time were more honorary than functional, in fact they were somewhat corrupt and held almost no authority with the people.

There was a rebel uprising in the faith

Cersey, the Evil Queen heard of a group in the peasant class that were quickly gaining popularity.  Cersey knew that according to the beliefs of the Sparrows, her son’s queen would likely be arrested.

Tommen united the faith and the crown

So Cersey convinced her son that it was time for the faith and the crown to unite and it would be the faith who would hold people morally accountable.

The faith took over and the rebel uprising shifted power

The faith quickly took over and before long Cersey’s daughter in law in arrested.  Cersey too, is arrested, and both women “convert” in order to be released.

Cersey killed all the faith leaders and took power

Upon Cersey’s release, she stays in her room, as ordered by the High Sparrow, but she still manages to orchastate an attack that kills many of the Sparrows, including the High Sparrow and her son’s queen.  Her son is so upset upon hearing of his wife’s death, that he jumps from his mother’s tower.  This leaves Cersey with full control, but she loses her son in the process.

A love of power and control is the real problem

It was her love of control that cost Cersey the thing that she loved most.

I’m a compromiser by nature

I’m a compromiser by nature and really bothers me when people cannot come to a simple compromise in situations of conflict.  I just don’t understand how people can see winning or controlling as more important than the relationship between the people themselves.

What is the Antidote to all of the corruption?

What is an antidote?

Earlier this week, I read an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Nadia Webber-Bowlez.  In the article, she talks about the antidote for the times when religion is used to fuel hate.

Using religion to argue religion

It’s a brilliant idea really.  Instead of combating religiously affiliated hate, we fix it with an antidote.  This is how Nadia describes the current situation:

The venom of domination runs deeply in us as a country and a people. And it does so because the fangs that delivered it were given not the devil’s name, but God’s. When the subordination of women is established as God’s will, when slavery is established as God’s will, when discrimination against queer folks is established as God’s will, when the CEO of the National Rifle Association claims the right to buy a semiautomatic assault rifle is “not bestowed by man, but granted by God,” it delivers a poison that can infect the deepest parts of us. Because messages that are transmitted to us in God’s name embed far beneath the surface, all the way down to our original place, our createdness, our source code.

Pretty powerful stuff.  But there’s more.  Nadia goes on to say that we must dig deeper, we must recognize those moments in history when Christianity was used to hurt.  This is how she ends the article:

We must do this. The Bible, Christian theology and liturgy are too potent to be left to those who would use them, even unwittingly, to justify and protect their own dominance. And sometimes the origin of the harm can be the most powerful source of healing.

That’s how anti-venom works.

What are we worried about losing?

Here’s my question: What is so important that we are willing to risk losing a relationship than to admit we were wrong about?

What does reconciliation have to do with all of this?

This is what reconciliation is.  Recognizing that maybe, just possibly, even with the best of intentions we were wrong.  Step two is acknowledging that relationships are more important than being right.  We might not be able to do either of these things today and maybe not even tomorrow, but if we really listen to the message of Jesus, then we can’t ignore the truth forever.

Dance between church and state

The dance between Church and State has always existed, and quite frankly I’m glad.

It’s our job to challenge and it’s their job to challenge us

It’s our job to challenge the government, and it’s the government’s job to challenge us.  If we get too comfortable, we risk over-stepping and assuming control.

Here’s my invitation to you all.  If you see the opportunity in the upcoming weeks to inject a bit of anti-venom, be braver than Pilate.  Give reconciliation a try. It is the truth.

Music Minstry It is Well With My Soul

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Every day is a gift. This is an opportunity to share from our gifts because we truly are blessed with an abundance.

Offertory Ev’ry Day Is a Day of Thanksgiving MV 185 (just until the repeat)

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Make Me a Channel of Your Peace VU 684

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken 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.

Hymn Lord Reign Me In

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing May the God of Hope Go with Us VU 424

Lent 4 – March 11, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/mindfulness-practice_b_4101536.html

https://thebibleproject.com/explore/john/

https://sixwaysfromsunday.ca/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/antigonish-school-graffiti-1.4565502

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/racism-school-black-students-name-calling-education-diversity-1.4564057

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn The Care The Eagle Gives VU 269

Call to Worship

Life is messy and complicated. Sometimes we think that society has progressed and we are sadly disappointed when we realize it hasn’t. So we take time to come together with people, willing to learn about themselves and others as we work together to follow the way of Jesus.

Opening Prayer

Spirit of compassion, surround us as we work to understand our role in society. Encourage us as we struggle to find the way of Jesus in our daily lives. Amen.

