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

January 21, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Art Therapy Spot

English Language & Usage

Gospel Parallels

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 God of the Sparrow VU 229

Call to Worship One: Sometimes we come to worship feeling joy. All: Sometimes we come to worship feeling angry. One: Worship is a place to come whatever your feelings might be. All: Come and give or come and receive the gifts of the Spirit. One: Come and worship. All: Come and worship.

Opening Prayer Spirit that soothes and rages, be with us and all of our feelings. May the Spirit’s presence in this hour uplift those who need to be uplifted, calm those who need to be calmed, and reassure those who need to be reassured. May it be so.

Hymn Love Us into Fullness MV 81

Theme Conversation Big Feelings
Hymn Jesus, Friend of Little Children VU 340

Readings John 2:13-25

Musical Response I Know Your Word MV 108

Sermon Be Grace-Filled When You Can’t Be Graceful

Remember back before Advent, the lectionary readings were all about the Hebrew people being held captive and building the Temple?  Well, this is the Temple in the lectionary today.  It was THE Temple.  It was this big, magnificent building to show that the King’s devotion to God.  People came from all over the land in the time before Passover to worship there…similar, I suspect, to the way many folks in Canada are currently travelling to see the arm of St. Francis Xavier. It was the opportunity to connect to the sacred past.

So Jesus and his followers have made this journey, and when they get there, people are selling doves in the area of the temple meant for everyone.  You might wonder why this is such a big deal.  I know at first I did, but when it was pointed out that doves were offered as sacrifices, I felt a little outraged too.  This would be similar our council setting up in the lobby and selling the envelopes needed for offering or selling hymn books or the prayers of confession needed to participate in worship and you could only use the ones purchased in the lobby.  Don’t bother trying to slip a plain envelope with your name on it in or you can’t sing in worship unless you’ve purchased the book they are selling in the lobby.  On top of that they only accept certain coins, let’s say pennies, so you had to visit the money changer first before you can buy your expensive doves.  The money changer, of course keeps a percentage of the money you exchange.

Not much wonder Jesus was angry.  One of the things he preached frequently about was every person’s relationship with God not needing sacrifices.  He preached about all people being able to approach God, regardless of their financial position.  He preached about systemic corruption in the church and about priests being no closer to God than anyone else.  So obviously even though he thought everyone had heard his message, they didn’t fully “get it”.  And then Jesus lost his cool. He ended up doing something he sort of preached against.  Jesus flipped the tables, he dumped the coins, he tore the place up with a whip.  The man who preached passive resistance and non-violence got violently angry.

To me this isn’t a story about the “rules” of the temple or sacrifices.   It’s a story about not being perfect and being ok with that.  It’s about being grace-filled when you can’t be graceful.  I noticed when I was searching for images of “flipping tables”, that there was a question about an Israeli idiom on a language website.  The person looking for the translation explained that in Israel, to “flip a table” is to do something vulgar out of desperation. Reminds me of something one might do in a moment of traffic-induced desperation.  Flipping tables during the time of Jesus or now certainly isn’t something to be considered graceful.

Because this particular incident is written about in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each in a different place in the story of Jesus’s life, it’s quite possible that the biggest part of Jesus’s teachings happened after this moment.  In other words, even though Jesus totally lost it in front of a crowd of people, he still got up and taught again, something that would have required some grace with himself.

Have you ever acted out in desperation?  Have you ever felt so misunderstood no matter what you said or how you said it?  It’s usually at this point that I begin to cry.  When I’ve said all I can say, when I’ve done all I can do, and the message I’m trying to communicate still isn’t understood, the tears come weather I want them to or not.  Sometimes it works in my favor, but most of the time it just makes me feel worse.

I came across this fable told on a youtube video by a young woman.  I can’t quite figure out where it comes from, but it illustrates my feelings quite well.

