September 19, 2021
Good morning everyone and welcome to this time of worship.
A few announcements:
Next Sunday is Official Board meeting after worship. Convenor of teams please check in with each other prior to meeting so you are ready with your reports.
Saturday, Oct. 2 from 9 30 to noon is our Visioning Day and we invite everyone ( yes, you!) to be part of the conversations . Rev. Kendall Harrison Regional Minister for Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region of the United Church of Canada will be joining with us.
Sun. Oct. 3 is World Wide Communion Sunday. Please bring a small piece of bread or cracker and a drinking box of grape juice or a grape for yourself or family.
We have received some beautiful prayer shawls over the summer and I understand there are busy hands completing more. We will dedicate them on Oct 24 so bring them along or arrange for pickup.
We have a record number of folks prepared to read the book study book, Thriving Churches. Please pick your order up and pay Bev.
Janice Boyd is working on a way to provide Sunday School safely. More to follow.
Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.
The light of Jesus Christ brings wisdom and understanding to our living. In our worship, we seek that light. (light candle)
Call to Worship: (inspired by Psalm 1 and James 3)
Who is wise and understanding among us?
Those who delight in God’s law and meditate on it every day.
Today is a new day. In this moment, in every moment we are offered life.
Come, let us take our first steps together.
Let us seek the wisdom from above, a wisdom that yields a harvest of righteousness.
Let us pray:
Source of all wisdom and understanding,
we draw near to you, ready to listen for your word in our lives.
Open us, we pray, that we might put down our roots deeply
drinking from your river of love
and discovering what it means to serve you humbly.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: 120 VU O Jesus I Have Promised
Prayer of Confession
we live our lives as best we can—
dealing with difficult relationships and situations,
putting failures and disappointments behind us,
and moving into each new day
with as much energy, goodwill,
and optimism as we can muster.
But here, right now,
we seldom have the right answers,
we seldom seek your higher wisdom in our lives,
we just move ahead.
Forgive us for not asking for your insight.
Fill us with your wisdom,
that we may live lives
of goodness and peace. Amen.
Words of Assurance
When we come before God in humility and honesty,
God draws near to us with forgiveness
and renewed blessing.
Thanks be to God!
Readings and Reflection:
There is Another Way
For some reason this week, as I reflected on our readings, my mind drifted back to the early 1970’s when Highfield Square first opened in Moncton. I think it was probably one of New Brunswick’s first real shopping malls. The anchor store was Eaton’s. And in that Eaton’s store there was something that fascinated us as young children- an escalator! In fact it was probably better than anything one might find at an amusement park. There was one that went down and over in another part of the store there was one that went up. The fun part however if you are a kid is trying to do just the opposite by climbing up the down one and trying to reach the top.
As I think back on it now, that image suggests something of the ambition that drives many things in the world- a desire to “beat” the system, to get to the top, to get ahead of another by being the best, the most popular, the smartest, the most successful, the most powerful, the most in control. Let’s face it, when have we ever seen a losing team strut around a field or a rink shouting, “We’re number 2?” Not going to happen. Our world is just not wired that way. We hear it all the time- my rights, my needs, my comforts, my little world right here- that is all that matters.
In the midst of all this, we often forget that there is another way of looking at the world, a way that does not involve clamoring to be at the top of the heap, a way that has no room for bitter envy or selfish ambition. It involves looking at the world from God’s upside down perspective that is centred in the confidence that we are God’s own children and in that identity we are enough.
In the following reading from James, he makes this point by contrasting two different kinds of wisdom: earthly or worldly wisdom and divine wisdom.
James 3: 13-4:3,7-8a
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for] those who make peace.4 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet] something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
The choice is ours- the wisdom that comes from God whereby there is no need to scramble for what another has, or to be at the top of the heap. A wisdom that allows us to live generously and free from anxiety. Or a wisdom that is worried about status, grasping for power or control at the expense of others. One way leads to disorder and conflict both within oneself and with others. The other leads to peace and fruitfulness. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? If it were only so!
But that earthly wisdom creeps in there- that desire and determination to win, to be at the top, to be great. It’s what tears relationships and communities apart. It is where most damage is done and we find ourselves knocked off course, in need of a reboot.
It’s what we see happening once again with the disciples. In our gospel this morning, much like last week, Jesus is making the second of three predictions of his pending suffering, death and resurrection. It is hard news for the disciples to hear. Jesus is laying out the big picture vision of the direction his ministry and mission will take. He is talking about a journey much like the escalator that is headed downwards. Watch though how the thoughts and conversation of the disciples is stuck in the earthly wisdom of grappling for greatness, trying to scramble their way up when the stairs are coming down.
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
You have to feel sorry for those poor, bumbling disciples. Once again, Jesus has just told them this very significant piece of information, and they just don’t get it. It is like their eyes just glaze over. He is showing them the big picture but they are obsessed with glancing only at the piece of lint on the floor by worrying solely about their own reputations. Or is it maybe that they do get it, but want to avoid what it means? So they do what we all like to do when we receive hard news. They change the subject. They steer the conversation in a whole other direction by getting hung up in a great debate over who is the star disciple. Maybe it centres around who has observed the greatest miracle. Or which one of them is the most trusted by Jesus. After all, these are the kinds of conversation over which they can have more certainty or control. All this talk from Jesus about suffering is making them pretty uncomfortable and insecure. So, they, like us, go back to something far more comfortable and familiar. Perhaps even more manageable. Rather than asking questions about this revolutionary new world Jesus envisions, we find it much easier to hold back. Sometimes we go back to the same conversations or we think that if we do the same things we always did but do them harder, it will work better. We need not make fun of these bumbling disciples. We have been there with them. These are all natural responses in the face of so much uncertainty and fear.
It’s like the old proverbial rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The ship is going down but those chairs need to be in the right position. We sometimes call this “navel gazing”. There is a lot of that going on in the midst of the pandemic. We want things to be more controllable, like they used to be. We get frustrated when we try to imagine a different way. As churches, we worry about losing our status. It is easy to fall into denial about the big picture. So we change the subject.
We see it happening sometimes with the whole residential school issue. Believe it or not there are many who desire to cling to the narrative that “we” churches and the government had good intentions in setting up these schools but the survivors’ stories tell us otherwise. They share with us how they were not given value or recognition for who they were and believe very strongly that the goal of these schools was to “take the Indian out of the child”. While many of us are starting to pay attention to these stories by listening, there is still a lot of denial out there. That denial and changing of the subject, much like with the disciples in this passage, represents our fear in dealing with the bigger scope of the picture. We feel ill-equipped for the challenges it brings to not only our way of thinking, but our way of responding.
Jesus recognizes the fear in the disciples. At some level, I suspect that they really do get it that things are about to change. Yet the way forward is not about seeking to firm up one’s position and status. There is another way that does not involve asking how high we can climb or how many points can we rack up to look good in the eyes of the world. That’s when Jesus places a child in their midst. Not because the child is precious as we see children today. But because the child in Jesus’ day was insignificant, vulnerable and viewed in much the same way as a slave was seen- of little value, a virtual non-person, unable to offer anything in return. For a grown man like Jesus to embrace a child this way was a very radical act. Greatness, Jesus implies, comes from seeing things and valuing the vulnerable like this child, like the voiceless and marginalized ones of this world and serving them.
What he is describing is a whole different way; a way that lets go of selfish ambition and self-seeking, a way that moves beyond questions like what’s in it for me or how can I be served to how can I serve and reach out to love the unlovable, to show kindness to the powerless and outcast of the world. How can I join hands with what God is already doing out in the world? It involves developing a present tense mission and vision like we are keen to do on our visioning day as a congregation in October.
It is like we are invited to a different script, a counter-cultural way of being- one that involves letting go of our egos and the idea that somehow we are in control. The good news in both our scriptures today is that there is another way, another approach to life, a way that makes for right relations with all God’s people. It nourishes compassion, respect and gentleness and creates lasting peace. The way as Jesus describes it, comes when we are prepared to take the downward escalator to service rather than scrambling for the top. “For whoever wants to be first, must be last of all and servant of all.” May this be the true wisdom we pursue as we seek to live as Christ’s disciples in these uncertain times. Amen
Minute for Mission
video format: https://youtu.be/DFq5UtHbdUg
There’s a saying: “You can’t understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Today, there are 2,900 active and aspiring ministry personnel in The United Church of Canada, and you have travelled alongside them in their journey. Your gifts through Mission & Service support ministry students every step of the way by helping with education costs and providing financial support.
The Rev. Jason Meyers, a new ordinand, didn’t grow up in the church. “It was through a series of events that happened in my life, through brokenness and suffering and having the person of Jesus influence how my life was unfolding, that ministry became an option,” he explains.
Credit: The United Church of Canada
After his son was born, Jason couldn’t ignore the call to ministry he had felt for some time. “After Isaiah was baptized, our minister asked me to write Isaiah a letter that he would read when Isaiah is confirmed as a teenager. I started to write things like ‘Isaiah, I want you to follow your dreams and follow what God is calling you to do in your life.’ I realized that I wasn’t doing that in my own life.”
The day after writing the letter to his son, Jason walked to a theological college to learn more about ministry education.
A few years later, Jason was heading off on another walk, this time to his ordination ceremony. The journey started at Emmanuel College in Toronto and ended in Barrie, Ontario, a two-week, 225-kilometre-long spiritual pilgrimage. As he walked, Jason reflected on his journey with God and prepared himself spiritually for ordination and ministry.
That was in 2019. Since then, what has surprised Jason most about ministry is his expanding capacity to love. “I thought that when my kids were born, that was kind of the size my heart would be, but I’ve come to love the church, the people, and the vocation of ministry more deeply than I ever imagined. I’m so thankful that Jesus reached into my life and invited me on this journey with him,” he says.
And what would Jason say to those whose generosity has supported his journey to ordination through Mission & Service?
“I’d say it’s worth it. The church is alive and vibrant, and it’s worth investing in. The leaders are working hard and are bringing the best of themselves into the ministry, into the church, and into the world.”
