May 15 2016 Confirmation & Pentecost

No sermon today…we had a crazy number of confirmations and re-affirmations.  For the Theme Time, I told the story of Pentecost in my own words and debuted this awesome headband.

Pentacost head-gear (Small)

The Confirmation and Re-affirmation class chose the hymns, readings and vows based on the ones offered by the service book Celebrate God’s Presence.

Hymn   Shall We Gather At The River                              VU 710
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle and Centering
Hymn  Spirit God?                                                                MV
Call to Worship
One:  As the Spirit moves about this room
All:  May we deepen our understanding
One:  As the Spirit moves about our lives
All:  May we deepen our passion

Prayer of Approach
As our lives spin with commitments and responsibilities, we’ve gathered today to find the Holy Spirit amid the crazy. May we find what we need today as we celebrate the community we have created. Amen.
 
Hymn  As A Fire is Meant for Burning                              VU 578
Pentecost
Ministry of Music
Baptism*
Renewal of Baptismal Vows
Ministry Music
Transfer of Membership

Hymn  I Have Called You By Your Name                          MV 161 
Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
You have come today because you have heard a call.  Perhaps it was a call of social justice, perhaps it was a call to community, perhaps it was a call to live out your love.  How will you answer this call?
Offering
Offertory  And When You Call for Me                              MV 96
Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR become a way to answer the collective call we hear as followers of The Way.  Amen.

Prayer Music  O God Here My Prayer                              VU 948
Prayers of the People & Prayer of Jesus
Commissioning and Benediction
Musical Blessing                  Dance With The Spirit                         MV 156

*In grateful response to God’s abundant love,
we bear in mind our integral connection
to the earth and one another;
we participate in God’s work of healing and mending creation.
To point to the presence of the holy in the world,
the church receives, consecrates, and shares
visible signs of the grace of God.
In company with the churches
of the Reformed and Methodist traditions,
we celebrate two sacraments as gifts of Christ:
baptism and holy communion.
In these sacraments the ordinary things of life
—water, bread, wine—
point beyond themselves to God and God’s love,
teaching us to be alert
to the sacred in the midst of life.

Before conscious thought or action on our part,
we are born into the brokenness of this world.
Before conscious thought or action on our part,
we are surrounded by God’s redeeming love.
Baptism by water in the name of the Holy Trinity
is the means by which we are received, at any age,
into the covenanted community of the church.
It is the ritual that signifies our rebirth in faith
and cleansing by the power of God.
Baptism signifies the nurturing, sustaining,
and transforming power of God’s love
and our grateful response to that grace.

At various moments on the journey of our life in Christ,
we have opportunity to reaffirm and renew
the faith proclaimed in baptism.
As those who have been baptized
together with those who today will be baptized
profess for themselves the faith of the Christian community
in which they have been nurtured,
we gather to reaffirm the power of the Holy Spirit
and to celebrate the place of Phillip, Leanne, Lauren, Jim & Marilyn
in the people of God.
We give thanks for their gifts
as witnessed in this community of faith,
and promise to continue to walk with them.
With joy and thanksgiving we celebrate the faith we all share,
and rededicate ourselves
to the life and work of the body of Christ.

The church is a community of people with varied gifts,
united by the Holy Spirit.
We gather to celebrate God’s presence,
to discern God’s truth,
and to follow the way of Jesus.
By our baptism we are made members of Christ’s church.
We exercise this membership
in the denomination to which we belong,
which for us is The United Church of Canada,
and within the context of a local community of faith.
Today, we welcome into this congregation
those who are already members
of the church of Jesus Christ: Joanne, Jennifer, Jenn, & Amanda
 
Presentation of Candidates
On behalf of the congregation of St. Luke’s United Church,
I present the following person
for initiation into the body of Christ through profession of faith and baptism:
Phillip Bentley

On behalf of the congregation of St. Luke’s United Church,
I present the following person
who seeks to renew the faith proclaimed
in her baptism:
Lauren Parks

On behalf of the congregation of St. Luke’s United Church,
I present the following persons
who seek to reaffirm publicly the faith proclaimed
in their baptism and confirmation:
Leanne Bentley
Jim Mac Donald
Marilyn MacDonald
 
On behalf of the congregation of St. Luke’s United Church,
I present the following persons
whom we welcome into the membership
of this community of faith: Joanne Ellis, Jennifer Dean-Levy, Jennifer MacLaughlin, Amanda Walker, Dawn Fredrick, & Karen Muxlow

The United Church of Canada gives us a number of questions in five categories to answer as our profession of faith.  As a group we’ve talked about these categories and questions, and each of the five people have decided on a set of questions that best describe their faith and a commitment they can live out.

I ask these questions that you may publicly profess the faith
proclaimed in baptism.
 

  1. Profession of Faith in the Triune God

Phillip, Leanne & Lauren
Do you believe in God, who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
and who works in us and others by the Spirit?
I do, by the grace of God.

Jim & Marilyn
Do you believe in God, Source of love;
in Jesus Christ, love incarnate;
and in the Holy Spirit, love’s power.
I do, by the grace of God.
 

  1. Commitment to Seek Justice and Resist Evil

Lauren
Desiring the freedom of new life in Christ,
do you seek to resist evil, and to live in love and justice?
I will, God being my helper.

Phillip, Leanne, Jim & Marilyn
Will you follow in the way of Jesus Christ,
resisting oppression and evil, seeking justice,
and witnessing to God’s love for all creation?
I will, God being my helper.
 

  1. Commitment to Follow the Way of Jesus Christ

Phillip, Leanne, Lauren, Jim & Marilyn
Will you follow the way of Jesus Christ?
I will, God being my helper.
 

  1. Commitment to the Mission and Ministry of the Church

Phillip, Leanne, Lauren, Jim & Marilyn
Will you join
with your brothers and sisters in this community of faith
to celebrate God’s presence, live with respect in creation,
and love and serve others?
I will, God being my helper.
 

  1. Commitment of Candidates

As mentors and sponsors to each other,
will you continue to support and encourage each other
in your Christian life and discipleship?
I will, God being my helper.
 

Let us pledge to these persons
our continued support and care.
We will continue to support you,
walk with you, and grow with you.
With God’s help, we will live out our baptism
as a loving community in Jesus Christ:
nurturing one another in faith,
upholding one another in prayer,
encouraging one another in God’s work.
 
 
 
Pouring & Blessing the Water
Gracious and Holy God,
we bless you for the gift of life,
and, within it, the gift of water.
Over its unshaped promise your Spirit hovered at creation.
By water, comes the growth of the earth.
Through water, you led the children of Israel to freedom.
In the waters of the Jordan your Child Jesus was baptized.
Now may your Spirit be upon us and what we do,
that this water may be a sign for all of new life in Christ,
in whose name we pray.
Amen.
 
Phillip, I baptize you
in the name of the Father, Mother, the Source of Love
and of the Son, the Christ, the Beloved One
and of the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, the Power of Love
Amen.
May the blessing of Love
be with you today and always.
Amen.
Phillip, I mark you with the cross,
a sign of Love Incarnate.
Amen.
 
Laying On of Hands
Phillip, may the Holy Spirit, Love’s power,
guide you, inspire you, and work within you,
all the days of your life.
Amen.
 
Presentation of Candle and Bible
 
Laying On of Hands
Lauren, may the Holy Spirit, Love’s power,
guide you, inspire you, and work within you,
all the days of your life.
Amen.
 
Presentation of Bible
 
Laying On of Hands
Leanne, may the Holy Spirit, Love’s power,
guide you, inspire you, and work within you,
all the days of your life.
Amen.
 
Presentation of Bible
 
Laying On of Hands
Jim, may the Holy Spirit, Love’s power,
guide you, inspire you, and work within you,
all the days of your life.
Amen.
 
Presentation of Bible
 
Transferring Membership
Joanne, Jennifer, Jenn, Amanda, Dawn & Karen
will you join with us
as together we celebrate God’s presence,
live with respect in creation,
love and serve others,
seek justice and resist evil?
I will, with God’s help.
 
Let us pledge to these persons our support and care.
As your brothers and sisters in Christ,
we rejoice in the gifts you bring to us.
We pledge to you our love and our support.
With God’s help, we will together live out
the mission and ministry of Christ’s church.
 
Symbol of Welcome
 
It’s not very often that I get to welcome 10 people to a congregation and celebrate a renewal of baptismal vows.  In celebration of all the commitment demonstrated today, let’s rise as we’re able and join in an Affirmation of Faith: A New Creed
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.
 
Congregational Welcome
All: By one Spirit, we are all baptized into one body.
We are children of the one God,
Mother and Father of us all.
We welcome you into the community of faith.

In the name of Jesus Christ,
we welcome you to the privileges and responsibilities
of membership in this congregation.
We give thanks to God for your witness among us.

Blessing:   May God’s Sheltering Wings                           MV 214
special day (Small)

May 8 2016 – Mother’s Day and Baptisim

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Celebrate God’s Presence
A Song of Faith
Rex Hunt 1
Rex Hunt 2
Rex Hunt 3

Worship Outline:

Hymn   River                                                                                         MV 3
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Centering & Lighting the Candle

Hymn     The Care The Eagle Gives Her Young   VU269 (Tune: 625, I Feel the Winds..)

 Call to Worship
One: We are called to gather:
All:  To celebrate love
One:  To celebrate diversity
All:  To offer vulnerability
One:  To offer gratitude
All:  To share joy
One:  To share sorrow
All:  To experience respect
One:  To experience compassion
All:  We are called to gather as family,
And as family, we worship.
 
Opening Prayer
Nurturing God,
May this be a time of transformative Love.  May we commit to building a compassionate community, that challenges and encourages each other to be the best we can possibly best.  May it be so.
 
Hymn  Water Flowing from the Mountains                                    MV 87
Baptism **

Special Music – Roots & Wings
The Word:  Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
Brené Brown’s Parenting Manifesto
Our Manifesto

Hymn  River Running in You and Me                                               MV 163
Minute for Stewardship

Offering Invitation
The fires in Alberta have once again reminded us of all of our abundance.  Our M&S dollars will help Fort McMurray and many other places experiencing disaster.

Offering

Offertory  Ev’ry Day Is A Day of Thanksgiving                    MV 185

Offering Prayer
For these gifts and those given through PAR, we give thanks.  May they be a source of hope to those who need it most.  Amen.

Special Music   St. Luke’s Players – Sabbath Prayer

Prayers of the People & Prayer of Jesus

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing                  Amen                                                     MV 431
**Baptism Liturgy is from Celebrate God’s Presence unless otherwise stated.
In grateful response to God’s abundant love,
we bear in mind our integral connection
to the earth and one another;
we participate in God’s work of healing and mending creation.
To point to the presence of the holy in the world,
the church receives, consecrates, and shares
visible signs of the grace of God.
In company with the churches
of the Reformed and Methodist traditions,
we celebrate two sacraments as gifts of Christ:
baptism and holy communion.
In these sacraments the ordinary things of life
—water, bread, wine—
point beyond themselves to God and God’s love,
teaching us to be alert
to the sacred in the midst of life.

Before conscious thought or action on our part,
we are born into the brokenness of this world.
Before conscious thought or action on our part,
we are surrounded by God’s redeeming love.
Baptism by water in the name of the Holy Trinity
is the means by which we are received, at any age,
into the covenanted community of the church.
It is the ritual that signifies our rebirth in faith
and cleansing by the power of God.
Baptism signifies the nurturing, sustaining,
and transforming power of God’s love
and our grateful response to that grace.

Presentation of Candidates
On behalf of the congregation of St. Luke’s United Church,
I present the following person
for initiation into the body of Christ through baptism:
Branson Eli Roos, son of Jennifer & Wouter Roos, brother of Makenna Roos

Do you believe in God, Source of love;
in Jesus Christ, love incarnate;
and in the Holy Spirit, love’s power.
I do, by the grace of God.
 
Will you follow in the way of Jesus Christ,
resisting oppression and evil, seeking justice,
and witnessing to God’s love for all creation?
I will, God being my helper.
 
Will you join
with your brothers and sisters in this community of faith
to celebrate God’s presence, live with respect in creation,
and love and serve others?
I will, God being my helper.
 
Will you share your faith with Branson
growing with him in faith, hope, and love?
I will, God being my helper.

Each of us knows the need for support and care
as we share in a journey of faith.
As this family gathers around this font and this water,
symbols of belonging and community,
let us pledge our care for them.
All: We stand as witnesses to the commitment this family has made this day.
And we pledge ourselves to their support and care
as they discover the ways that the Spirit
unfolds for them
. (G Vosper)
 
Affirmation of Faith (taken from A Song of Faith)
Divine creation does not cease
   until all things have found wholeness, union, and integration
   with the common ground of all being.
As children of the Timeless One,
   our time-bound lives will find completion
   in the all-embracing Creator.
In the meantime, we embrace the present,
   embodying hope, loving our enemies,
   caring for the earth,
choosing life.
 
Grateful for God’s loving action,
   we cannot keep from singing.
Creating and seeking relationship,
   in awe and trust,
we witness to Holy Mystery who is Wholly Love.
 
Amen.
 
Pouring & Blessing the Water
Gracious and Holy God,
we bless you for the gift of life,
and, within it, the gift of water.
Over its unshaped promise your Spirit hovered at creation.
By water, comes the growth of the earth.
Through water, you led the children of Israel to freedom.
In the waters of the Jordan your Child Jesus was baptized.
Now may your Spirit be upon us and what we do,
that this water may be a sign for all of new life in Christ,
in whose name we pray.
Amen.
 
Branson, I baptize you
in the name of the Father, Mother, the Source of Love
and of the Son, the Christ, the Beloved One
and of the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, the Power of Love
Amen.
May the blessing of Love
be with you today and always.
Amen.
Branson, I mark you with the cross,
a sign of Love Incarnate.
Amen.
 
Laying On of Hands
Branson, may the Holy Spirit, Love’s power,
guide you, inspire you, and work within you,
all the days of your life.
Amen.
 
Presentation of Candle and Scarf
 
Congregational Welcome
All: By one Spirit, we are all baptized into one body.
We are children of the one God,
Mother and Father of us all.
We welcome you into the community of faith.

Blessing:   May God’s Sheltering Wings                           MV 214

Ephesians 2:19-22

May 1 2016

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Who’s Who in the Bible
Lydia
Word-Sunday.com
Feasting on the Word

Worship Outline:

Hymn   Come and Find the Quiet Centre                                  VU 374
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Centering and Candle Lighting
Hymn  We Are One                                                                             VU 402
 Call to Worship
Welcome to this sacred space.  May this be a time of recognizing The Holy resting in each other and ourselves. We have gathered to celebrate all that is Holy, to celebrate all that we have accomplished together, and to generate excitement for all that is to come.
Prayer of Approach
Sacred Spirit,
Enliven this gathering.  Open our minds and our hearts to passionate justice, grace-filled action and endless love. Amen.

Hymn  Spirit, Open My Heart                                                            MV 79

What does ‘Sacred’ mean?
The Word:  Acts 16:9–15
Anthem  – there is one and I forget the name.
Creating the Sacred

Hymn  Shall We Gather at the River?                                              VU 720
Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
We have abundance.  We are called to share what we can so that we can continue to work towards the kin-dom.
Offering                 Christ Has No Body Now But Yours                  MV 171
Offertory               What Does The Lord Require of You?              VU 701
Offering Prayer
Bless these gifts and those given through PAR.  May they inspire honest conversation, open minds, and actions filled with peace and justice.

Prayer Music         Jesus, You Fill Our Hearts                                   MV 101
Prayers of the People & Prayer of Jesus
Commissioning and Benediction
Musical Blessing  Amen MV 225

Creating a Sacred Space

Background for this particular community

The setting for Paul

Paul and his followers on the road

Paul and his followers have left their community.  They are actively recruiting for their new way of life.  Because the Christian community is so new, they don’t always have a hosting community.  They don’t always have a place to worship when Sunday comes around.

Somewhat hostile environment

Paul and his companions are in a somewhat hostile environment.  They lived in a time where being different was potentially a life or death situation.  They lived it a time where there were so many threats to existence that people needed community to survive.

The setting for Lydia

Rich woman

Lydia was a rich woman, a rarity it the patriarchal society.  She was a dealer in purple cloth, a career that would have likely had rocky beginnings, as making purple cloth was not exactly an ideal career.  Making purple cloth at the time involved soaking the material in urine, something that would have made the person “unclean”.  Lydia though, was the dealer and not in the purple cloth production.  That meant she was the person who dealt with the wealthy people who purchased the purple cloth.

Head of her household

We know that Lydia was the head of her household.  I suspect that she was somewhat charismatic, as this would not have been a title that some servants and many of her neighbours would have made difficult.  But faithful servants and family members who respected her would have given Lydia a special influence.

On the fringes of the Hebrew community

Lydia wasn’t exactly Hebrew when she met Paul.  She had been spending time with a particular Hebrew community, but it was not a community that she had been born into.

The setting for the contemporary house church

People looking for something different

A house church is a small group of people who gather regularly for spiritual purposes.  Lydia’s group of friends and family was a house church.  House churches have always existed, but seem to be making a comeback these past few years.  People are attracted to the unique opportunities that house churches provide.  People looking to create a house church are looking for an intimate connection with a group of people.  The relationships are the sacred in a house church, along with an opportunity to share openly and acceptance for the person as a whole.  People seeking a house church are looking for to embrace diversity.

People looking to leave behind red tape

Many people who seek out a house church are looking for something a little less formal, where red tape and rules don’t overshadow the needs of the members.  People who belong to a house church aren’t looking for a cookie-cutter experience, they’re looking for meaningful relationships.

People looking to create the sacred

Rather than having traditions once considered sacred dictate the parameters of their relationships, people seeking a house church are looking for meaningful actions, ancient and new, to outline how they celebrate the sacred.  People are looking identify what is sacred to them, rather than being told what is sacred.