Once there was a carver who made a mistake. We don’t know if it was a big mistake or a small mistake, but it doesn’t matter, the story is still the same.  The Carver felt so badly about the mistake, that the Carver made a little stone carving to remember what had happened.  The Carver always carried it.  But the carver had a lot of regret and the regret had a strange effect on the stone carving.  The longer the Carver carried it, the bigger and heavier the carving grew.  Soon the carver could no longer carry the stone in a pocket, so the Carver put the stone carving in a satchel. Soon after, the Carver stopped at an inn for a hot meal.  When it was time to pay, the Carver reached into the satchel, but the stone carving had grown so large, that the Carver had to remove it to get to the money.  The Inn Keeper looked at the stone with curiosity “What is that?” asked the Inn Keeper.  “It is a symbol of a mistake I made” said the Carver, “I carry it with me to remember what I have done.”

“It seems like a very heavy burden,” said the Inn Keeper, “you may leave it here when you go, if you wish.”

“No, I can’t do that,” said the Carver “don’t you understand?  I can never forgive myself for my mistake.  If I leave my stone behind, I might forget what I have done.”  So the Carver left, carrying the stone under an arm, as it was too big to fit in the satchel anymore.

After a couple of days, the stone carving was so large it needed to be carried with both arms.  The Carver passed by a young person standing at a well.  “Hello,” the young person called, “You look weary.  Would you like a drink?”  “Thank you,” said the Carver, “but I cannot lay down my stone, so I have no hands to drink with.”  The young person replied, “But it looks like such a heavy stone, you can’t put it down even for a drink?”  The Carver sighed.  “I can’t put it down for anything.  It’s a symbol of a mistake I made.  I carry it to remember.  If I put it down, it means I don’t regret it.”

So the Carver carried on, focused only on carrying the stone and regret.  Eventually the stone grew so heavy with regret that the Carver, stooped over with the stone on their back that they shuffled along.  Eventually the stone became so heavy with regret, that the Carver couldn’t move another step and was crushed beneath the stone.

Action (Put rock on the communion table)

I imagine a few of you are carrying some sort of stone.  Even if you aren’t, I’m sure you remember what it felt like to carry around the burden of a mistake until you learned how to put it down, respectfully, or perhaps you know someone who desperately needs to let that burden go.  Don’t let regret for something crush you.  Jesus didn’t.

Do what you need to do to let it respectfully go.  God is in that letting go process.  That’s what grace is – the process of letting go.  I invite you to join Laura Beth and I in a community art project to start your letting go process after worship.  Together, we’ll grow as we release what we need to release…burden, shame, or prayer for those who need to let it go.  In that letting go process, we’ll create something beautiful, an image of God’s grace, so that we can go on to offer grace to others. Amen.

Music Minstry Thank You For Your Grace

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Thank you for your generosity. Today we are going to embark on an interesting combination of art, prayer and music together. We hope that this can be turned into something shareable that will reach many people, maybe even those outside of St. Luke’s! Your generosity makes this possible.
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 Open My Heart MV 79

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing May The Love Of Our God MV 218

January 14, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Ancient Greek Pottery
Working Preacher 1
Huffington Post – B Brown
Centre for Addiction & Mental Health
Huffington Post – P Rollins
The Work of the People – P Rollins
Canadian Addictions Survey

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 Let Us Build A House MV 1

Call to Worship

One: In the safety of this group of people gathered,
All: Welcome to worship.
One: To those of you who come week after week and to those of you who are here for the first time,
All: welcome to worship.
One: To those who are seeking and to those who know their own answers,
All: welcome to worship.
One: In this place, all are welcome.
All: Together we worship.

Opening Prayer
As our voices unite in prayer, may we remember the diversity of experience and belief. May we remember that even though we are different, God’s Love flows through us and moves with us all. Amen.