Hymn Abide With Me VU 436

Theme Conversation True Colors

Readings John 18:12-27

Musical Response Holy Spirit, Hear Us VU 377 v 1 &2

Sermon

After the ‘Hosannas’ were done
Jesus and his friends gathered round
Celebrations had begun
They were all ready to eat
Jesus had washed their feet
Judas left quietly
bringing back
the authorities
who were there to question
at Judas’ suggestion
The party broke
the disciples spread out
no one spoke
Peter left in a state of shock
some came up to him wanting to talk
was Jesus his friend?
and Peter denied him
Was this the end?
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
Then words came out
I don’t know him!
Peter began to shout
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
He said it once more
It just happened so fast
Though his heart was sore
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
they just arrested his leader
Peter  was in a strange town
Where did they take the preacher?
Would they come after him?
His choices were slim.
What could he do from prison?
His decision was fast
He had good reason
The crowds had been yelling
Hosannas to Jesus
the word was telling
Hosanna means “save us”
people said they needed Jesus
But when Jesus was arrested
Where were the people
who claimed the leaders were detested?
The High Priest tried
With the questions he asked
But Jesus never lied
Where were Hosannas then?
Nobody tried to help him

It’s been two thousand years
Somethings still haven’t changed
Silence still sears
Speaking out when something’s wrong
Requires you to be brave and strong
People speak out and they’re left alone
To defend themselves
right or wrong
The rooster crows
Self-doubt grows
Fear made some one act out
Graffiti sprayed on signs and busses
I just want to shout
The blame is in the wrong direction
Here’s my observation
A slur is used to divide
And to try to make people
Choose one side
But all it really does is isolate
The person already in a vulnerable state
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
But why do children feel the need to hate?
Kids shouldn’t even know
Words that discriminate
School should be a place where kids are free
To explore and learn about who they want to be
I thought that my generation
Had grown to appreciate
Diversity and decolonization
But the rooster still crows
And self-doubt still grows
The message’s always the same
And I’ll continue to do it
In Jesus’ name
But the rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
The message has always been the same
Since the time of Jesus
It’s gotten quite tame.
But something has gone wrong
Even though we sing the same song
Now when the word “unjust” comes up
People want to bring their fighting gloves up
Fixing your injustice makes it unjust for me
Or so they believe
And sometimes I’ll admit its true
You don’t always get yours exactly when’s due
The system the problem
Not the principle
There’s time to solve them
But we can only fix the system with an open mind
Time to listen and think we must find
A way to live with the rooster
And change the it sounds
To be a self-awareness booster
So when the rooster crows
Its self-awareness that grows

Hymn When We Are Tempted to Deny Your Son VU 119
Music Minstry True Colors

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation Each day we are given the opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes it’s obvious, like the passing of our plates. Othertimes it’s not so obvious. As we share our offerings today, let’s offer one another courage in those less than obvious moments.

Offertory I Thank You, Thank You Jesus MV 188

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken 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 & Benediction

Musical Blessing Take Up His Song MV 213

Lent 3 – March 4, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Jesus Christ Superstar 2000

Cartoon

Silent foot washing Loop

Silent Foot Washing Loop

Silent Forgiven Feet Loop

The Bible Project

Working Preacher

The Bible Project

http://www.macleans.ca/economy/business/in-a-fight-over-minimum-wage-at-tim-hortons-the-worker-loses/

http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-hypocrisy-of-a-tim-hortons-a-business-built-on-coffee-breaks/

http://www.macleans.ca/economy/money-economy/minimum-wage-in-canada-by-the-numbers

https://globalnews.ca/news/3828447/canada-middle-class-income-inequality/

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Halifax

http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song) VU 595

Call to Worship
One: As followers of Jesus, we gather each week,
All: to celebrate, to remember and to learn what Jesus taught his followers.
One: This week we remember that Jesus was both a leader and a worker.
All: We want to learn about Jesus and a leader and as a servant.
One: Because of the way that Jesus chose to lead, today we celebrate that each of us has the possibility to be both leader and servant.
All: Today we worship Jesus the leader and Jesus the servant.

Opening Prayer
Holy Spirit, enter this space, energize our hearts, and open our eyes to the possibility that exists in each of us. May it be so. Amen.

Hymn How Lovely Are The Feet of Them A Laura Beth Original

Theme Conversation Washing

Readings
Jesus Christ Superstar 2000
John 13:1-17
Musical Response Holy Spirit, Hear Us VU 377 v 1 &2

Sermon The Love of a Leader

The last time we heard from the lectionary, we were hearing about the resurrection of Lazarus in the book of John.  Jesus had been away from his family and friends and was called back because his friend was very sick.  Jesus wasn’t able to make it home before Lazarus died.  Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha are angry with Jesus.  Long story short, Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb.  It’s at this point that the authorities begin to plan how to get rid of the problem that is Jesus.

Shortly after that is the monumental parade and protest that we celebrate on Palm Sunday, I’m not going to dig into this story today but I wanted you to be aware of where it fits in the timeline of the gospel of John.

After the big parade, one evening in the week before the Passover, Mary (Lazarus’ sister according to the book of John) comes in while Jesus and his boys are sitting around.  She cries as she washes Jesus’ feet, kissing them and drying them with her hair.  She pours an expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet and is rebuked by one of the disciples for wasting expensive ointment when Jesus didn’t need it.  It could have been sold to further their cause.  I suspect that it is at this point that Jesus gets the idea for what he does in the next chapter, but at the time he tells the disciple to let her be, she is living in the moment with him.  He won’t be around forever.  Jesus knows that things cannot stay as they are.

