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

December 24, 2017 6:30pm

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

CDC Article

Linda’s Sermon Dec 17 2017

 

Musical Prelude
Boomwhacker Choir – Joy to the World
Opening Words
We are here tonight to celebrate the birth of the one who taught us that we are capable of so much more love than we could possibly imagine. Words just aren’t enough to express how this understanding of Love makes us feel. So we sing! So we dance! We use colour, light and shape. We smell and we taste. We give and we receive. We share. Let’s start with A Story of Love

Lighting of the Advent Candles – A Story of Love – MJ Laing
O Come All Ye Faithful – VU 60

Opening Prayer
Creative and Compassionate God,
Fill this place with your Spirit. Fill us with your Spirit. Inspire us to open our minds and hearts to one another in worship. May our worship overflow this place and this night. Amen.

The Birth Story According to Luke 2:1-20
Dream a Dream – MV 158
Sermon – Words of Wonder

‘Twas the month before Christmas
And the CDC warned
To remove a few words
When you fill out budget forms.

I was surprised
At what they’d suggest
Are we still living
In the Old Wild West?

In the United States
The Center for Disease Control suggested
That the use of some words
Are absolutely detested

I thought this doesn’t make sense
How can this be?
Some of these words
Mean so much to me!

A colleague of mine
Was absolutely enraged
That she preached it all
Giving her best tirade

She recorded her sermon
And on Facebook it was shared
And Facebook’s reaction
Had me truly scared.

A bot found the sermon
As best as we can surmise
Then she was locked out –
A huge surprise.

Eventually, it all
Got sorted out
But I still am feeling
A fair bit of doubt.

I listened hard
Nothing was said
That filled me with
Any kind of dread.

A fairly United Church
Sort of sermon was preached
With the 7 “banned” words
In the Virgin Mary’s great speech.

No more Fetus,
Transgender, or diversity
How these words affect budgets
Is puzzling to me.

No more vulnerable
Or entitlement
When suggesting how
Government funding is spent.

Science-based and evidence-based
Can no longer be used
Can you see why
I am so utterly confused?

In the United Church of Canada
These words are often said
And in our policies they
are even more often read
To be United
Is to speak out
For people, for places
Forgotten about

To believe in the facts
And the power of love
And not think of
ourselves as above

To stand up for those
who feel all alone
and to provide seekers
with a spiritual home.

Being different is something
We consider a blessing
Unique and creative
Should not be distressing

The 7 banned words
Weren’t the only distraction
My Anglican colleagues
Also had a reaction.

#metoo was the reason
That Mary’s consent
Became a discussion
Where much time was spent

Was a bun in the oven
Really Mary’s choice?
It’s not very often
that we’ve heard her voice.

Consent, seems doubtful it appears
Mary isn’t what I’d call excited
her response to the request
seems like it’s recited.

“Here am I,
the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me
according to your word.”
Some clergy are worried
to talk about topics so tough
but I think that you all
are quite open enough

To explore the story
For all that it’s worth
It’s the circumstances that make it
A miraculous birth

The Hebrew people were dreaming
Of a leader of their own
And they chose Jesus before
He was full grown

The people needed someone
Who understood how it felt
To be held back for the hand
which life had dealt

Jesus sure had
an unlucky beginning
conceived out of wedlock
wouldn’t be confidence giving.

A lack of consent
on Mary’s part
only adds more
to Jesus’ poor start

Born during a censes
And laid in a manger
Let’s not forget his parents
Have to flee from danger

But still he grows up
to love everyone
meeting new people
he found quite fun

But it might never have happened
Without the humble beginnings
So we remember his happiness
Didn’t come from winnings
To assume that
you’d be angry to hear
the story’s not perfect
is what many clergy fear

But sometimes we must
Talk in realistic terms
Life isn’t perfect
Reality confirms

So where does this leave us
On this holy night?
With 7 banned words
And Mary’s great plight.

But don’t give up yet
Hope still exists
The people will
Continue to resist

It started with Jesus
You know he refused
To watch idly
While people abused

He spoke out against
When people were quiet
From the beginning the people in power
Knew that he’d cause a riot.