Hymn Behold, Behold I Make All Things New MV 115

Theme Conversation
Hymn Jesus, Friend of Little Children VU 340

Readings John 2:1-11

Musical Response I Know Your Word MV 108

Sermon

We’ve talked a lot about Brene Brown and her understanding of shame and guilt this past year. There’s a reason for that. One of the common misconceptions about church is that church is a judgy place, where you must be perfect to fit in. So let’s deal with this right now, because I’m about to talk about some hard stuff. Dr. Brown says the best way to get rid of shame is to be vulnerable. So without giving any details, who has ever done something they were embarrassed about? See, you aren’t alone. These people, aren’t about to judge you and neither am I. We’ve all done something we regret. Here’s another question, raise your hand if you ever had something go wrong at a party you were hosting…maybe the food was a flop, no one showed up, the guest of honour was sick, your carefully chosen outfit was ruined, in other words something didn’t go as planned. This is a no shame zone. To reinforce that fact, here’s one of my embarrassing host stories.
For me, leading worship feels like hosting a gathering. It’s not your typical sort of party, but I always try to keep the comfort of all of the worshippers on the forefront of my mind. Hosting a party and leading worship feel similar to me. Needless to say, I don’t host many parties – I’m too busy hosting worship each week. So this is one of my many embarrassing worship stories. Back in my first year of ministry, I was encouraged to wear my alb when I led worship, to help me feel at least on the surface like a minister. So there I am in my first pastoral charge, in my new alb. The congregation is older and many don’t do steps anymore, so I always come down from the pulpit to get the offering plates, similar to the way I do it here. But there are more steps. And I’m not used to walking in such a long outfit, especially upstairs. More than once I trip myself, but one particularly embarrassing time, I landed flat on my face. Let me tell you, that outfit that was supposed to give me confidence and keep me humble definitely kept me humble that week. Needless to say, I no longer need the alb to feel like a minister.
I tell you this embarrassing story, because I want you compassionate people to reach deep inside and find that moment and connect. The host in our story is embarrassed. They didn’t buy enough wine. Jesus saves the day by producing more, and it turns out to be even better than the wine from earlier in the evening. So in asking for help, the host’s situation is greatly improved. Even though this story appears to be about the host and Jesus, here’s the thing that I can’t shake this week. Maybe the problem was really with the guests.
How much is too much? At what point does drinking, in this case, or exercising, or eating, or video games or social media, or whatever become a bad habit? At what point do we move from enjoyment to addiction? Finding the answer to this question, has occupied my mind this week, and I have come to the conclusion that when I use something consistently to change my state of mind or distract myself from my reality, then its an addiction. This is a scary realization, especially for a procrastinator. I use a lot of things to distract myself, intentionally and unintentionally, from the realities of my day. Sometimes, I just don’t want to deal with the laundry or the dishes. It’s pretty easy to distract myself from those chores. Sometimes it’s from a hard pastoral conversation I can’t stop thinking about. A good bag of slightly stale gummies usually helps with that. Sometimes it’s a personal loss or hardship. Once I dealt with a relatively small hardship by running. I lost 30lbs. That might seem like a good thing, but I can see how people can overdo it. What if I hadn’t worked my way through that hardship and was still wallowing there? What if I was placating one hardship with running and another (cause we all know there’s never just one) with anorexia? Peter Rollins, an Irish theologian, suggests that an addiction isn’t a problem. It’s a temporary solution to deal with a bigger problem. His suggestion is to deal with the larger problem, and the addiction will become a much smaller problem.
So what was the bigger problem that the Hebrew people were facing? I talk about it all the time. They were oppressed. They were ruled by a king they didn’t necessarily agree with, who could be cruel, who judged based on religion and culture. The social culture around them was discouraging unless you were a first-born male, there would be no advancement for you. Having children was life threatening, but it was also the purpose of every woman’s existence. Food was coaxed out of the earth. Transportation was by animal if you were luck, by foot if you weren’t. And if we think our line-ups at walk-in clinics are horrible, compared to 1st century medical care, our line-ups are miraculous.
There are many parallels to our own culture and the current political climate. Here we sit in the middle of root vegetable season, with wind and rain around us. Minimum wage still isn’t enough to plan appropriately for retirement or to provide private mental health or medical health care. The President of the world’s largest empire threatens anyone who is different or poses a risk to his power. Now, I understand that not everyone here faces oppression. I get that some folks have no complaints about their lives. Quite honestly, I don’t have that many complaints myself. But as always this isn’t our history. This isn’t our story. We are simply supposed to learn from it and make the lives of the people oppressed in our era a little easier.
This gives us a larger problem though. It’s understandable for someone who has a hard life, to feel the need to mask their feelings with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, exercise, shopping or any other imaginable thing. But what happens when you live a life of relative privilege?
It doesn’t matter, you still deal with the things you don’t want to deal with in the same way. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, if you are using something to help you escape, forget something or even to replace your boredom, then likely you need to continue to deal with that larger problem in your life.
I tried looking up some addictions statistics in Nova Scotia and I was surprised to discover that the most recent are around 10 years old and mostly focused on alcohol and cannabis use. I really hope the stats have changed, because as a society we have. We’re a bit more aware of mental health issues and we’re a bit more aware of the effects of long term drug and alcohol abuse. Here’s a couple though: in 2007, 1/3 of Nova Scotians had experienced one incident of physical, emotional or sexual harm in the last 12 months due to someone else’s intoxication. ¼ of Nova Scotians who have over consumed alcohol have harmed themselves at least once in their lifetime.
Now I want to be extremely clear, I’m not preaching that everyone should go home and pour their bottles down the drain. All I’m asking, is before pouring that 2nd or 3rd glass, indulging in a whole box of chocolates, getting up at 4am to hit the gym hard before work, call in sick to game all day, or max out your credit card doing some retail therapy, I’m asking you to ask yourself: am I avoiding something by doing this?
This isn’t easy stuff. It’s not pleasant to hear or think about. But until we are willing to examine ourselves, we’ll never be able to help society understand the relationship between mental health and addictions. Things will never be perfect, but perhaps we can make it a little easier for us to make our way between the letdowns in life. To remember that God’s love exists, even when it’s hard to see.
We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond to it.