This next part happens sometime before Passover, but not the same night as Mary washed his feet, Jesus ties a towel around his waist and proceeds to wash the feet of each of the disciples.  They are a bit taken aback to say the least.  Jesus reassures them, they may not understand right now, but someday they will.  Jesus knows that he has to do something to get the disciples to understand that the good leader works along side and just as hard as the followers.  It’s not that the disciples deserve to have their feet washed, they do, but everyone deserves to have their feet washed.  Everyone deserves comfort when they are in need.  Everyone deserves the dignity of hospitality.

Washing feet in those days was a sign of respect and hospitality.  Usually a servant was tasked with the dirty, smelly job, so it’s somewhat surprising that Mary chooses to wash Jesus’ feet.  It’s even more surprising that Jesus chooses to wash the disciples feet.  The guest speaker, the celebrity even – washing the feet of those who were called to serve.

But this is what Jesus did.  He used his whole life to be a message of what God’s love is like and told the people that they were called to continue that message, a message of self-giving love.  A message of mutual relationships.

I want to be explicitly clear about this, because some folks are scared right now.  Some people are scared that if we recognize the rights, and maybe even the humanity of other cultures, races, genders, sexualities, ages, educations, languages, abilities, even experiences that “we will lose it all and we’ll be over-run with _____________________________.”  So I’m asking you, did washing the people’s feet take away Jesus’ credibility?  Did it make him less of a leader?  In washing the people’s feet did he lose their respect? All it did was prove his point.  If we all lead from a place of self-giving love, wouldn’t we be a lot better off?

I’ve flown a fair bit in my adult life.  A few times I’ve been upgraded to business class.  Once even on the right length flight, I received a pillow, my water in a real glass, two snacks, the paper and get this – steamy warm towelettes!  Who would have thought something so small as a warmed, toweltte, just moist enough to wipe the grime of a long day of travel off your face and hands.  It felt wonderful.  It wasn’t much more than a paper towel tablet rehydrated with hot water, but not only was it refreshing, but it probably kept me from accidentally ingesting a few extra plane germs.  I didn’t do anything other be in the right place at the right time, but there were probably 100 other germy and tired people on the same plane who didn’t receive a warm towelette.

A similar rehydratable towellette cost less than a quarter.  But they were only offered in business class.  It most likely saved me a cold, a certainly gave me a sense of respect and dignity.  Why is it that we treat some people with more respect than others?

The very first article in in the declaration of human rights is All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.  This was published in 1948 by the United Nations.  Equal dignity, equal rights.  No person is better than another person.

So when I ask myself, is my humanity tied to the amount of respect I give or the amount of respect I get? The answer is always yes.  They should be equal.  To be acknowledged as human is to be treated with dignity and respect.  To be treated to a day of pampering is nice from time to time but it should be reciprocated.

Good leaders and good followers give just as much respect as they get.  That’s what a mutual relationship.  Unfortunately there are some leaders out there that believe that submission and dictatorship is the correct way to lead. Everyone has had a horrible boss at some point.

I spent a very long two month working at Tim Horton’s after I started at AST.  It was interesting how many times I was called stupid, slow, incompetent or was met with sighs and eye rolls for asking a customer to repeat their order as I worked at a part-time job while also studying for my second degree.   It certainly gave me a new appreciation for fast food workers.  I admit, if I’m in line to order and the person ahead of me is rude, I’m going to be extra nice, and I’ll probably say something along the lines of “Jerks are jerks.  Don’t let that one ruin your shift.”

But back to the lectionary reading, what did Jesus mean by embodying God’s love by washing the feet of others?  What does that say about God’s love?  Well, I’ve talked a little bit about the social issues around washing feet.  It was one of those many “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” messages.  But it’s also an intimate act.  God’s love is a personal thing.

Jesus’ demonstration of an intimate, mutual and self-giving love speaks volumes about my understanding of God, but what do our lives 2000 years later say about God’s love?

To me, the message is clear.  We are called to be respectful and caring in all of our relationships.  To treat everyone with the same respect we would treat a beloved friend, and to accept nothing less in return.  We are called to speak up for those who aren’t being treat with respect and dignity and to recognize and deal with systemic injustice for others as if it were our own.  We are also called to recognize that sometimes people make mistakes and offer the same forgiveness that we would wish to be offered, if we had made had made the mistake.

This is what it is to be part of the kindom of God.  To wash and to be washed.  To Love and to be Loved. To invite and to be invited.  Won’t you join me?

Amen.

Music Ministry To Be Like You

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Since the message today was all about servant leadership. So today, allow my to put my PAR card in first.