Mary raised her son to value
Another person’s choice
And to empower people
Helping them find their voice.

Mary won in the end
Avoiding victimization
she managed to change
the next generation

And the 7 banned words
Well, that’s for the US of A
I don’t care
to go there anyway

But I’ll continue to use them
And make them necessary
So hopefully they’ll
Become less adversary.

And now that I spent
5 mins rhyming
I’ll finish before
People start sighing

One last stanza
Will make this just right
Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night!

Music Ministry – A Child is Born
Prayer Music: Silent Night – VU 67
Prayers of the People
Spirit of Compassion,
We thank you for your presence with us. We thank you for acts of compassion we see each day: random acts of kindness by strangers, friends that feel more like family, and family that go above and beyond. We thank you for these moments of your love in our lives. We pray for those who feel lost and alone tonight, that they might reach out a compassionate person and we pray if we are that compassionate person, that we respond with love. We pray for those who are unable to be with their families this evening, due to work or health. We pray that those who have to work during this special time will work with compassion, knowing that we appreciate their efforts at keeping us safe and healthy. We pray for those who are sick or grieving, that there might be some small moment joy. We pray for those who travel this week, that they might make smart and careful decisions. We pray for those around the world who do not experience the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that we do. May our experiences inspire us to do what we can to share Hope, Peace, Joy and Love with those who struggle. We pray these things and so much more.  Amen.

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy – VU 73
Offertory: Ev’ry Day Is A Day – MV 185
Offertory Blessing
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – VU 48

Choral Blessing: Go Ye Into All The World
Christmas Blessing: Joy to the World – VU 59
Musical Postlude

 

December 17, 2017 – Advent 3

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Halifax Mission to Seafarers

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 treaties did 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.

Hymn   Hope is a Star   VU 7

Call to Worship

One: O come descendant of King David, you are the Key that unlocks the door to our safety and shuts out our misery.
All: Rejoice! Rejoice, God will come to be with us, to be with the oppressed.
One: O come Holy Dawn, your presence will help us to make it through these dark times and scare away death.
All: Rejoice! Rejoice, God will come to be with us, to be with the oppressed.
One: O come You who are desired by everyone and help bring us together in our mission and purpose. Help us to get rid of our conflict and be our Prince of Peace.
All: Rejoice! Rejoice, God will come to be with us, to be with the oppressed.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel   VU 1 v5-7

Opening Prayer

Today O God, we pray for Joy. We pray for enough joy to remember when we are going through the rough places in life. We pray that for those who have a hard time finding Joy: we might become a sign of Joy.

Hymn   There Was a Child in Galilee   MV 134

Advent Wreath   A Story of Joy  – Ron & Betty Baily

Response  A Candle is Burning   VU 6 v3

Theme Conversation:  Rev. Maggie – Mission to Seafarers

Music Ministry   One Little Candle   Dragonfly Choir

Readings Isaiah 55:1-13

Musical Response   Your Word is A Lamp unto my Feet   VU 840

Speaker:  Rev. Maggie Whittingham-Lamont from Halifax Mission to Seafarers

Hymn   There’s a Spirit in the Air   VU 582 v 1,3,5,7

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation

Thank you for your generosity. Because of your gifts, this week we were able to provide books to many families around the St. Margaret’s Bay area, prayer shawls to a number of women who will be alone and struggling to overcome addiction over the holidays, easy access to music and intergenerational engagement through the Boomwhackers. All of the shoeboxes for the Mission to Seafarers, our regular foodbank donations and donations to Brunswick Street Mission are also because of your generosity. Thank-you for continuing to give.

Offertory   Ev’ry Day is a Day   MV 185

Offertory Prayer

May these gifts, those given through PAR, our commitment to give, and these shoeboxes be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music   Donna Nobis   VU 955

Prayers of the People

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

Choral Blessing   Go Ye Into All The World

December 10, 2017 – Advent 2

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Advent Spiral:

Kairos

Camellia Waldorf

Dawn of A New Day

A Mountain Hearth

Ezekiel:

wikipedia

BJ Psych I

BJ Psych II

BJ Psych III

Text Week

Rev Gals Blog Pals

 

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 treaties did 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.

