Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Holy Tales – Exile to Babylon* Kid friendly one
Old Testament in 8 minutes
Katy and the Word
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 How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place MV 29
Call to Worship One: Today we celebrate the Reign of Christ All: We celebreate the possibilities of what that might look like. One: We celebrate the dreams and understandings of the past. All: We recognize that domination is not our goal. One: We celebrate the Present. All: We understand there is still work to be done. One: We look forward to the future All: We realize that what we dream, will not be our children’s dream, but we respect their journey.
Opening Prayer “God accept our prayers,
Send us tears in return.
Give freedom to this exchange.
Let us pray inwardly.
Let us weep outwardly.
This is the breathing of the soul.
This is the vitality of the Spirit.
For this we give thanks.
Amen!” M Leunig
Hymn Christ Within Us Hidden MV 162
Readings Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14
Musical Response Day after Day MV 123
I was going to skip this passage. I didn’t like it. It seemed too heady and I didn’t want to spend the extra time to wrap my head around, nor did I really have the extra time. But I thought, I’ll give it one last shot, and I read a commentary, that’s another theologians published thoughts, purely on the scripture reading. Suddenly – enlightenment! And the more reading I did, the more I realized that understanding this particular passage is crucial to understanding the next four. Yep, all of the advent passages.
This is a letter that Jeremiah wrote to his fellow Hebrew people who after tasting a bit of freedom, were once again being held captive or exiled in Babylon. They were feeling like they couldn’t go on. So Jeremiah wrote them the letter of encouragement. Many of the Hebrew people had been living in Judah, but under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar, they were being held captive in Babylon the territory, which he ruled that defeated Judah and took in much of what we call the Middle East. Many of the Hebrew people had been separated and taken to other cities. Jeremiah was telling them that they needed to make the most of a bad situation. They needed to settle into their new cities, build houses, marry and have families. They needed to live the best lives they could regardless of their location. Working for The Good of the Whole is not dependent on a location. Let me say it again: The Word of God, loyalty to God, the building of the kindom, the Good of the Whole, heaven, or whatever you want to call it, is not dependent on your physical location. It is not dependent on where you live, where you worship or where you spend your leisure time.
So just to give you a little more context: picture being told you’ve got 5 mins to pack, you don’t know where you are going, but you know you are no longer allowed to live where you’ve always lived. You don’t even know if you will ever see your friends or family again. All because you aren’t in power, you aren’t part of the majority. It wasn’t the first time this exiling, this expulsion had happened in the history of humanity – we’ve been hearing about it all fall. And it wasn’t the last. In fact, in some places it’s still happening. We just happen to be lucky enough to be in Canada. In many ways, these words from Jeremiah aren’t for us. They are for the people being persecuted, and really many in Canada don’t experience huge amounts of life threatening persecution. But there’s still a lot of wisdom here even for those of us in the comfortable majority. I mean, if you can survive captivity and exile, you can survive anything. And how do you survive anything? By being resilient.
Canadian writer, Deborah Ellis, tells a story of resilience that brought me to tears multiple times. Deborah tells the story of preteen girl in Afghanistan. Deborah researched her story (that turned into a trilogy) by talking to preteens and young teens in Afghanistan, hearing their stories and understanding them. The stories inspired The Breadwinner Trilogy. Parvana is a young girl in Afghanistan. Her mother is an educated woman, trained to be a teacher, and her father is a teacher and leader is the resistance movement against the Taliban rule. Under the Taliban rules, Parvana’s mother and older sister must wear burqas and be accompanied by a male when they leave the house. When Parvana’s father is taken away to be questioned by the Taliban and doesn’t return for days, it is up to 11 year old Parvana to keep the family from starving to death or dying from dehydration. Since her mother and her sister aren’t allowed outside without a male relative, Parvana cuts her hair and dresses in her deceased brother’s clothes to go to the well and to the market. Not only is Parvana responsible for buying the family’s food, but also earning the money to buy the food. Parvana enjoys this small bit of freedom she has that her mother, sister and so many others do not. Parvana makes a few friends at the market: another young girl doing the same thing for her family and a woman she can seeing peering through a small scratch in the painted window of her home. None of the homes in Kabul had unpainted windows it was simply too dangerous after dark. After some time, Parvana’s mother comes to the conclusion that Parvana’s father is never coming back. So she makes the decision that they need to leave now for a refugee camp before it becomes obvious that Parvana is not a boy. Parvana must leave the “freedom” of the market place. Let me read to you an excerpt from The Breadwinner.
Parvana wanted to jump up and down and dance. She wanted to yell and wave at the painted window. Instead she sat quietly and tried to think of a way to say goodbye.
She was almost home that afternoon when she thought of a way.
Heading back to the market after lunch, she carefully dug up some wildflowers that were growing among the bombed-out ruins. She had seen them growing there in other years, and hoped she was right in thinking they were the kind that grew year after year. If she planted the flowers in the spot where she usually put her blanket, the Window Woman would know she wasn’t coming back. The flowers would be something pretty to look at. She hoped they would make a good present.
In her spot in the market, Parvana dug up the hard soil first by pounding into it with her ankle. She used her hands, too, as well as a rock she found nearby.