Please give a gift through Mission & Service. Through your gifts, you show you care about quality ministry leadership. Thanks to your generosity, love is there, training and supporting leaders every step of the way.
Let us pray:
God, source of all love and wisdom, we come before you in these brief moments, to give you our praise and honour. We thank you for the gift of creation and the beauty of its resources. May we accept our role in being partners with you in caring for all its people and creatures. Give us, who consume the vast amount of its resources, the will to reorder our lives that all might have a rightful share of food, clothing, shelter, vaccines, peace and security that serve to make our lives meaningful. Strengthen us as a community of faith as we live and work in this world that we might faithfully serve you as we witness to your love and grace through our interactions and relationships with one another. Thank you for Jesus and the different model of greatness that he has given us, one that truly gave of himself by reaching out to the most vulnerable ones, breaking down barriers that divide and working for peace and justice in this world. May we learn from him what it means to live more faithfully and fully as your people.
God, with so much uncertainty and fear in our world, as this fourth wave of the pandemic moves among us, teach us to care for one another especially all who are most anxious, parents and teachers, health care workers who are pushed to their limits, the homeless and the hungry, the many who are struggling financially in search of affordable housing in the face of increased rents and food costs. We pray for the vulnerable of the earth, for the many who are at increased risks of illness and disease, the many who live with the threat of violence and abuse, the children who do not know safety or security and have little access to education. God, there are so many places, so many people who need our prayers and our actions this day. We turn to you for the wisdom we need to find ways to act and respond. As we gather these our spoken prayers, together with the prayers that rest deep upon our hearts, for people and situations we know of and that are known only by you, and we offer them to you in the strong name of Jesus, who taught us to pray together saying… Our Father..
Hymn: 560 VU O Master Let Me Walk with Thee
Go forth into this new week, trusting in God’s wisdom to show you the way.
We have a calling: to live out the word, to be the love and to do the work of Christ’s church.
May we be eager to be a blessing in all the places life calls us to be.
September 12, 2021
Welcome to worship from Faith Memorial United Church!
We are glad you have chosen to worship with us either today or at another point in your week.
Saturday Oct 2 930 am to noon
You are invited to a Visioning Day for our congregation as we look to our future together. Why are we here? What is our purpose? Where is God calling us next?
How can we join our efforts with what God is doing in our world? What is the story we have to share?
Rev. Kendall Harrison, our Regional Minister for Fundy St Lawrence Dawning Waters Region has committed to being present with us for these conversations.
We hope to have everyone at the table, from all corners of our area, Florenceville Bristol, Bath, Centreville, Summerfield and all points in between!
Please reserve the date and be ready to bring your energy and enthusiasm.
Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.
In the shadows of a world that often feels chaotic and uncertain, we light this candle to remind us that Christ is with us to show us the way. (light candle)
Call to Worship: (inspired by Psalm 19 and Proverbs 1: 20-33)
The heavens are telling the glory of God.
The earth proclaims God’s handiwork.
The voice of wisdom is calling to us through the ordinary and the extraordinary.
God is calling us to listen to the word among us and within us.
We come to this time of worship ready to listen for guidance in following the Way of Jesus.
Let us worship God.
Let us pray:
Loving and caring God,
we come to this time of worship, to be still, to listen and to open our lives to words of life, love and truth.
Prepare us now to receive your word,
that we might be refreshed and renewed for our week ahead.
Help us to know you more fully,
that we might truly understand what it means to be a follower of the way of Jesus. Amen.
Hymn: 415 God, We Praise for the Morning
One of my favorite stories is about a monk who lived in a monastery. Every ten years, the monks in this monastery are allowed to break their vow of silence to speak two words. Ten years go by and it is this monk’s first chance to speak.
He thinks for a second before saying, “Food bad.”
Ten years later, he says, “Bed hard.”
It’s the big day, a decade later. He gives the head monk a long stare and says, ” I quit.”
“I’m not surprised,” the head monk says, “you’ve done nothing but complain every since you got here.”
A great little illustration for us of the power of our words! As this one monk found out, our choice of words reveals much about our inner thoughts. Obviously, in his case, it would seem that he was not particularly content with his chosen life as a monk. While we often repeat that little phrase about ‘our actions speaking louder than our words’, I don’t think we can totally dismiss the ways in which our words can influence another, either positively or negatively. Even our simplest words can leave a legacy of pain or joy and change a life for better or for worse.
In a small country church, an altar boy was serving a priest at Sunday mass when he accidently dropped a cruet of wine. The village priest scolded the boy and told him to leave the altar and not to come back. That boy became Tito a communist leader.
In a cathedral of a large city, another altar boy was serving the bishop when he too, dropped the cruet of wine. With a warm twinkle in his eyes, the bishop gently whispered, “Someday, you’ll be a priest.” That boy grew up and became a well-loved priest.
Now obviously there would have been other factors that would have influenced the outcome of these two lives, but we get the point. The words we speak have power. A hastily spoken word spoken in frustration can undo a lifetime of good. A word of encouragement can redirect a lifetime of hurt.
The writer of James, as we have noted the past couple of weeks, was a great observer of human nature and human interactions. In our reading today, he encourages us to think of our words and our speech as instruments of faith, reminding us of their power to build up or to destroy.
James 3: 1-12
My friends, we should not all try to become teachers. In fact, teachers will be judged more strictly than others. 2 All of us do many wrong things. But if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body.
3 By putting a bit into the mouth of a horse, we can turn the horse in different directions. 4 It takes strong winds to move a large sailing ship, but the captain uses only a small rudder to make it go in any direction. 5 Our tongues are small too, and yet they brag about big things.
It takes only a spark to start a forest fire! 6 The tongue is like a spark. It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a person’s entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures can be tamed and have been tamed. 8 But our tongues get out of control. They are restless and evil, and always spreading deadly poison.
9-10 My dear friends, with our tongues we speak both praises and curses. We praise our Lord and Father, and we curse people who were created to be like God, and this isn’t right. 11 Can clean water and dirty water both flow from the same spring? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? Does fresh water come from a well full of salt water?
One commentator I came upon this week suggested “When I read these words, I am always tempted to take a vow of silence!” For me, as a preacher who works constantly with words, it almost makes me want to say the same thing- why don’t we just read this and rather than preaching today, let’s just take a few moments of silence! The same with teachers and dare I say it… politicians! No wonder James singles out teachers. Yet, it is even broader than that. It applies to us all. We all can recount times when we intended a certain message to be heard, but somewhere between our lips and the ears of a hearer, something got scrambled. We may have been misinterpreted. Maybe it was the tone in which it was spoken. Maybe it was the setting. Maybe it was what was going on in the life of the listener or the speaker. I think to be human is to know what it is to misspeak or to be misunderstood. We all can relate to James’ remark about the uncontrollability of the tongue! With the exception of a dentist who uses one of those contraptions to hold the tongue in position, sometimes it seems that the tongue has a life all of its own! All of us can recount times when we can look back and regret having said something, or we may wish we had thought it through better and said it differently before we found ourselves with that proverbial “foot in mouth” disease that causes us to replay conversations in our heads for weeks and months after we had them. In the same way, we also know the feeling of being hurt by the words of another whether it was back on the playground as a child, in the cafeteria at school or work, or in the boardroom of some organization to which we belong. We know that that line that our parents told us to remember- “Sticks and stones can break our bones but names(or words!) will never hurt me” is, as we think about it, untrue. Words can often cause pain and hurt that lingers much longer than physical pain. Ask anyone who has been the object of racial slurs or any kind of discrimination about the power words can have on self identity and self esteem.
With the swiftness of social media to get a message out there, it is even more important for us to pay attention to the power of our words to bless or curse. As James says, we all know the forests that have been lit on fire by words. You don’t have to listen all that much in any political campaign, like the one we are currently engaged in, to realize how very true this is. I don’t think, however, that James is talking about keeping silent though. Being faithful certainly does involve speaking up against injustices and speaking out in love. Maybe the key is in finding a balance between speechlessness and babble.
That seems to be Peter’s struggle too in our gospel lesson this morning. While he is the quickest of the disciples to respond to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” which is in essence, “What words do you use to describe me?”, he soon realizes that the word he chooses has a different kind of power than he thought. In fact, of all the disciples, it is bold Peter who is usually first out of the gate with an answer for Jesus. He has the right words. He calls Jesus ‘the Messiah’ but he hasn’t quite captured the full meaning of what this will imply. Rather than a conquering figure who will run the Romans out of Palestine and set everyone up for success by fixing all that is wrong, Jesus outlines a whole other vision of the what Messiah means- one that will involve serving others and suffering.
Mark 8: 27-38
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
It is like Jesus is saying to Peter- right words, wrong meaning.
I think both these passages this morning, in different ways, serve to remind us of the importance of the words we choose to speak to one another and about who we confess Jesus to be. What are our words in worship, in the parking lot, at the grocery store, in our workplaces, in our homes revealing about who we are? Socrates once said, “Speak that I may see thee.” When you think about that, it is true. We reveal a lot about ourselves by our words. They become a means of revealing what is on our hearts. Whether spoken or written, sung or prayed in worship, texted or posted, they say something about our own identities as followers of Christ. They reveal something about who we are.
I like the story Jim Taylor tells of being in a bank line up, listening to a woman give a royal tongue lashing to a teller. Whatever the teller had done or failed to do, it didn’t please this customer. Her face puckered with anger and her ears were pink with rage. The teller just stood there. Finally the customer stopped, gathered her papers and turned to leave.
Taylor thought to himself that somehow her features looked familiar. Sure enough, as she turned, she saw him and recognized him. Her tense, contorted face rearranged itself as she gushed, “Hello, Jim. Good to see you.” Taylor writes that he knew her from church. She came most Sundays. He had never before seen her without a smile. She always looked cheerful, easy to get along with. In a different setting, she was a different person. Her words at the bank that day revealed a whole different identity.