Hymn  Come Now, O God of Peace  VU 34

Call to Worship

One: O come Great Source of Wisdom who rules over us and guides us. Teach us to move as you do.
All: Rejoice! Rejoice, God will come to be with us, to be with the oppressed.
One: O come Mighty God, who came to your people on Mt. Sinai and brought them the ten commandments in a most sacred experience.
All: Rejoice! Rejoice, God will come to be with us, to be with the oppressed.
One: O come descendant of Jesse and deliver your people from all their enemies. Your people trust that you are powerful enough to save them from a bleak future.
All: Rejoice! Rejoice, God will come to be with us, to be with the oppressed.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel  VU 1 v2-4

Opening Prayer

Today, O God, we pray that our words might inspire peace within ourselves. We pray that the peace within will grow and inspire others to seek peace.

Hymn  Imagine  John Lennon

Advent Wreath  A Story of Peace  Wendy Thompson

Response  A Candle is Burning  VU 6 v2

Theme Conversation  Fun with “Dry Bones”

Readings  Ezekiel 37:1-14

Musical Response  Your Word is A Lamp unto my Feet  VU 840

Sermon

Ezekiel is another Hebrew prophet who has been captured is living in Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel is a bit on the dramatic side, and finds his ministry acting out the dreams he has on the city streets. Because of his dramatics and their harshness, Ezekiel isn’t well liked. Most of his prophecies metaphors and are rather depressing about the destruction of Jerusalem, but he does have a few redeeming visions, today’s being one on them. So we find ourselves standing with Ezekiel in this valley of dry bones. And God says “Mortal, can these bones live?” Now and this point, I’d love to get into DNA and stemcells, and really talk about living bones, but that’s a topic for another time. The bones clickty-clack their way together and begin to grow tendons and skin. And God speaks to Ezekiel again, “Breathe into the bones”. Now the whole reason I even enjoy this story is because of this particular sentence. God used the Hebrew word Ruach. The word that means not only breath, but breathing and also wind and Spirit. Once Ezekiel gets them full of gusto, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. Yes, these are the same bones, but they are so much more than just bones at this point.
Now, personally, I don’t feel like I’m doing Ezekiel any justice without mentioning that a number of scholars feel that Ezekiel is a classic case of Catatonic Schizophrenia. Other scholars feel that attributing Ezekiel’s visions to a mental illness, devalues God’s presence in the story. I don’t see it that way. What I see, is that Ezekiel likely would have had more visions and voices going on than just the ones we read about in his book. He would have had to figure out which ones represented the way he understood he was supposed to live his life and which ones were simply not helpful. He wouldn’t have been able to talk about the ones that weren’t helpful to him as that likely would have garnered him the label “possessed” and then he would have had even less help. It also means that God moves within people who have mental health issues or disabilities.
One summer, my last as a camp counsellor actually, I worked for the YMCA at Camp Hillies in the Valley. The camp serviced 4 groups of people: “Country” kids in the social services system, “City” kids in the social services system, Intellectually Challenged adults over 50 and Intellectually challenged adults under 50. Let me tell you, I learned a lot that summer. One camper in particular reminded me a lot of Ezekiel. This camper heard voices and had dreams that he said were from God. He also enjoyed wearing a black choir gown and carried around a wand he’d carved. Of course he loved the fact that I was studying to be a minister. At the end of his week at camp, the camper wrote me a note that had the feel of a blessing to it. I wondered a lot during my time with this camper if his faith experience or his spirituality was any less valid than my own.
What makes one person’s faith journey or spirituality more valid than another person’s? Other than the obvious of causing physical or emotional harm, I can’t see how my experience is any more valid than anyone else’s even though I’m a minister. Mine is no less valid either.
Clergy competition can be pretty intense. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there would always be someone had more scripture memorized than me, someone who was more pious than I was. Someone who constantly went on retreats, or could speed read through all of the great theologians. Someone who spoke eloquently and wrote academically. Someone who God spoke to with a physical voice, or left a sign. But just because I wasn’t the best at any of these things doesn’t mean that any part of my journey was less valid than another person’s. Growing up as an overachiever in a small community, it took me a while to learn that lesson. An over the top metaphor being part of someone’s call doesn’t feel too out of place to me.
Ezekiel was being called to bring the bones back to life, and not just to be alive, but to truly live. But the passage says nothing about them coming back together exactly as they had been. Only that they had been without hope, so they died, and after Ezekiel spoke, they had life and they lived.
Have you ever felt exhausted? Like there was nothing left to give? About this time last year we took our house in New Minas off the market. I was exhausted. We’d had 19 showings in 9 months and heading into my busy season, we didn’t feel we could handle another showing especially if we couldn’t decorate for Christmas or if we had to decorate for Christmas. So we took the house off the market. We needed to let it die. We had done everything that was financially possible for us to do. We got a lot of responses like: “nice house, but we want a garage” or “nice house, but we need fewer stairs” or “nice house, but the other had the renovated bathroom” literally, that was the only room that needed to be redone. Hopeless. No visible way forward. To make a long story short, sometimes, it doesn’t take much to offer someone who is feeling pretty exhausted a little bit of hope. Ezekiel didn’t have to do the work of putting things together. He only needed to offer hope.
Sometimes, in this particular time, it can be pretty easy for a church to start to feel hopeless. Nothing is as easy as it once was and people are tired. Sometimes it’s hard to offer hope. But what if we didn’t have to be Ezekiel? What if we just rest for a moment and listen for hope? What would we hear? Who would be speaking the words?
I’m offering you a challenge in this crazy and exhausting season. I’m challenging you to open yourself up to some unexpected hope. I’m challenging you to be inspired by stories you haven’t heard before. I’m challenging you to feeling your bones starting to rattle, I’m inviting you to be filled with passion and spirit.

