November 19, 2017 – After Pentecost

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

http://www.cbc.ca/books/the-3-things-that-inspired-margaret-atwood-to-write-the-handmaid-s-tale-1.4203159

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/friday-may-5-2017-margaret-atwood-diana-krall-and-more-1.4097017/these-are-old-human-themes-margaret-atwood-on-the-enduring-power-of-the-handmaid-s-tale-1.4097042

http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/q/segment/12507344

http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/tapestry/episode/12823489

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/religion-utopia-or-dystopia-1.4143654

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

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 I am the light of the world SFGP 24 v2-4

Call to Worship One: This is the call to the people who walk in darkness All: This is the call to the people who walk in sadness, fear and loneliness. One: This is the call to the people who walk in darkness. All: This is the call to the people who walk in oppression, in anxiety, in depression. One: This is the call to all who wish to walk. All: You are welcome here.

Opening Prayer Today, O God, we pray that anyone who feels they are in darkness will feel your love today. May our words, images and music be the spark of light that someone needs to truly see the Great Light. Amen.

Hymn Jesus Bids Us Shine Joyful Noise 108

Theme Conversation Great Light

Readings from Rob Bell “What is the Bible?” pg 156-157
Isaiah 9:1-7
John 8:12
Musical Response Day after Day MV 123

