June 5

It’s been a while since I told a story in a midrash type of way.

Worship Outline:

Hymn     All Things Bright and Beautiful                             VU 291
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Centering & Lighting the Candle
Hymn     Come, O Fount of Every Blessing                              VU 559
 Call to Worship
One: We gather today, to tell a story.
All: A story of overcoming scarcity.
One: A story of abundance.
All: A story of hospitality
One: We gather today, to share the history of the followers of The Way that Jesus taught.
All: We gather today to celebrate the future for those who choose to follow The Way.

Opening Prayer
Spirit of Abundance,
Be present with us as we grow in understanding and courage.
Amen.
 
Hymn  Praise Our Maker                       VU 316
Surprise!
The Word:  1 Kings 17:8-16
Abundance
 
Hymn  For the Healing of the Nations        VU 678
Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
Sometimes it can be challenging to change a culture.  So let’s turn this time of offering into a time of covenanting with ourselves and each other: it is time to change the Maritime church culture’s attitude about money.  May your offering be a symbol of a commitment to living out St. Luke’s abundance.
Offering
Offertory  Your Work, O God                                             VU 537
Offering Prayer
We offer these gifts and those given through PAR in recognition of our abundance.  May we understand what it truly means to have enough.  Amen.

A Litany to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Ordination of Lydia Gruchy: “Come Celebrate…” (Su Yon Pak)
One: Come and celebrate God who calls women to tend the flame.
All:  Did not our hearts burn within us?
One: Come and celebrate the courage of women who heard their call and,
with a fire in their bones, stepped out of the shadow.
All:  Did not our hearts burn within us?
One: Come and celebrate the lives of women who,
even in their mountaintop experiences, never forgot their valleys.
All:  Did not our hearts burn within us?
One: Come and celebrate the work of women who
recognised the risen Lord in the breaking of bread
and in the opening of scripture.
All:  Did not our hearts burn within us?
One: Come and celebrate the perseverance of women
who are still struggling to have their gifts recognised by their churches.
All:  Did not our hearts burn within us?
One: Come and celebrate women who paved the road to ordination for others and encourage us to work for those who will follow.
All:  Did not our hearts burn within us?
 
Prayer Music: Walk with Me                                       VU 649 (chorus only)
Prayers of the People & Prayer of Jesus
Commissioning and Benediction
Musical Blessing    Let All Things Now Living                   VU 242

Reflection:

Bill sighed as he closed the lid of his laptop. He had just received another email from the church treasurer. This month’s budget sheet was attached and it ended with red. It had been a long time since First United had balanced at the end of the month. A very long time. Bill couldn’t understand why First was having such financial trouble. The church was located on Main St in a small commuter town. The congregation was equally filled with people who had been coming to First their whole lives and people who came to First because it was part of the community they lived in and stayed because they liked the atmosphere. But the last couple of years, they had been different.
When Bill had been called to First, the sanctuary had been full every Sunday. But that was nearly ten years ago. The sanctuary was still reasonably full, but everyone was ten years older, and many of the people who had been teens and early 20s ten years ago had settled elsewhere. Between rising housing costs and the lure of the oil patch, there were legitimately fewer people in their 30s and 40s attending First, but when Bill considered Canadian statistical trends in general, they really weren’t that far off base. It just felt that way. Bill knew the folks on the council were tired. He knew they were ready to tap out when they were given the opportunity. He knew they were having trouble building enthusiasm for the growing number of fundraisers.
The phone beside Bill was suddenly ringing. Bill looked at the call display. It was Alana. Alana was the member at large on council. She was a “lifer” at First, looking after her ailing and very senior father, Alana had left her spouse and their university aged child in Ontario to look after her father. She was an only child, and while her parents had planned for retirement, they hadn’t planned for a 20 year retirement. That left Alana and her spouse looking after three households with one income: The home Alana grew up in that had been somewhat converted to a hospice, their family home which was paid off, but needed some expensive updates in order to net its true value and their son’s in-law suite. When he had gone to university, Alana and her spouse had made the wise decision to purchase a house with an in law-suite near the school. The deal was he would live in the in law suite rent free, but was responsible for his own utilities, groceries, and tuition. In return, he would act as building supervisor to the upstairs tenants. Alana’s son though, was well into a second degree and saving up to pay his 1/3 of his wedding the next summer. Bill knew that if there was anyone who understood tight budgets, it was Alana.
“I’ve had an unsolicited offer on Dad’s house.” Alana said. “It’s a little under value, but it would be a huge headache to prepare the house for sale. I’m thinking of accepting.”
Bill’s stomach dropped. Alana and her father were among First’s most consistent, not to mention generous givers. Between the two deaths this year, the handful of couples who were seriously considering moving West with their children’s families, and the three others on waiting lists to go into nursing homes, this could be really problematic.
Bill’s fears were confirmed in his next conversation with the treasurer.
“Unless we dip into the reserves, we don’t have quite enough for the bills this month…including your pay cheque.”
Bill quickly went through the due dates for his bills in his mind and made a mental note to cancel the cable – just in case.
“Don’t panic yet. I’m glad we have the reserves to draw on until we figure this out. Let me think about it for a couple of days.” said Bill.
Bill thought about it for two weeks. He knew what needed to happen, but it was going to be hard. Bill broached the topic at the next council meeting.
“I’d like us to establish a visioning committee. There’s real possibility in this neighborhood, but we won’t know what the potential is until we know the community better, I mean until we look beyond ourselves, beyond Sunday morning.”
The response was as Bill predicted:
“We don’t have any extra money.”
“We don’t have any extra time.”
“Once my mother is buried from here, I’ll happily help you transform this place or sell it.”
Bill asked them “Do you trust that I have the best interests of this community at heart?”
The council knew that he did.
“We set up a future directions committee to do the background research and come up with a sustainable, long-term plan and then we use some of the reserve money to launch the plan.”
The protests started, “But the reserve fund isn’t that big…”
“The money is in trust, it must only be used for specific things…”
“It’s for a rainy day…”
The protesting stopped when Bill said, “All I’m asking is that we spend a little time doing the research. Wouldn’t it be better to go out knowing we did our best, then to have the church die with money left over and nothing accomplished?”
Let’s pray.
God, whose spirit gives us courage when we seem to have nothing else, we are thankful for our abundance. We are thankful for the Love that we share. We pray that we are always able to remember that these relationships are the source of all that we have. May it be so.

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