Offertory I Thank You, Thank You Jesus MV 188

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken 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 & Benediction

Musical Blessing One More Step Along the World I Go VU 639

Lent 1 – February 18, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Linda Yates on Zombies

Kushner on When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Theo Wilson on going undercover

Wikipedia: Lazarus of Bethany

Washington Post on School Shootings

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn Come and Find the Quiet Center VU 374

Call to Worship

One: This is our time to prepare for worship.
All: It is the time to set aside all of the hurt and exhaustion from the past week.
One: This is our opportunity to offer thanksgiving.
All: It is our opportunity to recognize all of our abundance and offer thanks.
One: This is a place to share.
All: We share the good and the bad. We learn to celebrate together, to work together and to help when and where we can.
One: This is what it is to worship.

Opening Prayer

Caring God, we pray that our worship today will renew our spirits, encouraging us and inspiring us to work towards the common good. Amen.

Hymn Holy Spirit, Truth Divine VU 368

Theme Conversation What is Lent?

Readings John 11:1-44
Linda Yates on Zombies

Musical Response Holy Spirit Hear Us VU 377 v1&2

Sermon When disaster strikes…

The part of this story that jumped out at me this time around was that Jesus stayed an extra two days before heading back towards the gravely ill Lazarus.  Mary and Martha, when they finally get to see Jesus, are actually mad at him.  He had tried his best but work got in the way, and he simply could not get back to them in time.  So Jesus lamented.  All of this I understand and can relate to.

Usually I’m in full on zombie mode for Lazarus.  It’s not because, I’m a Walking Dead fan or on the side of the White Walkers.  It’s more because of an experience I had with a group of 5 year olds when I was working with a Beaver Colony in Middle Musquodoboit.  One of the 5 year olds had experienced more tragedy in his young life than the other 5 year olds.  We’d had a number or conversations about his Aunt and Uncle, who had both died in separate accidents in the previous two years.  He liked to visit their grave when we were outside playing, just check on them and then head back to the rest of the group playing in the church yard.  One night he invited his two besties to go with him, so I went too, just in case.  He explained to his friends that they had died, and he and his sisters and mom had planted flowers there for them and put in solar lights so that they would see the light and remember they were loved. They stood there for a moment in silence, and then looked towards the woods where the dusk was settling in a little faster and one of them said – “that’s where the zombies are!” and they ran back to the rest of the kids.  I didn’t blame them or think much of it at the time.  The woods were a little gross looking with faded silk and plastic flowers caught in the undergrowth and lots of old man’s beard hanging in the trees.  But the next time I heard one of the same trio of kids refer to zombies, I realized the five year olds at least were using the term zombie to refer to things that they didn’t fully understand and found just a little unsettling.

A few months later, Linda’s video interview came out and her thoughts on zombies and their relation to the resurrection due to people’s misunderstanding always stuck with me.

If you aren’t up to date on zombies in popular culture, a fun question to ask is “What do you need to survive a Zombie Apocalypse?”  The answers you’ll get range from very practical items, to ridiculous.  Let’s face it, regardless of if we like it or not, we’re stuck with a zombie fascination for a few years yet.  Personally, I think the people who are most fascinated with the living dead zombies are people who need a very unrealistic escape from the everyday.  That there is something worse than what they currently have to deal with.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around a lot this week. Between dealing with Ash Wednesday and Lent theology and how best to portray that in a way that still upholds tradition without shaming people. And then I heard about the shooting in Florida.  Now, I don’t know any high school students in Florida, and currently I don’t have any live tv, so I didn’t see any traumatizing images, but I am a person over the age of 18, who contributes to society, so I did take some time to reflect on this incident and what I, personally, can do to improve the situation we are left to deal with.  In case you’ve never dealt with an ADHD mind, either passive or active, let me pre-warn you: pretty much everything goes off on a tangent.  So while Ash Wednesday and mass shootings were my two major thinking topics this week, as sure as a squirrel distracts a dog running towards it’s human’s whistle, I went off topic too.  I thought about the theology of the past around confession and the needless things that people were told to go to confession about.  I thought about hurtful words masked in the “guise of prayer”.  I thought about the #metoo movement and it’s impact on everyone.  I thought about the things churches can do to offer a little bit of hope and resilience to people who find themselves in a minority position most of the time.  I thought about bullying and the role it plays in the mental health of so many adults and children.  I thought a lot about gun control and the evolution of the necessity of guns, I wondered about the attraction of semi-automatic weapons and tried to think of a practical use for them other than a zombie apocalypse.  (And for the record I don’t think I’d need one to survive the zombie apocalypse.) I thought about mental health and the gaps in our system and I wondered if the system in the US was worse.  I thought about how so many people require everything to be binary – a one or the other choice, when there is no clear answer and how we’ve even cultured our politics to be binary.  Either you agree with everything I believe, or you are against me. Binary thinking lead me back to the lesson for today and the binary thinking we sometimes use when reading the Bible.   It has to be all fact or it has to be all fiction.  Binary thinking doesn’t fix anything other than a computer program.  It didn’t fix the situation for Mary and Martha, nor will it fix society’s issues with violence.  I don’t really know what fixed the situation with Mary and Martha.  I don’t know how Lazarus died, or exactly what Jesus did other than to speak to him, to bring him back to life.  I don’t even really know if it was a literal death or a metaphorical death.  I know that medical technology then certainly wasn’t what it is now. I know that Jesus saw the compassion that Mary and Martha’s faith family had for them during their time of crisis.  I know that Jesus felt deeply about the whole situation, especially after listening to what the sisters had to say.  I know Jesus was criticized for helping others, but not helping Lazarus.  I know the criticism bothered Jesus or he wouldn’t have been troubled by the whole situation.