Who knows- maybe this is what James noticed too, that incongruity that happens when from the same mouth come both blessings and curses. The same with Peter- a clear identification of Jesus as the Messiah, yet a quick rebuke of Jesus when the meaning of that word does not match the image of glorious conqueror that he had in mind.
Words really do matter. They can tear down or they can build up. They can destroy life or give life. They can curse or they can bless. They can hurt or heal. They can discourage or encourage. They are yet another tool in our tool boxes that help give shape to who we say Jesus is and who we say that we are as his followers called to engage in God’s world.
Perhaps our most appropriate prayer is one that comes from our Psalm assigned for this Sunday- May the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Minute for Mission
“We have never stopped providing three meals a day.”
Staff at Our Place serve food outside at a special barbecue for guests.
Credit: Our Place Society
When the pandemic began to ramp up last year, Grant McKenzie, the Communications Director at Our Place Society―a Mission & Service partner―told us one of the questions street-involved guests often asked is “Where will I eat?”
No one asks that question at Our Place anymore.
“The reason for that is simple. We have never stopped providing three meals a day. And as this pandemic continues, we endeavour to make more food options available. Due to social distancing, our kitchen staff need to think more creatively as they plan one-bowl meals that can be safely handed out at our front gates. We are also busy providing water, tea, coffee, and milk,” says McKenzie
That doesn’t mean there is no stress. The fentanyl crisis, overdoses, magnified social isolation, and mounting stress and anxiety as the pandemic continues take a heavy toll. Still, guests have reassurance that Our Place will continue to offer three square meals a day, whether indoors or out.
“In this strange and difficult time, my heart breaks with sorrow at the vulnerable people struggling to survive with yet another obstacle in their path, but my heart also swells with pride at the people who are stepping up to help,” he says.
Reassurance can be hard to come by in uncertain times. Your gifts through Mission & Service continue to provide steady support during the long COVID-19 crisis. Thank you.
The psalmist declares that the heavens are telling the glory of God.
Day to day pours forth speech and night to night declares knowledge.
What a privilege it is to share our gifts so that we can join with the psalmist in telling others of God’s glory. We give thanks to God for each gift offered this week that speaks of our love for God and our commitment to making a difference in our world.
Let us pray:
O God, now that September is upon us, now that some things feel a little more normal in the midst of this ongoing pandemic, we pause in these moments to give our thanks and praise to you. We thank you that even when things seem to be constantly shifting all around us, you are our one consistent presence with us on our journeys. We hear you in the birds singing, in the wind blowing, in the rain pattering and in the beating of our hearts. We know you in the voices and acts of love in our lives. We hear you in your nudges calling us to act, to both speak up and to be silent that other voices might be heard. We look to you for courage and wisdom as we grow in community with one another. We need your patience with us when our tongues become engaged before our brains get in gear. We need your forgiveness for opportunities we have missed, for people we have overlooked and generosity we have failed to offer.
As we look around our world, we know that there is much that is broken and in need of mending. Health care workers are wearing out in the midst of this pandemic. Our earth and its many resources are crying out for action. We are forgetting to listen to voices that call us to take action now, before it is too late. Many are suffering in the aftermath of disasters like hurricanes and forest fires. Others are living in places of violence and terror, longing for peace. Many are feeling lonely, hoping for a friendly phone call that says they have not been forgotten. Others are ill or awaiting surgeries or treatments that have been postponed. Still others are overwhelmed as caregivers, needing some reprieve in order to protect their own health and well-being. Many are in need of financial assistance or the help provided by food banks, shelters or even a listening ear, that they might feel that they are being heard in the midst of systems that entangle. Many have been victimized by verbal and physical assaults and are in need of someone to help unpack their experiences to bring healing and hope.
God, we lift before you these concerns, asking that somehow this week, through our words, through our actions, through our openness to learning, through our time and our resources, you might work through us to make a difference in this world. In the name of Jesus, the one we call the Messiah, the one who models for us what true service is, we pray, saying together… Our Father…
Hymn: 173 MV Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands
The God who called us here
is now sending us out into the world
to put the words we have heard into action.
As we have worshipped together
now let us leave here renewed and refreshed
to share the good news with those we meet.
September 5, 2021
Welcome everyone to our worship service on this Labour Day weekend.
Certainly a tinge of fall in the air today!
Even though my school days are long gone, I still welcome the excitement and feel of this time of year. Always a sense of freshness and renewal. Blessings to our students and teachers for a good year.
Happy Birthday to Rev. Anna Pearl Taylor who is celebrating her milestone 80th with family and friends at the Legion this afternoon!
Reminder that orders for the fall book study- Thriving Churches can be ordered from Bev by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline is Tuesday for placing orders.
Session meeting next Sunday after worship.
Board meeting coming up the end of the month so committee convenors, please make contact with members of your teams so that you have your reports ready!
As always, keep safe out there!
Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.
We gather in the name of Jesus who reassures us, ” I am the light of the world.” (light candle)
Call to Worship (from Thom Shuman )
What good is it if we say we love all people,
but give special treatment to a few?
God calls us to love others as deeply
as we love ourselves, with no strings attached.
What good is it if we say we want
God to show mercy towards us,
but are quick to judge others?
God calls us to forgive our sisters and brothers,
to let mercy triumph over judgment.
What good is it if we say we trust God in every moment,
but live guided by our fears?
We will speak and act as those who trust God to come
and live in our fearful hearts.
God, we thank you for life,
for the everyday miracle of our existence.
Hymn: 606 VU In Christ there is no East or West
Readings and Reflection:
Challenging Our Assumptions
Last week, you might recall that we did some thinking about what true or real faith might look like. Our scripture passages this week continue in a similar vein. They expand and crack open our exploration of what really matters, what counts as we seek to grow into Christian maturity. As I read them over and let them percolate, I could see a link between what James was saying to the early church and what Jesus, himself, was learning about the direction of his ministry and mission. Both of them suggested to me that as we grow in our faith, we need to be constantly wrestling with our assumptions and ideas, allowing certain ways of thinking to sometimes be cast aside in order to make way for the ever expanding ways of God’s love and inclusion to penetrate our lives and our worldviews.
I began by thinking of this whole notion of making assumptions. It is human nature to make assumptions about people, about situations, or about someone’s character or motivations. Often we do this based on past experiences we have had with someone or some particular group of people. We are quick to fill in the blanks, presuming we know what will evolve or unfold. We make judgements or draw conclusions. We are quick to connect the dots, often before we know the whole story. We assume another’s motivation. We make what we call blanket statements that confine a person or a certain group of people to a certain way of being or behaving. Sometimes we do it unknowingly too. That’s what the whole Black Lives Matter movement is trying to point out to us. Take this true story that dates back to 1999 as an example:
Late one night, in February 1999, Amadou Diallo was sitting outside his apartment block in New York City when four police officers drove past. Deciding he looked suspicious, they backed up their car for a second look. When Diallo didn’t run, they assumed he must be challenging them: “How brazen this man is,” they thought as they got out of their car and walked towards him. And when Diallo reached into his pocket they assumed he was reaching for a gun, opened fire, and killed him instantly. Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, had assumed the police were friendly. He was reaching for his wallet.
An extreme example, perhaps, but one, nonetheless that we still see repeated on the streets of our cities and towns today. People being branded and labelled on the basis of their skin colour, their ethnicity, their gender, their sexual orientation or their place of origin. Even certain family names carry with them certain assumptions. I remember when I was in school, there was a certain family that was notorious for causing trouble at the school. In looking back, I wonder even if one of those kids tried to break free from their family’s reputation, would they have been able to? It seems to me that they were trapped by other people’s assumptions about their motivations.
As I mentioned last week, the writer of James was very much a ‘people watcher’. In our passage this morning, he highlights a scene that is as equally valid and relatable to us today as it was to the early Christian communities. It involves how we so quickly succumb to making assumptions about people based on appearances- whether it be the clothes they wear, the car they drive, the home they live in, the colour of their skin or hair, or the way they choose to adorn their body, be it with jewellery, tattoos or what have you. James challenges us to a life of faith that goes beyond such distinctions:
James 2: 1-10, 14-17
My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won’t treat some people better than others. 2 Suppose a rich person wearing fancy clothes and a gold ring comes to one of your meetings. And suppose a poor person dressed in worn-out clothes also comes. 3 You must not give the best seat to the one in fancy clothes and tell the one who is poor to stand at the side or sit on the floor. 4 That is the same as saying that some people are better than others, and you would be acting like a crooked judge.
5 My dear friends, pay attention. God has given a lot of faith to the poor people in this world. He has also promised them a share in his kingdom that he will give to everyone who loves him. 6 You mistreat the poor. But isn’t it the rich who boss you around and drag you off to court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who make fun of your Lord?
8 You will do all right, if you obey the most important law in the Scriptures. It is the law that commands us to love others as much as we love ourselves. 9 But if you treat some people better than others, you have done wrong, and the Scriptures teach that you have sinned.
10 If you obey every law except one, you are still guilty of breaking them all.
14 My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? 15 If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, 16 you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? 17 Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!
Once again, James makes his point. We can say we believe all sort of things, but it is our lives that bear witness to those beliefs. While works themselves do not save us (only God’s grace can do that), true faith issues in our actions. We may think that social class is not a problem for us, and that we treat all people equally, but how many of us interact and share a coffee regularly with someone from a different social class? Our friendships often run along lines of income level, education and professional status. Sometimes we hold people at arm’s length by saying nothing at all or by avoiding them. That’s what the little video from UNICEF I sent out earlier in the week suggested. When the little girl was dressed more shabbily, people went out of their way to not see her: https://youtu.be/MQcN5DtMT-0
While we might expect Jesus to be perfect, our gospel reading today demonstrates that he was not above having his own assumptions challenged. As a human being and a product of his own time and place, he too was stretched by times to open his eyes to face his own blindness and prejudices. Sometimes we forget that.