Hymn  Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands  MV 173

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation

Thank you for your generosity. Because of your gifts, we are excitedly preparing for workshops in the spring geared to educate us about mental health, how to recognize signs in ourselves and others of deteriorating mental health and how to lead in a mental health crisis situation. Because of your time, talent, and treasures, our community will be a safer, healthier and happier place.

Offertory  Ev’ry Day is a Day  MV 185

Offertory Prayer

May these gifts, those given through PAR, our commitment to give, and these shoeboxes be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Advent Spiral Prayer

At the front is a large spiral of evergreens. When indicated, you are invited as you are able, to come up the stairs (please use the ramp if mobility is a concern) and enter the spiral near the cross. As you walk think of a person, place or situation that needs the hope, peace, joy or love of advent. Choose a candle to light, and as you exit, offer a prayer, blessing or energy to that person, place or situation. Place your candle somewhere along the edge of your path that speaks to you. Exit carefully to avoid kicking candles and leave via the ramp or the steps by the front. For those of you who wish to remain seated, please indicate, and myself or Heather will place a light for you. This tradition comes to us via the Waldorf tradition of the Advent Garden or Advent Spiral and seeking together to find light in darkness.

Music Ministry

Commissioning & Benediction

Choral Blessing

December 3, 2017 – Advent 1

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Daniel

Babylonian Exile

Nebuchadnezzar II – Wikipedia

Nebuchadnezzar II – Ancient History

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Working Preacher Podcast

Story Path

Antiphon

Daniel – Wikipedia

The Bible Project – Daniel

Global News – Christmas Gifts & Income

Public Health – Holiday Stress

CBC – Women and Christmas Stress

Market Wired

 

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 treaties did 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.

Hymn Make a Joyful Noise VU 820

Call to Worship One: O come, O come Emmanuel…
All: God, come be with us in a way that we can understand.
One: …and ransom captive Israel…
All: O God come and free your people being who are being controlled without reason.
One: …that mourns in lowly exile here…
All: Until your people see hope of freedom, they will remain alone.
One:…until the Son of God appear.
All: until we see your presence in future generations.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel VU 1 v1
Opening Prayer Today, O God we pray that our words might offer Hope to people who need it most. We pray that this time of worship will fill us with Hope and encourage us to pass Hope on to others who feel hopeless. May it be so.