I don’t know, all the details of the story, but I know the family of Lazarus was in crisis.  I know that often in crisis, we say things we don’t mean.  I know that often when disaster happens, we look for a reason, for someone or something to blame.  There’s not always an answer to the blame question, especially during crisis.  This week after yet another school shooting incident in the US this year, social media blew up with people looking to place blame.  Some blamed a lack of gun control, some blamed a lack of religion in schools, some blame mental health, some blame radicalism.  This is one of those times we can’t afford to have binary thinking.  It was all of these things and probably more that contributed to 17 deaths on Wednesday.  All we can do is try our best to fix the places we can see as problematic as best as we personally can.  For my part, I’m going to tame down my all or nothing thinking and try to neutralize radicalism with love.  I’m still going to question semi-automatic weapons and mental health systems, but I’m going to do so with the whole situation in mind and not just one or two areas.  I’m going to continue to work to create safe spaces and communities of trust, where people might turn when they are feeling alone. After all, we’re not dealing with robots or zombies.  We’re dealing with complicated human beings with many complicated feelings and situations.  There are far more than two alternatives.

Music Minstry Fix You (Coldplay)

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Two weeks ago, our Sunday School decorated some simple paper bags with messages of love the children wrote or drew themselves. The bags were then filled with a few small treats and sent to Brunswick Street Mission with a few of our families. For people feeling lost and alone, these messages of unconditional love were very meaningful. Our children and teens offered from their abundance of love a very meaningful gift.

Offertory We Give Our Thanks MV 187 (thanks, hands, hearts)

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
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 & Benediction

Musical Blessing Go Now in Peace, Guided By the Light MV 211

Ash Wednesday – February 14, 2018

It’s hard to take a selfie of your forehead!

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ash_Wednesday

http://www.catholic.org/lent/ashwed.php

http://www.ucc.org/news_glitter_ashes_masquerade_ball_mark_beginning_lent_in_massachusetts_lgbtq_community_02172017

https://www.christiancentury.org/blog-post/sundays-coming/ashes-without-glitter

http://www.edgevillebuzz.com/news/get-glitter-ashes-go-wednesday-red-line

http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2017/06/the-price-of-glitter.html

http://www.queervirtue.com/glitter-ash-wednesday

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2017/02/glitter-serious-business-story-behind-glitter-ash-wednesday/

https://religionnews.com/2017/02/14/glitter-ash-wednesday-sparkles-for-lgbt-christians-and-others/

https://religionnews.com/2018/02/08/queer-christians-organize-second-glitter-ash-wednesday/

https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/02/11/dark-times-add-some-glitter-ash-wednesday-pastors-view/300849002/

http://parity.nyc/glitter-ash-wednesday-2018/

http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/year_b_liturgy_collection/year_b_lenteaster/ashwednesdayb1422018.html

I’d also like to say that I struggled with the decision to offer glitter.  I read the articles and the comments about keeping the somber mood of Lent sacred.  I appreciate that.  But I also recognize that many people have been made to feel ashamed because of their sexuality, culture, race, even theology (just to name a few ways) by atonement, repentance and confessional theology expressed in the church.  The opportunity to regain some of the dignity we have mistakenly taken far outweighs the traditional history that can continue to be mistaken as “You are not worthy.” This was never the case.  I added glitter for those whose resilience was weakened, whose dignity was diminished, who felt devalued and shunned.  More importantly I added glitter for those who continue to feel that way.  I kept a somber and traditional atmosphere, but encouraged everyone to add from the table of symbols to their own little pot of ashes which I applied to each persons own forehead.  Next year, out of respect for those who wish to uphold the solemn tradition, I will offer both options again.  But I not so secretly hope that everyone will wish to choose the glitter option.

Hymn: When Painful Mem’ries MV 74
Let us acknowledge the awesome mystery
embodied in every person.
Through us God comes to unique
and personal expression.

Let us give thanks for the abundance
of life on this earth.
Through it we and all people may be nourished.

Let us be in silence together. (R Hunt)
(Silence)

Lighting of the Community Candle
Fire is your sacrament, O God, fire is sacred.

We light this flame to affirm that new light
is ever waiting to break through to enlighten our ways:
that new truth is ever waiting
to break through to illumine our minds,
and that new love is ever waiting
to break through to warm our hearts.  (CAHowe)

Lighting of the Personal Candles
People come forward to light their tea candle
and place it on the table around the Community candle

Response
Out of nothingness we came through birth into life:
With the Spirit of God within us.

From the life of God the universe unfolded into being
With the Spirit of God within it.

From the heart of God creation goes on till the end of time
With the Spirit of God within it and with our spirit within it.