Lydia’s Role in Creating the Sacred

As a business owner

The purple cloth

Being a wealthy business woman gave Lydia the privilege to be a trend setter.  Not only did Lydia have an inside track to the minds of the servants and family in her household, but she also would have had some sway with the community…like Devil wears Prada, but the boss is nicer.

Being able to afford her own home

Lydia’s home also helped her influence.  Without having a place to host such a gathering, they would have needed to convert someone else before being able to host a potential gathering.  Being the owner of her home, Lydia did not need to seek permission from anyone or any group in order to worship.

As a hostess

Making people feel comfortable

As a hostess, Lydia’s hospitality was crucial to the success of the newly formed community.  Lydia would have needed to have made each person feel like they were coming home, like they were important, like they belonged to the community.  She would have needed to have some small boundaries in place to establish respect for her home.

Diversity in the community

Lydia would have needed to welcome diversity, yet nurture a common goal or longing.  And if Lydia was really following The Way, she would have welcomed people into her home that normally, according to the social standards of the time, wouldn’t have been allowed to enter.

The importance of the sacred to Lydia’s community

Creating ritual creates community

Ritual as framework

The sacred rituals provided Lydia and the community framework to hold themselves accountable to each other and to living out the radical hospitality and abundant love that Jesus taught.  The open communion table, grace-filled baptism, and sacred prayers to celebrate love provided the parameters or lack of parameters for this community.  No matter how broken you were, you were still welcomed with love and acceptance.

Common experience builds bonds

This common experience of vulnerability and grace received helped the community to build strong bonds.  Did they stumble?  Of course they did.  It’s quite likely that at least one of the letters Paul wrote was addressed to this community.  But a few reminders from Paul about the common experience of all the followers of love and grace and their commitment to extend that same life changing experience to anyone who seeks it.

Allowing room to grow

When people feel welcomed and at home

The framework of acceptance practiced by the Christian community has continued to allow the communities to grow.  Over the years communities have slipped from time to time, but I have hope that eventually they will remember the call to unconditional love and acceptance.  When people feel welcomed and at home, they reciprocate creating a cycle of love and acceptance, hospitality and belonging.

When what they do feels meaningful

People stay in community when they feel not only welcomed and accepted, but when what they are doing feels meaningful, including what is held as sacred.

What is sacred in our community?

What does the United Church of Canada hold as sacred?

What can we let go of? What is no longer meaningful?

What do we need to look at with new eyes?

April 24 – Camping Sunday

No Sermon/Reflection today.  Here’s the outline for our “Camping Worship” (complete with s’mores!)

The More We Get Together         (Spirit of Singing #1)
Hallelu…Praise Ye the Lord           (Spirit of Singing #44)
Morning has Broken       (Voices United #409)
Lighting the Fire
Fire’s Burning                     (Spirit of Singing #65)
John 13:31-35
This is My Commandment           (Joyful Noise #131)
Jesus Loves Me                          (VU #365)
Felt Hearts
They’ll Know We Are Christians    (Spirit of Singing #112)
Imagine by John Lennon
Minute For Mission
Pass it On                                   (VU #289)
Passing the Plate & Blessing
It’s a-me, O Lord                       (Joyful Noise #75)
Kum ba yah                                (Joyful Noise #12)
Prayers of the People
Go Now in Peace                       (Spirit of Singing #140)

April 17 – Generational “Hymn Sing”

This isn’t really a hymn sing, but people generally got what I meant by it.  I did this last year (look in my “Archives” post) with a congregation of about 30.  This year I was in a congregation of approximately 80 people.

In the entry way I placed six glasses and a large container of glass beads.  As people came in, the were invited to place a bead in the glass that matched their age category.  The breakdown ended up being:

1901-1932 – 1 bead
1925-1942 – 14 beads
1943-1960 – 31 beads
1961-1981 – 16 beads
1982-2002 – 3 beads
2002-present – 12 beads

I arranged to have one person from each generation answer 3 questions.  As each generation was presented their glass of beads were placed on the communion table.

The following is my outline of worship (which includes the “coming of age” hymns of each generation) and my mini breakdown or summary of each generation and the three interview questions.  Much gratitude and appreciation to Debbie Coss, who not only inspired this idea with a talk on Generational Theory, but also kindly gave me her thesis to read and that’s where my summaries come from. Warning: This took 1.5 hours, even with people prepped to be interviewed.

Hymn   Make a Joyful Noise                                                         VU 820
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Singing Bowl and Christ Candle
Call to Worship (an adaption of Psalm 98)
One: Sing to GOD a brand-new song.
All: For the world is full of wonders!
One: God’s love has travelled with us over the generations
All: Even in the times we have chosen not to acknowledge this love. One: Even in the times when we couldn’t acknowledge God’s love. Because of this unending love, we sing!
All: Shout your praises to GOD, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
One: Round up an orchestra to play for GOD, Add on a hundred-voice choir.
All: Feature trumpets and big trombones, Fill the air with praises to GOD.
One: Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause, with everything living on earth joining in.
All: Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!” And mountains harmonize the finale—
One: Let us sing a new song, for with God’s Love anything is possible. All: With God’s Love we will work to build the kin-dom for ourselves and for future generations.

Opening Prayer
God your love has lasted throughout the generations.  We pray that this be a time of remembering, of learning and of building community.  Amen.

Generations (The Bible, The Theory, The Person)

The Prophets (born 1943-1960)  Roger Cooke
Hymn:  I am the Light of the World                                          VU 87 (v 3&4)

The Nomads (born 1961-1981) Jennifer MacLaughlin
Hymn: Draw the Circle Wide                                                      MV 145 (v1)

The Hero (born 1901-1932) Naaman Bush
Hymn:  Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah                              VU 651 (v1&2)

The Hero (born 1982-2002ish) Emily Harrison
Hymn:  Called by Earth and Sky                                             MV 135 (v1&4)

The Artists (born 1925-1942) Norman Hutt
Hymn:  Make Me a Channel of Your Peace                           VU 684 (v1)

The Artists (born 2002ish-present day) Meredith MacLachlin
Hymn:  I Can Feel You Near Me God                                       MV 48

Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
There are as many gifts as there are people.  Let’s celebrate in our gifts.
Offering
Offertory  There’s A New Day                                           reVolve Song Book
Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR be gifts to inspire throughout the ages.  Amen.

Prayer Music  Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying                   VU 400
Prayers of the People and the Prayer of Jesus

Hymn Oh A Song Must Rise      MV 142  (We ended up cutting out this one)
Commissioning and Benediction
Musical Blessing  Amen                                                               MV 225   

 William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of “The Fourth Turning” have set out generational theory in a way that I find very interesting.  They’ve paired up Bible stories with the 4 types of generations.  When comparing this to the current generations at work in the church, it’s easy to see why we sometimes feel like we’re having the same arguments over and over again.  While having the same arguments and problems over and over again can be frustrating, when I step back and look to see what the real problem is, I’m always relieved when I come to the conclusion that it is something as normal as a generational gap.

I’ve been wanting to talk generational theory here for a while.  Like many other personality indicator tests, it can help us to understand how we function as a large community of individuals.  Because we worship as a multi-generational community, studying generational theory is particularly helpful.

Before we begin, I should say that the lines between the generations are very fuzzy and blurry, with lots of people identifying with a generation outside of their birthday. Also each turn of the cycle produces different results.  While there are six different generations in our church, there are four different types.  Two of those types are similar sharing many characteristics, but they aren’t identical.  Each one plays out in it’s own way based on world and community events, as each generation has it’s own crisis or spiritual awakening during it’s formative years that shape the way the characteristics.  What was a positive characteristic in one generation can be a negative in another because of the particular crisis or awakening that influences it.   Also, in some ways, the older we get the more we begin to embody the different types of generations based on our engagement with life and world events.  Strauss & Howe are American and statistically speaking Canadian generations are just a few years behind, due to a late entrance into World War II.

 

The Prophets (Moses, Idealist, The Boom Generation (born 1943-1960) God is Truth

The Prophets are the generation of people who impose a moral conscience on those around them. Like Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Because of their sheer volume in number they have been imprinting our culture and spirituality since their birth. By 2040 one in four people in the Western world will be over the age of 65.  It is this generation that changed the role of women and sexuality in society.  No matter what side they take on an issue, Prophets speak with passion, commitment and they “know” they are right.  Because of their passion and conviction…and probably because they “know” they are right, many Prophets consider themselves moral care takers.  Because they are the moral care takers, they are constantly seeking the true – the right.  For Prophets, God is Truth.

Roger Cooke is a member of The Prophets.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

I wanted to ask ‘Who or what is god for you?’, but when I ask that sort of question people don’t usually answer, so my third question is What is important about church to you?

Let’s sing the coming of age hymn for the Boomers: I am the Light of the World      VU 87 (v 3&4)

 

The Nomads (the Golden Calf, Reactive, Generation X (born 1961-1981) God is Community

The Nomads are the generation that felt there were things more important than God.  They were the people who roamed in the wilderness for a whole generation worshiping a golden calf.  These are the first latch key kids, both parents had to work.  These are the children of the first wave of divorces when the terms “single mother” and “dead beat dad” were coined as well as the idea of the television being the baby-sitter.  Families were smaller, and because so many children spent so much time along, friendships became very important and often took the place of family.  Gen Xers are looking for community, and not just any community.  They are looking for a community where they belong.    As newly divorced parents became alienated from some churches, The Nomads turned their backs on the church and the people who did not support them when they felt they needed it most.  For this generation, God is found in an accepting and supportive community.  The Nomads feel they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.  They’ve learned to depend on themselves for their successes and their failures. This generation is the generation that experienced major cut-backs. If they have a future, they will build it.  The Nomads may not seem to care, but it’s actually just a tough shell, if you can’t get in, you can’t hurt them.  So The Nomads stand on the edge of the promised land.  They can lead, but they cannot enter.

Jennifer MacLachlin is a gen xer.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

This hymn sums up typical spiritual desires of the Nomads.  Draw the Circle Wide     MV 145 (v1)

 

This is where things get complicated.  For the 34 years, we’re been dealing with a phenomenon that hadn’t existed in the Western church before.  Previously, there had been 1-3 generation types in congregations.  Now with life expectancy being what it is we have 4 generations, and then a 5th that starts the generational cycle repeating itself, but with different life events shaping it’s outcome.

The Hero (Joshua, Civic, The GI Generation, (born 1901-1932) God is Power

The Hero generation leads the people out of their crisis in the wilderness and into the Promised Land.  The story of Joshua leading the people represents this generation.  This is the generation that became commuters.  After the war, those that came home created a stable economy, bought cars and houses and because of the stable economy, were able to have one parent at home with the 2.4 children.  Because of their “can-do” attitude, they have worked to create many systems to look after themselves and those who come after them.  They will do anything they can do to maintain them.  For this generation, God is power.  The crisis that shaped this generation was the Depression and World War II.  It’s important to note that this is the most homogenous generation.

Namaan Bush is part of the GI or the Hero generation.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

Let’s sing about Naaman’s Generation   Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah          VU 651 (v1&2)

 

The Millennials (1982-2002ish)

The Millennials are still being studied, as a number of them are just reaching adulthood.  These are the children who grew up understanding the words ‘internet’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘global warming’.  These are the children who, I suspect, will save the earth.  They will be the ones to forge a new, diverse society, as their generation is the most diverse yet.   I suspect that this generation will put a slight twist on the understanding of God as power…I suspect that many of them will find God with justice.

Emily Harrison is a Millennial.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

Let’s sing a Hero song for the Millennials Called by Earth and Sky       MV 135 (v1&4)

The Artist (Judges, Adaptive, The Silent Generation, (born 1925-1942) God is Love

The Artist generation can see the bigger picture.  They are the ones who nurture what the heros were able to do into something even bigger.  This generation is represented in the Bible by the Judges.  The people who managed the conflict of the day.  They also tend to be the mediators between two vocal, and sometimes opposing, generations.  These are the children of the depression, whose parents wanted more for them than they could possibly provide.  They took the nuclear family situation seriously, and were the youngest generation to marry.  They became part of the helping professions and were responsible for the explosion of public interest advocacy groups during the 70s.  Because of their intimate knowledge of the outcomes of war, The Artists see God as Love or Peace.

Norman Hutt is of the Artists.

What is a major world event from your teen years?

What was a major church event from your teen years?

What is important about church for you?

This hymn is a hymn of Peace Make Me a Channel of Your Peace      VU 684 (v1)

 

The Unnamed Generation (born 2002ish-present)

This generation is still being formed – they are still being born.  Because of the generations cycle, we do know that they will be people who are creative mediators.  This is the generation that will solve conflict and act with love.

Meredith MacLaughlin is part of this yet to be named generation.

What is something that’s happened in the world?

What’s something that’s happened at church?

Why is church important to you?

Let’s sing for Meredith’s generation I Can Feel You Near Me God                         MV 48

            

April 10 – Stations of the Ressurection

Nothing new written by me.  It was an amazing Sunday though.  We will most definitely be using Si Smith’s “Raised in Leeds” and Ian Adams’ “Stations of the Resurrection” You can purchase them here.

Lots of other churches have enjoyed the images and reflections that Smith and Adams have created:

Stations of the Resurrection by Si Smith – at Pudsey Parish Church

Jonny Baker

The People’s Table

Grace Space

Stations of the Resurrection

Standing Still in a Moving Place

 

Archive – the stuff from my old site

Links of Interest:

Spong’s thoughts on Easter –http://www.beliefnet.com/search/site.aspx?q=Spong Easter

http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2001/04/The-Easter-Moment-Drawing-Conclusions.aspx

http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2001/04/Resurrection-Myth-Or-Reality.aspx?p=5

http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2001/03/The-Easter-Moment-What-Really-Happened.aspx

The Gospel Parallels (Includes the Gospel of Thomas) – http://sites.utoronto.ca/religion/synopsis/

Huffington Post (Why Our Bodies Matter) – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-carey/john-20-19-31-why-our-bodies-matter_b_3009374.html?

The Listening Hermit – http://thelisteninghermit.com/2012/04/11/come-out-come-out-whoever-you-are-easter-2b/

Rachael Held Evans (Why You Can’t Just Have More Faith) –http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/702/why-cant-you-just-have-more-faith

Working Preacher – http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2808

http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4576

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1991

http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3186

http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3580

Patheos – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/biteintheapple/doubt-the-demon-and-the-angel-of-easter/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson/2013/04/the-unexpected-faith-of-doubting-thomas/

http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Jesus-Cant-Be-Locked-Out-Alyce-McKenzie-04-10-2012?offset=1&max=1

The Hardest Question – http://thq.wearesparkhouse.org/yeara/easter2gospel/

God Is Love – https://youtu.be/-WybvhRu9KU

Prayers:

Offering Invitation

Spring is upon us. New growth will soon be sprouting. Consider your gifts today to be seeds, ready to grow into the kindom.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts and those given through PAR be used to encourage new growth in the realm of God here on earth. Amen.

 

Seeing is Believing?

On Tuesday morning, my niece was wondering where everyone was. My parents spent the weekend with my sister’s family and the rest of us were popping in and out all weekend. My sister told Ashlynn that everyone had gone home. Ashlynn suggested that they could call one of us. My sister said “Easter’s over, everyone is back to work.” Ashlynn was totally confused. She asked “Easter is over??”

My response was that my niece wasn’t wrong, Easter wasn’t over at all. Technically the season of Easter lasts for six weeks, but even more important than that is that Easter isn’t so much about hunting Easter Eggs and getting chocolate treats. It’s also not about what happened after the body was taken down from the cross. Easter was and still is about the spiritual awakening that happened and continues to happen because of this event. Thomas’ story is perfect to explain this.

Who is Thomas?

Thomas the disciple

Thomas is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts, but really only in the list of the disciples. The book of John is really where we hear about Thomas’ story.

Accompanied Jesus back to Lazarus

Thomas was a loyal disciple to Jesus. He’s mentioned a few times, but specifically by name in the book of John. He was the person who was always pushing Jesus. For example, the Lazarus story wouldn’t have been the same without Thomas. Thomas was the one who pushed Jesus to go back to the family when Lazarus died, even though it wasn’t convenient or safe to do so.

Pressed Jesus to explain what he was saying

Thomas was the disciple who was honest with Jesus. He was the one who said “I don’t understand what you are getting at,” when Jesus was talking about his death in the Upper Room. It was Thomas’ questioning that prompted the famous “If you really knew me, you would know God.”

On the beach as well

We heard about Thomas’ experience with the risen Christ a week after that first Easter day, and Thomas was also present on the beach that day with the miraculous catch of fish.

Thomas friend of Jesus

Pushing Jesus for understanding

Thomas is crucial to my own understanding of Jesus’ ministry, as he did not hesitate to tell Jesus that he didn’t understand and to keep pushing until he did understand. Even Thomas’ initial reaction to the resurrection was to question. Unfortunately for Thomas, instead of becoming known ask “the asker of the hard questions” or “truth seeker”, Thomas became “doubting Thomas”.

My Lord and My God

Thomas’ understanding of the duality of Jesus is also helpful. It’s like Thomas is looking at one of those optical illusions, where if you focus on it from one angle you see one thing, and from the opposite angle another. It’s as if by touching Jesus, his rebel leader, Thomas has found an angle where he can see both the rebel leader and the spiritual companion reminding him that there is something bigger at play.

Gospel of Thomas

Thomas’ relationship with Jesus was a little bit different though. Jesus was more than his leader and spiritual companion. You may or may not know this, and here is where I get a little bit academic on you, but there is a gospel that is attributed to Thomas. The Gospel according to Thomas is a collection of the sayings of Jesus. It was influential in the writings of both Matthew and Luke. But Thomas’ own interactions, his own story isn’t recorded in the Gospel of Thomas. With the advance and access to the internet, the Gospel of Thomas is easier to access than ever before. Personally, I like to read it parallel to another gospel. Check my website later today for a link to it.