Hymn Still, Still, Still VU 47

Advent Wreath A Story of Hope Paul Dunlop
Response A Candle is Burning VU 6 v1

Theme Conversation The Star Q & A

Readings Daniel 3:1-30
Musical Response Your Word is A Lamp unto my Feet VU 840

Sermon Christmas Idols
The Book of Daniel is one we don’t hear from very often, but since Jesus refers to the Book of Daniel in Matthew 24, we know Daniel was important to Jesus. We also know that this book is set during the captivity of the Hebrew in Babylon, a faith shaping event for many Hebrew people leading up to and teaching Jesus. So Here’s what you need to know about the book of Daniel.
Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, were considered among the Hebrew elite: they were of the priestly bloodline, young, wise, diligent and pleasing to the eye. As such, they were capture and taken to be trained in the courts of the Babylon King to become advisors or servants of the royal family and friends. Many were taken against their will to be trained, but it was better than being killed. The trainees were given daily rations from the Royal stores and plenty of time to study or learn the ways of the people they were to serve. Daniel and company surprised their guards and overseers by refusing to eat and drink from the royal stores. Daniel’s guard warned him that if they appeared to be lesser than some of the others, that things would go poorly for him. But Daniel and his friends wished to keep their religious laws around food. So they asked to eat vegetables. The guards and overseers were surprised because Daniel, Shedrack, Meshack and Abednego became stronger and wiser than the captives who ate from the Royal stores.
The King has a dream that no one can interpret for him. In an effort to save himself and his friends, Daniel offers to interpret this dream for the King. As Daniel begins to speak he warns the King that he is only able to do this because of God and for no other reason. He then told the King that his dream of a giant statue made of mixed metals that comes crashing down is really about how the people in power will come crashing down because they are worshipping the wrong God. The King doesn’t fully understand and thinks that he is supposed to worship Daniel. When Daniel tries to redirect his worship, the King promotes Daniel and his friends.
As I said, the King didn’t really understand Daniel’s interpretation, so sometime later he erected a large, gold statue, something that alluded to him, and ordered that all of the people worship that statue. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were now working in other places, and when some of the people realized that they were not worshipping the statue, they told the King. The King questioned the men on this and they informed him they had no intention of worshipping anyone other than God. So the King, fearing that this might cause an uprising, ordered them to be put in the hottest possible furnace to be burned to death. The fire was built, the men were bound and escorted into the furnace. The fire was so fierce, that the guards who placed them in the furnace were killed before they could retreat. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were walking around in the furnace along with a fourth, unnamed person and they were unharmed. Finally, the King understood. He ordered the men out of the furnace and immediately began to worship God.
That’s a summary of today’s scripture reading. Now if you are wondering where the heck are the lions? That comes much later in Daniel’s life. Even after the furnace incident, the King doesn’t fully get it and it takes at least one more strange experience before King Nebuchadnezzar fully comes to understand God. After King Nebuchadnezzar dies, his son takes over and scandalously eats and drinks from the sacrifices at the temple. All of the culminates in another interpretation by Daniel, the King being assassinated, and King Dairus taking over. It is under King Darius that Daniel ends up being thrown into the lion’s den because he wouldn’t offer his prayers to the King.
Daniel goes on to have more dreams himself before the end of the book, but I’m more interested today in talking about his encounters with the Kings.
I read an article in the Chronicle Herald online by a financial planner that gifts and giving at Christmas should only account for 1% of your annual income, and to not feel guilty if it has to be less than that. There are lots of articles on the stress that Canadians and particularly women feel over the holidays, along with some interesting trend studies that show that more and more people are turning to online shopping to help deal with both financial stress and the time factor that causes so many of us huge amounts of stress.