The men and boys in the market gathered around to watch her. Anything different was entertainment.
“Those flowers won’t grow in that soil,” someone said. “There are no nutrients in it.”
“Even if they grow, they will be trampled.”
“The marketplace is no spot for flowers. Why are you planting them there?”
Through the voices of derision came another voice. “Do none of you appreciate nature? This boy has undertaken to bring a bit of beauty into our gray marketplace, and do you thank him? Do you help him?” An old man pushed his way to the front of the little gathering. With difficulty, he knelt down to help Parvana plant the flowers. “Afghans love beautiful things,” he said, “but we have seen so much ugliness, we sometimes forget how wonderful a thing like a flower is.”
He asked one of the tea boys hovering nearby for some water from the tea shop. It was fetched, and he poured it around the flowers, soaking the earth around them.
The plants had wilted. They didn’t stand up properly.
“Are they dead?” Parvana asked.
“No, no, not dead. They may look scraggly and dying now,” he said, “but the roots are good. When the time is right, these roots will support plants that are healthy and strong.” He gave the earth a final pat, and Parvana and one of the others helped him up. He smiled once more at Parvana, then walked away.
This is just one of many acts of resilience that Parvana carries out. Just one at the beginning of the first book in a trilogy.
Have you ever had to be resilient? Maybe you haven’t had to leave your home like the Hebrew people or Parvana, but have you ever had to make the most of a not so great situation? How are we as a St. Luke’s family being called to be resilient?
Confession time here. It really bothers me when people give up on something that is important to them just because they’ve come to a road block. No path in life worth travelling is easy. What happens when you get up in the dark to go to the washroom? On the way back, if you don’t have gentle light, you run into a wall. Do you keep trying to move forward without changing direction? Do you sit down on the floor because you can’t go in the direction you thought was right? Do you turn around and go back to spend the rest of the night in the bathroom? Do you feel around, and alter your course slightly? Do you continue to move slowly in a more or less forward direction occasionally stubbing your toe? Will you make it back to bed?
That’s resilience in a minimal way. We are built to be resilient people. We just need to keep the resilience running with a little hope. That was the intention of Jeremiah’s letter. He was giving them permission to enjoy the journey. Sometimes, the permission to enjoy yourself along the way is all the hope you need.
Next week we begin advent. We’ll hear from more of the exiled and captive prophets throughout our advent journey. Advent, although it can be somewhat hectic, overscheduled and way too commercialized, it’s still a great time to refill our hope stores. This year, instead of complaining my way through, I’m going to enjoy the journey. I’m going to take the time to look for hope in humanity and the environment around me. This year I’m giving myself permission to enjoy advent and not just get through until 11pm on Dec 24. I’m inviting you to do the same. Let’s refill our hope stores and start Jan 01 2018 together filled with hope and resilience.
Hymn Rejoice, the Lord Is King VU 213
Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation As we work towards the Reign of Christ, let us remember that every gift counts.
Offertory What Can I Do? MV 191
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.
Communion Hymn Eat This Bread and Never Hunger VU 471
Passing the Peace During the Passing of the Peace, consent is a must. You should not feel guilty if you are unable to receive someone’s gift of peace, nor should you feel guilty if your gift of peace is not received. Please be aware of body language and the variety of needs in regards to personal space.
(Liturgy adapted from Celebrate God’s Presence)
“As we come to this table,
we are reminded that this is not the table of this congregation; nor is it the table of The United Church of Canada, or any particular denomination. It is the table of Jesus Christ, the family feast of the whole people of God. All who seek to be nourished and sustained in the journey of faith
and long to live justly and in peace with their neighbour, are welcome here. Let us eat and drink together for our strengthening in the faith, and for the sake of the world.
“May God be with us.
God is here among us.
Let us open our hearts to God.
We open them to God and to one another.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is good to give thanks and praise.
“Eternal God, Maker of heaven and earth, we join with all your people to give you thanks and praise. You formed the universe in your wisdom and created all things by your grace. We praise you for all your good gifts: the witness of saints and prophets; the work of faithful women and men; this earth in all its blessing and promise; and this bread, once scattered, now brought together and made one. In the hope that your people may be brought together from the ends of the earth into your reign of justice and compassion, we gather with those of every time and every place
to give you praise and glory:
“Holy, holy, holy God,
Power of life and love!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna through the ages!
Blest is the One who comes to bring your justice to earth!
“We do what Jesus did the night before he died. He took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat; remember me.”
Then he took the cup, and said,
“Take, drink; remember.”
“We remember Jesus’ integrity unto death.
We remember the hope of resurrection.
We remember the promise of compassion and justice.
“Praise be to God, the Source of love!
Praise be to Christ, Love incarnate!
Praise be to the Spirit, Love’s power!
Praise be to God!
Let’s pray together the prayer of Jesus.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.
The bread of tomorrow. The cup of new life.
may your gifts of love transform and enliven us that we may live lives of thanksgiving. May your presence among us provoke such longing for your realm, that we will never be satisfied until the whole earth knows your justice, your peace, and your love.
In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Commissioning & Benediction