His encounter with a Gentile woman whose daughter was ill is one such example of a moment that changed his old assumptions. As Barbara Brown Taylor describes it, ” You can almost hear the huge wheel of history turning as Jesus comes to a new understanding of who he is and what he is being called to do.” Prior to this encounter, Jesus was pretty certain about where his ministry and mission was to be carried out- among the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the Jewish people. Watch though what happens to that assumption as this unnamed woman opens him to a purpose and vision far wider than he had imagined.
Mark 7: 24-37
24 Jesus left and went to the region near the city of Tyre, where he stayed in someone’s home. He did not want people to know he was there, but they found out anyway.
Sounds like Jesus was tired and in need of some down time. We might wonder if in going to a Gentile area, he might get a reprieve from the crowds that were demanding so much of him. Right away, though, they seemed to know of his arrival. I imagine a pounding on the door.
25 A woman whose daughter had an evil spirit in her heard where Jesus was. And right away she came and knelt down at his feet. 26 The woman was Greek and had been born in the part of Syria known as Phoenicia.
All this is significant. First of all, it was inconceivable in Jesus’ day for a woman to approach a man in the privacy of his residence. Secondly, she was a Gentile asking a Jew for a favour. Thirdly, Jesus would have been aware of the economic hardship that many of the Jews in Galilee had endured from Gentile landowners from Tyre. Knowing of this exploitation, Jesus would have been more than a little guarded as she tried to get his attention. Still, though, this woman had faith that Jesus’ reputation as a healer might be able to help her daughter. So she persists.
She begged Jesus to force the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said, “The children must first be fed! It isn’t right to take away their food and feed it to dogs.”
Yikes! Every time I read that line, I cringe. Did Jesus really say that? Did he just call that woman a dog? It just doesn’t seem to fit with the caring, compassionate Jesus we see elsewhere in scripture. This time, it is like he gives her a slap in the face. In saying this, Jesus seems to be engaging in the very sort of partiality or favouritism that James speaks against. We might question, is Jesus a racist? Just because this mom and her daughter are not Jewish, does that mean that Jesus won’t help them? Isn’t that as smug as saying ‘Charity begins at home or I have my limits, you know, about whom I can help.’ Nonetheless, the woman does not back down. She has an ill daughter and like any parent in such a situation, she is ready to do whatever it takes.
28 The woman replied, “Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs that children drop from the table.”
You have to admire her. She doesn’t back down. It almost like she retaliates with something like, “yes, charity begins at home, but it doesn’t stop there! Aren’t we all God’s children? Isn’t there room for all in the circle of God’s love?”
29 Jesus answered, “That’s true! You may go now. The demon has left your daughter.” 30 When the woman got back home, she found her child lying on the bed. The demon had gone.
Jesus got the woman’s point. In challenging his preconceived assumptions, she had enlarged his understanding of the scope of his mission. Any lines in the sand that he may have drawn are now open wide. In some ways, it is like Jesus has taken in the lesson that he tried to make with the scribes and Pharisees about true religion being a matter of the heart. It is driven by something more powerful than protocol. Jesus realizes that his ministry knows no boundaries. It goes beyond the idea of reaching only the chosen people of the house of Israel. In many ways, it is almost like Jesus, as he opens himself to this woman’s words, is reconnected to just how radically inclusive the realm of God’s love is. Maybe that is why, we are told in the rest of our passage that the next time someone outside the Jewish faith comes seeking help, Jesus responds immediately, without hesitation:
31 Jesus left the region around Tyre and went by way of Sidon toward Lake Galilee. He went through the land near the ten cities known as Decapolis. 32 Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk. They begged Jesus just to touch him.
33 After Jesus had taken him aside from the crowd, he stuck his fingers in the man’s ears. Then he spit and put it on the man’s tongue. 34 Jesus looked up toward heaven, and with a groan he said, “Effatha!” which means “Open up!” 35 At once the man could hear, and he had no more trouble talking clearly.
36 Jesus told the people not to say anything about what he had done. But the more he told them, the more they talked about it. 37 They were completely amazed and said, “Everything he does is good! He even heals people who cannot hear or talk.”
There’s something to be said about Jesus’ encounter with this woman and the way his assumptions were challenged that day. It makes me think, that if Jesus can grow by re-examining his perceptions, then there is room for us to grow too. Sometimes we need to be stopped in our tracks too in order to be stretched and redirected in our understandings of what being faithful really means. It seems to me that some of that might involve opening our eyes and unstopping our ears to face the ways that we too have been limited by our assumptions about the direction of our mission as Christ’s disciples. I wonder where God is calling us as the people of Faith Memorial to be stretched beyond old assumptions and priorities for our ministry together? Where might we find ourselves being challenged to go to places where we have never gone before, places that call us, like Jesus, to go wider, to embrace the outsider, the stranger or even the enemy? What new, unexplored directions await us as a result of coming through these pandemic times? Where have we found ourselves challenged by new perceptions, saying things like, I used to see things this way, but now I think this way. I used to think being part of faith community looked like this, but now I think this. I used to think I wasn’t racist, but now I know I am the product of a racist society with my own unconscious racism. Sort of like what happened to Jesus, don’t you think? I used to think my mission was only to the lost children of the house of Israel, but now I see it is to the whole world, even the Gentiles.
For Jesus, this encounter with the woman of Tyre was a turnaround moment. I wonder if the global pandemic is ours? Amen.
Minute for Mission
The people of Haiti need emergency shelter, clean water, and food
Buildings damaged by the earthquake in Haiti, August 2021.
Credit: Tearfund Canada, 2021. All rights reserved, permission required for further use.
On the morning of Saturday, August 14, Haiti was struck by a severe earthquake. Precious lives have been lost. Many homes and community buildings have been destroyed. Hospitals have also been damaged, and acutely injured and traumatized people are struggling to find help.
The earthquake follows sharply on the heels of other disasters, including a massive earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. To make the situation even worse, Tropical Storm Grace hit Haiti on August 16.
The impact of the most recent earthquake is all the more devastating because of political instability, a severe economic downturn, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of the current political crisis, Haitian citizens are working to create an agreement to facilitate a successful interim government to build a different future for their country.
The United Church of Canada is in contact with Mission & Service partners in Haiti to find out how we can support their communities. Already, we know that the people of Haiti need emergency shelter, clean water, and food. The church has made it possible for members to designate donations to help Haiti when they make a gift through a special emergency fund.
Let us continue to remember the people of Haiti with our prayers and generosity.
Our offerings made through PAR, placed in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary or sent in by mail are ways that we respond to God’s love and grace in our lives. May they be used to bring justice to the world. We offer them to the glory and praise of God.
Let us pray
God of abundance and grace, your circle of love is wider than anything we can imagine. You treat all people of all ages, all skin colours, all genders, all abilities, all economic backgrounds, all sexual orientations, all ethnic and all religions with honour and respect. You call us, in turn, to break down walls that divide and you stretch us to love as you love. You challenge us to let go of the assumptions we so quickly make about others, the categories to which we assign them, and the labels with which we brand them. You call us to be open to the gifts of one another. May we, like Jesus, be open to fresh ideas and ways of seeing. May we be ready and willing to learn from unexpected teachers along our journeys.
As we savour these fleeting days of summer and prepare ourselves for the coming fall, we pray for students and teachers as they head off to school and places of higher learning. Bless them in the transitions. May they know the strength of your presence to guide them. On this Labour Day weekend we pray for all who struggling with changes in the workplace and the stresses that accompany. We pray for those who have lost jobs or who no longer find their work meaningful or satisfactory. We lift before you all who are working for wages that are not liveable and in situations where they are treated unjustly. Bless the work of those who strive to protect their rights through policy changes that are fair and equitable for all. We pray for our broken world, for places where barriers and walls continue to stunt or destroy relationships, for places of intense suffering, like Haiti, Afghanistan and the southern parts of the US in the aftermath of Ida, for people we know who are grieving, who are ill, who are anxious and are in need our caring actions this day…
Hear these our prayers, O God, as we offer them in the name of Jesus, who continues to call us to be healers and peacemakers in this world that you love, saying together Our Father…
Hymn: 138 MV My Love Colours Outside the Lines
Blessing:( from Thom Shuman)
God sends us forth to love all people, no strings attached.
We will share grace and hope with everyone.
Jesus sends us forth to forgive our sisters and brothers.
We will offer mercy, not judgment, to those around us.
The Spirit sends us forth to trust God in every moment.
We will live in faith, not in fear, sharing our hearts with all we meet.
August 30, 2021
As we prepare to worship, we remember that the light of Christ shines in our lives and in our world, showing us the path to love and peace. ( light candle)
Good morning everyone!
Hope you are all enjoying these waning days of August, savouring every minute at cottages and camps, or in your favourite lawn chair at home.
We are happy you have chosen to make worship a part of your day.
Please continue to be careful out there. While some aspects of our living are feeling more normal, this pesky virus calls us to remain guarded.
Should you choose to be with us at in person worship, please be assured that we are following safe practices out of an abundance of care and concern for all worshippers. At the same time, we also respect your choices to worship from home for personal safety reasons.
Thanks for joining with us, wherever you are this day!
We gather to worship God,
not with empty rituals,
not with doctrines and traditions,
but with all our hearts.
In every place, in every moment, the voice of God speaks to us:
calling us to generous acts, encouraging us to be both active listeners of the Word and faithful doers.
May our time of worship prepare us to live God’s love.
Let us pray:
God of light and love,
shine upon us this day.
Open our heart and minds that we might be transformed by your Word,
and prepared to follow in the ways of Jesus,
who models for us what living faithfully and compassionately is all about. Amen.
Hymn: 372 VU Though I May Speak
Readings and Reflection:
My brother recently drew my attention to a news piece that some of you may have caught that comes out of the recent Tokyo Olympics. It is about a young Polish javelin thrower named Maria Andrejczyk who won a silver medal. When she arrived home though, she auctioned it off to help fund a life-saving heart surgery in the United States for an eight month old boy. A Polish supermarket chain won the auction with a bid of $125,000. They were so moved by this noble gesture of their Olympian, however, that they decided that the medal should remain with her. In sharing the story with me, my brother remarked how her gesture was to him, a mark of true faith.