Here’s the thing I didn’t fully recognize until an honest conversation with Bob in October. As some of you may or may not know, we are finishing up the first stage of the adoption process, meaning this could be our last Christmas without two-legged children. Or we could have nine more. Either way it came up that I was a little bit worried about Christmas. Now I’ve been doing this ministry thing for 12 Christmases. I think I’ve had about three where I didn’t spend the majority of Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a comatose state. About five of them required heavy antibiotics in the week leading up to or the week after Christmas. So of course I’m worried about pulling off the perfect Christmas – the epitome of my own spiritual life and a huge family experience on the Sangster side of things for a child who most likely hasn’t had anything near the experience I had. Ask Bob about his first New Harbour Christmas. It’s a story in and of itself. Bob reminded me that he is perfectly capable of pulling off an excellent Christmas experience. After all, he’s responsible for the majority of the decorating and the Christmas tree, and last Christmas in my Tylenol induced stupor, Bob managed to pull off a complete turkey dinner. Don’t get me wrong – Bob is good, but he’s no Martha Stewart.
So why is it that I feel the need to have a picture-perfect Christmas? It’s not like all of my growing-up Christmases were perfect. There were plenty of rain-filled Christmases with power outages. Occasionally, not receiving the thing I wanted most under the tree or the preferred part in the Christmas pageant. There were sometimes silly fights with my sisters, sickness, or having to drive all the way to Canso, an hour away, for the Christmas Eve Service only to come back to peel 10lbs of potatoes. I’ll never forget the Christmases before Grammie got a dish washer, handwashing all of the dishes that 30 people require to have Christmas dinner. There’s no great answer as to my need for the perfect Christmas, but I do know that it can sometimes feel like my need to have it all go perfectly is more important than the actual reason I even celebrate Christmas.
A few years ago I happened across a free download of a Christmas Album. One of the treasures on it was Jessie Farrell’s “Christmas at My House”. The song is a list of things she’s not going to followed by a reminder of why she celebrates the season, the song then talks about some of the things she’s planning on doing, so these other things probably won’t happen. All through the song is an invitation to join her, if you can handle the things that will happen and won’t mind missing out on the things that don’t. The lyrics that stick with me are “Stop trying to make it perfect, cause perfect ain’t worth it. This Christmas make it all about love”.
Have you ever noticed yourself slipping and getting so caught up in craziness that you forget the whole point of the season? I wonder if it was the same way with the Kings in Daniel’s time – If they got so caught up in the power and fame of being kings that they forgot the reason they were there.
Suddenly fame and fortune mean so much more than the good of the whole. Suddenly a large golden statue in your likeness or a few million retweets and maintaining that image and the power that comes with it is more important than ensuring everyone is able to maintain the same basic standard of living. Suddenly fake tans are worth more than hard earned blisters and scars are seen as imperfections rather than a symbol of victory. A magazine worthy Christmas is worth more than what’s realistic and leaves everyone just as happy.
Last Sunday, I promised to take the time to enjoy my advent rather than plod through it. This Sunday I’m uping the ante. This Sunday I’m letting go of the perfect Christmas. This year, I’m going to attempt to balance work and play so that you all are spiritually fulfilled and that I get to spend time with my family. I’m going to attempt to not be sick this December, even if it means constant hand sanitizer, and staying home from some events because I have a tickle in my throat.
It doesn’t matter if I try to make things perfect. I don’t think God’s presence will be felt any more in my stress. In fact, I think it’s the opposite, that’s God’s presence is felt less in my stress. God’s presence wasn’t felt in the building of the statue, nor was it felt in being told how to pray. Bigger isn’t always better. It isn’t always what brings a person into a fuller spiritual life.
What are you going to do to bring yourself a little closer to God this advent season? What idols are you willing to get rid of? How are you going to offer the Christmas Spirit in a way that brings everyone closer to God?