Sermon What’s in a Name?
There is a common misconception out there that today’s passage is referring to Jesus. But that’s not the case. Isaiah is simply offering words of hope. I can see why it’s confusing though. Isaiah writes very cryptically about his visions and dreams. This particular vision is very hope filled. Isaiah is naming a bunch of towns and people who really aren’t having an easy time of things, and he’s telling them not to worry. They won’t always feel so beaten down. Eventually, if they just keep working at Love and Peace, those things that were once used to hurt them, will no longer be able to hurt them. If they just keep working toward the good of the whole, they will eventually see light in the darkest of places. If they just keep God’s love right in front of them, they’ll build a world where a baby will be born, and that baby will grow up in so much love, that the baby will lead with love. That Love will make all of those old tools of war shatter. This person will offer great wisdom that can only be learned by being loved through mistakes. This person will offer strength through knowing and being comfortable with their vulnerabilities. And we’ll offer our vulnerabilities because of the strength, wisdom and love. And because we feel loved, we’ll be protected in our vulnerabilities. This person will truly know what it means to be at peace with one’s self because of all of this and that will only encourage us more. Because more and more people are growing up in the realm of God, the community of God will continue to grow. And all this is possible because of the love of God is all powerful.
Last week in the Rob Bell book study, we talked about how Jesus read the Bible. This passage from Isaiah would have been among his sacred scriptures. Rob suggests that when Jesus read scripture, it was his intention to figure out how live that out. Rob suggests that everyone in the Hebrew faith tradition read scripture that way. So everyone would have been trying to understand how they could be this light to the world. Understanding how he, himself could live out each of the prophecies was the point of Jesus’ ministry. He conveyed that to people in a way they understood. In a way that they could see it happening in their own lives. Jesus understood that too. But he didn’t tell to do or be anything that he couldn’t or wouldn’t be. Jesus attracted people because they liked the peaceful way he lived. People wanted that wisdom, they wanted that strength, they felt protected and encouraged when they listened to him. To the people around him Jesus was a wonderful counselor, strength of God, eternal protector and champion of peace.
What are some of the names or labels you go by? What do these names or labels say about you? Are they names and labels you’ve chosen for yourself, or were they given to you by someone else? I think that it’s interesting that many of the labels in the Isaiah passage are labels often attributed to Jesus, but which of all of those labels does Jesus choose for himself? Not the wisest, not the most powerful, not the protector, nor the winner of peace. Jesus chooses to call himself simply “the light”.
When it comes to names, both given and chosen, I can think of no better example than Bob. Bob was born into a very Catholic family in the 70s. So not only does he have a saint name but he is also named after not only his uncle Robert, but the doctor as well. Bob’s full name is John Robert Bruce Pace. I don’t remember exactly how long we had been dating – it couldn’t have been very long, but the conversation was had via email – I’d received an email from his email address from John. I knew John was his first name, but he went by Bob. So why would he sign his email John? He explained that he’d sent the email on his lunch break and without even thinking about it signed it John. That still didn’t help me understand, so he told me that his family had always called him Bobby or Bob and when he went to university it was such a hassle to get the professors to call him Bobby that he just started responding to John. John stuck as his professional name. He said I could choose which ever name I wanted, he would respond to either. Well, I kind of liked him so I opted for the family and friends name. A few years later when we needed to make a decision about our family name, it was much harder. By this time we were each known professionally with our own names. Neither of us wanted to give up our last name, but adding the other’s name to our own didn’t feel right either. Bob was already dealing with a double identity without even adding my name and I have such a long name as it is that I wasn’t sure I wanted to add even four letters to it. In the end, we each decided to keep our own names and we’re happily the awkwardly named family. My point is you can only be who you are, you can’t living into a name or a label that doesn’t belong to you. I could try my best to call myself Dr. Sangster and refer to myself as a surgeon, but the truth is I can hardly get through the description of a simple procedure, let alone even see or be part of one without fainting. I will never be a surgeon.
This past summer, everyone was talking about “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Originally the novel was written by Margaret Atwood in 1985, was brought to television in a series of 1 hour long drama each week this summer. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, I’ve never read much Margaret Atwood other than some of her poetry, so I was intrigued. I didn’t really give it much consideration until I heard Margaret Atwood’s keynote address at the Restorying Canada Conference as rebroadcast with an additional interview on Tapestry. So I watched the series. I could probably rant about this story, current politics and Biblical overtones and parallels for longer than I care to admit, but what I want to talk about today are the labels and names. Spoiler alert: I hope I don’t ruin too much of the story for you. Offred is a handmaid in a totalitarianist United States. Offred wasn’t always her name and she wasn’t always a handmaid. Previous to the take over, Offred, whose name was June lived in New York where she worked for a publishing company and was lucky enough to be married to someone she loved deeply and was a mother. She was June, she was a mother, a wife, a best friend, a publisher’s assistant, a New Yorker and an American. Then almost overnight, June finds herself in a totally different situation. The United States is called the Republic of Gilead, June is no longer allowed to work or have a bank account – none of the women are. Once June and her husband fully understand what is going on they take their daughter in an attempt to flee to the safety of Canada, but they are caught. June’s daughter is given to an upper class family who can’t have children and June and her two good ovaries is sent to be a handmaid, that is to follow the tradition of Jacob, Leah, Racheal and their handmaids, if you catch my drift. June is sent to be the handmaid of a commanding officer, and so she becomes Offred. Of Fred. She is denied contact with anyone from her former life. In this story, labels and names signify so much. They signify dignity, respect, safety, value…humanity.
I was terrified when Dana told me “The Handmaid’s Tale” had been written in 1985. How can we be 32 years away from this and still be facing so many similar issues? The scariest part is Margaret Atwood pointed out, this is not the first time we heard this story. We’ve been hearing about it since the days of Zilpah and Bilhah (those are the names of Leah and Rachel’s handmaids) or if you want to go back even further to the days of Hagar and Abraham. Handmaids, being “given” to bear children. I’m not ok with this. In my opinion, a label should only be given to uplift someone. They should give a person something to aspire to. If you can’t say something that is helpful or encouraging, that is inspired wisdom, that makes a person stronger, that calms their heart, then what’s the point? Are you saying it, label or otherwise, to help the person or yourself?
Jesus tried his best to live his life in a way that benefitted not just himself, but the community around him. He tried to be a light in dark times to people who were feel hopeless. He did this to fulfill the ancient prophecies, the good ones, about living mutually and respectfully with each other. These are also dark times. This is not a new story. But there is always hope. Be it Isaiah, be it Jesus, or be it you. The sun sets every night to darkness, but it always rises again the next morning. Even on the ends of the earth, this is true.
So I invite you to join me on this journey. We will get up and leave from this place ready to work at Love and Peace. We will get hurt from time to time, but because we gather here each week to remind each other that we are working together at this, those things that were once used to hurt, will no longer hurt quite so much. If we just keep working toward the good of the whole, eventually we’ll see light in the darkest of places. Maybe if we keep God’s love right in front of us, we’ll build a world where a baby will be born, and that baby will grow up in so much love, that the baby will lead with love. That Love will make all of those old tools of war that currently hold us back, totally shatter.

Hymn Spirit God, Be Our Breath MV 150

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation There are a lot of big things happening this week. Today is Children’s Sunday, a Sunday often focused on remembering and understanding the spiritualit of children. It’s restorative justice week. Restorative Justice week is an opportunity to learn about the process of restorative justice and how beneficial it is for both parties. And tomorrow is Transgender Day of Rememberance, a day set aside to recognize and remember all of the transgender and gender non-conforming people who have been killed or targeted due to ignorance and hatred. Without the work we do together to educate, accept and love, many people would be without a spiritual home. With your continued help we can welcome even more people home.

Music Ministry

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 Body, Mind and Spirit MV 153

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 Glory to God in the Highest MV 124

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