Both of our readings from scripture this week wrestle with this very theme. What does true faith look like? What does it mean to be “religious”? Is it about following certain rules or traditions? Believing certain doctrines? Showing up in worship every week? Praying? Personal piety? Going through the motions? Reading your Bible? Living with integrity? Being righteous? Showing love and justice? Caring for neighbours and creation? Faithful stewardship of our time and monetary resources? What makes a “real Christian”? These are all good questions for us to ponder as a congregation as we head into fall and look toward our future together. Who do we want to be as a faith community? How might we work toward that vision together?
Our first reading is from James. His writings are often included among the wisdom literature in scripture. He appears to be a keen observer of human nature and daily life. Kind of a bit of what we today might call a “people watcher”. For him, theology is very much a verb rather than a noun. Much of what he says is about taking what we hear and putting it into practice. In many ways, his words embody those of an old Kenyan proverb-: ” When you pray, always remember to use your feet.” Let’s listen to some of his thoughts about what true faith might look like:
James 1: 17-27
17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James’ ideas of true faith might be summarized as a priority of listening over speaking, patience over anger( note- this doesn’t mean never be angry, but be slow to anger) meekness over brashness and action over inaction. Social outreach also figures in there too- caring for the vulnerable and living ethically under the law of God’s love. I like to think of what James is getting at here as carrying the good news from ear to heart, to hands and arms, and legs and feet.
We find a similar appeal to how to live true faith in our gospel reading. Here we find Jesus in a dispute with the religious leaders over a topic that has been front and central in our lives during these pandemic months- hand washing! Yet the focus here with the hand washing has nothing to do with sanitization as we relate to it today. The issues of proper personal hygiene and the spread of disease were unknown in Jesus’ time. Instead, proper hand washing for the religious authorities was more symbolic- a means of keeping to sacred religious practices and rituals. In the midst of religious and cultural diversity all around them, this was a way of maintaining a purity culture. In other words it defined who was in and who was out, and who was clean and who was unclean in the sight of God. It was a means of being set apart as God’s holy and righteous people by drawing a line in the sand and making the boundaries clear.
While this may sound a bit trivial to us in our day, Thomas Long, a theologian, equates the question asked to Jesus about why the disciples don’t follow proper hand washing practices to a more modern question we might ask- something maybe like why have you chosen to play golf today instead of spending Sunday in worship as God has commanded? Long says we need to see the question the scribes and Pharisees ask as more of an accusation than a question.
While Jesus does not condemn the hand washing practice, he speaks against falling into the trap of thinking that any given set of rituals or practices is all that is needed to show that one had “true faith”. He warns them of the dangers of interpreting such rules and traditions so narrowly that they become idols unto themselves. He opens the discussion wider implying that the life of discipleship, the way of true faith involves love toward God and neighbour. Beware, he says, of substituting human traditions and rules for “the commandments of God.” True faith goes much deeper. It is a matter of the heart.
Frederick Buechner illustrates this using the idea of someone learning to play piano. They may play a piece perfectly, holding their fingers as they have been told to do and playing the right notes but their heart is not in it until they can feel the music. True faith, he says, is where are hearts are in it, not just our fingers.
Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15,21-23
7 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
True faith, as I see Jesus illustrating it here, is not just a matter of going through the motions. It is examining our deeper motivations. Once again, great questions for us to think about as we explore and work toward developing a collective vision as a church community. What is the purpose behind the things we do together? Why do we worship? Why do we do what we do? What is at the heart of it all?
As I was thinking about these questions this week, I was reminded of a favourite movie of mine called Chocolat. It’s one of those movies that has themes that continue to echo back into life. Set in France during the 1950’s, it is the story of a single mom and her daughter who arrive in a small town and set up a chocolate shop during the season of Lent. This messes, of course, with the Lenten practices of the Catholic community. The residents have a rather rigid understanding of right and wrong and of what true faith or true religion is. Yet, even with all their piety and church attendance, they have forgotten to offer grace, compassion and hospitality to this newcomer and her daughter. Instead, they point fingers and spread all kinds of rumours about them. She refuses to go to church like the others. Over time, she lures them into her shop with delicious chocolates. She offends them by taking in a woman who is fleeing an abusive marriage. She welcomes and offers a feast for a group of ” homeless river rats” whom the rest of the town shuns. The town’s mayor, much like the scribes and Pharisees in our gospel, views the woman and her practices as a threat to propriety and decency. He flaunts his own piety in denying himself any chocolate from her shop during Lent. He expects the others to follow suit by boycotting her store. In so doing, he is making it very clear who belongs and who doesn’t. He works very hard to preserve tradition and to protect the village from her corrupt ways. Like the leaders in Jesus’ time, he is so fixated on religious ritual, he has lost sight of love for God and for neighbour.
In time, the woman wins over the understanding of the local priest who can see how the town has got off track from what true faith is all about. As the story ends, it is the woman who shows the town what it means to embody love and hospitality as she reaches out to draw the circle wide, embracing those who had been cast aside, modelling generosity and kindness. Through her the community is changed and becomes more inclusive.
I believe this is what Jesus means when he argues with the religious authorities of his day. True faith goes so much deeper than customs and traditions. Not that we need to scrap every ritual or tradition. Simply that we need to keep things in perspective and not allow them to distract from the heart of what really matters.
Rev. Cameron Trimble in a recent blog shared a little commentary about that horrible scene we all witnessed on the news a couple of weeks ago when a throng of Afghani people began frantically climbing aboard that US Cargo airplane, desperate to flee the occupying Taliban. As you heard, that plane could normally seat 134. The crew, however, made a fateful decision. Believing their first objective was to save lives, they broke every protocol imaginable and filled the plane with 640 passengers. In an interview later, one of the crew said they decided they would figure out what to do with all these people once they were safely in the air. While the crew should never have been in that position, nor should those Afghan civilians, Cameron Trimble notes ” it gave me great hope to see that even in these trying conditions, human goodness prevailed. We learned from watching it that truly, we are all connected; we are each other’s helpers. We can’t draw lines in the sand. We need to take care of one another.”
True faith. A matter of the heart. Living love. Going deeper. Love in action. Caring for the most vulnerable, the outcast and the stranger. Being inclusive and welcoming. Opening our hands and hearts. Going past piety and tradition. Being generous to neighbours far and wide rather than remaining stingy, judgemental, small-minded, cowardly or anxious. Sounds like a great vision to me. With God’s love and light at work within us and through us, may it be so. Amen
Minute for Mission
Thank you for giving good ideas a chance to fly.
Credit: Embracing the Spirit/The United Church of Canada
Published On: July 26, 2021
There is no doubt that the church is in the midst of a radical transition. What does the future hold?
Honestly, no one knows for certain. But one thing is sure: The best way to fail is to try nothing, and the only way to succeed is to experiment by doing something new.
That’s where you come in. Your gifts through Mission & Service support innovation through our church’s Embracing the Spirit grants. Embracing the Spirit is a grant program supported by Mission & Service. Any church called by God to pursue a great ministry idea can apply to Embracing the Spirit for funding support.
In the bottom right corner of the interactive Embracing the Spirit online map), the number 535 is highlighted in bold red. The number, which refers to new ministry projects awarded grants, is steadily rising―535 is the tip of the iceberg. Since 2016, Embracing the Spirit has awarded over $3,600,000 to help communities of faith develop new ministries.
Want to be inspired? Simply click one of the map pins and read the description. You will be amazed at the new ways congregations across the United Church are joining God’s mission. Take it a step further and connect with one that piques your interest. Learn about ways your community of faith can grow its vision and practice of ministry.
The last Embracing the Spirit granting round of 2021 is open now, and applications are due on October 15. Even if you don’t have a new ministry idea you want to pursue right now, by simply making a Mission & Service gift you are helping our United Church network with and support others striving to live out God’s mission in new ways.
Thank you for giving good ideas a chance to fly.
As we heard in James this morning, “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift is from above.”
Thank you for your ongoing commitment and offerings shared in our offering plates at the back, through the mail and by PAR. Together, we are making a difference!
Let us pray;
Generous and loving God,as these last weeks of summer unfold before us, we thank you for opportunities we have had to meet up with family and friends, for laughter and good times shared, for new experiences and new memories to cherish. We thank you for vegetables and fruit ripening in our gardens and the gift of nourishment.
We remember your call in our lives beckoning us to faithful living. You ask us to honour you, not just with our lips, but also with our actions. Equip us to be patient and compassionate listeners. Help us to care for the vulnerable of this world, reaching out with our presence and our resources. We remember especially the people of Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake as they seek so much medical and personal support. Bless all those who are active and on the ground, trying to meet the needs that overwhelm. For the people of Afghanistan who face unfathomable terror and anxiety. May our world find ways to bring them to safety.
We pray for those we know who are unwell, managing fear in the midst of chronic illnesses, living with mental or physical challenges. We pray for students, parents and teachers who are anxious about what this new school year will look like in the midst of precautions. We pray for all who are struggling in relationships with family, friends or colleagues and all who are facing uncertainty….
God, help us as a congregation to live your love, to reach out beyond our boundaries and to spread the good news of your presence with us in all the cares and concerns of our lives. In the name of Jesus we pray as he taught us saying.. Our Father…
Hymn: 145MV Draw the Circle Wide
As we continue our lives and our worship this week,we live into each new day. Amen
Recognizing That Food Is Sacred: Seed Service
Faith Memorial United Church Online Service
August 22, 2021
Words of Welcome
This service focuses on one of the principles of The Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty. These are:
1. Focus on Food for People
2. Value Food Providers
3. Localize Food Systems
4. Put Control Locally
5. Build Knowledge and Skills
6. Work with Nature
7. Recognize That Food Is Sacred
The service will focus on the seventh principle: “Recognize That Food Is Sacred.”