Thomas the doubter

The difference between doubting and asking how

Thomas’ story is important. He doesn’t just follow suit. Thomas has to work for his spiritual awakening. Thomas needed more than just the words of others. He couldn’t do the work without having his own spiritual awakening. This is important. We can’t authentically do the work without a spiritual awakening ourselves. Weather you believe in “the miracle” or “the metaphor” is not important. What’s important is the belief that the teachings of Jesus, the hope and the empowerment he offered are more important than anything else. The spiritual awakening happens when you understand how the hope and the empowerment are at work in your own life.

The benefits of Thomas’ doubt

Thomas’ questioning about the facts of what happened and his subsequent revelation “my Lord and my God” or “my rebel leader and my spiritual companion” is the moment of awakening for Thomas. He looked at the facts, and came to the conclusion that all that had happened prior to Jesus’ body coming down off the cross was far more important than how the story ended. How many other stories have you heard or told where the hero or the heroine went through something really hard with a major life lesson attached only to end the story with “and they all lived happily ever after. The End.” We know it wasn’t the end. And any of us who are living in reality realize that happy endings only happen because you continuously work at them. The spiritual awakening helps us to realize that happy endings, even though they are hard work are still possible. Thomas questioning things was hard work, but he realized that a happy ending was still possible.

What about this resurrection?

What the resurrection meant to the disciples

The disciples all, except poor Judas, had their own spiritual awakenings. They each happened at different times, in different ways. But they all seemed to include hope for happy endings, empowerment to do the work required for a happy ending, and reassurance that they were the right people to do the job at that point in time. So they worked for it. They shared the journey of their spiritual awakening.

What the resurrection meant to society

Society heard the story. They saw this group of people, who had been through such hardship. They saw that these people were happy and they were bringing happiness to others. They saw that it was hard work, but they saw that it was worth it. Working for a meaningful purpose doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s a way of life and you are happy to do it. People saw the disciples, happy with their meaningful way of life. People wanted that. People still want that.

Thomas’ gifts to the church now?

The legacy

It’s a lot harder than it used to be. I think for a while people forgot the importance of having their own spiritual awakenings, or perhaps that part of things was glossed over and attempted to be covered up by someone who felt their power would be threatened by free thinkers. But including such stories as the story of Thomas and his open questioning makes it impossible to cover up, even when he’s nicknamed “Doubting Thomas”. That one backfired.

Freedom to Question

Spiritual awakening won’t happen until you question with a goal to understand. It wasn’t until my last year of school that I began to get it. Seven years of theology training my time of awakening didn’t sink in until two years after that. It’s not over. It will never be over – that’s part of the awakening, realizing that it’s an on-going experience. But I have learned that questioning things is part of the experience. Truly understanding the purpose of what we are doing is crucial.

Faith

Ashlynn, with her little two-year-old desire to understand, gets it. Easter isn’t over. It’s about understanding the point of the story and the way it functions in your life. Easter is about your spiritual awakening and what you need to do to start or continue it. Amen.

Easter Sunday

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse Easter Morning 2016

Links of Interest:

Rachel Held Evans (Holy Week for Doubters) –http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/holy-week-for-doubters

Patheos (Nadia Bolz Webber) –http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2015/03/not-sure-if-you-want-to-go-to-holy-week-services/

Huffington Post (Barbara Brown Taylor) –http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-brown-taylor/learning-to-wait-in-the-dark_b_5175191.html

Huffington Post (John Domnic Crossan) – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dominic-crossan/the-communal-resurrection-jesus_b_847507.html

The Work of the People (Brené Brown) – http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/the-reckoning-rumble-and-revolution

 

Prayers:

One: This is the day!

All: This is the day we celebrate new life!

One: New life, new hope, new beginnings all around us.

All: This is the day!

 

Offering Invitation

To quote Ann Weems “What Jesus told the disciples and us is: An extravagance of the heart is a fine and beautiful thing.”

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts and those given through PAR represent our open and extravagant hearts, O God. Amen.

 

Commissioning and Benediction

One: Go and seize the day! New beginnings abound!

Find moments of hope among the signs of new life.

All: May the Holy One surprise us along the way. Amen.

 

Who are you looking for?

Small children unsure of who they are looking for

I have a large family. My generation is really the first generation to move away from the community where we all grew up. Even though we’ve all spread out, it’s quite common for any of us who are near to each other to gather, at some point over the holidays. This weekend we all gathered at my sister’s. So there was my sister, her spouse, her daughter and her in-laws, my other sister and her spouse were there, so were my parents, one of my cousin’s and her son, my aunt and uncle and their three kids, plus Bob and I, his parents and our dogs. 20 people, 2 dogs and a cat. My sisters look a lot like me. At one point one of the littler ones was trying to get himself something to drink – he knew he was supposed to find the sister whose house he was at, but he couldn’t remember which one of us he was looking for! Someone asked him who he was looking for and he said “I’m looking for…for…for…Ashlynn’s mom!” How often have you had that experience? Knowing who you are looking for, but not knowing?

Sometimes the person you are looking for doesn’t turn out to be the person you thought you were looking for

How often have you found the person you are looking for and it turns out to be the wrong person? I hate being in the grocery store absentmindedly talking to Bob only to find out that’s not really him! My leg has been hugged many times by little arms, mistaking my legs for someone else’s. When I worked for the YMCA, kids often called me “mom” by accident, especially if they were concentrating particularly hard.

The goldilocks syndrome

Then there are those times when you are looking for something very specific, and you just can’t seem to find it. Nothing quite fits right. Some people call it the “Goldilocks Syndrome” – I call it having the munchies! It’s just not filling the spot that needs to be filled. Church can be like that too.

Looking for something in a church

There are a couple of Goldilocks moments for people in church: there are the people who haven’t found a church home – they may have moved, or reorganized or reprioritized their lives in such a way that they need to find a new spiritual home. So they spent a few Sundays “church shopping”, looking for the church with the right balance they are searching for. They will settle in somewhere, after a bit.

Looking for the past

Then there are the people who are looking for a church that still works the way it used to. They are the people who say things like “There used to be 50 kids in Sunday School until something happened.” Or “If we went back to the basics, Sunday’s we’d be full!” It doesn’t seem to matter what the church does, “It’s not like it used to be.”

Looking for the future

And then there are people who are looking for anything that’s different. If it’s different, they’ll try it. They are the people who like to worship outside, or in circles, or use discussions instead of sermons.

All of these people are looking for some different from what they are currently experiencing. Some of them will find the right place for them, some of them will find the right place for them right now. Others will always be looking.

The women at the tomb

The women who first went to the tomb that morning were looking for something. They thought they were looking for their leader, the one that they loved. They thought they were going to finish the rituals that their faith prescribed to the end of a life. They thought they were going to say good bye.

Looking for their leader

The women were looking for their leader, someone they trusted, that they could rely on to help them through their sticky situations. Even in his death though, Jesus didn’t offer the women the easy way out. He couldn’t. They would have given up hope and Jesus couldn’t let all the work he had done to empower the people be undone by their loss of hope.

Looking for closure

The women were also looking for closure. A fair request, by most standards. But sometimes closure the conclusion of Jesus’ story would have meant the end of hope for them. Hope doesn’t just end, it’s ongoing, and we continue to be part of growing it. Stop searching for the end of the story, because you are in it. In fact, you are now the star.

What are you searching for?

What are you searching for? Where do you find your hope? Who is starring in your story? Who are you searching for?

 

 

March 20, 2016

Shouting Rock Photo Credit: Peter Oleskevich Photography

Biblography/Links of Interest:

Hosanna, Jesus Christ, Superstar, 2000 –https://youtu.be/o8nGQSo9a2Y (I like this particular one because of Jesus and Judas’ reactions when the crowd asks him to fight for them.)

Do You Hear the People Sing, Les Miserables, 2012 –https://youtu.be/47E2tfK5QAg

Dancing With the Word, “The Donkey: The Subversive Choice” –http://words.dancingwiththeword.com/2016/03/the-donkey-subversive-choice.html

Sojourners, “Jesus Was a Protestor” –https://sojo.net/articles/jesus-was-protester

Canada AM, “Are Protests Becoming Irrelevant?” – http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=829612&playlistId=1.2819380&binId=1.815911&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1

Micah White, “The Challenge of Protest” – https://www.micahmwhite.com/the-challenge-of-protest/

Open Parliament – https://openparliament.ca/debates/2016/2/18/tony-clement-1/?page=2

Moderator Jordan Cantwell’s Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau – http://www.united-church.ca/news/moderator-upholding-democratic-rights

Rex Hunt Liturgies –http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/year_c_liturgy_collection/year_c_liturgies_-_lenteast/palmc2032016.html

Ralph Milton, “Living God’s Way” or “Family Story Bible” –http://www.woodlakebooks.com/search/results/inventory/Whole-People-of-God/Bestsellers-Recommended-Titles/The-Family-Story-Bible

 

Prayers:

Opening (From “Living God’s Way” and Rex Hunt Liturgies, adapted)

Gong is sounded, Christ Candle is lit.

Voice 1: “Have you heard about Jesus?”

Voice 2: “Have you heard about the things he says and does?”

Voice 3: “Everybody knows Jesus!”

Voice 4: Jesus was becoming very famous. Some people began to wonder,

Voice 1: “Is Jesus the Messiah?”

Voice 2: “Is this the one God promised?”

Voice 4: Many people thought the Messiah would be like an army general.

Voice 3: The Messiah would gather soldiers and fight the Romans.

Voice 4: The Messiah would kill the people they didn’t like.

Voice 1: Some of Jesus’ disciples, like Peter, were sure Jesus was the Messiah.

Voice 2: But even Peter sometimes thought the Messiah would be an army general.

Voice 3: Because Jesus was famous, crowds of people came to see him wherever he went. So Jesus decided to show the people something important.

Voice 4: “I am going to go into Jerusalem, I want you to get me a donkey, so I can ride it into the city.”

Voice 1: “A donkey? Why not a big, strong horse?”

Voice 4: “No, a donkey. A small, young donkey. I don’t want to go into Jerusalem like a general on a horse. I don’t want to fight. If I ride on a donkey, people will know that I am coming to bring peace.”

Voice 2: The crowds gathered on both sides of the road when they heard Jesus was coming. Voice 3: They cheered and shouted as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Some of them threw down their coats so the donkey could walk on something soft.

Voice 2: Others cut down some branches from trees for the donkey to walk on.

Voice 1: “Hosanna! Hosanna!”

Voice 3: Hosanna means “Save us now.”

Voice 2: Jesus didn’t like that.

Voice 4: “They still think I’m going to be a general. They think I’ve come to fight the Romans.” Voice 1: Most of the rulers didn’t understand Jesus either.

Voice 2: They thought the Messiah had to be a general who would fight people.

Voice 3: They didn’t understand what Jesus was trying to show them, when he rode into the city on a donkey.

Voice 2: When the rulers heard the people shout “Hosanna! Save us now!”, they began to feel afraid.

Voice 3: “If Jesus is going to be the Messiah, then he will be the ruler instead of us.”, thought the rulers.

Voice 1: “Jesus, tell your people to be quiet!”

Voice 3: “Order them to stop shouting!”

Voice 4: “Even if the people were silent, the stone themselves would start to sing and shout.”

 

Silence

The gong is sounded, first candle is lit

 

Voice 1: Jesus dared to live God’s way

in the midst of all the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of life.

We too are called to proclaim our faith faithfully

by the way we live, and treat one another.

Silence

The gong is sounded a second time, second candle is lit.

 

Voice 2: Jesus wanted his disciples to live passionate,

justice seeking, God centred lives.

Silence

The gong is sounded a third time, third candle is lit

 

Voice 3: Jesus, as human face of God, shared his whole life

that others might sense the new signs of hope

in their everyday lives.

Silence

The gong is sounded a fourth time, fourth candle is lit

 

Voice 4: Jesus answered the people’s cry in a most unusual way: He empowered them to save themselves.

Silence

The gong is sounded a fifth time, fifth candle is lit

 

Voice 2: Can you hear the people sing? Can you hear the rocks and stones shouting and singing?

Silence

The gong is sounded a sixth time, sixth candle is lit

 

Voice 1:The light waits –

Voice 2: Who will keep the light burning in our day?

Voice 3: Who will take the light into the world?

Voice 4: Who will carry the light into a new year?

All: Who will carry the light in this our city,

if we do not? What shall I do with these hands of mine?

 

Invitation

The offering is a time for reflection. It is a time to consider the gifts you can offer and the impact they will have on others. It is a time to celebrate gifts that have impacted you.

Offering Prayer

May these gifts and those given through PAR offer us the opportunity to answer “Hosanna”. Amen.

 

Hosanna

Palm Sunday

Setting the scene

Let’s take a moment and reset the scene…The people are gathered just outside the city. They are not the wealthy people and they have no power. They come from many different backgrounds, but they all face the same oppressor: the chief priests and officials.

The meaning of the word Hosanna & the donkey

The people were shouting “save us!” They were begging to be freed from the oppressive nature of the chief priests and officials. They were begging for an end to the indentured service they faced as Hebrew people, and as people who didn’t necessarily fit the ideals of the people in control. They were begging to be saved because they were desperate. They wanted the leaders to be overthrown. They were so desperate, that they were begging a man on a donkey to save them.

The donkey was an interesting choice. Perhaps it was all that was available, perhaps it was all they could afford. Perhaps they really believed in budgeting and that’s what was budgeted. Or perhaps it was a specifically chosen symbol. Perhaps Jesus was trying his best to be honest with the people. He had no intention of battling anyone in any physical way. The people were expecting miraculous things of him and he rode in on a donkey. If he’d gone in on a horse, that would have only intensified their expectations.

The social situation of the time

The social situation at the time was not terribly different from our social situation. The rich were very rich, and the poor were very poor. The privileged people had no intention of sharing their privilege and used their power to keep things that way.

The Occupy Movement

The meaning of the word Protest

We’ve been hearing of lots of protests in the last number of years. We are, after all, standing on the edge of a social revolution. A protest now in this era is not a pleading cry for help. It is a step up and a step out of line, a line that is unfair, unjust, unmoral, or one of many other reasons. Many protests now go one of two routes: either the peaceful root that is eventually busted up by government or the more violent route which is inevitably ended with jail time.

Parallels between Palm Sunday and the Occupy Movement

I saw an interesting interview on Canada AM on Wednesday morning with Dr. Micah White. He wrote “The End of Protest” and was one of the instigators of the Occupy Movement. Remember the Occupy Movement? It was one of the biggest world-wide protests ever. It was well justified too. Whatever came of it? You never heard? That’s because nothing came of it. When asked if he was ok with the fact that the Occupy Movement failed, Micah replied “We’ve been overthrowing kings and tyrants for thousands of years. Occupy was just another episode in that long storyline of uprisings. There will be another one. At the same time, there will only be able to be another one if we’re able to let go of our nostalgia for the past. We have to let go of Occupy in order to create another Occupy.”

Palm Sunday and the Occupy Movement are similar in many ways. Both were ground swell movements that made their way around the world. Palm Sunday and Occupy were both movements to free people from oppression: Palm Sunday was more of a release from social oppression and Occupy was more of a release from economic oppression. Both protested systemic oppression. Both Occupy and Palm Sunday ended far differently than their participants expected. In both cases, those in control kept doing what they were doing. At the same time, I think it’s also true that the people who protested in both cases were also profoundly changed.

Even though Occupy wasn’t “successful” in the traditional sense, Micah himself, had some major learnings. He was able to see some of the theory he had been studying play out, and gave him perspective on revolution in general.

Micah says there are four theories of revolution that need to be in balance before real change can happen: “one theory of revolution is called voluntarism. This is the belief that the actions of humans create social change. Another perspective is structuralism. This means that economic forces, outside of human control, such as food prices, cause revolution. The third perspective is that revolutions are an inner process inside of the individual only; this is called subjectivism. In this perspective, revolutions are actually a change of mind and we just need to meditate and change our perspective on reality. How we see reality actually changes and that becomes a revolutionary shift. The fourth is that revolution is a supernatural process that doesn’t involve humans at all. This is known as theurgism; it’s the idea that revolution is a divine intervention.” Micah also suggests that until we are able to structure ourselves to compete with those we are protesting to, any change we are able to inspire will be minimum at best. This is where I think the Christian movement differed from the Occupy Movement. The Christian church or churches became the structure that competed with the oppressor. It’s also where I think we are still relevant: the church’s origin rests in a movement meant to bring justice and free oppressed people. We are still called to do this.

Moving forward

Setting the current scene

Economically, we’re not in a terribly different situation than we were at the beginning of the Occupy Movement. We are in a different political situation though, and hopefully, we’re all in a bit more aware of how our individual actions impact the lives of others. Yes, things are still desperate, but we are no longer begging for help. We will work to change what we can, and change our perspective on what we can’t change. The rest we need to leave it up to Love.

The Moderator Letter to the Prime Minister

Last week Ruth Ann spoke about the moderator’s call to action. Today, we’ve heard the letter. The decision on the subject of the letter has been decided, and it didn’t go the way the Moderator had hoped for. Unfortunately, the MP for this area Bernadette Jordan, voted for the bill – even though the MPs talked about both sides of the issue: the rights to protest and the effects that protesting can have on the wider public. There is no clear cut answer here. Yes and No: neither are good options here. Doing nothing isn’t an option either. While I hate leaving things unfinished, sometimes, like Palm Sunday, things can’t really be finished. All we can do is talk about it and figure out what we’ve learned from the situation, even though it remains unresolved and work on balancing the four types of revolution. So whatever it is you are needing to protest, figure out what you can do to help others, educate yourself and others on the structures that are keeping the situation unjust, find your way to your own personal transformation, and then look for the divine intervention – the love in the situation. What are you protesting? What are the stakes involved? What are you doing to help others? How have you been personally transformed? Where is the Love in the situation? Amen.