Hymn Spirit of the Living God VU 376

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation Thank you for your generosity. Because of your generosity, last week we were able to give over $600 and a large quantity of food to the St. Margaret’s Bay Area food bank in addition to our regular contributions. This is especially important as December and January are often the hardest months for families that have difficulty making ends meet. With your continued support, we can do even more.

Offertory Little Drummer Boy/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 Your 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 Deep in Our Hearts MV 154 v1

November 26, 2017 – After Pentecost

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Holy Tales – Exile to Babylon* Kid friendly one

Old Testament in 8 minutes

Working Preacher

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

Theme Conversation

Readings Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14

Musical Response Day after Day MV 123

Sermon

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

Offertory Prayer
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!
Amen.

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.

“Gracious God,
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

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.

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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

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November 12, 2017 – After Pentecost

Guest Preacher this week!

Words of Welcome & Announcements

Lighting the Christ Candle & Acknowledgement of Place
As we gather to worship, let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

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Call to Worship “One: This is a time to be Holy.
All: We have gathered to celebrate God’s presence.
One: As we worship, we recognize where God has been in our lives this past week,
All: and we prepare ourselves to be God’s presence to others in the week to come.
One: Let us join our hearts in worship.

Opening Prayer “One: O God, who called all life into being,
All: the earth, sea and sky are yours.

One: Your presence is all around us,
All: every atom is full of your energy.

One: Your Spirit enlivens all who walk the earth,
All: with her we yearn for justice to be done,

One: For creation to be freed from bondage,
All: For the hungry to be fed,

One: For captives to be released,
All: For your kingdom of peace to come on earth.
Amen.          ( The Iona Community )

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Theme Conversation

Readings Amos 1:1-2; 5:14-15, 21-24

Musical Response Day after Day MV 123

Sermon Guest Preacher – Ken MacIntosh

Hymn Today We are Called VU 507

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation Because of your generosity, we were able to secure 60 brand new chapter books through First Books Canada for teenagers to be given out in the Christmas Program at the St. Margaret’s Bay Foodbank. With your continued generosity, we can accomplish so much.

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

November 5, 2017 – After Pentecost

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

The Sound of Silence NASA

Last Post

Disturbed

Puddles Pity Party

 

Chant Listen for the Spirit The Good Book

Words of Welcome & Announcements

Call to Worship Today as we worship, hold the silence tenderly as listen for the still small voice of God.

Placing the Wreath
As we gather to worship, let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.
Last Post
O Canada

Opening Prayer Spirit of gentleness, we gather today remembering the past and looking towards the future with hope. During the stormy times, may we remember the stillness and your gentle yet strong voice. Amen.