The United Church of Canada is encouraging congregations to explore these seven principles as part of its Seeding Life: Breaking Ground for Food Justice campaign. For more information about the campaign, resources, and ways to get involved, visit:
Call to Worship
Taken from the earth…
like lumps of clay.
Made from the soil…
like lumps of clay.
Molded and fashioned…
like lumps of clay.
Worked and re-worked…
like lumps of clay.
People of God, look around you! Look and see what God has made— [fellow earth creatures]…
creations of beauty!
The birds of the air,
the fish of the sea…
creations of joy!
Every star, every planet,
every atom, every quark… creations of love!
As part of this love-given, joy-filled, beautiful creation,
let us give thanks to the Potter who gave us life and form— Alleluia. Alleluia! ALLELUIA!
“It’s a Song of Praise to the Maker” (More Voices 30)
Creating God, provide us with all that we need to grow into who you have created us to be: As the womb of the earth nourishes seeds,
may we be nourished by this gathered community and the assurance of your holy presence. As the sun provides energy, leading seeds to transformation,
may we find the courage to embrace new life through the example of Jesus. As water refreshes and replenishes growing seedlings, may we be restored by the movement of the spirit.
Recognizing That Food Is Sacred: Seed Service
In times of drought,
when we cannot feel your warmth or taste your goodness,
protect us from harmful attitudes and actions that may secure our well-being at the cost of others, and lead us again to abundant life.
How do you define sacred?
What for you is set apart, respected, cherished, awesome? Why? How does it point to God’s awesomeness?
Seeds are sacred. Seeds are a constant reminder that God is always creating in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
• Seeds (although small) are filled with hope and the promise and potential for new life.
• Seeds are vulnerable, and many seeds are reliant on the love and nurture of the rest of creation.
• Seeds are powerful and have the ability to bring new life and transformation.
• Seeds are used in different ways (e.g., seeds that we eat for nourishment, seeds that we use for musical instruments, seeds that we plant).
Seeds are little miracles; they are sacred gifts from God.
Each child/person is invited to gather some seeds. These could be from plants in your garden, or from seeds in your kitchen!
Reflect silently on the beauty and sacredness of the seeds while you hold them.
Take a moment of silence; you can journal if you wish.
Seed Blessing Prayer
We hold these seeds in our hands as a present and future gift.
Their existence reminds us of the power of dreams to grow in unexpected ways. Their growth will help us celebrate life,
and God’s promise for a world where all are fed and
all are loved.
May these seeds remind us all, that we, too, are sacred seeds planted in God’s garden. Thank you, God, for the gift of these seeds.
Creating a Mandala
Now with the sacred seeds in your hands, create a sacred circle or mandala as a visual prayer to God to show how sacred and beautiful these seeds are to us.
Thank you God for these seeds of (name what these seeds represent to you, e.g., hope, promise, nourishment).
We’d love to see your Seed Mandalas! Post them to our Facebook page- or email them to email@example.com
Genesis 2:5–9, The Message
5-7 At the time God made Earth and Heaven, before any grasses or shrubs had sprouted from the ground—God hadn’t yet sent rain on Earth, nor was there anyone around to work the ground (the whole Earth was watered by underground springs)—God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!
8-9 Then God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. He put the Man he had just made in it. God made all kinds of trees grow from the ground, trees beautiful to look at and good to eat. The Tree-of-Life was in the middle of the garden, also the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil.
How do we as a community of faith, as a denomination, and as earth creatures understand seeds as sacred?
“Haudenosaunee people have a ceremony in spring to bless the seeds before the planting season. We also called corn, beans, and squash our ‘three sisters.’ This is in keeping with our view of creation as relatives, e.g., elder brother sun, grandmother moon, grandfather thunder, and mother earth. The sustenance provided by food makes Haudenosaunee people happy and is a recurring phrase in the Thanksgiving Address or The Words before All Other Words.
“From my other reading and education a seed contains in itself all the DNA necessary to produce a full-grown plant and fruit containing seeds for the future. In essence, in a seed is a universe of plants that expresses the genius of Creator.”
Adrian Jacobs is Cayuga First Nation of the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Jacobs is the Keeper of the Circle/Principal at the Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, in Beausejour, Manitoba.
“Where I come from, our soil is comprised of rock, sand, silt, and peat. There was no cultivation of plants in the past or present. The seeds must thrive without the assistance of human intervention. Plant medicine knowledge is passed on through the mother’s line. For females, one is shown by an aunty how to gather the plants that were once seeds. She must search for where the seeds have grown into cedar, devil’s club, and spruce to assist others or self with purification.
“All life is sacred. A seed in particular is significant because a seed needs to be connected, in contact with all elements to grow, to become. We speak of thought as a seed and the heart as the place where the seed grows. When one’s heart is not clean, it will not produce good thoughts, good seeds. The seed is the beginning; it is already the nature, the essence of what it will become. May our hearts hold good seeds.”
Patricia Vickers’ heritage weaves ancestry from the United Kingdom and Ts’msyen and Heiltsuk Nations. She belongs to the Eagle Clan from the village of Gitxaala, British Columbia.
We thank you, God, for the circle of life: the cycle of receiving and giving and the cycle of seed time and harvest. Bless these gifts that we now present, trusting in their future promise.
“Soil of God, You and I” (More Voices 174)
Innovative knowledge and technology exchange among the communities and peoples of the Global South is making new development possible and changing lives.
Published On: February 12, 2021
For International Development Week 2021 (February 7-13) the United Church highlights Mission & Service Partners who are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.
South-South cooperation, where countries, communities, and people from the global majority share knowledge, expertise, skills, and resources, is a demonstration of solidarity and partnership. It is also vital to the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says(opens in a new tab) “innovative forms of knowledge exchange, technology transfer, emergency response, and recovery of livelihoods led by the South are transforming lives.”
Credit: Guatemala Conference of Evangelical Churches
The sharing of knowledge is exemplified by the training program run by the Asian Rural Institute (ARI). Based in Nasushiobara, Japan, ARI invites grassroots community leaders from around the world, particularly from Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific to participate in its leadership training program.
At ARI, participants learn about sustainable agriculture, community building, and leadership skills. Through Mission & Service, the United Church funds the equivalent of one scholarship every year for participants(opens in a new tab) to take part in the program. There they will learn new techniques to grow food, tend to livestock, build up their leadership skills, as well as make connections, collaborate, and learn from other global community leaders.
Credit: Guatemala Conference of Evangelical Churches
The Guatemala Conference of Evangelical Churches (CIEDEG)(opens in a new tab) have shared that two young Indigenous women from Guatemala, Ester and Marta, have won scholarships to take part in the ARI leaders training program this year. At the end of the eight-month program, Ester and Marta will take what they’ve learned back to their communities where they can teach other women new agricultural and livestock practices and techniques, improve their own
gardens, and train new women leaders in the community of Nebaj.
Pastoral Prayers and the Lord’s Prayer
For the care that we can give and receive as your creatures,
we give you thanks.
For the care of (name people and communities that offer and receive care)
And we ask for your care and protection over (name people and places in need of God’s care). As you receive the prayers of all creation,
receive our prayers.
We gather these prayers with the prayer Jesus taught us (The Lord’s Prayer).
Commissioning and Benediction
Go, appreciating the beauty and promise of all things sacred.
Go, knowing that we cannot hold on to the glimpses of beauty that we experience. Go, thankful for the gifts such beauty brings.
And may the deep nourishing soil of God’s grace, the radiant warmth of Christ’s love, and
the restoring power of the Spirit be with us all,
as we spread God’s glory, wherever we are planted. Amen.
Service created by:
Alydia Smith, Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality, the General Council Office, The
United Church of Canada.
 Richard Bott, while at St. Andrew’s U.C., Maple Ridge, B.C. (richardbott.com). Traduction et adaptation: D. Fortin / MiF. First published in Gathering Pentecost 2, 2015 and reproduced with permission of Richard Bott.
[i] 2 Inspired by the Commission on Justice, Peace, and Creation, National Council of Churches in India (Rev. Dr. M J Joseph, Rev. Chukka Sweety Helen and Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar) and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
Welcome everyone to this time of worship.
Looks like a gorgeous day out there, a bit of a break from the humidity.
I will be on a reading week this week ( one of three during the year). The book I have selected is Freeing Jesus, by Diana Butler Bass.
From the Worship Supply Team: As all the members of the team will be away, they have prepared in advance and will be offering an Online Only worship next Sunday, Aug. 22. In person worship will resume Aug. 29.
We come this morning to worship God who loves, forgives and meets with us individually and in community.
We centre ourselves in the light of Christ ( light candle)
Let us pause for a minute that we might put aside those things that will get in the way of our worship this day. ( silence)
Let us build up and develop those things that will add to our worship today. (silence)
Let us come to worship, ready to experience God’s presence in community.
Let us pray
God who loves us, who hears us when we are joyful and when we despair,
hear our prayers and songs this day.
Be close to us as we seek to be fed by your word.
Help us to be close to each other,
helping and supporting,
and reflecting the love of Christ, we pray. Amen.