March 13, 2016

Links of interest:

“Becoming an Ally” by Anne Bishop –https://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/becoming-an-ally

“White Privilege and the Deadly Effect of Silence” on Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-louden/white-privilege-and-the-deadly-effect-of-silence_b_7222776.html

Walter Bruggeman – http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/an-alternative-way

“Addicted to Control” –http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/addicted-to-control

“Power With” – http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/power-with

Affluenza Teen – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethan_Couch

Romani People – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_people

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gypped

Equality & Justice Cartoon – http://asdfdsdafsafasf.blogspot.ca/2014/02/week-22.html

 

Prayers:

One: What shall I do with these hands of mine?

All: The world could use a hero of the human kind.

One: We are heroes each time we challenge privilege.

All: May this light remind these hands to use my power and privilege to bring justice to others.

 

Invitation

It is our privilege to have gifts to give. It is our power that we choose to give them. We thank you for sharing your privilege with us.

 

Offering Prayer

For these gifts, those given through PAR and all our gifts of privilege we give thanks.

 

Power, Privilege, & Justice

Learning about power, privilege and justice was life changing for me. It wasn’t until I began to understand the power and privilege that I have, that I finally began to understand why sometimes I feel quite confident and other times I work up the courage to walk into a room. I love talking about power and privilege in churches for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Church is a place where situations of power and privilege often play out. Sometimes, when we are unhappy with decisions, without even thinking about it we use our power or privilege to get our way. Churches also hold a lot of power and privilege in society, which I’ll get to a little later. The biggest reason I enjoy talking about power and privilege in churches is that the Bible is filled with instances where power or privilege is being challenged, in fact, those are the stories that I love the most. And technically, this has two parts. I can’t do Palm Sunday without power and privilege!

What is Power?

Power is the ability to influence the way another person or group of people act or think. Power over is when someone uses their power for their own personal benefit. Power with is which someone encourages a group of people to work together for the common good.

Who has Power in our society?

Lots of different people have power in our society. Politicians have power with the laws they write. Celebrities have power through their access to media, and their innate ability to persuade and influence people which is the reasons they are celebrities in the first place. Teachers have power when it comes to our children. Doctors have power when it comes to their patients. But money talks in our society, and if you have the money, money can trump most of the other power makers.

Who has Power in the Bible passage?

In our Bible passage, determining who has the power, is interesting. Let’s start with Lazarus’ family. Lazarus was the “head of the household”. Obviously, he had the power in that house. Martha did all of the serving, indicating her lack of power. Mary’s ability to buy anything, let alone expensive perfume, indicates that she likely had a decent amount of power compared to many of the women that might have been present. Judas had enough power that he was in control of the common purse, but not so much as he could influence the actions of Mary. The chief priests had lots of power, but were obviously concerned that Jesus and Lazarus were threatening that power. In this particular passage, Jesus had the most power. He was the recipient of the gift, the teacher and the leader of the group. In society in general though, Jesus’ power would have been limited by his status as a person of Hebrew faith. So it is a testament to his natural ability to influence people and especially the power of the message Jesus was sharing that the chief priests, the people who held the most power at the time, were worried about the threat to their power.

What Power does the Church have?

Because of the way Canadian society evolved, various faith traditions have always held power in our country. As the United Church of Canada, we have the unique power of having actually been the national church. Even if we wield no actual political power, we still do have a decent amount of influence. We are recognized as part of the root system for the NDP party, and often our collective stance as a church, paired with well written letters and proposals can actually affect government policy. A few years ago, the Maritime Conference Church in Action committee, spear headed by a Cape Breton minister’s spouse, lobbied the Nova Scotia government and were actually able to influence policies around children in care.

How can we challenge Power?

A few years ago, the Church focused a lot on empire and its place in not only our national history, but also our church history. I learned a lot about myself during that time. I was somewhat embarrassed to realize that many of the privileges I took for granted were actually more like assumptions I made because of the empirical founding of our country. Don’t get me wrong, some of these things are good things, like free health care and access to education, but while we in Canada have access to this, not everyone does. We live in a first world country, and with that comes a certain power with the standards we set. It might be something like a staple food received at the foodbank would be Kraft Dinner or Pork and Beans. Did you know that most if not all of the Syrian refugees we are welcoming will need to use the foodbank while they learn enough English and the proper paper work is processed so they can work? Many of the refugees are Muslim, which means according to their religion, they can’t eat the pork and beans due to the pork. Because Kraft Dinner is a North American phenome, many of the refugees from Syria likely won’t have tasted Kraft Dinner before. If no one in their house reads English, how are they even going to know how to make it? Making ourselves aware of our assumptions is the only way that we can challenge power. Please consider donating lentils this month to the foodbank.

What is Privilege?

Privilege is a benefit that you have that not everyone else has. Contrary to popular belief, not all privileges can be earned. Some are born to you: your race, your culture, your sexuality, your gender to name a few. It’s the privileges that are born to us that are the most dangerous. They are also the privileges that can accidently cause us to hold onto power without meaning to. Privileges are hard to give up. Very hard. Some are impossible, like skin colour or birth gender.

Who has Privilege in our society?

We, as Canadians living in Canada, are privileged. Being United Church of Canada members living in Canada, we are privileged. Having University degrees, permanent employment or even RRSPs are privileges. Probably the best example of privilege, especially misused privilege is the case of the affluenza teen in the US, who actually thought that being white, male and wealthy put him above the law. If you watch CBC, Alexa on $hidt’s Creek is an excellent example of privilege mis-used.

Who has Privilege in the Bible passage?

All of the males in our passage have privilege in our passage today, especially the chief priests. Judas also has an extra bit of privilege in his keeping the common purse. Mary seems to have some economic privileges, as she is able to buy expensive perfume, and Jesus has the privilege of the perfume being used on him.

What Privilege does the Church have?

The Church continues to have privilege. We still have respect and influence from many. We have been and still continue to challenge the larger society for social change. The church isn’t perfect. We all enjoy our privileges. The United Church as a whole, is a mostly white, middle to upper class church. But without those privileges, would we have been able to be the first protestant denomination in Canada to ordain a woman? To ordain people who were open about not being heterosexual?

How can we share our Privilege?

Not only are we as a church bound by our beliefs to use our privilege to bring justice for those in need, but we are also bound by our faith, to use our own personal privilege to bring justice to those who need it, whenever we see it. Perhaps its choosing to buy fruits grown on farms where the workers are paid a fair wage and given the proper equipment to protect themselves from pesticides, if they are used. Perhaps it’s by using your right to vote the next time it comes around. Or perhaps it’s something more difficult like changing language. I’ll give an example. Have you ever been “gyped” by someone? Did you realize that the term “gyped” is a derogatory term? It refers to the stereotype (and I apologize for this word) that gypsies or the more politically correct term Romani people often steal or cheat. Even changing our language can make a difference.

What is Justice?

I’ve talked a lot about justice today without really explaining what justice is. There’s been a meme floating around on the internet for a while that not only explains justice but the difference between justice and equality.

The difference between equality and justice

In the picture titled “equality” each of the children of varying heights is standing on an equal sized box, looking over a fence at a ball game. One child can see easily, the second child can see, but the third child can’t. The second picture is titled “justice”. The same children are looking over the same fence. This time one child isn’t standing on a box, but can see over the fence. The second child is standing on one box, and can see over the fence. The third child can finally see over the fence because the child is standing on two boxes. Equality is about treating people equally. Justice is about giving each person the tools they need to do the same thing as everyone else.

Who works for Justice in our society?

Justice workers in our society tend to be people working in the non-profit sector. People who feel called to help others.

Who is working for Justice in the Bible passage?

Justice in the Bible passage, is a little harder to see. One could say that Mary was working towards justice in her offering of the perfume to Jesus. One could also argue that somewhere along the lines a writer, who was not the original writer of John inserted the comments about Judas stealing from the common purse. The comments don’t add anything to the story, they just influence the reader against Judas. It’s hearsay evidence at this point. If you take out the accusations made against Judas, he’s working at changing the system at all costs, even his own personal costs.

How does the United Church work for Justice?

We work for justice a lot as a national church. Not only have we been active participants in Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations Peoples, but we also advocate for justice on many global issues: water as a human right, child poverty, and providing safe spaces for refugees, people seeking asylum, or even people who are just looking for a community of non-judgmental people. There is still a lot of work to do, but we can’t begin to really work at justice until we understand how we, personally, are affected by power and privilege. So I’ve brought one of my favorite tools to share with you. It’s called the Flower of Power. It’s from Anne Bishop’s book “Becoming an Ally”. I’ve modified it to be specific to churches. Each petal is a situation of power or privilege. Shade in the option that pertains to you. In some places there probably should be a third layer petal. If you feel that’s the case, please do draw it in. The outer layers of the petal represent situations where there is likely an opportunity for power over. In inner petals are the situations where you do not have power. May we have the courage to use our power and privilege to bring justice to others. May it be so. Amen.

For a copy of the handout, please email: minister@stlukesunited.ca

March 6, 2016

Links of Interest:

Brené Brown – http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/the-ultimate-act-of-love

Water Communion – http://www.uua.org/worship/holidays/water-communion

http://www.uua.org/worship/holidays/water-communion

https://sermonsinstones.com/2013/06/13/lifting-water-communion-above-privilege-and-trivia/

http://www.uua.org/international/engagement/worship/water-communion

Lectionary – http://www.comparativereligion.com/prodigal.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/onscripture/2013/03/when-people-you-dont-much-like-receive-gods-love/

http://www.barbarabrowntaylor.com/newsletter374062.htm

https://www.lostsheep.com.au/stories/cecil-the-lost-sheep/

Family Systems Theory – https://www.thebowencenter.org/theory/

Waterbugs & Dragonflies – https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/belovedhearts/stories/doris-waterbugsanddragonflies-632617144169637500.aspx

 

Prayers:

Lighting the Candles & Singing Bowl

One: What shall I do with these hands of mine?

All: The world could use a hero of the human kind.

One: We are heroes each time we reach out to be in community with someone else.

All: May this light remind these hands to hold other hands in community.

 

Call to Worship

One: It takes many drops of water to fill an ocean.

All: We come as individual drops of water, to fill this space.

We are drawn together, a cohesive community of individuals.

One: We come together to celebrate our common desire of Love for the Greater Good.

All: In other words, we have come to worship God and the promise of heaven.

One: Thanks be to God.

All: Thanks be to Love.

 

Prayer of Approach

My prayer today is one of great love. I pray that the people of St. Luke’s see my words as carefully and lovingly chosen. May my love for them be evident in all I do and say this day. Amen.

 

Invitation

Part of being in community with others is the sharing of gifts. Today we are sharing many gifts, both symbolic and concrete.

 

Offering Prayer

May all of our gifts become symbols of hope for those who seek it. Amen.

 

Water Communion

we celebrate two sacraments as gifts of Christ:

baptism and holy communion.

In these sacraments the ordinary things of life

—water, bread, wine—

point beyond themselves to God and God’s love,

teaching us to be alert

to the sacred in the midst of life.

In holy communion

we are commissioned to feed as we have been fed,

forgive as we have been forgiven,

love as we have been loved.

The open table speaks of the shining promise

of barriers broken and creation healed.

The sacraments are an outward symbol of an inward grace.

Communion occurs in the transformation of the people through sharing bread and wine in the name and presence of Christ. (Caron, 2000)

He is present as he as in the upper room, not in the bread and wine, but as the Living Presence standing beside every believer and giving the symbols their overflowing and imperishable meaning. (Fey, 1948)

Communion takes place in many places. In the story of the disciples recognizing Jesus in the breaking of bread at Emmaus, the disciples ask each other after they know that it was Jesus who had joined them, “Did not our hearts burn like fire when he interpreted the scriptures to us on the road?” Sometimes we know we have been joined by the living presence of the Christ – times when what has happened to us sets our hearts on fire, gives us life and passion. These times we rightly call communion.

The ritual in the church trains us to recognize those moments and invites us to be open to times of communion wherever and however they happen. Because we experience the ritual, we know the words, we know the actions, we are able to name and claim the other communion experience of our lives. If we had not ever been to a communion service in a church, events would not hold the same symbolic meaning. (Caron, 2000)

One: We have come as individuals with a common longing to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

All: Like the individual drops of water we bring, we each have our own gifts to offer, yet gathered together we are stronger than we could ever be alone.

One: Like the individual drops of water we bring, our love has been and always will be part of the universe, should we choose to share it.

All: To come forward, means to choose to be part of this gathered community, sharing in our strengths and sharing in our weakness.

One: To share of oneself, as Jesus shared of himself: his love for others, his wisdom, his compassion, and his experiences is to build a community.

All: The water we bring is symbolic of the gifts we have to offer, and the commitment to living The Way of Jesus.

One: Water is cleansing. It is forgiving, yet ever changing. It is powerful, yet grace-filled.

All: The water we share is symbolic of the relationship Jesus had with his faith community: giving and forgiving, offering hope and new beginnings.

One: As we share our water, may we be reminded of our call to offer an outward symbol of our inward grace.

(Act of Sharing the Water)

Burying the Hatchet

The hard part of grief

The hardest part of any loss is dealing with the grief. When it is a loss of relationship, dealing with the grief is even more important. Even when the relationship isn’t necessarily the best, the loss or perhaps the loss of the potential is still something that needs to be grieved. Even though it’s not overtly described in our reading this morning, I think that’s the difference in the family’s reaction. One has not been able to bury the relationship of the past, one has buried the past relationship and is ready to move into a new way of being in relationship. The third person is so eager to forgive, that perhaps he hasn’t really grieved the loss of the relationship in a productive way and my hunch is he will repeat his mistakes. This parable is full of examples for therapists and ministers who use family systems theory.

The perception of grief

First things first though, we need to talk about grief and its role in family systems.

Barriers to processing grief

There are many reasons why people can’t or don’t process their grief. Some of the reasons are societal: things like people, and more particularly men, don’t talk about their feelings, the shame associated with the loss, or the cost of admitting to weakness. Sometimes unfortunately our reasons have a supposed religious or spiritual nature: things like using the Bible to justify our lack of action, or to judge the relationship that needs to be grieved. Sometimes the only thing holding us back from processing our grief is ourselves: things like we don’t know how to start, we refuse to ask for help or we can’t acknowledge a prior hurt that needs to be dealt with before we can deal with the current situation.

Grief in the family system

I mentioned earlier that the Parable of the Prodigal was a surely full of examples for people who practice in family systems theory. In case you are unfamiliar with family systems theory, simply put it is the exploration of relationships and how action or inaction for one person will have consequences for others, perhaps even for generations. When one person hurts, the whole family hurts. The other thing that you should know is that family systems theory could just as easily be called church systems theory. This is for two reasons. The first is that stuff that happens in our own personal family system affects us in ways that will show up in our work and in our volunteer lives. The other reason is that when it comes down to it, a church functions just like a family, with interconnectedness support and generations. When grief and anger affect one person, it in turn affects all of us.

Grief is a process

Unfortunately you can’t just decide to turn off your grief. It is a process. The more I learn about the process, the more I’m beginning to understand just how different it is for each person.

It’s different for each person

Grief and forgiveness both are different for each person, not only because we each move through the processes differently but because of the role we play in our relationships. I could get all technical and academic here, but I think explaining this is likely easiest if we look back to the prodigal example. All three family members experienced the same event, but because each person played a different role in their relationship as a family, each person experienced the loss related to this event differently and needed to react differently to process it.

A person changes as they move through

Sometimes when I’m listening to people, they express grief that their loved ones are different after a loss. It’s the family systems stuff: the person I am speaking with is mourning a loss themselves, maybe not as tragic as the person they are speaking about, but it’s still a loss. It’s a loss because that person never will be the same again. You can go back to being happy, healthy people again, but you will never be exactly the same as you were before. As people change, they change the way they function in relationships changes too.

The Dragonfly Story

The best way I’ve seen this change described, is in the children’s book “Waterbugs and Dragonflies” by Doris Stickney. It’s the story of a little waterbug who wonders what happens when the other waterbugs as they climb up the stem to the surface. The waterbug convinces the others, that the next one to go up the stem would come back and the others what was up there. The waterbug was surprised to find itself to be the very next bug climbing up the stem. The exhausted waterbug collapsed into a deep sleep after reaching the surface. Upon waking up, the waterbug was surprised to discover its body had changed dramatically. Now there were wings! The waterbug had become a dragonfly. The new dragonfly remembered its promise to the waterbugs, and was preparing to shoot itself down below the surface to tell the waterbugs about the sun and the new wings when another dragonfly came over to see how things were going. The new dragonfly explained about the promise to the waterbugs and preparing to go back below the surface. The older dragonfly pointed out that the new dragonfly could not go back below the surface now that it had changed. It would die. The new dragonfly would just have to trust that someday the other waterbugs would understand. There was no going back.

Brené Brown

The big insight:

Brené Brown had a clip this week on one of my favorite worship resource site. It’s totally worth the 5 mins as usual, and I’ll post the link on facebook and on my website as usual. The big insight I gained from it though the example she gave was that “…the relationship as it was, must die and be buried in order to be able to move on. The relationship will never be the same again. It has to be buried. The choice is to have forgiveness and new growth and blossoming into what could be an even better relationship, or to bury it and simply let it die.”

The shame and vulnerability

Even though she didn’t really talk about shame and vulnerability in the clip, I think that it’s crucial to the success of the forgiveness. Before one can get on with the business of grieving the loss of relationship or forgiving someone else, they must forgive themselves. They must deal with the shame. Don’t lie to yourself. No one likes to fail, and I think when there is a loss in relationship people have a hard time admitting that their relationship can be hard to maintain or perhaps isn’t maintainable in its current format. For some reason, society has made needing to work on relationships seem shameful and weak. Personally, I think the commitment require to work on a relationship and the strength required to admit such thing is actually quite a strength. So if you remember Brown’s stuff on shame and vulnerability from a few weeks ago, you’ll remember that she believes the antidote to shame is vulnerability.