Music Ministry

Theme Conversation Elijah

Readings The Sound of Silence
1 Kings 19:1-13

Musical Response Day after Day MV 123

Sermon The Still, Small Voice

We’ve jumped from Solomon’s Temple right into Elijah. After King Solomon’s death, there were a number of other Kings and Prophets, but by the time we get to Elijah, he’s the only prophet of God left. It is a time of famine for the Hebrew people. There’s not much food left to go around and many people, including Elijah, are depressed. Elijah goes down by the river, and while he is sleeping, ravens bring him food. This is fine for a while, but eventually the river dries up and the ravens stop bringing food. So Elijah moves along and finds a widow and her son. They have enough food left for one small loaf of bread. The Woman is preparing to make it the next day for her son and then they will die. Elijah manages to convince her to make it for him instead. The widow is skeptical, but figures death coming sooner would likely be better. They go to sleep and when they wake up, the jars are full again. Elijah stays with them for a short time, but leaves after saving the child’s life. Elijah believes that the people are experiencing this horrible famine because so many of them have been worshipping the God Baal. So Elijah builds an alter, digs a trench around it, fills the trench with seeds, the alter with a sacrifice and covers the whole thing with water. Fire rushes in and burns everything up. At this point, Elijah is public enemy number one, and runs to a cave and hides until he is called to feel the presence of God outside of the cave. After stepping out, Elijah experiences devastating wind, earthquake, and fire. Once the fire passed, all was silent. It was in the silence that Elijah heard the still, small voice of God.
We don’t know much about Elijah from the passage. A little earlier on we learned that Elijah was a Tishbite from Tishbe in Gilead. We know he worshipped Yahweh – his name means “The one who worships Yahweh”. From 1 Kings, we know Elijah was a fierce opponent of Baal, and often felt unloved and often asks God to take his life. We know the Elijah was a party to some unexplainable things: the ravens GIVING food, the meal and the oil refilling themselves, raising the boy from death, the craziness of the alter, and the major storm. Eventually Elijah isn’t the only prophet of Yahweh anymore, and he completes two more amazing things: he parts the waters and rides a chariot of fire up into the sky leaving behind his sacred mantle for his follower Elisha. As Christians we hear Elijah referred to a few more times, most notably during Jesus’ transfiguration, where Elijah and Moses appear together.
The Sound of Silence has always been intriguing to me. I firmly believe that we communicate in many ways. Some of us communicate more often without out words than with words. I remember arguing with my sister once and accusing her of not listening to my silence. I can put a lot of emotion into a two-second gap of silence, and I often leave silence intentionally in conversation if I’m trying to understand the feelings of someone else. Silence is something I often look forward to, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
When I lived on Quinpool Rd, I often went to Taize Prayer Services at St. John’s United Church. If you’ve never been to a Taize worship before, it’s really an experience. Taize originated in a monastery in Taize, France. All prayers and scripture are sung, mostly by the congregation, although sometimes there is a cantor or soloist and the congregation responds. Often there are only one or two pieces plus the scripture in English. St. John’s went all out to create the atmosphere as well using candles in all the windows and directing everyone to sit together. Instead of a sermon, there’s silence. At St. John’s 15 mins of silence to be exact. You go in and are handed a song book, and a list of the ones that will be sung. At the top of the sheet was the reminder to keep as silent as you can as you enter and leave worship. Really the only thing that was missing were the monks robes! I loved it. I often went and one night one of my sisters and a friend asked to go with me. Of course I said yes. I was nervous though. I figured my sister would be ok, but our bubbly, chatty friend worried me. I didn’t think she’d make it. When we got out on the street after worship had finished, I asked how they found it. I was surprised by their reactions. My sister absolutely hated it and our friend loved it! For both of them it was the silence. I find the same thing true for yoga. Some folks would prefer to leave before savassanah, the silent closing posture and others wear t-shirts that say “I’m only here for Shavassana”
My hunch is that while some people find God’s presence in silence and others can only hear an absence of God. The hard part seems to be finding a balance or compassion for the other, so that in worship or in meetings there’s enough silence for those who needs it, but not too much for those who would prefer anything to silence.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes people give up when there is silence? For example, when there’s no clear answer to a problem, people give up? They expect an immediate answer, but when nothing seems apparent, they give up and say there’s no solution. Maybe the silence is really saying, this isn’t going to be easy or not quite yet. Or maybe the introverted person in the room was waiting for a moment of stillness to speak.
It was pretty hard to reflect on this particular scripture without including The Sound of Silence. Paul Simon didn’t hear the voice of God in the silence though. All he could hear were people not listening to each other and talking just to talk or one up each other. Conversations with no real meaning, so he is left to talk to the darkness. Who are these people that talk without saying anything and pretend to listen? Who speak what they think everyone else is saying, without backing it up with research? Who can’t see the messages so clearly laid out by those who live in public housing and travel by public transit? Who can’t see the people sitting in lineups outside the walk-in clinics for hours just to get an appointment with a doctor that has never spent more than 15mins with them? Who are these people who have never used a foodbank or been on EI, yet make the rules that guard them? Who are these people that can’t see the bruises on faces, can’t read the words #metoo on every woman’s facebook feed, and can’t see the faces of missing and murdered indigenous women? Who are these people who can’t hear the cries of a hungry and scared Muslim child being snuck across the border, but insist that all refugees should “go back to where they come from” even when that place doesn’t even exist anymore? Who are these people? I’m sure you know a few of them. Challenge them. It is our privilege and responsibility to do so.
Downstairs our Sunday School is learning to listen to stillness, to quiet their minds, to self-sooth as needed. It’s a great step on the journey of learning how to deal with life’s disappointments. Once we’re able to deal with our disappointments in appropriate ways, they don’t seem quite so bad. Once we stop feeling like the disappointments always happen to us, it’s a little easier to feel gratitude for what we have. It’s a little easier to advocate for someone else. It’s a little easier to see how everyone benefits when we compromise.
The Sunday School is offering an invitation to anyone who wants to join them in the FRC after worship, to make Prayer Settling Jars. Join us in this simple, meditative and prayer-filled practice. Share it with someone else in your life who needs a little bit of silence to listen for real conversation or for the still, small voice of God.

Hymn Spirit God, Be Our Breath MV 150

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation

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