Hymn: 574 VU Come Let us Sing of a Wonderful Love
Growing Together, Part 2:
Healthy Attitudes and Relationships
Last week, you might recall as we looked at the letter to the early church in Ephesus, we discovered that Paul had his hands full. Bringing a diverse group of people together, both Jews and Gentiles, was one thing. Teaching them to live in harmony and to respect their differences was quite another! As we discovered, it was for them, and even for us in our churches today, a work in progress. I like how Protestant reformer Martin Luther said it,
“We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is ongoing. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” In essence, the church, then or now, is far from a perfect body. While we carry with us the vision and ideals of Christ’s love, we know that the practical, everyday reality of living together in loving community is not easy. I don’t know about you but I find it very comforting to know that in so many ways, the kinds of struggles facing the early Christian church were not all that unlike those that we face as we seek to live and work together. As with any group of people, that early church also bumped up against one another by times. There were differences of opinion. There were controversies and considerable bickering and power struggles. There was backbiting and sniping. Sometimes people were angry with another. In other words, contrary to what we might imagine, the early church had its struggles. They faced many of the same challenges of living in relationships with one another as we do. After all, they were human, just like us. As they live and grow together, Paul encourages them, as baptized people, to live as a transformed community. He calls them to basic levels of loving attitudes and decent behavior based on Christ-like living. As Biblical scholar Alan Cadwallader says, “the writer of Ephesians encourages the church to be the living glimpse of a world of peace and reconciliation between peoples, where differences of culture and practices are not turned into enmity and hatred.” While this reading may sound like nothing more than a “to do” list, it serves to remind us that being a follower of Christ is more than saying or knowing the right words or memorizing certain scriptures or creeds. It has practical and deeper consequences for our everyday living in terms of how we treat one another. Let’s listen to these words as they speak to us as we seek to grow together in community:
25 Therefore, after you have gotten rid of lying, Each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor[a] because we are parts of each other in the same body. 26 Be angry without sinning.[b] Don’t let the sun set on your anger. 27 Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. 28 Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.
29 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. 30 Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.
5 Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. 2 Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God.
It all sounds so basic, doesn’t it? Almost like what Dr. Bonnie Henry, the chief medical officer for British Columbia has been saying all through this pandemic- be kind. At the same time, however, there is a lot in there. There are many great reminders of what it means for us as we seek to grow together in community. It is all about building each other up, rather than tearing each other down, learning to speak to each other in ways that enhance our relationships, rather than corrode or destroy them and clothing ourselves as new persons, transformed by the love of Christ. Each of these reminders- speaking truthfully in love, allowing for anger as a healthy emotion especially in the face of injustice but finding a way to channel it in an appropriate, non retaliatory manner, choosing honesty and integrity, sharing, remembering the impact of the words we speak, letting go of festering bitterness and slander- all these are signs of the new life we find in Christ and are building blocks as we grow together in community. While indeed, they do sound so basic, we know from our own experiences, that we all, by times, come up short. The living out of them requires our constant diligence. That’s why we need one another- to encourage each other on the journey to being the Body of Christ and carrying forth the bread he offers to the world in need.
It is rather curious sometimes, isn’t it, how when we speak of building up the Body of Christ or growing the church, our minds so often, as I mentioned last week, turn to numbers and measurable things like church attendance, budgets, having the “right” programs or style of worship. Here, though, in this passage from Ephesians, we get another more basic set of instructions. As Jennifer Brownell, a minister in the United Church of Christ, puts it- “What if church growth was less about a plan or a program and more about an orientation, an attitude and a way of being? What if the most attractive feature of our church was that we had the kind of true peace that confronted conflict in a healthy way? What if the most appealing growth plan was a commitment to faith so unabashedly reverent that it looked something like awe? What if the best church growth plan was a community of people giving and receiving the kind of comfort that can only be inspired by the Holy Spirit?” I don’t know about you, but I wonder if learning to grow together really is as basic as learning to shape ourselves with the attitudes and behaviors that are outlined in those instructions to that early church community in Ephesus? What if it is as simple as learning to appreciate and affirm one another, even amidst our differences?
As I look around, so much of politics and social media centres on scandal and gossip. Turn on the news and so very often someone is tearing another down. What if we as a church community modelled something different? Maybe that is what Paul is getting at with the Ephesians. He wants them to grow and be shaped by different values as a community.
I always remember an image I read about once in a book titled Balcony People by Joyce Landorf. She distinguishes between 2 types of people
1) balcony people- those who affirm others, who lift them up
2)basement people- those who drag others down and belittle them
Balcony people encourage us when we have an idea or a plan. They are the ones who shout- yeah! right on! You can do it! Go for it! Won’t hurt to give it a try! Basement people, meanwhile, roll their eyes and at the same time say, ” what a dumb idea. We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. Are you crazy?
Landorf continues by stating,” I am sure if there were a way to view a movie and see instant replays of all the strategic change points in our lives, then we’d instantly spot the people who either broke our spirits by their critical judgement evaluations or who healed us by their loving, perceptive affirmations.”
I wonder if, in outlining these basic principles for living together in community and growing together, Paul is in essence saying something of the same thing. To be healthy, we need to foster that sense of appreciation for the diverse gifts that we all have. We need to find ways of building each other up. That, of course, means getting to know one another. This, of course, has been hard to do during these pandemic months. As we bring our churches together, I know that many of you have mentioned to me that you don’t know one another. While we may recognize names or faces, we have not had the opportunity to learn each other’s stories and gifts, to have really good conversations with one another. I hope that as we do some visioning this fall, we will get that opportunity to sit around tables and to go that one step deeper that we might come to truly appreciate just what gifts and blessings we share together as we seek to live the new life in Christ together.
Like that diverse community of Jews and Gentiles learning and growing together into Christ, we too are a work in progress. May love be our guide. And, in the words of the immortal Mr. Rogers, ” may we come to believe that appreciation is a holy thing; that when we look for what is best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we are doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbour, we are participating in something sacred.” As Paul implies, simple as this may sound, it doesn’t come easy. It something we need to keep working at. And that, my friends, is why God places us in community together. May God be our helper as we encourage one another. Amen.
Minute for Mission
Centre’s generosity inspires others to be generous too.
Credit: Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue-Cuba
Eleven million people live in Cuba. By mid-July, the country had a staggering average of over 400 confirmed COVID-19 cases per million residents daily, double the world average and more than any other country in the Americas for its size.
Coupled with the continuing and strengthened US economic blockade, Cuba is now experiencing dire economic conditions, and shortages of food and medical supplies. The dramatic surge in cases related to the Delta variant has been felt most acutely in locations such as Cardenas and Matanzas where Mission & Service partners, The Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD) and the Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET), are located
When hospitals in Cuba were pushed to capacity, both partners moved quickly to convert their buildings to help. Today, both the Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue and the Evangelical Theological Seminary are being used as a field hospitals and isolation centers for children and their families who have been exposed to the virus.
At Evangelical Seminary in Matanzas a team of doctors and nurses attend to 120 children and their accompanying parents, as well as other individuals who are suspected of having or are diagnosed with COVID-19. Seminary staff work to support the hospital, including providing food for the hospital on a daily basis.
This generosity in action is also inspiring others to be generous, too.
Local business owners and the public have begun to donate food, transportation, masks, and more to the Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue. “In recent days, we have welcomed representatives of different businesses in the city to our institution with special contributions: cake, ice cream, jam, and graphic prints with hopeful messages,” says the Centre in a report, calling the groundswell of kindness “gratifying.”
Throughout the pandemic, your support through Mission & Service has helped provide vital personal protective equipment, shelter, and food for people in Canada and around the world when they need it most. Now, it is also providing life saving vaccines.
Thank you for all the ways you are making a difference!
Let us pray
Gracious God, Source of all love, we give thanks that you call us and claim us as your children. You invite us to live Christ’s way of love and service. To do so though, we need your wisdom and strength. It is so easy to lose patience with one another, to focus on the things that divide us, and to tear one another down when you ask us to build one another up. We ask for your help in modelling your ways of kindness, tenderness and forgiveness. Help us to use our anger to speak powerfully and to make a change in the face of injustices we see or inequity we experience while at the same time, not letting anger rule our lives to the point where we become bitter or vengeful in our words or actions. Help us to give honesty, justice and practical support where they are needed. May we also learn to receive honesty, justice and practical support when we are in need.
Bless each of us in these continued times of uncertainty. Give us courage for the facing of each new day and each new situation we encounter. Be for us a strong arm to lean on when we are overwhelmed by responsibilities for which we may feel inadequate. We pray for friends and family members who need our support this day… for young people in search of meaning and purpose for their lives as they struggle to navigate their future in a complicated world, for all in need of a healing touch or a comforting word in the face of failing health, for all who are discouraged or bewildered, for all who are living with anxiety, for all who are realizing that a change is needed in their living arrangements, and all who grieve a loss, whether it be a death, the end of a relationship or an adjustment to life that leaves them uncertain or afraid. We ask your continued presence upon all who are coping with the impact of environmental situations like intense heat, floods or drought. We lift before you the people of Haiti amidst the destruction of this week’s earthquake, and the people of Afghanistan living in the midst of fear and violence at these very moments. Bring comfort and restore peace, we pray. We offer these prayers, O God, confident of your love, knowing that you hear us as we offer them in the name of Jesus, who invites us to pray as one.. saying.. Our Father..
Continue to worship day by day, in the tasks you do, and with the people you meet.
Take care to build up the Body of Christ through the words you speak, through the actions you take.
Be kind to one another. Be forgiving.
And most of all, be imitators of God’s love.
Go, knowing Christ’s peace goes with you. Amen.
August 8, 2021
The apostle Paul encourages us to lead a life worthy of the calling to which we are called. We dare not try this alone. So we come together from different places, with different skills and abilities and different occupations.
We come to this time to share our skills and abilities and worship together.
We come as one people in the light of Christ. (light candle)
Let us pray:
God, who brings us together in worship and who builds us together,
be with us as we wait to be fed by the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.
Bind us to one another, that together, as we listen, sing and pray,
we might be channels through which the Body of Christ is made alive and active in the world. Amen.
Hymn: 1 MV Let us Build a House where all can Dwell
Growing Together, part 1: Celebrating Diverse Gifts
” We are all really different. Everyone brought a different element to the boat. The sum of our parts was greater than our differences and we just visualized we could do it.”
Those are the words shared by the Canadian women’s 8 rowing team after their gold medal win this past week at the Tokyo Olympics. In that same interview these women spoke of how, especially during the pandemic, they worked hard at team building and building trust.