The first step in Al-Anon

Sometimes I think one of the most important life lessons I’ve learned came to me from Al-Anon. Understanding the first step means understanding that I can only control one thing, that is my own reactions. This even goes for my own stuff. Two typical reactions would be wallowing in my own self-pity wishing I had done things differently and trying to control things so that the outcome is the outcome I am looking for, regardless of the other person’s feelings. Or I can take a more productive approach and acknowledge the fact that I made a mistake, learn from it and forgive myself. Then make myself vulnerable by engaging, even though I’m embarrassed. If the person I’m in a relationship with chooses not to engage back, that’s their choice, not mine. I can’t control their feelings. I can only control my reactions to them, process and move on.

The Prodigal Son

The rehashing of the story

So back to the Prodigal Family, we wouldn’t have had the happy ending without forgiveness, without dealing with the shame and guilt of all the parties involved. We saw first the Prodigal One forgive himself, bury the idea of who he was in relationship to the rest of his family, and make himself vulnerable, combatting the shame, by re-engaging with his family. We saw the Parent open to this re-engagement and his willingness to accept the changes in his child. With the Sibling, while he wasn’t ready to bury the past relationship with his brother, he seemed to be still in the grieving process, we did see him engage with his father, and perhaps begin to acknowledge the grief in the loss of the family system that was.

The connection to our own lives

As I mentioned earlier, Family Systems Theory can be directly transferred to churches and the relationships that people have within our church family. Sometimes we too, have prodigal moments. Sometimes we are the ones who drift away, and sometimes we are the parent welcoming back with open arms, and sometimes we are the sibling, still licking our wounds. But we can’t control others actions, we can only control our reaction to them. Like the prodigal son, we can’t come back until we’ve let the old relationship go, and we’re ready for a new relationship. Like the Father, we can’t force people to come back, just as the father couldn’t force his son to come back. And like the brother, we need to recognize that sometimes when people decide to leave the family, it hurts. Where are you in this story? What relationships do you need to bury? What do you need to let go of? Where do you need to give up control? Are you ready to bury the hatchet?

February 28, 2016

Links of Interest:

Prayer Shawl Ministry – http://www.shawlministry.com/

Prayers:

Singing Bowl & Candle Lighting

One: What shall I do with these hands of mine?

All: The world could use a hero of the human kind.

One: We are heroes each time we reach out with compassion to someone else.

All: May this light remind these hands to reach out with compassion.

 

Call to Worship

One: We have gathered today as a group of compassionate people, here to be inspired to act with words, music and emotions.

All: We have gathered today to celebrate Love in its many forms. We have gathered to join together in worship.

 

Prayer of Approach

As we celebrate Love today, may our time be filled with insight, inspiration and a sense of delight in the sacred. Amen.

 

Invitation

Gifts of the spirit come in many containers. Should you choose to share some of your gifts with us, we appreciate them.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts, those given through PAR, and those given through time and talents become sparks of hope to people in need. Amen.

 

No Sermon this week as the folks from the Prayer Shawl Ministry spoke about what they did.

February 21, 2016

Links of Interest:

Guide/Scout Week – http://www.scouts.ca/brandcentre/scout-guide-week-toolkit.html

These Hands – https://youtu.be/5csvfGqJFqw

http://www.davegunning.com/home/these-hands-and-the-iwk/

 

Prayers:

Lighting the Candle & Singing Bowl

One: What shall I do with these hands of mine?

All: The world could use a hero of the human kind.

One: We are heroes each time we reach out to help someone else.

All: May this light remind these hands to reach out to help.

 

Invitation

Each week here at St. Luke’s, we are given an opportunity to share our abundance. Each gift given is appreciated and valued. Sometimes the gifts come in the form of money, sometimes the gift comes as a donation of food, other times the gift is a gift of time and talent. Whatever the gift you choose to give today, I sincerely offer you thanks.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts, those given through PAR, and all of the gifts that St. Luke’s receives each week be gifts of love, offering hope to this community and beyond. Amen.

 

No Sermon this week, as it was Guide/Scout Week. Instead we read “These Hands” by Dave Gunning and talked about times when we had seen heros of the human kind.

February 14, 2016

Links of Interest:

Brené Brown on Love Made Flesh –http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/love-made-flesh

Brené Brown on Power With –http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/power-with

Working Preacher –http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2734

http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4249

Patheos – http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Spiritual-Religious-Frederick-Schmidt-01-21-2013

http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Pilgrimage-of-Resurrection-Christine-Valters-Paintner-05-07-2015

#notalone – www.united-church.ca/communications/news/moderator/160209

 

 

Prayers:

Lighting the Candle & Singing Bowl

One: What shall I do with these hands of mine?

All: The world could use a hero of the human kind.

One: We are heroes each time we reach out with love to someone else.

All: May this light remind these hands to reach out with radical love.

 

Invitation

Each Sunday presents us with the opportunity to make a difference in the life of the church. This Sunday as you consider your gifts, please know that the St Luke’s community is making a difference in the lives of each person who walks through the door.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts and those given through PAR be recognized and appreciated as Love made known. May they be used to show radical Love to others.

I experimented with a different style of writing/outlining this week.

Radical Love: The Church’s Role in the Game of Love

1 Corinthians 13

Love Letters

Valentines as love letters

Anybody receive any Valentine’s yet today? Think back to a valentine or love note you received…maybe even a card that was signed “Love So & so”? Who was attached to the card or note? How do you know that particular person loves you other than it was written? Have you ever written one yourself? How do you show the people you love just how much you love them?

Why Paul is writing a love letter to people

Paul was writing these kind words about love because this newly formed Christian community in Corinth was having a hard time. They just couldn’t seem to get along. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise really. Anyone who has participated in a newly formed organization can attest to the fact that until there are established norms in place, arguments can arise over anything. Even in a well-established organization, without an understood and promoted sense of purpose, things can get out hand. Paul’s letter serves to remind the community of why they formed in the first place. Yes, they had all heard some really great preaching, but they also experienced unconditional love.

What is Love

Brené Brown Quote: “Love is about choosing what’s right over what’s easy.”

You’ve heard it said before, I’m sure, that “Money makes the world go around.” I may have even said it myself. But the saying is wrong. Love is what makes the world go around. It is also what makes the world stop. To quote Brené Brown: “Love is about choosing what’s right over what’s easy”. Love is what will encourage us to move forward as society and as a church. Choosing what’s right over what is easy.

God is Love

For a long time now I’ve been working with the understanding that God is Love. What else can be intense, yet gentle, ancient and new, filling and emptying all at the same time? What exists before something is created and lasts longer than it’s lifetime? Love. Love is both the driving force and the end result. When our eyes are finally re-opened to love, that is bliss, enlightenment or being in God’s presence. As a small child, we are born with unconditional love for anything and everything. As our tastes develop our unconditional love changes…we know what we love, and we only want that. A baby that will eat most things can become a toddler who will only eat things on a green plate or will become a six year who will only eat it smothered in ketchup or a teenager who will only eat it if a Kardashian is eating it or Adele is singing about it….you see where I’m going with this? Once we start limiting things our world gets very small.

#notalone

Explaining the campaign

Being in the desert

Sometimes it’s easier to evaluate the limits you’ve set – or haven’t set – if you take a step back, separate yourself from the situation and honestly look at things. Jesus had plenty of time to do that, sitting by himself in the desert for forty days. Consider, though, the possibility of a metaphor in this instance. What if Jesus was alone in a metaphorical desert for forty days? What kind of an impact would that have on the story? The desert is a dangerous place. It is hot and dry. When the wind blows, sand and dust fill the air, making it impossible to see and changing the shape of the land in the process. Add the threat of dehydration and animals of prey, being alone in the desert could be downright dangerous. Imagine a situation like that, where everything is constantly changing, you cannot see ahead of you to avoid the dangers that are just waiting for you to mess up.

Knowing you are loved

Earlier you saw a few videos from various United Church folks sharing stories of times when they felt God’s presence, knowing they were not alone. The moderator is encouraging everyone to share their stories of feeling something bigger than themselves is at play. Focusing on the most repeated line of the New Creed, #notalone, during Lent makes the reality of loneliness and seclusion just that much more intense.

Spiritual Love

The role of churches and love

Brené Brown Quote “Love and shame are mutually exclusive. Love and threatening are mutually exclusive…You don’t have to have power over people to love them…We don’t like to give power again because we confuse it with power over, but there’s also power with and power among people. And so I think church has become power over, when Jesus was power with…”

I’m going to quote Brown again, “Love and shame are mutually exclusive. Love and threatening are mutually exclusive…You don’t have to have power over people to love them…We don’t like to give power again because we confuse it with power over, but there’s also power with and power among people. And so I think church has become power over, when Jesus was power with…”

This quotation makes me both sad and excited. I’m sad that so many people are oblivious to the whole “power over vs power with” in church. But it excites me because it really is a simple concept, and if more churches begin to be aware of the power dynamics within a congregation, then I have hope that people will begin to live out their understanding of Love in their work places too. Life would be a whole lot better for so many people if “power with” became the practice.

Radical Love as a Spiritual Practice

What would it be like to recognize the situations where you can change your power over to power with or among? To be present in the moment enough to recognize the power dynamic and to change it? That in itself would be a spiritual practice. As people living in Canada though, we all have some sort of power over opportunity. Everything from our political system right on down to cups of coffee and plastic bags has an opportunity for power over. We can accomplish a lot by consistently choosing how we spend our pocket change.

How the church’s role in radical love can change society’s perception of religion?

How can St. Luke’s practice radical love?

So what can we, as the community of St. Luke’s United Church do to practice radical love? How can we ensure we are using power with instead of power over?

February 7, 2016

Links of interest:

Tripp Fuller on “Dropping the ‘G’” – https://youtu.be/hhyUlkC-3b8

Edith Wharton – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Wharton

The Progressive Christian –http://westernpresbyterian.podhoster.com/index.php?pid=44084

 

Prayers:

Call to Work & Worship

One: We come today to celebrate God’s presence in our work.

All: We all work towards the kin-dom of God in different ways.

One: Some of us work towards the kin-dom by offering our hospitality, helping everyone to feel at home.

All: Some of us work towards the kin-dom by offering our compassion for others, making sure no one feels alone.

One: Some of us work towards the kin-dom by offering different ways to express ourselves through word, art, song and sacrament.

All: Some of us work towards the kin-dom by making sure we don’t remain too focused on ourselves, making us aware of the needs in our community, our country and around the world.

One: Some of us work towards the kin-dom by making sure we use our resources properly, buildings, money, the earth and people to make sure that we have enough.

All: Some of us work towards the kin-dom with our innocence, hope, joy, and determination to learn.

One: Some of us work towards the kin-dom to organize us all, keeping us moving and growing in our vision to Welcome, Discern and Do.

All: Each of us plays a part in building the kin-dom. All of the parts are important. The people who are here are the right people.

One: Let’s celebrate our work towards the kin-dom together!

All: Thanks be to God!

 

Opening Prayer

In this place today, may we grow in understanding of our vision and in our understanding of ourselves and our part we play in building the kin-dom of God. Amen.

 

Invitation

Your gifts through your envelopes and PAR are always appreciated as we work together to build the kin-dom. This week, please consider your offering to be a candle or a mirror. Please take a moment or two at your tables to talk about how you can be a candle or a mirror based on the work you have heard today. Please prayerfully consider if you can be candle, a mirror or both. Each table has a number of candles and mirrors on them. As your table ends it conversation please choose someone to bring forward your table’s offering of candles and mirrors.

 

Offering Prayer

For each gift given, PAR or envelope, candle or mirror, we give thanks. May all of our gifts be used in our work towards the kin-dom. Amen.

 

 

No preaching this week – it was Annual Meeting Sunday. And Superbowl Sunday.

January 31, 2016

Links of interest:

Homebrewed Christianity Podcast –http://homebrewedchristianity.com/category/tnt/

Jeremiah Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremiah

Jeremiah – http://www.britannica.com/biography/Jeremiah-Hebrew-prophet

Rob Bell & Diana Butler Bass –http://robbell.podbean.com/e/episode-67-grounded-with-diana-butler-bass/

 

 

 

Prayers:

No prayers from me this week…working on Lent stuff and Annual Reports! I did have a pretty fun theme time though. I quickly paraphrased the Jeremiah passage, pulled out a milk crate and said it was the modern version of a soap box. Then I asked the kids if they had anything important they needed to say. Of course all the brave ones were missing, so I opened it up to all the congregation. The first person asked if they had to stand on it. I said yes, and I will help you get up there because sometimes we need support in order to share our voice and say something important. Various people got up and said different things. Then a little boy climbed on and said “Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t let anyone tell you who you should be.” So awesome!

 

Was it all a part of God’s plan that I’m standing here today, or is it because of deliberate decisions made when I had the opportunity to make them and a willingness to move forward when I didn’t have any other choice? Last week I talked about challenging ourselves to be vulnerable and embracing each other in our vulnerability. This week we’re following that up a bit more. When you feel vulnerable it’s because you don’t feel confident, and most of us when given a choice, will choose the option that makes us feel confident. Being able to speak with confidence; is that because of privilege or predestination? Just so we’re all on the same page: Predestination is the idea that God has a master plan for us or that since the moment of conception our story has already been written. You hear people say it all the time: “It was part of God’s plan.” Or “It is the path that God has chosen for me.” Or “I’m leaving it in God’s hands.” Privilege is the advantage you have because of your particular situation. It could be race, gender, colour, sexuality, ability or education, just to name a few. We are born with many, if not most, of our privileges.

Jeremiah, or at least the authors of this particular part of Jeremiah, believe that he was predestined to be a prophet. That God had chosen him to help the people change their ways. I’m not so sure that’s the case. While Jeremiah did indeed have many good and important things to say at such a young age, he was in the unique position of being part of a priestly, Hebrew family. Because he was part of a priestly family, he had more social standing than some of his Hebrew counter parts. But being Hebrew, he surely would have had an understanding of what it might be like to be on the bottom because of something you were born into. So not only did Jeremiah have a better social standing, but he also had access to the temple. In those days you couldn’t just become a minister: you had to be born into the right family first. Jeremiah, had he not been born into the priestly family, would likely not have been as well received as he was quite critical of the way things had been happening on the religious front. Jeremiah really had the “perfect storm” on his side. He was presented the choices he had, because of his privilege. It was indeed a storm…not so much fun for Jeremiah by times. People certainly didn’t listen to him willingly.

My own story is not so different. I used to identify with this passage because Jeremiah wonders if people will listen to him because he is so young. Six of my seven years at the Centre for Christian Studies, I was the youngest student. Even on my graduation and commissioning, I was the youngest diaconal minister in Canada…for about five years. Even today, with ten years of ministry under my belt, I still sit well below the average age of ministers in the United Church. Today though, I identify with more than Jeremiah’s age. I’m here today to speaking to you, because of my privilege. Even though I grew up in a fishing village in an isolated part of Nova Scotia that drastically skewed literacy rates and statistics around graduating from high school, I still managed to get an undergraduate degree from one of the best schools in Canada. I was able to do it, not because my parents could afford it – believe me, I worked hard and still work hard to earn it. I was able to do it because my mom had a BA. If I hadn’t had her help with student loan paperwork, and the emotional support of both my parents, I never would have made it. My mom never would have gotten her BA or her BED if her parents hadn’t placed such a high value on education, and if my dad hadn’t understood how my mom’s degrees would change both their lives. In fact, I can remember going to the library at St FX with my parents, and Dad changing film after film while Mom worked on her papers. But my point is, I wouldn’t have had the chance if I hadn’t come from an educated family, in a country where I could, as a woman go to school, and apply for student loans to help me do it. Had I not struggled to get through or recognized my own privilege with an education, I might not have chosen diaconal ministry, had I not had the opportunity to choose diaconal ministry, I might not be here. You can call it predestination if you want, but to me it is most definitely privilege.

So if Jeremiah is also speaking from a place of privilege, does privilege change the message? Not in my opinion. The message is still the same, it’s only the medium that’s changed. The people still needed to change their ways. Jeremiah just happened to be in the right place for the message to sink in. We’re not all that different even now. The medium is still the message. Jeremiah didn’t have all the power. He didn’t make laws or dictate social norm, and neither do we. But he didn’t compromise his beliefs either, not even when his message wasn’t all that popular. Jeremiah’s privilege was challenged, and he still kept on with his message of social revolution and political reform through belief system, simply put he wanted people to live out their faith, even when it challenged them.

What opportunities do you have to live out your faith? How can you use your privilege to be part of the message?

January 24, 2016

Links of interest:

Rex Hunt – http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/

Brené Brown –http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame?language=en

Sarah Hyde – https://youtu.be/cJbpiCQRFco

https://www.greenbelt.org.uk/media/talks/21940-sara-hyde/

 

When I started working with this passage at the end of last week, I was thinking about how much courage it would have taken Jesus to change the water into wine and how much pressure he would have felt to perform. The first time you share your talents or gifts with “the public” can be terrifying. I checked out the videos on one of my favorite worship resource sites. Brené Brown had a clip on there where she was speaking about courage. Now I’ve read small bits of Brown’s stuff and I’ve always liked what she has to say, but I never watched either of her TED talks. If you haven’t watched them yet, I highly recommend that you do. In them, not only does Brene Brown explain the difference between shame and guilt, she goes deep into it, demonstrating how shame and guilt can affect society. She says that shame is a focus on the negative of the self. Shame is a focus on the negative of the self. The difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is a focus on the behavior. Guilt is a focus on the behavior. Guilt, “I made a mistake” vs. Shame, “I am a mistake”. The focus on the self can become debilitating. Brown also explains how the antidote to shame is empathy and the only way to grow empathy is vulnerability. The only way to be vulnerable is to have the courage and support to do so.