Let us embrace the God who enfolds us
We delight in God. (Pitt St Uniting Church, adapted)

Reading from John 10:1-18
Silence

Hymn: Kyrie Eleison MV 69

CELEBRATING COMMUNITY: SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
We remember the stories…

How Jesus gathered with friends and foes
to tell them of a re-imagined way of living and being.
A way that did not conform to the standards of the Roman Empire
or any other system of governance
that suppressed people
until starvation and deprivation resulted in death. (S Weinberg)

In this way, the issues of life and death,
justice and injustice,
conflict and peace,
goodness and evil
were talked through and made real to ordinary people.

Bread and Cup
So in our time and in this place, with today’s issues before us,
let us continue the tradition: to break bread together.

We remember what that tradition says…
At the end of a journey, among friends,
gathered round a table…
Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it:
‘This bread is broken, as my body will be’.
Break Bread

And he handed it to his friends, and invited them to eat:
‘Remember all that I have been to you’.

We remember…
Jesus poured the cup, offered thanks for it,
and gave it to his friends:
‘This cup is poured out as my life will be.
As you drink give thanks for all I have given’.
Pour Cup

Bread… Cup… an outward sign of an inward grace.

May the spirit within us
be a source of healing and consolation.
May the spirit within us
strengthen us when we feel weak,
warm us when we are cold-hearted,
bend us when we are stubborn,
move us when we are uncaring,
guide us in the way of love.

May the spirit within us
shine in all we do. (R Hunt, adapted)

Communion
By eating this bread and this cup
we become one in hope. (R Hunt, adapted)

 

After Communion
May our sharing become sharing with the world.
May our blessing become blessing for the world.
May our lives become living assurance
of the presence of compassion in the world. (R Hunt, adapted)

SERVICE OF THE ASHES
The Ashes
Ash Wednesday invites us to come back to earth.
To wonder at the gift of life,
my life – our life
with the earth, the shared body of our existence.

These ashes were once trees and shrubs,
and places where life was lived to its fullest.
Once they were full of life.
Now they are black and grey.
Dry.  Lifeless.

But mixed with the oil and water of our baptism
make good fertiliser:
it will help the seeds of the gospel take deeper root in us
and bring forth the fruits,
the harvest of justice, peace, and generosity.

These are ashes worth wearing.
For from the burnt ashes will spring the green shoot of life
and the purple flower of attentiveness to God. (R Hunt)

Preparation of Ashes

The Fire represents purification and the opportunity to start fresh.

The Bread & Cup represent our communion together and our acceptance of one another.

The Mirror represents the opportunity to reflect on our lives throughout the season of Lent.

The Palms represent the past year and everything that came with it.

The Oil represents healing and anointing.

The Water represents our baptism and our choice to be people of grace.

The Glitter represents the resilience of people who have been shamed by the church and yet still rise above it.  It also reminds us of the Cosmic Christ that lives on in each of us.

The Ashes themselves represent mourning and grief, our wearing them represents our confession that we are Christians, that we are imperfect and we are enough.

 Distribution
Those who wish to be marked came forward, and mixed the symbols of their personal choice.

Blessing
We pray:
May these ashes be blessed in our wearing.
May they be for us a symbol of our return to the earth.

May we be blessed.
May we be earthed in everlasting love,
as forgiven and forgiving people.
Amen.

 

Hymn: Bless the Lord MV 46

Words of Blessing

February 4, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Woman at the Well Monologue
Woman at the Well (bench)
Woman at the Well (5)
Ashley Judd Nasty Woman
OnScripture
Working Preacher
Working Preacher
Circle Culture – Karen Hilman Millson

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn Spirit Dancing VU 388

Call to Worship

One: All who are thirsty for meaning,
All: All who are thirsty for love,
One: If you are looking for real relationships,
All: If you are looking for sacred moments,
One: Come and drink from this well.

Opening Prayer
Spirit dancing on the waters, as we search for your presence, we pray that our eyes will be opened to your presence around us in new and unexpected ways. May we find all that we need during this time of worship. Amen.

Hymn Water Flowing From the Mountains MV 87

Theme Conversation Connecting with Others
Hymn Jesus, Friend of Little Children VU 340

Readings Woman at the Well Monologue
John 4:5-42
Musical Response Jesus, Your Spirit in Us MV 102

Sermon Are you Connected?