Hymn My Love Colours Outside the Line MV 138

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation

Each week a number of 12 steps groups use our space at a relatively low cost. It is often hard for 12 step groups to find a safe space that is anonymous in nature and offers no judgement for relatively little cost. Without such an opportunity, many folks would be struggling through their addictions alone. The struggle is real, and simply can’t be done alone. On behalf of those facing addictions and those supporting them, thank you for your generosity.

Music Ministry Be Thou My Vision Arranged by Laura Beth Smith

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 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 May The Love Of Our God MV 218

January 7, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Garden Hill – CBC
Garden Hill – Feed the Children
Garden Hill – Wikipedia
Sean Loney – Army of Problemsolvers – excellent interviews!

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 Dance With the Spirit MV 156

Call to Worship

One: Each of us have come from different places and spaces.
All: Each of us have come seeking something to comfort and calm or energize and uplift.
One: Each of us will hear the same words and sing the same songs with a unique perspective.
All: Each of us has a different needs, and we recognize that no one person’s needs are greater than another’s.
One: With this understanding and intent, our hearts unite in worship.

Opening Prayer

Ever-moving Spirit, we pray that with your guidance during this hour, we’ll dance, sing and pray our way to deeper meaning and richer relationships with each other and with you. Amen.

Hymn Will You Come and See the Light VU 96

Theme Conversation Come & See

Readings John 1:35-51

Musical Response Hear My Prayer O God VU 865 refrain

Sermon Who do you follow?
Come and See…the anointed one…can anything good come from Nazareth?…Come and See…
We are now in a brief section of the church year where Jesus begins his ministry and today’s reading is about the recruiting of Andrew, Simon Peter, Phillip & Nathanael. The men keep getting tempted by this “Come and See” phrase. Come and See the anointed one, the one we’ve specifically chosen to lead us out of this mess. Come and See what the bottom of the bucket Nazareth has created! You have to see it to believe it. The men do go and see and they then decide to follow Jesus and his teachings. I love the book of John, it’s metaphorical and symbolic and I love the mental puzzle of what it all can mean. I love looking for the repeated messages hidden in the stories and parables.
I spent a fair bit of time this week learning about a “solutions economy”. Author and Canadian Activist, Sean Loney, believes that focusing our attention on a solutions based economy can fix our current economic situation. What he means is that some of our social problems can be the solution to our economic problem with a little bit of resilience, a little bit of compassion from the empire and a little bit of luck. He proposes we take the problem and turn it into a solution to the larger economic problem. He uses an example of a reserve that required food to be flown in all but 6 weeks of the year. The government subsidies went towards the transportation of food. The few small stores that were there were the only ones benefitting from the subsidies as the people relied on these few stores for the crappy over-processed food they could access. Because of this, the diabetes and obesity rates on the reserve were astounding. Ironically, the name of the reserve is Garden Hill. Someone had an idea though. They applied for a Canadian Feed the Children grant and were able to establish a farm associated with their school. Each class was responsible for specific garden plots and had gardening and farming added to their curriculum. What they were able to produce, they opened a farm market for and were able to sell at a much more reasonable price – more fresh fruits and vegetables at a cheaper price! The farm project continued to grow and encompass other parts of their community, such as the canteen at the local arena! The changes didn’t happen overnight. It takes time to grow food from seeds. It takes time for gardens to produce enough to sell. It takes time to change our eating habits and reverse the affects of diabetes on our bodies.
I feel like this is the sort of thing happening in our passage this morning, “Come and See”.
We did this without government support. Come and See.
Come and See. We accomplished what other people thought impossible or unachievable. Come and See.
