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