Jesus’ popularity had grown so much that there was some cause for concern amongst the upper crust of Judea. So he did what many celebrities do when inundated. He headed home. On his way back to Galilee, he had to pass through Samaria. He stopped at a particular town in Samira near the land that Jacob had given his son Joseph. The town was home to Jacob’s Well. Jesus, weary from his journey, stopped at the well for a rest.
A local woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. Jesus was alone, as the disciples had gone off to purchase supplies. Jesus and the local Samaritan Woman have a conversation. During the course of this conversation, Jesus explains his dreams for the world: that people will be less worried about being right and more open and accepting of the diversity around them.
She drinks the Kool-Aid aka Living Water, and the disciple return shortly before she leaves. Jesus is somewhat euphoric: he has managed to plant a seed of hope in a town that he did not feel was accessible to him. The Woman at the Well has gone off and told many of the townspeople, who can see the value in the teachings of Jesus. Many of them believe, and bring others to hear the teachings of Jesus. Jesus had been popular amongst his own people. People who weren’t even Hebrew were beginning to follow his way.
Now, keep in mind that people from Samaria and the Hebrew people to whom Jesus belonged, did not usually associate. So both Jesus and the woman from Samaria needed to be willing partners in this conversation. And this conversation had to be more than just superficial, because the woman left the conversation a changed person.
This week, I had the privilege of being invited to join a network of church leaders who believe in facilitating in a particular way…a way that builds community and strengthens people. The point is to host “sacred conversations”, conversations that change the participants. The buzz word for this is “Circle Culture”.
Circle Culture has been around for a while…even if we haven’t been studying it. Summer camps operate in a circle culture. Small groups of children gather in a cabin, experience things together in their small group, gather as a large group to share other experiences, then return to the small group to share or build on the experience. If you ever had the opportunity, or your children had the opportunity to participate in intermediates at conference or youth forum, it’s the same idea. Small groups gather to get to know each other, check-in daily, and process all of the events of the weekend.
I was present at the general council where a motion was being presented to reduce funding to summer camps. The number of people lined up to speak against the proposal was the largest I’ve ever seen. Many of the people speaking introduced themselves as ministers who’d had a life or faith altering experience at a United Church run summer camp. Many of those who hadn’t had experiences at summer camps did have them at youth forum or intermediates. It became abundantly clear that these organizations that operated with a circle culture had a huge impact on the faith and life of so many people.
So how do you get to the point in these small groups where you can build an authentic relationship?
The presenter the Sacred Conversations network heard from on Wednesday, Karen Hilfman Millson, laid out 4 concepts that are present in Circle Culture, but in order for it to be successful, everyone who participates needs to be very intentional about the concepts being part of the process.
1. Show up, or choose to be present (which is connecting to the authentic self)
2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning (which is validating each other and expressing gratitude)
3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment. Karen quoted Margaret Wheatley: “It’s not our differences that divide us. It is our judgments about each other that do.”
4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome (letting go of what has been and opening to what is emerging)
All of these steps help to create Circle Culture and the potential of action that makes a difference.
So let’s look at these concepts as applied to the conversation between the Woman from Samaria and Jesus, or at least the parts of the conversation we know. Keep in mind, that what we have to work with has likely been distorted a bit between the oral culture of the time and translation.
1. Show up, or choose to be present – Both Jesus and the Samaritan woman chose to enter into conversation with each other when that wasn’t socially acceptable. Although we don’t know the exact words that were said, we do know that in order for the change to have happened to the woman as described, this was honest and deep conversation.
2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning – at the mid-point in the story, the Samaritan Woman says “I can see you are a prophet.” She validates what Jesus has told her. I’m sure Jesus validated or expressed gratitude to the Woman as well. As he tells the disciples a little later about having something metaphorical to eat and continues on to say that doing God’s work fulfills his hunger. He said this just after having his conversation with the Samaritan Woman.
3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment. – This one is somewhat obvious. Jesus doesn’t judge the woman for having 5 + husbands. For her part, the woman not only reveals this deep truth about herself, but she hears Jesus’ beliefs and dreams and actively becomes part of them. She didn’t laugh at his grand dreams of a better world for everyone.
4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – The Woman at the Well went out and told everyone of her time with Jesus. They could have laughed at her. They could have told her she was wasting her time. They could have told her that this way that Jesus was suggesting just simply wasn’t the way it had always been done. And they probably did tell her to stop. But she didn’t. She kept on telling about her experience. For his part, Jesus stayed there an extra two days and spoke to the people, even when it didn’t fit in the schedule.
Circle Culture and the potential for action that makes a difference. Many people believed in The Way of Jesus after this experience at the Well.
I admit, we haven’t been great lately at cultivating Circle Culture. But there is always opportunity to work on it. When the opportunity presents itself to you, take it. You may have the opportunity to be part of a life or faith altering experience. Make the connection with someone unexpected. Drink the Kool-Aid.

Music Minstry Come Thou Fount Laura Beth Smith

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation

Offertory What Can I Do? MV 191

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Listen to Children Praying VU 400

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
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.

Hymn By the Well, a Thirsty Woman MV 117

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing May The Love Of Our God MV 218

January 28, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Character Study

The Bible Project

 

Words of Welcome
“We begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. This territory is covered by the peace and friendship treaties which Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples first signed with the British crown in 1725. These treatiesdid not deal with surrender of lands or resources, but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq title and established rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.” May we honour the friendship, support and spirit of peace which was offered to our settler ancestors.
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn There’s a Spirit in the Air VU 582

Call to Worship

One: The Spirit calls us to set aside our work and come to worship.
All: The Spirit calls us to set aside our everyday to join in worship.
One: The Spirit calls us to lift our voices
All: and share our hearts.
One: The Spirit calls us to worship
All: so we pray:

Opening Prayer

Holy Spirit, we pray that our worship today brings us to new understandings of your love in this world. May it be so.