I have never associated this Bible passage with vulnerability or the potential for shame before. But that’s exactly what was happening under the surface. It’s the public setting of a wedding, Jesus was there with all of his friends and likely a good chunk of his family as well. Mary sees the opportunity for Jesus to try out his new talent. She suggests it to him (she’s the support for his courage) and he protests by saying it isn’t his time, in other words he’s not ready. Jesus’ mother pushes him just enough, by instructing the servants to be supportive. Jesus allowed himself to be vulnerable, turning the water to wine. That’s what Jesus did. He made himself vulnerable in so many situations. He challenged societal norms to make himself vulnerable: associating with women, children, lower classes, touching the sick, spending time with the lame, being grilled publicly by authorities, talking to people about his faith and his own personal spiritual practices. Jesus did these things because he had empathy. He couldn’t help himself, he had so much empathy that he felt compelled to help those in unfortunate situations. It’s not much wonder Jesus had huge amounts of empathy, he had massive amounts of vulnerability. Despite our glorifying the story of his birth, my hunch is he was still known locally as the son who was born out of wedlock, and that Joseph wasn’t really his father. The more empathy Jesus showed, the more vulnerable he became, as his interactions with the lower social classes would have lowered his social class too.

I don’t know the science or magic behind changing water into wine, but I do know that the science or magic involved isn’t the miracle in this story. The real miracle is how the courage, support and unconditional love began to change things. How being vulnerable began to change things.

Brené Brown suggests that our society is in a place where we need to have some serious conversations about race as an example, but so much more than just race. Brown suggests this real and honest conversation cannot happen until we can deal with our shame. To quote her: “Because you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege. And when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame.”

It’s a vicious cycle. The fear of the shame makes you feel vulnerable, and unless you work really hard at being ok with your vulnerability, you’ll cling to that privilege even more. A few years ago I was selected to attend Greenbelt in England with a contingent of 100 United Church leaders. I travelled all that way to have a revelation about the power of shame to control our lives. I went to talk there by Sara Hyde, who works in the justice system in England as, I believe an advocate. We were in one of the smaller venues, but the place was packed. The title of the talk was How to live: when your friend commits a sexual offence. She said three things that have profoundly changed how I think about myself and I hope my pastoral abilities. 1. Guilt happens when a personal boundary is crossed. 2. Shame happens when a societal boundary is crossed. 3. Empathy and unconditional love is the antidote to shame. I’m going to repeat this, so you’ve got it. Guilt happens when a personal boundary is crossed. Shame happens when a societal boundary is crossed. Empathy and unconditional love is the antidote to shame.

Sound familiar? Back to the water and wine: without the unconditional love, empathy and support of his parents, in particular his mother, Jesus would not have had the courage to speak in public let alone do something to challenge and change the situation of others.

So what are you being called to do? I’m challenging you to change water to wine in your own way. I’m challenging you to find your own vulnerabilities and to grow your empathy. I’m challenging you to love unconditionally so that others can embrace their vulnerabilities. Let’s do more than change water and wine. If we all work together to love unconditionally and embrace vulnerabilities, to build connections between people, imagine what we can accomplish. We wouldn’t just change water, we’d change the world.

January 17, 2016

Snow Day!

I’m posting the Prayer Stations we did on December 21, 2015 for the Longest Night.

 

Candle-lighting: you are welcome to light a candle in memory of a loved one, for a past memory, or simply to give light in the darkness. The lights will remain lit throughout this long night as a symbol of our love for each other and the wider community. You may be journeying in the darkness, but you are not alone. Your St. Luke’s family travels with you.

Reflecting: you are welcome to write a prayer, a note to someone who is no longer with you, a card of gratitude, a word of forgiveness for yourself or someone else, or an anger/past hurt you need to let go of. You can leave the card here to be prayed over, shred it to let go, or take it with you.

 

 

Baptism Remembrance: you are invited to pour water into the baptismal font, and sprinkle the water to remember that you are God’s beloved. God’s love is unconditional and travels through grace. The waters of baptism remind us of the grace-filled blessing we received on our baptism. Grace empowers us to make it through times and situations that could potentially overwhelm.

Bowl of Tears: you are invited to choose a “teardrop” to drop symbolizing a past hurt. Add it to the bowl of tears, knowing that you are not alone in your grief. The Bowl of Tears will be offered for prayer during our 10pm worship on Christmas Eve.

 

 

Thank-you for participating in preparation for the Longest Night. May these small actions help others to know they are not alone. May they inspire us to act with compassion, to listen with grace, and to speak with love. May we remember that forgiveness starts with ourselves and our own willingness to participate in it.

January 10, 2016

Links of Interest:

God & Empire – http://www.johndominiccrossan.com/God & Empire.htm

Forbes Leadership Article –http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaprive/2012/12/19/top-10-qualities-that-make-a-great-leader/#48ece5ea3564

John the Baptist – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist

 

Prayers:

Offering Invitation

God is passionate life! We are called to offer our passions to inspire love and justice. We do this with words and actions, one of which is our weekly offering.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts and those given through PAR become acts of passion and compassion, creating a strong and vibrant community. Amen.

 

My title was the first thing I drafted this week. But the more I think about the ministry of Jesus, the more I see John’s role as crucial. John was a free thinking radical who spoke his mind and inspired the action of his people. John ignited the passion of the people. Jesus did the Public Relations or the PR work. Together they made a fabulous team, it’s really too bad that they have so few stories together in the Bible.

Comparing and contrasting the leadership styles of Jesus and John the Baptist is not new. John Dominic Crossan suggests in his book ‘God & Empire’ that “John had a monopoly, but Jesus had a franchise.” Our passage from today’s lectionary is proof of that. John was calling out for change and baptizing people into a new life before Jesus made the decision to go down into the water. Jesus didn’t baptize until he had been baptized himself. He drank John’s Kool-aide, so to speak and then served John some of John’s own Kool-aide, by baptizing him. I honestly don’t think that we would be in the position we are today, had Jesus not been inspired by John’s passion.

According to Forbes.com, the online part of the Forbes institute, there are ten character traits of a good leader. John does well with most of these attributes.

Honesty – John didn’t misrepresent himself. He knew that his job was to get the people ready. He lived by his own word, holding himself and others to high moral standards. This did end up costing him his life, but John didn’t keep the truth from you just because you didn’t like it.

Delegate – John was pretty ok at delegating. He had a number of followers to help him with his work. He baptized people empowering them to do what needed to be done, yet he didn’t ask people to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. He proved that by allowing Jesus to baptize him. He trusted the people he baptized would share his vision of a better place with others, growing the vision, increasing the desire.

Communication – now this one John had down pat. I mean who doesn’t know that they need to make straight a path? He may have had his message on repeat, but the message was simple. His “We can do better.” Message was reinforced with the concrete experience of the baptism, offering people a chance to start again.

Confidence – another attribute that John displayed without a question. His religious beliefs required him to dress differently and eat differently. He was obviously different, yet he still spoke out loudly and clearly that people could treat each other better and treat themselves better. He didn’t do this in a way that made people feel badly about themselves. John understood enough about confidence that he knew the paths would be straightened only when the confidence of the people allowed them to do it. Mind you, his confidence boosting didn’t come without a dose of honesty. When people were shirking their responsibilities, John had no problems calling a viper a viper. John did not lower his standards. Which leads into the fifth attribute :

Commitment – as I said John simply did not lower his standards. His personal commitment to making the world a better place was only enhanced by his commitment to not letting the people slack off on their side of the commitment.

Positive Attitude – some would question this particular attribute as John’s mission was to make the world a better place, but John wasn’t defeated in spite of his social or political circumstances.

Creativity – While John might not necessarily have been the most creative person, he did recognize there can be benefits to doing things a little differently. There weren’t many people baptizing during John’s time, but it must have been an act that he found meaningful enough to incorporate into his own ministry. He wasn’t afraid to experiment a little – he hadn’t experienced baptism himself, before baptizing others.

Intuition – John had at least enough intuition to know that there were others out there with equally great leadership skills. John recognized the leadership that Jesus had to offer, and encouraged him in that role. John’s intuition told him that the people would best respond to a physical action in accompaniment to their promise to make the world a better place.

Inspire – John’s courage to speak out even though he was different and had a somewhat unpopular message is inspiration enough for me. The fact that we’re still talking about him some 2000 years later, well that just adds to his inspiration factor.

Approach – John knew he was different. He would have had a somewhat scary appearance as his faith tradition would not have allowed. John would have had to have been terribly approachable. He would have had to have been a naturally approachable person. He would have had to have been understanding and open to different cultural perspectives, language barriers, personality traits, value systems and more.

John was a leader ahead of his time. He followed his passions and was willing to let his “freak flag fly”. Someone loved John into being the best version of himself. He in turn worked to love his people into being their best versions of themselves. Who knows? If he hadn’t, maybe Jesus wouldn’t have had the confidence to be his best self.

January 3, 2016 (Epiphany)

Links of Interest:

“The Nativity Story” – https://youtu.be/0Lpv77EdxF4

Advent Unwrapped – www.adventunwrapped.ca

 

Prayers: Nothing original from me this week J It was all from Rex Hunt: http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/

 

Epiphany…the celebration of a very historic moment of clarity. It’s interesting how moments of clarity reveal themselves to us. The insight wouldn’t be so meaningful, if it wasn’t for the way in which it was revealed. The video clip for example, started with a moment of clarity for the Shepherds. What you didn’t see, was just before Mary and Joseph reached Bethlehem, they stopped to warm themselves at a fire with some shepherds. During their fireside conversation as Mary thanks them for their hospitality, an old shepherd tells Mary that everyone has a gift to offer. Later in the movie when the shepherds visit the new baby, Mary offers the same line back to the shepherd: Everyone has a gift to offer.

I’ve had a few epiphany types of moments myself. Some have happened in large group settings, but many if not most have happened in quiet conversation with gentle souls either reflecting on an experience or in deepening an understanding. I remember once reading the line “to love another person is to see the face of God.” Followed by a very meaningful conversation about my mission in ministry, and well, life in general to love people into being their best selves. It’s what we are all called to do – love each other into being our best selves. If we go at life with that purpose, we will have guaranteed success. It’s a no fail system. When you love people into being their best selves, they will succeed. If they are really at the point of being their best self, they will know the reasons they have been successful, and they will want to reciprocate and share that wisdom with others. Loving means lots of listening and hones sharing. It means focuses on small successes and lessons learned to keep hope alive rather than focusing on what didn’t happen. Loving people into their best selves means loving them until they understand that the goal is not the success itself, but the process of love and finding happiness and fulfillment in that.

It’s my goal as a minister to love congregations into their best selves. To love them into learning about themselves: what they are good at that they didn’t even know they were good at. To love you into loving each other and all of the uniqueness that you bring. To love you into loving your wider community, finding hidden joys and talents you didn’t know existed. To love you to the point where you understand that the mission of the wider church and Christianity as a whole is to love UNCONDITIONALLY. It’s my goal to help individual churches, St. Luke’s in particular, to have some sort of epiphany moment where you truly begin to see a role that your faith community, your faith family plays in spreading unconditional love. How we do it is up to you. My suggestion, is by getting to know each other a little better and you can’t do that by listening to me talk! I’d like to give you about 7 mins right now to find one or two other people – preferably people you don’t know overly well – and talk about a moment of clarity you’ve had about your life’s purpose or your church’s purpose. I’ll ring the bell at 5mins, to gather you back, and we’ll end in 7 mins with a prayer.

 

Source of Love, we accept the conversations for what they are: awkward, meaningful, shallow, deep, short, unending and to be continued. May we find success in the first steps, however small or large they may be. May 2016 be a year filled with Love at St. Luke’s. Amen.

December 27, 2015

Links of Interest:

Shrek the Halls – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0897387/

Open Space Technology –https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology

 

Prayers: Nothing new from me this week. Rex Hunt, as usual 😉

 

“My Momma always says,’Christmas ain’t ChristmasLinks until somebody’s cryin'” – Donkey, “Shrek the Halls”. I like Donkey’s Mother’s theory. Every year, as December 23rd comes to an end I have to remind myself of this. Despite what many holiday movies would have us think, Christmas is never perfect. On December 23rd, every year, I always give up. What’s done is done, who ever is here is here. This is the Christmas we will have, and it will be perfect in it’s own unique way.

 

Open Space Technology teaches us that whoever comes, are the people who are supposed to be there. While acknowledging who isn’t there, is a good thing, it can’t stop the process of Open Space. It’s the same thing about Christmas: Christmas will happen even if there are no fudge puddles in my fridge, even if the ground is green, even if the ornament boxes are still in the middle of the floor. Christmas will still happen even if the young ones are crashing from too much excitement and sugar, even if hormones rage, even if older ones feel lonesome for partners, parents, or grown children. Christmas will still happen, even if the minister’s message runs long (or short), if children get stage fright or family gets storm stayed. One year, we even had Christmas with 7 hours of power on Christmas Eve and none for the next 8 days. It’s these moments of imperfection that make Christmas special, and it’s what made the very first Christmas special in the first place. It’s also what makes church, church.

We’ve skipped ahead with the lectionary a bit. Jesus is at an age where he is able to converse intelligently with the temple priests, but still needs his parents. I find it interesting that the temple priests were interested in talking to Jesus. It’s got me thinking about something I read long enough ago that I can’t seem to remember where I read it, but the question that stills stays with me is “what does this say about our understanding of God?” The question was referring to the physical chairistics of a church, in particular, a Sunday school classroom, but I think it also pertains to the atmosphere we create together as a community of faith. Jesus was able to sit and comfortably talk to the temple priests. He felt so comfortable that he assumed his parents would instinctively know that he would be there. What does that say about young Jesus’ understanding of God? It says that God is approachable, that regardless of age, mental capacity, education or social standing, all are welcome to feel at home. There will always be something that we could do better, but as long as we are doing it for the right reasons, it will be enough.

How we do become an image of God as a community is up to us. One thing can be guaranteed, it’ll be messy. It won’t always work the way we planned, and somebody will end up mad. But that’s just how it is. Nothing is ever perfect and even if it was, I’m not sure we’d like it that way anyway. “Christmas ain’t Christmas until a memory is made.”

December 20, 2015 (Advent 4)

Links of Interest:

http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/special_liturgies/baptism.html

http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/special_liturgies/baptism2.html

http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/special_liturgies/naming-and-thanksgiving-for.html

http://www.united-church.ca/beliefs/statements/songfaith

 

Prayers:

Statement of Purpose: (Taken from A Song of Faith)

In grateful response to God’s abundant love,

we bear in mind our integral connection

to the earth and one another;

we participate in God’s work of healing and mending creation.

To point to the presence of the holy in the world,

the church receives, consecrates, and shares

visible signs of the grace of God.

In company with the churches

of the Reformed and Methodist traditions,

we celebrate two sacraments as gifts of Christ:

baptism and holy communion.

In these sacraments the ordinary things of life

—water, bread, wine—

point beyond themselves to God and God’s love,

teaching us to be alert

to the sacred in the midst of life.

 

Before conscious thought or action on our part,

we are born into the brokenness of this world.

Before conscious thought or action on our part,

we are surrounded by God’s redeeming love.

Baptism by water in the name of the Holy Trinity

is the means by which we are received, at any age,

into the covenanted community of the church.

It is the ritual that signifies our rebirth in faith

and cleansing by the power of God.

Baptism signifies the nurturing, sustaining,

and transforming power of God’s love

and our grateful response to that grace.

 

Affirmation of Faith (taken from A Song of Faith)

Divine creation does not cease

until all things have found wholeness, union, and integration

with the common ground of all being.

As children of the Timeless One,

our time-bound lives will find completion

in the all-embracing Creator.

In the meantime, we embrace the present,

embodying hope, loving our enemies,

caring for the earth,

choosing life.

 

Grateful for God’s loving action,

we cannot keep from singing.

Creating and seeking relationship,

in awe and trust,

we witness to Holy Mystery who is Wholly Love.

 

Amen.

 

Offering Invitation

There are many ways to offer love to others. Our offerings provide the opportunity for us to demonstrate our love to children and youth through wider programming such as Rendez-vous.

Offering Prayer

May these gifts and those given through PAR become gifts of love made known. Amen.

 

Commissioning and Benediction

We are the ones. Each of us plays a part in offering Love to the world. May we have the courage, strength and wisdom to change the world with our love.

 

 

Reflection:

This week was the Sunday School Pageant. We adapted a sweet and simple story “Room for a Little One” by Martin Waddell ( http://www.amazon.ca/Room-Little-One-Martin-Waddell/dp/1416961771 ) to include the typical Luke 2 passage and repeat the phrase as a group “There’s always room for a little one here.” The kids loved it! They had great fun choosing which animal they wanted to be and making their costumes.

December 13, 2015 (Advent 3)

Links of Interest:

Zephaniah – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zephaniah

Stewardship Toolkit – http://www.stewardshiptoolkit.ca/worship

Advent Unwrapped – http://www.adventunwrapped.ca/

Joy to the World –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_to_the_World_(Three_Dog_Night_song)

Prayers: (and songs!)

Hymn Jeremiah Was a Prophet(tune: Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog)

Jeremiah was a prophet,

talked ’bout “a branch from David’s line”

don’t always understand just what he said,

but Hope for the future he defined.

Hope for the future he defined.

he sang:

Joy to the world!

All the boys and girls

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,

Joy to you and Me!

 

John the Baptist loved the people.

He told them what to do:

“Clear your path and make it straight,

to Peace we shall be true!”

“To Peace we shall be true!”

He sang out:

Joy to the world!

All the boys and girls

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,

Joy to you and Me!

 

Zephania, she wrote praises

to people everywhere:

“Trust in Love to bring you home,

show each other that you care.”

“Show each other that you care.”

she sang:

Joy to the world!

All the boys and girls

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,

Joy to you and Me!

 

Offering Invitation

On this White Gift Sunday, we are encouraged to think of the good of the whole. We are encouraged to think of others with love. We are challenged to remember the abundance that we have and to share it with others.

 

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts and those given through PAR, remind us of the joy of giving. Amen.