Have you ever felt like the system that is supposed to support you is actually holding you back? Like the support you need isn’t offered by the place that is supposed to offer it? Or what they are able to offer just isn’t realistic?
Now I’m not really a rule breaker. I like rules and standards and guidelines, until someone is left out. Here’s a great example. I was 26 when I was diagnosed with a learning disability. How does one get to be 26 and working on their second degree before they find out they have a learning disability? It’s easy. You fall through the cracks. You grow up in a rural area that is understaffed by psychologists and has a large population with low literacy skills. You have a genetic learning disability in a school environment where you are related to most of the other students with severe learning issues, but you develop coping mechanisms to deal with the educational system so you still do well in school. You grow up in a time when females are conditioned to be “good girls” who have to work hard to succeed. So you think it’s just a fact of life that you seem to have to work harder than everyone else. So you settle for being average in your first degree, and manage to talk your way into your second. You finally get a job that has a medical plan that covers the psycho-educational assessment report that the universities have been asking you for and that everyone requires before they can help you. You max out your credit card to get the report and work for months to clear it off because the health plan only covers $500 and the report cost $1500. But you finally get this paperwork. Now you have access to government grants and funding, but nothing pays for that initial $1500 once you graduate high school. My high school teachers were shocked. I hadn’t even been considered for the possibility of having a learning disability. I’m sure many of you can tell the same sort of story about trying to access a doctor or psychologist. Systems designed by people who don’t have to exist in them rarely work. Did you know that most government forms are a level 4 reading level? That means that your reading ability and comprehension has to be at a university level. And when I say government forms, I mean all government forms including forms for disability and learning grants, public assistance grants such as the heating rebate. The heating rebate people. This money and these services are only able to be accessed by people who could easily be working on a university degree. Income Assistance forms are a level 4. Income Assistance!!!
But here’s the beautiful thing. Our reading today, is just one more example of how the church is called to step up and fill in the gap. “Can anything good come from Nazareth? Come and See what he has done.” The question is a derogatory question. We hear it all the time. What does the Maritimes have to offer? Well, we have a lot if you can see past what we are lacking. Jesus could see past what was lacking in Nathanael and Phillip, even when they couldn’t see past the fact that he came from Nazareth. As individuals we can see lots of things that we’d fix in society. As the church, we can work together to rectify some of those situations. Foodbanks, homeless shelters, universal health care, the education system…so many social gaps have been originally filled by the church, to be passed on once they are become successful. What is the larger church currently doing to fill the gap? What is our church doing to fill the gap?
We can sit around and wait for someone to come and fix our problems and society’s problems, or we can find a way to fix them ourselves. We can say to our friends and family, Come & See what we are doing. Good things can come from church. Come & See.
This is our first Sunday in 2018. As a congregation, let’s make a new year’s resolution. Let’s commit to being solutions focused this year. Let’s commit to looking past the road blocks and into the bright future. Let’s commit to solving the road blocks or finding a way around them when we come across them. Let’s commit to looking forward to being able to say “Come & See”. Amen.

Hymn A Light Is Gleaming VU 82

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation

Every day is a day for thanksgiving, there are so many wonderful things we are able to do because we choose to worship together. Your offerings today are a sign of gratitude for these people gathered and for the community we create together.

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 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