Hymn I Feel the Winds of God VU 625

Theme Conversation Searching for Answers
Hymn Jesus, Friend of Little Children VU 340

Readings John 3:1-17

Musical Response I Know Your Word MV 108

Sermon The Most Important Part

So many times, I’ve read this and gotten caught up in the last part that I’ve missed the whole point of this story. I’ll go over the main points again.
Nicodemus is a teacher in the Hebrew faith. He has a particular denomination – he’s a Pharisee. Jesus is not a Pharisee, yet many who hear Jesus, like what he has to say. Many Pharisee leaders try to stump Jesus or catch him up in his own arguments while he’s preaching. He’s not one of them, so he can’t be right and it’s up to them to save these poor, stupid people from being sucked in to the Jesus following. Nicodemus is one of the Pharisee teachers. He’s impressed by what he hears from Jesus. But if he shows this desire to hear more, the others – his own people – will reject him. So he goes to visit Jesus after dark, when no one can see him. Jesus answers all of Nicodemus’ questions, but it is hard for Nicodemus to understand what Jesus is telling him. Jesus’ response seems so simple, that it becomes cryptic.
The answer is all around you. Change your life so much you feel like you are beginning again. Forget that past life. Follow my teachings, and the way will become clear.
This is a character story. It’s a story about a person whose relationship to Jesus we can learn something from. So yes, it’s a bit symbolic and cryptic. Nicodemus is embarrassed by so much. He was a teacher, learning from this crazy, new methods, but methods that seemed to be working. Nicodemus would likely have been embarrassed to even feel the need to improve his methods and then to have to admit to Jesus that he didn’t understand what it was that Jesus was telling him. Sometimes it’s hard to admit when you don’t know something.
I bet you are wondering at this point, if this passage is all about Nicodemus not knowing the obvious answers, where does the only begotten son come in?
This is one of those times when language really bothers me. I’m sure If I ask you to recite John 3:16, many of you, can – in the King James version. Anybody?
But we didn’t hear that verse in today’s passage. We’ve gotten better at translating Ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew in the last 500 or so years. Not to mention the evolution of our own language.
I enjoy listening to the evolution of my nephew’s language. This time last year, he could hardly talk. A few months ago my name was “Bob!! Bob!!” A few weeks ago my name was “Ka Ka” and currently I’m “Ah ka”. If he follows a similar progression as his older sister, I’ll likely be “Aunt Ka” for a bit then a really choppy version of Annika then a year or so later it’ll finally be Aunt Annika.
My point is that language evolves, as does our understanding of both God and Jesus. Barrett knew my name wasn’t Bob, but it was a name associated with me when he couldn’t say the right name. He did the best he could with what he had to work with. We do the same. The more science helps us to understand God, the more we feel compelled to moved away from terminology that doesn’t fit anymore. The more we learn about power, control, politics, mutuality and right-relationships, even more words and terms don’t really fit.
The phrase from the reading that did jump out at me this time around was about the wind. “The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound it makes, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus wanted to know how to have the kind of life that Jesus had. And Jesus answered “The wind blows where it will.” There is no one answer, the many answers are all around us.
This is one of the many reasons I love the United Church. Not only do we have ongoing discussions and relationships with many Christian traditions such as the Methodist and Anglican churches, but we also worked in the late 1990s and early 2000 with representatives from the Islamic and Hebrew faith traditions, simply to understand each other. In the end the official conversations became papers and studies for congregations. Recognizing that there are many ways to God is not just a United Church thing, it’s a Jesus thing. Jesus and Nicodemus were both Hebrew, but in the same way that the United Church and the Anglican Church are both Christian. Jesus didn’t keep his teachings or his worship only to people who practiced and believed the exact same things as him. Jesus spent time with many different kinds of people. People of the Spirit come from the Spirit.
It’s doesn’t matter what path you follow, people who live in Love offer Love. People who are happy, do things that make others happy. People who feel a sense of Peace, people who feel the Sacred offer Sacred moments.
We have many opportunities to offer those sacred moments in our everyday life: compassion filled hugs, words of hope, actions of dignity and respect. We do this because we believe that these all contribute to building the kin-dom of God, and in the kin-dom of God the wind blows where it will. We hear the sound it makes, but we don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Let’s pray:
Holy Spirit, with no beginning and no end, we pray that our understanding of who we are strengthens our commitment to building your realm in this place. We pray for courage in the moments we cannot feel your wind. In your name we pray.
Amen.

Music Minstry Blowin’ in the Wind Bob Dylan

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation Thank you for your generosity. This lent we are going to participate in a community building practice. This program was devloped by The Prayer Bench, a Maritime United Church company that focuses on creating resources for small groups and individuals to deepen their spiritual practices. This company could not exist, nor could we participate in their rich resources without your generosity.

Offertory What Can I Do? MV 191

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Listen to Children Praying VU 400

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
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.

Hymn Spirit God, Be Our Breath MV 150

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing May The Love Of Our God MV 218