 

The Book of Zephaniah is a small book located between Habakkuk and Haggi. Without doing any research other than reading the bit from the lectionary, I assumed that the writer was a female. I think Zephaniah would be a beautiful girl’s name, but it’s more than that. Our lectionary reading is a song of praise written in the format that often indicates a female writer/singer. When I started my research, I discovered that Zephaniah was a male prophet mentioned in the First Testament. The introduction at the beginning of Zephaniah introduces the writer as the son of Cushi making him the prophet mentioned during the time of King Josiah. As with many of the books of the Bible, scholars can’t determine that Zephaniah was, without a doubt the writer of the book, so I’m still going with my gut reaction that this morning’s small section of Zephaniah, at least, was written by someone else. Back to the time the book itself, was written: So King Josiah was noted to be the favorite king, second only to King David. These were good times the people were living in. Maybe a little too good. Good enough, that the book of Zephaniah is filled with paradoxes, songs of great praise about how good life can be and prose about the perils of not working for the good of the whole. Sometimes in our abundance, we forget; we forget that we are abundant. It happens so easily.

Today is our designated White Gift Sunday. A Sunday traditionally set aside to remember those who do not share our abundance, and an opportunity for us to sit and honestly evaluate our piece of the global pie. Is it a fair sized share? White Gift is intended to be an anonymous equalizer. Everyone gives as much as they can so that those who aren’t able to make ends meet have a little less to worry about. Legend has it that originally the gifts were wrapped in white representing and keeping the anonymity and equalizing monetary value of the gifts.

I often hear the complaint that “we should be helping our own first”. I’ll admit that mind own mind went in that direction at one point in time. I also hear lots of accusations about those who access programs some of which may be true, many if not most of which, are not true in the least. While it can be frustrating that some families have different values than our own particular families’ values, giving isn’t about the end result. At least not for those of us who live in abundance. We give because we can. We give because we believe in the good of the whole. We give because we are celebrating love and all that love can be. We give because we celebrate the hope that we have, in it’s many forms, that tomorrow holds the possibility of more love. We give because we celebrate what it means to be human.

This song of praise from Zephaniah is all about coming home. It’s interesting that a song of praise and celebration for all that can be possible when we work towards the good of the whole is about coming home. This idea of home is both part of what we celebrate and part of what we offer in celebration. It is part of our abundance and part of our giving. We can offer the money or the goods so that someone can create home, but without offering our hospitality, it’s pointless. Kind of like begrudgingly handing over an obligatory gift that you’d really sooner keep for yourself. Or saying sorry because you know it’s expected of you, but not really feeling it.

You often hear about the “joy of giving”, and sometimes I find it hard to feel joy when I sense my gift has not made the impact I had hoped for. This year I’m going to try going into this season of giving to simply celebrate the fact that I’m alive, I have people to love, and people who love me. I’m giving and receiving a token in celebration of that love. I’m going to find joy in this celebration of love expressed through my giving. At least I’m going to try.

Let’s pray:

May we celebrate our humanity and our love in all we do this season. May we understand Joy as a product of Hope, Peace, and Love. May we give from our abundance in an effort to equalize. May we see this giving as celebration. May it be so.

December 6, 2015 (Advent 2)

Links of Interest:

Orange the World – http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism

Clint Smith TED talk –http://www.ted.com/talks/clint_smith_the_danger_of_silence

Bryony House – http://thans.ca/get-help/find-a-shelter/bryony-house/

 

Prayers:

Offering Invitation

In this time of great abundance, we are reminded that peace can only happen when there is enough to eat, when there is clean water to drink, when the basic human rights are easily accessible. We offer from our abundance, to bring peace to others.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts become building blocks for peace. Amen.

 

 

Normally, when John the Baptist comes a-shouting, I pontificate on the word “wilderness” and what a path through it might look like. I love the word “wilderness” and I love the meaning it brings to the passage. This year though, I’m taking a slightly different approach. “Wilderness” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region, a neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town; a position of disfavor, especially in a political context.

I seem to find myself in the wilderness more often than I’d like. I think many of us as followers of The Way of Jesus, find ourselves in the wilderness often. It doesn’t surprise me that John the Baptist would be in the wilderness. The man wore animal skins, had wild hair and ate locusts with honey. He was somewhat “different”. People who stray from societal norms tend to find themselves in those lonely and uninhabitable places. Since John appears to be criticizing society in this text, it’s probably a fairly safe assumption that he’s sitting on the edges. I hope that his critical nature is actually a gap in translating, because I like the general meaning of the message. Clearing a path where there has never been one before is hard work and it’s even harder to keep it straight. There’s a difference between walking around obstacles and letting them direct your path. Sometimes it’s easy to deal with obstacles in your path, especially if you have help. Other times, it’s harder: Like in the middle of the night on your way to the bathroom, without a night light, in an unfamiliar place. Letting the obstacles change your direction may mean you don’t end up where you intended at all.

It seems to me that many people who find themselves in situations of violence are stuck in those violent situations because they can’t get past the obstacles in their way. A Syrian refugee without money, seeking asylum, or a young mother, trapped in a violent relationship. There are obstacles, obstacles that can change the direction of even the most dedicated person. Seeing the obstacles in your path is one thing, but clearing them or having the confidence to navigate around them is another.

So back to John. I wonder how alone he felt shouting from the wilderness? I wonder if he was nervous to challenge the popular way of doing things? I wonder how long it took him to muster the courage to say “Stop it. You are not respecting yourself or each other with your actions.” Then I saw the Clint Smith TED talk. “Silence is the residue of fear.” Residue is what’s left on the walls of the shower. Residue is what’s left at the bottom of the dehumidifier. I’m not talking about mold, that a whole other problem, I’m talking about the stubborn stuff that just won’t go away. No matter how hard you scrub. Are you thinking yet about things you wish you had spoken up about? Occasionally, as I scroll through Facebook, I’m sad about the racism, sexism and rape culture I see. Sometimes I speak out or report these offensive things, other times I “unfriend” them. It’s a tough choice, but I’m tired of subjecting my brain and my emotions, silencing my conscience and leaving a residue on myself. When I heard about “Orange the World” and the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign put on by the United Nations, this was one of those times where silence would leave a residue on my soul. In my social justice year at the Centre for Christian Studies, my field placement was at Bryony House. Growing up in a rural, isolated community, I was no stranger to the fact the violence happens, but it was generally something that people whispered about and kept it behind closed doors. Bryony House was different. It was suddenly in my face just how violent some relationships had become. My eyes were much wider. In my settlement charge, I often volunteered at the youth health centre. The health nurse there, and I often strategized ways to educate the teens about healthy relationships. That often meant talking about relationships: the ones they were seeing on tv or their own relationships. Sometimes it was awkward, but getting the teens to talk about their relationships was the first step to building healthy ones. Like the teens at the health centre, if we are going to bring about peace on this earth, then we need to start by examining our relationships. We need to work towards making our relationships the best they can be, inspiring others to work on their relationships. We need to challenge the harmful relationships we see in the media. We need to speak out when we see disrespect: towards a stranger, a partner, or self. We may feel like we are shouting alone in the wilderness, but if one person has the courage to speak out, others will follow. The residue of fear will begin to fade. We will orange the wilderness.

November 29, 2015 (Advent 1:Hope)

Links of Interest:

www.adventunwrapped.ca

(in particular: The Shepherds Story & the Hope video)

Prayers:

Prayer of Approach

We come today looking for signs of Hope. Hope to receive, Hope to offer. May we find Hope in word and in song, in action and in relationship. May we be inspired to offer Hope to others. Amen.

 

We’ve got a lot to cover in 5mins. I’m going to try my best, hang on to your seats, because we are on the wild ride that is advent. So first and fore most, year C advent readings are not my favorite. They are mostly prophecy readings. We don’t hear any of the typical “lead up” to the nativity story until the fourth week of advent. Even then, it’s the conversation between Mary and Elizabeth, none of the angels visits or even Joseph’s conversation with Mary. Just Elizabeth’s prophecy, then Christmas Eve. A prophecy reading is a reading where the “speaker” is preaching about what is to come. Many of the prophecy readings this season aren’t exactly hope-filled.

Humans need hope. We need it as much as we need air. Jeremiah is one of the few passages of the Advent C lectionary that offers us hope. But during that particular time, there was no other choice. As Gary Charles of “Feasting on the Word” (pg 5) puts it, “Jeremiah speaks to hostages being seduced to start a new life in balmy Babylon. He tells a tough audience that, despite every sign to the contrary, ‘days are coming,’ days when God’s promises will be fulfilled.”

Who doesn’t understand the lure of the Oil Patch? Anyone who knows a 20 or 30 something here in Nova Scotia knows the dilemma faced by every young or youngish adult. A little flash of the green, and most 30somethings who are still chipping away at student loans from their 20ies find it very hard to stay put.

The reason I haven’t left for the West is a deep sense of call. I firmly believe that I am called to speak to issues of power and privilege, to challenge societal norms. I believe that the best place to start this, is with my own people, sometimes even with my own family. Likely much to their dismay. I also firmly believe that the United Church of Canada is the best forum for me to challenge. What better starting point than an organization that came together because they respect each other’s’ differences?

The Hebrew people were running out of hope. Jeremiah was doing his best in this speech to remind them that hope doesn’t rest in the past. It doesn’t really rest in the present. Hope rests in the future. Jeremiah was attempting to give the people a working goal.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the consumerism of society. We hear about it all the time on the news this time of year. “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales abound. In fact the other year my sister was in Clayton Park shopping on Black Friday and got herself in the wrong store at the wrong time. She actually saw someone pushed to the point they fell on the ground and an ambulance was called. Again, this wasn’t the US, it was here: in Halifax. It could be really easy to give in to this culture, or to let it be so overwhelming that it becomes depressing. But there is hope. Believe or not, #givingtuesday is starting to make some headway. There are also a number of church-based Advent programs that focus on giving time, meaning, and love. With so much pulling us in so many different directions this time of year, it’s easy to lose track of what you really need to do or where you really need to be for the greater good. It’s easy to lose the time, the meaning, and the love. But, that’s how you build hope: with time meaning and love. So what are you going to do this Advent to increase hope? What are we doing as a faith community to increase hope? What are you doing as a family to offer time, meaning and love? What are you doing to show these gifts to yourself, so that you might feel compelled to offer them to others?

November 15, 2015

 

Links of interest:

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Thief_in_the_Night_(film)(note: I reffer to the film “Left Behind” – it was actually the 1970s version that I saw “A Thief in the Night”)

 

Also Note: the world experienced numerous acts of terrorism and natural disasters that particular week.

 

Prayers

Call to Worship (inspired by Mumford and Sons – Roll Away Your Stone)

One: Roll away your stone I will roll away mine

All: Together we can see what we will find

One: We worship together, exploring the unknown

All: challenging each other to step outside our comfort zones.

One: Knowing that change, challenge and the unknown,

All: is so much easier to face when we face it together.

 

Prayer of Approach

We pray that this might be an hour where love is shared, community is built, relationships are strengthened and the people are empowered. May we feel courage and excitement as we look at turning stones. Amen.

 

Offering Invitation

As a community of faith, we are responsible for the good of the whole. Together, we work towards justice for all. Together, we work towards bringing the realm of God, here to earth. The offering provides us with the opportunity to begin the hard work of seeking the good of the whole.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts become a stepping stone for those seeking justice, peace, and acceptance. May they be a small symbol of our love for the greater good. Amen.

 

The end of time readings always bug me a little bit. I think that’s because for a good chunk of my life they scared me. I grew up in a small, isolated, fishing community that was mostly Baptist and Pentecostal. I knew what the rapture was before I graduated from grade 6. I don’t care to dwell in the theology I experienced in those days, but I’ll sum it up by saying we watched Left Behind in youth group, and I was forever scarred. Luckily, my mother, a free thinker, with a BA religious studies major, never forced me to go to youth group. While she didn’t always know how to express her beliefs to answer my questions, she didn’t discourage my questions either. It wasn’t until I went to seminary that I really began to explore what these passages might really mean, and begin to disconnect them from the horror movie Left Behind.

When I began practicing yoga, and learning to meditate and live with intention, these passages took on a whole new meaning for me. You might not agree with what I’m about to say, and that’s ok. Being part of the United Church is about experiencing a variety of different beliefs and looking for the common element or spirit that exists in each. I am United Church to.the.core.

I went to Mt Allison University, and dipped my toes in religious studies there. I didn’t take many religious studies courses, as a number of the key profs there were notorious markers. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had an undiagnosed learning disability. I knew there were some courses I would never pass. But being the church lover that I was, I tried my best at a couple. The one that I found to be the most interesting was called Contemporary Myths. The whole premise of the course was to encourage the student to explore their understanding of God and the myths that shape the way we live our lives. Understanding that a myth is a story based on truth was helpful. Wrapping my head around the Bible as a collection of myths – stories based on truth was not as helpful, only because it was different from what I’d always been told.

My involvement with the larger church lead me to look into ministry. I knew I didn’t want to be a minister. I didn’t want to be that person telling people what to do or to think. I felt there was more to church than Sunday mornings…droning on for 20 mins just wasn’t my thing. But my minister managed to convince me to try it. So I did. I took a semester at AST, where I learned about understanding the context of the writer in order to understand more deeply that passage you were studying. I also went to the Centre for Christian Studies where I began to learn about progressive theology which has pushed and shaped my understanding of God, and of our calling as people following the Way of Jesus to act with intention. All of this new found knowledge gave me a release from the theology that had held me hostage for so long.

Sometimes, well intentioned people, and sometimes not so well intentioned people, use guilt to prey on the hopelessness of others. They make access to after-life/heaven/enlightenment conditional. They use conditional hope to control the actions of others. The not so well intentioned people do this for their own benefit. The well intentioned people are often controlled by the not-so-well-intentioned people, either directly or indirectly, separated by generations even. That’s just the way that empire works.

When passages such as this one are presented to me, I’m reminded of the extremes people will go to in order to achieve a sense of hope. And then something like this past week happens, and I’m left with a strengthened sense of purpose and a late night on Saturday. My intentions for today were to talk about change in the church and the theology of change. Instead, I’m reminding you that some people will actually take something that is meant to bring hope, and twist it into something that will give hopeless people a reason to kill. People, spiritual abuse exists, and terrorism is what it looks like in its most extreme form. Anyone who takes away the hope of someone else in the name of God is being spiritually abusive. People who make others feel inferior or control the actions of others in the name of God are spiritual abusers.

Dealing with spiritual abuse is not easy. While challenging the controlling or intimidating beliefs is necessary, unless the challenge is accompanied with unconditional love and graceful acceptance, the challenges will go unheard. But it is what I am called to do. I am called to gently challenge limiting beliefs, while loving and empowering people to their fullest potential. It’s not always easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. So in these coming days as the world deals with the aftermath of terrorism and spiritual abuse on many levels, I urge you not to get caught up in the fear and the anger. I urge you not to post condemning and hate-filled messages. The people doing these things feel hopeless. Please, don’t feed the monster eating their hope. Instead, I challenge you to do your small part to offer hope to someone feeling hopeless, to challenge restrictive theology with a theology of Love and to live with compassion.

November 8, 2015

Links of Interest:

http://youtu.be/hbRn_5Bw5oA

 

Prayers:

Offering Invitation

Our offering today is an opportunity to make a decision – a decision about the ways we use our abundance. I invite to consider making a decision to support the work of this church.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts be symbolic of decisions to step boldly and bravely onto the path set out for us by Jesus.

 

Commissioning and Benediction:

One: As we leave from this place, may justice be on our minds, kindness in our actions, wisdom in our words and peace in our hearts.

All: May it be so.

 

Children’s Time:

Why is it important for our church to remember peace?

 

When I read the passage of Mark that the lectionary had laid out for me to reflect on today, I knew instantaneously, that I wanted to reflect about the difference between sacrifice and decision. I subscribe to Brian Johnson’s feeds, and had been thinking about the video we saw. I was feeling a bit like I had been sacrificing lately, and his suggestion that if it’s a step towards the ultimate goal, then it is a decision, not a sacrifice. There are lots of examples I could use, but the one that seems to strike me the most has to do with the sweet stuff. The Bike & Bean, they have some pretty yummy looking Nanaimo bars. Every time I walk in there, I have to make a conscious decision not to get one. Every time I don’t get one, I take a step towards spending more time with Bob and the dogs and our dream of a tiny house on the river where I grew up. Sometimes I get really cranky or tired, and I think about those Nanaimo bars…but then I have to remind myself that a Nanaimo bar takes $3 away from the tiny house fund, costs and extra 40 mins on a treadmill without the dogs (who are also known as my “babies”) and considering the history of heart health with my family: potentially a little less time with Bob and the ones I love the most. In fact, the only things I’m gaining are a bit of instant gratification that will last about 2 mins longer than it will take me to eat the bar and another pound on my hips. Not eating the Nanaimo bar, is a decision that becomes a step to the larger life goals.

Today is our Remembrance Sunday, a day that is often filled with talk about Peace and sacrificing for peace. When we think back to the wars, it’s easy to understand how people could feel called to sacrifice for peace, but what about today? There is still a lot of conflict in the world. While there is less threat to those of us who live in Canada, there are still people who are feeling the effects of war so strongly, that they are willing to place their lives in crowed vessels made of flimsy fiberglass. They are willing to make a decision that might cost them greatly. The alternative – staying, just isn’t worth it. Many years ago, people in this country made a decision to work towards a better life, sometimes with great cost. On Wednesday, we honor those hard-made decisions.

