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

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