In a similar manner, in Paul’s words to the fledgling church in Ephesus, he outlines the same kind of principles as he calls them to grow together as a community. Let’s listen to his encouragement to them and us as he writes from his prison cell:
Ephesians 4 : 1-16
4 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
7 God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ. 8 That’s why scripture says, When he climbed up to the heights, he captured prisoners, and he gave gifts to people.[a]
9 What does the phrase “he climbed up” mean if it doesn’t mean that he had first gone down into the lower regions, the earth? 10 The one who went down is the same one who climbed up above all the heavens so that he might fill everything.
11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.
Much like the Olympic rowers, Paul recognized the importance of this diverse community of believers to work together in life- enhancing ways. The goal is to understand that they are not just individuals flopping around out there in the world. They are interdependent parts of the whole. To reach maturity in faith, they would need to work together, to pull together and to grow together. They would need to realize, what we have hopefully learned in these pandemic times, that the good of the community has been impacted by the choices we have made and continue to make as individuals. We have seen the life-endangering consequences to others by poor choices. Conversely, we have seen how communities have also been enhanced as people pulled together and supported one another. As Stephen Reicher, a professor at University of St. Andrew’s in England, said it best ” The key message of the pandemic is: ” This isn’t an ‘I’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing.” Individualism won’t cut it. It is the same with our lives as part of the Body of Christ, the church. It is not about what the church can do for me or what can I get out of being part of the church but what am I doing to unite efforts for the church by bringing my gifts to the table and offering them to God.
As I was thinking about what Paul is saying here I remembered a summer when my nephew, Alex, was about 5 years old. I was visiting my parents on my vacation. Almost every afternoon around 4 pm, he would call us and wonder if we were coming for “band practice” that evening. Now band practice to a 5 year old was pretty serious stuff. When you entered the playroom, you would be handed a toy instrument- a guitar, a saxophone, or a clarinet and under his direction as the lead drummer, a jam session would take place. And let me tell you at that time I played a mean toy saxophone ( especially when it was drowned out by the electric drums!) Somehow, though, through this pretend band, he learned something about the importance of teamwork, of everyone using their gifts to build up the band. Any new person entering the room was assigned and instrument. No one was left out.
I liken that to what Paul is saying as he encourages the diverse community of Jews and Gentiles to live together in unity. This unity didn’t mean that everyone had to be the same or think the same. In essence, like band practice, they were all handed a different instrument. In addition, he says that the different gifts are assets, not threats to the Body of Christ. Just as a physical body, to be healthy, depends on a variety of aspects like proper nutrition, sleep, and rest, so it is that the Body of Christ, the church, needs all its parts working together in harmony. It is a matter of interdependence. As I have seen from my experience in ministry over the years when the parts work together in harmony, when we speak the truth in love, when we build one another up rather than tear each other down, when we refrain from being blown about by every whim that promises us instant success or popularity as a community, then Christ’s love is made known through us to the world. On the other hand, when power plays, jealousy or divisions get in the way, we shoot ourselves in the foot and our witness to the vision of Christ is weakened.
The church is called to stand out as a new community based solidly in the love of Christ. If one part fails to function, our growth is stunted. That means that what we say and do matters, not just on a personal level but on a global and cosmic level, as our curriculum says. When we are united in love, we can do some amazing things. We can make a difference. And, as we know, so often it is the little things we do, or say, that make that difference.
Like the story I came across of a high school principal. One of his duties was to supervise the lunch room, making sure the students did not leave any messes. One day, prior to vacation, the students were particularly wound up. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a student spill his milk. It was all down the front of him, on the table and on the floor. The principal watched to see what the student would do- figuring he would escape the cafeteria without cleaning up the mess.
Yet surprisingly, the student returned to the snack bar, gathered up several napkins and returned to his table to clean up the mess. He even got down on his hands and knees and cleaned the floor. The principal thanked him for his cooperation. No problem, the young man said. Later the principal went one step further and decided to contact his parents. Normally, such calls were about bad behaviour. The boy’s mother answered and he said to her,
“Your son showed me something today that really demonstrated good upbringing.” He shared the story and on the other end of the line, he heard sobbing. Finally the mom replied, “You will never in your entire lifetime realize what your phone call has meant to me. My husband left me several years ago and I have been raising my son alone. He behaves at home but I never knew how he does in public. Your phone call has meant everything to me.”
The principal thought long and hard about how that single phone call had become a life- changing experience. From that moment on, he vowed to make more positive calls to parents.
To me, that illustrates what Paul is getting at in his letter to the Ephesians. Growing together in community means finding ways of affirming one another and their gifts, whether it be as parents, as workers, as teachers, as listeners, as care givers or what have you. It means lifting up one another rather than tearing each other down. It means being cooperative, rather than competitive and combative.
It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. Let’s face it- the church back in Paul’s time as well as in our time, is never fully 100% together. We are always what we might say a work in process. We will always be a group of different individuals with various opinions and ideas about how to proceed. Yet, the one thing that we have in common is that through Christ we belong to one another. That is what draws us together. That is where we find our peace as we grow together in unity with one another.
Together, as the people of Faith Memorial, we have gifts to share, a ministry to offer to the world beyond the walls of our building. We all share in the responsibility of playing our part in the band. The health of the body depends on each one of us taking that responsibility, relating to each other with “humility, gentleness and patience, accepting each other with love and making an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties us together.” None of us can sit on the sidelines watching or commenting on how others are playing. Our role, like that school principal, is to offer encouragement, to seek ways of helping each other to identify and offer their gifts, so that none feel left out.
When we do that, I can guarantee you that we will model something of the grown up, mature faith that Paul is calling for. It is a growth based not on numbers or quantity, but on the qualities of love and unity even in our differences. The quickest way to this kind of growth and to feeling part of the whole comes through our mutual encouragement in offering our gifts, in participating in our ministries, whether it be by lifting up a cup towel in our church kitchen when we get back in there again, participating in our upcoming visioning day this fall, offering a word of affirmation or a thank you, presenting our monetary gifts for the work of our church in the world, sharing in a discussion group or any number of yet to be discovered ways that you might think of to give of yourself for the good of the whole Body.
As the Olympic rowers highlighted for us, so much is about visualizing what is possible when we put all our different gifts together in the same boat and realizing that the sum of our parts is greater than our differences. It is when we work together that we become a team with a grown up faith, called to live authentically from the ground of our being. It is then that we begin a new way of life, a life that is worthy of the call we have received in God. It is then that we, the church, stand out as a new community that belongs to Christ and embodies his love and goodness in the world.
May God help us as we grow together. Amen.
Minute for Mission
Video format: https://youtu.be/6lCDCww8sno
We all need someone who believes in us. Someone who supports our dreams. When you give to Mission & Service, you are that someone. Here’s one story of how your belief and support make all the difference.
Three years ago, Arwa was a Palestinian refugee who had just arrived in Montreal. She had made a harrowing journey, travelling from Saudi Arabia through New York City with three children in tow.
“It wasn’t easy for me. I was a single mom in a new country with new people. I was struggling for housing and looking for a job. It wasn’t easy at all,” she says.
Arwa sought help at Montreal City Mission, an outreach ministry your Mission & Service gifts support. There, her whole family found belonging. Arwa’s children made friends, and she benefitted from training programs and events.
Credit: Arwa Nofal
It wasn’t long before Arwa gathered a group of women together to form a catering cooperative called Women Weaving Their Dreams, which specializes in homemade Middle Eastern meals. The group was going strong and the women were becoming more financially secure when COVID-19 struck.
No stranger to hardship, Arwa was determined to help others through the pandemic. She initiated a sewing circle to make masks. The group made over 500 masks a week and distributed them to homeless shelters and frontline workers. “I was so happy to help people,” says Arwa, whose extraordinary leadership skills landed her a full-time job at Montreal City Mission.
“I consider myself a lucky person that I got to know this organization. It has become not only my full-time job, not only my provider. It has become my home. I hope to see more and more women getting the same chance to have this better life for their families,” she says. “I wanted a country that could hold me and hug me my whole life long. I found it in Canada.”
Your gifts through Mission & Service don’t just support dozens of organizations like Montreal City Mission across the country. They also support people’s dreams for a better life—amazing people who make their communities and our country stronger.
Please give generously through Mission & Service. Show incredible community leaders like Arwa that you believe in them. Thank you for your support
Let us pray:
Loving God, we come before you this day because you are for us the Bread of Life. It is in you that our souls find satisfaction and peace. It is in you that we receive strength for our journeys and hope for the way. It is with your help that we learn humility, gentleness and patience so that we may support each other in love and grow together as the Body of Christ.
We ask, O God, that as we grow toward this maturity of faith and love, that you might take us from where we are to where you want us to be. Teach us to celebrate our differences. Fire us with a passion for justice and peace between all peoples. Help us to see what is needed and to offer our strengths and gifts to make it happen. Give your power to this church community here at Faith Memorial that we may each play our part in working together and modelling your ministry and unity for all the world to see. Help us to promote collaboration over selfishness, community over individualism, and “us” over “me”. Teach us to affirm and encourage one another rather than dragging each other down with negativity. Deliver us from narrow-mindedness, from bitterness and petty jealousies that others might remark, ” See how they love one another.” Help us to work through our differences with patience and respect.
We pray this day for all who are ill, all who are facing upcoming treatments, and all whose lives are touched by grief. May they know the touch of your comfort and the support of our community. We pray for our world, for the many places where vaccines are still a far off dream, for people whose lives are daily bombarded by violence and fear, by hunger and disease, by poverty and homelessness, for areas of our country where wildfires and intense heat have caused dislocation and death. Bless all who are pitching in to offer help as fire fighters and other first responders. Hear these our prayers, O God, together with the prayers of our individual hearts, as we offer them in the name of Jesus Christ, whose love continues to sustain and inspire us, and who taught us to pray as one, saying… Our Father…
Hymn: 154MV Deep in Our Hearts
Together we are the Body of Christ in this worship community.
We join our gifts with others to become the Body of Christ in the wider world.
May the God who dwells beyond us and among us,
Christ who walks with us as we grow, mature and carry out his ministry
and the Spirit who teaches us to recognize gifts in ourselves and others,
bless us now and always. Amen.