Today, we reflect on the Widow in Mark’s Gospel. She had a decision to make. A decision that was likely harder for the Widow than it was for the others gathered to worship that day. A decision that torments anyone living paycheck to paycheck. How much do I give? The Widow put two small coins in the offerings. Widows in those days were usually not independently wealthy. The Widow stereotypically would have had to earn those coins through manual labor or begging, not exactly a reliable or steady income. It wasn’t a big, showy, donation, but it was all she could give. She gave, because she believed in the work of the Temple. She believed so much in the work of the Temple, that she who would normally receive from the Temple treasury, gave to it. This passage isn’t just about giving faithfully though. It’s about believing in the power of the people enough to change society. That’s what was really happening. Jesus was pointing out the potential for the Temple to change the way society functioned simply by the decision to believe and followed through with concrete actions of the Hebrew people. Rodger Nishioka sums up his thoughts on the systemic violence and injustice experienced by the Widow, that Jesus was so thoughtfully observing. Nishioka pushes the point of specific action in his perspective found in “Feasting on the Word” (Year B, vol 4 pg 288): “But reflection alone is not enough. Reflection must lead to specific and sustained action by engaging spiritual practices that challenge political and economic systems in the church, the nation, and the world. Feeding the hungry and providing clothing are important spiritual practices, but the church must come to view these practices as more than programs. The church must come to understand these practices as the very life flowing out of its worship.” Nishioka then goes on to suggest that by having our faith take on action, not only will we be living out our faith but we will be shaping society and politics to also choose an ethical and justice-filled path forward for itself.

Everyday we make sacrifices or decisions. Everyday we are faced with opportunity to take action on our beliefs. Everyday we make decisions about small steps toward the goal of a greater common good. Are we as a community of faith acting out our beliefs? Are you ready to offer what you can for the greater good? What’s your next decision going to be?

November 1, 2015

Links of Interest:

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2616

http://www.pulpitfiction.us/show-notes/139-proper-26b-nov-1-2015

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ruth

http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/68599.pdf

 

Prayers:

Offering Invitation

Stewardship is the caring for our resources, good stewardship is ensuring there are enough resources to do the work that we, as followers of The Way, are called to do. We share in the work and share in the resources as we are able. Each and every gift is greatfully received.

 

I can’t even imagine what Naomi went through. In addition to being a widow, she’d lost both of her sons and she was in a foreign land. She had the relatively young wives of her sons depending on her for wisdom, support and friendship. It wasn’t easy for a single woman in that particular culture and era, especially one who was past her child bearing years. Once already, she had escaped certain death by leaving the drought in her home country with her husband and children. Naomi did not find this new land to very hospitable. Without a support network, it was necessary for her to return to the land of her people. She had nowhere else to go. Thank goodness for her daughter-in-law. Naomi would be lucky if any one still remembered her after being gone for at least 10 years. Naomi was prepared to be a foreigner in her own land, but she didn’t feel comfortable asking Ruth to become a foreigner, when Naomi had so little to offer her. But that didn’t matter to Ruth, she knew that both she and Naomi would be stronger, wherever they were, together. Eventually, Ruth was able to make Naomi’s country her home, especially with the help of her new husband. Ruth and Naomi showed a courage I can only begin to imagine.

The Ruth and Naomi situation is one that is unfortunately all too familiar. Can you imagine what it would be like to leave your home and your loved ones behind – without FaceTime and Skype? Can you imagine what it would be like to constantly have to try to figure out what it is you are supposed to do, how you are supposed to behave socially?

This past week I was in Massacusetts for a course. Even though I was closer to home then I would be if I went to Manitoba, I still found myself puzzled or embarrassed from time to time. The instructor and many of my classmates spoke differently saying things like “drawring” and “cawwfee”. Moderators chair their church councils and they sang the old words to the doxology, which felt weird. Looking for Ibprophine at the drugstore was well…interesting…Even in airport security, the carry on suitcase doesn’t go in the bin for scanning like it does in Canada.

When our conversation in class came around to inferred behaviours and how those impact change, it quickly turned to the refugee crisis. It was easy to draw the parallels between a new person to a congregation and a new person to a country. There are always subtle, unwritten rules. Things that happen a particular way in order to fit in culturally speaking. For example, think back to the first time you ordered at Starbucks or another high-end coffee shop. Did you know that what you wanted was a Tall Skinny Chai Latte No Whip? Did the barista have to explain it to you? Now think of that feeling, but on a grander scale…a provincial scale or national scale…I can’t picture what it would be like to have to immerse yourself so totally in a culture, with no opportunity to get support from loved ones back home. I can’t picture what it would be like to feel like you are tripping all over yourself with only the people you live with for moral support. The saddest part is that in spite of our best efforts to welcome people, sometimes we are unaware of our inferred behaviours. Especially in church…like assuming that a guest knows the Prayer of Jesus or how to respond to the phrase: “God is Good”.

The story of Ruth reminds me of the need to welcome others, not only to our communities but to our churches as well. What will you do to welcome newcomers to the Tantallon area? What will you do to welcome newcomers to St Luke’s? What inferred behaviour will you need to be aware of? What inferred behaviour can be changed? How will you let newcomers know that they are special…welcomed…loved? May it be so.

Generational Hymn Sing

So this week I’ve been away on a course, but I’ve got some older stuff I’d like to share. This week it’s a generational hymn sing, heavily influenced by “GENERATIONAL THEORY AND ITS APPLICATION TO THE CANADIAN CHURCH CONTEXT” by Deborah Voss Coss.

 

Welcome & News of the Community

 

Basket of Blessings (Offering)

 

Music: Make a Joyful Noise VU 820

 

Gathering Words (an adaption of Psalm 98)

One: Sing to God a brand-new song.
All: For the world is full of wonders!

One: God’s love has travelled with us over the generations

All: Even in the times we have chosen not to acknowledge this love.

One: Even in the times when we couldn’t acknowledge God’s love. Because of this unending love, we sing!

All: Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!

One: Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.

All: Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to God.

One: Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.

All: Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—

One: Let us sing a new song, for with God’s Love anything is possible.

All: With God’s Love we will work to build the kin-dom for ourselves and for future generations.

 

Sharing the Story: Generations

William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of “The Fourth Turning” have set out generational theory in a way that I find very interesting. They’ve paired up Bible stories with the 4 types of generations. When comparing this to the current generations at work in the church, it’s easy to see why we sometimes feel like we’re having the same arguments over and over again. While having the same arguments and problems over and over again can be frustrating, when I step back and look to see what the real problem is, I’m relieved when I find that it is something as normal as a generational gap.

 

So this morning, because our lectionary turned up Psalm 98, a song for new songs, celebrating the progress of each new generation, I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a generational hymn sing!

 

Before we begin, I should say that the lines between the generations are very fuzzy and blurry, with lots of people identifying with a generation outside of their birthday. Also each turn of the cycle produces different results. While there can be as many as five different generations in our church, there are four different types. While two of those types are similar, they aren’t the same, and in some ways, the older we get the more we begin to embody the different types of generations based on our engagement with life and world events.

 

The Prophets (Moses, Idealist, The Boom Generation (born 1943-1960) God is Truth

The Prophets are the generation of people who impose a moral conscience on those around them. Like Moses and the Ten Commandments.

 

The Nomads (the Golden Calf, Reactive, Generation X (born 1961-1981) God is Community

The Nomads are the generation that felt there were things more important than God. They were the people who roamed in the wilderness for a whole generation worshiping a golden calf.

 

The Hero (Joshua, Civic, The GI Generation, (born 1901-1932) God is Power The Millennials (1982-2002ish)

The Hero generation leads the people out of their crisis in the wilderness and into the Promised Land. The story of Joshua represents this generation.

 

The Artist (Judges, Adaptive, The Silent Generation, (born 1925-1942) God is Love The Unnamed Generation (born 2002ish-present)

The Artist generation can see the bigger picture. They are the ones who nurture what the heros were able to do into something even bigger.

 

 

Questions for discussion during each generation:

What was happening in the world during this generations teen years/early twenties?

What was happening in the church world during this generations teen years/early twenties?

What does this generation need to feed them spiritually?

 

 

Music to end each generation: (Maybe not all the verses? I think that would make it way too long, I’m open to suggestions on the verses)

 

Prophets – I am the Light of the World VU 87 (v 3&4)

Nomads – Draw the Circle Wide MV 145 (v1)

Hero – Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah VU 651 (v1&2) & Called by Earth and Sky MV 135 (v1&4)

Artist – Make Me a Channel of Your Peace VU 684 (v1)

 

Prayer in Action

Prayer is the opportunity for transformation.

Prayer is the opportunity to reflect on the self and discover a hidden call.

Prayer is the opportunity to hear the concerns of others and the opportunity to offer miracles.

 

 

Affirmation:

One: Let us sing a new song, for with God’s Love anything is possible.

All: With God’s Love we will work to build the kin-dom for ourselves and for future generations.

 

Music: Oh A Song Must Rise MV 142

October 18 2015

 

Focus Text: Job 38:1-7

 

Links of Interest:

http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/year_b_liturgy_collection/year_b_pentecostafter/pentecost20b18102015.html

 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2013/12/the-wisdom-of-the-hazelnut-a-conversation-with-mirabai-starr/

 

http://www.united-church.ca/beliefs/statements/songfaith

 

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2671

 

http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/The-Real-God-Shows-Up-John-C-Holbert-10-14-2015

 

https://youtu.be/SZheba5hjdU

 

https://youtu.be/zNB_oBVUniA

 

Prayers:

Call to Worship

One: We gather when we’re happy, to celebrate with those we love.

All: We gather when we are sad, to seek comfort and strength from those we love.

One: Worship is a time to celebrate, and it is also a time to prepare.

All: When we are our strongest as a community of faith, we are best able to offer each other comfort and support. May this worship empower us to strengthen and support each other.

 

Offering Invitation

We are called as followers of The Way to work with each other to offer hope. This is the time to dream big and share the vision. We gratefully receive the offerings.

 

Offering Prayer

May these gifts become a beacon of hope, when no other hope is visible. Amen.

 

Commissioning and Benediction:

May we leave this place with a common goal:

That all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. (Julian of Norwich)

 

 

Oh Job. Sigh. This book always presents a dilemma for me. Should I talk about it or skip it? You see this is one of the books of the Bible that offers an image of God that I just can’t swallow. I think in the United Church, we’d have a bit of a hard time to find someone who takes every word of the Bible as truth and words spoken by God. That isn’t to say literalists don’t exist in the United Church, they do, just in small numbers. If I were a literalist, the book of Job would have me believe that God is:

1. the kind of God that has conversations

2. the kind of God that places bets, and I’m sure you all know how the United Church feels about gambling

3. the kind of God that punishes people for their actions or lack of actions

4. the kind of God that has divine plans for people

5. that there is an afterlife that could be with or without God, depending on your actions

I’m going to stop my list right here, or we’ll be here all day.

I’m not a literalist. I’m a free thinker, whose ethical and moral boundaries leave me with a feministic, liberative view of Christianity. This particular lens of Christianity, through which I view the world, challenges me to work towards the greater good: empowering and seeking justice as I challenge societal norms. Most often this leaves me ranting at the theology presented on tv, or switching the radio station to avoid listening to music that I can’t ethically agree with and other times it leaves me scratching my head on Saturday night wondering what words will leave my mouth Sunday morning or if I should suggest ordering pizza for supper as a peace offering.

Back on track here, we’ve established five things the passage doesn’t do, but what does Job’s story offer me?

In a nutshell, Here’s the story. Job is an upright, model citizen. He is moral and devout. He follows very carefully the laws laid out for him by God. One day God and Satan are talking, cause that’s apparently what happens with God and Satan in Job’s world, and God asks if Satan has noticed Job. And just to be sure Satan is noticing the right person, God points out that Job is the really pious one. Satan the lures God with a bet: if God didn’t treat Job so well, Job would curse the name of God, which would be a very bad thing to do. God says “you’re on!” And Satan goes about tormenting Job. Job loses all of his livestock and his children, but he doesn’t curse God. The story then repeats itself. One day God and Satan are talking, and it ends up again with God giving Satan the go ahead to torment Job some more: this time, Satan takes Job’s health. Still, Job does not curse God. Job’s friends come to visit him. Job doesn’t blame God for his troubles though. He becomes very self deprecating instead, so much so that a younger friend steps in and tries to rebuild Job’s courage, and to remind Job’s other friends about how faith and friendship work. He and Job talk back and forth quite a bit, a number of chapters worth actually. Job’s friends try to defend themselves, Job realizes that being so self deprecating was offensive to God and wishes he could take the words back, but now that he’s spoken them, he feels committed to the words. Then Job begins to complain to God. The arguments and complaints go on, sometimes Job to God, sometimes Job to his friends, sometimes his friends arguing back and sometimes pondering to each other. Around chapter 20 it becomes pretty apparent that despite his previously pious nature Job is contemplating ending his life. The rest of the book sees Job ever so slowly begin to turn around.

What the book of Job offers me are two important issues to think about: the first being the nature of God and the second is the reminder that bad things happen to everyone and we can suddenly find ourselves overwhelmed with what we are faced with. This is normal. Despite what the words story of Job say, God doesn’t create or intend bad things. Bad things happen, yes, but Gods’s presence in felt in the support we receive from friends and family. In Job’s case, it was the support of his younger friend. Things will change. Things won’t remain perfect forever, nor are things unbareable forever. Our job is to help our friends and family make it through the rough stuff by finding God’s presence in some small way, one small step at a time.

I’ve paired this reading from Job with the story of Julian of Norwich because of the similarity in their stories. They both lose their families, both lose their health for a period of time, and both lose their possessions. We could assume that Julian, in her decision to be an anchoress, willingly gave up her possessions or we could look at the possibility that a widow during that particular time period would have had a limited number of options available to her. Julian’s response to her trials, and her advice to others experiencing some sort of suffering was to pray “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” I’m not so sure that she was saying this prayer to ask God that all shall be well, I suspect it was a prayer to remind herself that nothing lasts forever and as long as we are working towards the common good, in the end all will be well.

Do you know someone who is having a Job or Julian experience? Is there some way that you can show them a small piece of God’s Love? Are you having a Job kind of day? Is there someone that you can talk to ,about it? What do you need, in order to remember that “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”?

October 11 2015

Focus text: Matthew 6:25-33

Links of interest:

www.workingpreacher.org

www.storyofstuff.org

www.patheos.com

www.mrsmindfulness.com

http://sites.utoronto.ca/religion/synopsis/

 

 

Offering Prayer

One: May these gifts inspire generosity of spirit and action. May they become acts of creation and compassion offering all the opportunity to meet the divine.

All: May it be so.

 

I thought I was going to talk about Abundance this week. I thought that since it was Thanksgiving and because I was planning to talk about grace during the children’s time, that this would be the perfect Sunday to talk about one of my favourite biblical concepts: Living in Abundance and challenging the scarcity myth. Besides its Thanksgiving, isn’t it somewhat expected to talk about abundance or gratitude? The scripture for today is clearly indicating that we worry too much about stuff. There will be enough. The birds and flowers don’t worry, why should we?

 

Just when I think I have things under control, and the worship outline is sent off for others to work on, I went to a meeting with a bunch of other clergy. One of the other ministers mentioned that he was using the same text as I was, then went on to make his point and I realized that while abundance and challenging our addiction to stuff, is an important piece in applying this scripture to daily life, there could be a greater theme at play here.

 

What would happen if we took the time to live in the moment? What would happen if we took the time to enjoy what we’ve got right here in this moment? Would we suddenly find ourselves worrying less about our stuff? Would we experience more moments of grace?

 

Matthew 6 is one of those chapters of collected wisdom attributed to Jesus. To be specific, this particular section is the middle of his “Sermon on the Mount”, after he’s made his main points and is tying them together before his conclusion. While understanding our cultural addiction to scarcity, is an important part of this wisdom given to us on the Mount, fully grasping the possibilities around us is only possible if we recognize our lack of ability to live in the moment. It happens so easily, that you might miss it. For example: (Pause) Did you think about dinner with your family in that 5 seconds? Or was it maybe this afternoon’s game? Living in the moment is about concentrating on the people you are with.

 

When I went to the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, which I did twice a year for two weeks for 5 years, I could almost guarantee that the first worship of each gathering would include some intentional time reflecting on the things we needed to leave at home in order to be present to the learning we were required to do. It took me a long time to understand how important that was. I remember the learning circle the month after I met Bob (who is now my spouse), it probably wasn’t my greatest learning experience. I did get better at leaving home at home and concentrating on my learning experiences, but sometimes I still find myself in some far off place, trying to quickly catch up.

 

Are any of you walkers or runners? treadmill or outside? What do you do while you run? Do you concentrate on each muscle of your foot hitting the ground? Do you focus on the in breath and the out breath? Are you noticing each flower and tree you pass and the crunch of gravel under your feet? Or are you building a shopping list? Mentally working your way through the transactions in your bank account? Trying to figure out who will pick up whom after work? What in the world are you serving for supper? For you non-runners or walkers, are these the things you think about at red lights?

 

Meditation is a way of being mindful. It’s a way of being fully present in each moment. There have been numerous studies over the years on the effects of meditation on stress and anxiety. Last weekend, I mentioned that it was the fall Youth Forum, a gathering of United Church youth across the Maritime Conference. Last year when this gathering was organized, the directors tried a guided meditation with the youth. They were surprised at the positive feedback they received. Since the first meditation went over so well, they added another one into the spring gathering. It wasn’t a fluke. More positive feedback. This year’s fall youth forum was programmed by a resource person new to the group, who works as spiritual director for homeless youth in New York and was a crucial part of the occupy movement. He planned numerous guided meditations for the weekend. The feedback was still good. As one of the youth forum directors was reflecting on this with her own teenage children, she came to the conclusion that stopping to meditate, to sit with silence, to be aware of the present moment in which they sat was something almost unfamiliar to the teens in their over scheduled and over stimulated lives. It was as if they were craving it, and didn’t even know that living in that exact moment was a possibility. You might not be a teen. Maybe you are the transporter of a teen. If teens are finding a hard time to connect with themselves, how does the person who transports and challenges these over scheduled and over stimulated teens find time to slow do and pay attention to the moment you are in? Whatever your reason, and we all have them: kids or not, we as people of faith need to slow down for a moment, look around us and acknowledge the abundance. Recognizing our abundance is the goal, seizing the moment for what it is, is the first step. How many first steps will you take this week?