September 17, 2023

Good afternoon,

Welcome to worship on this bright day after the hurricane!

Hope you are finding a way to enjoy the sunshine.


Official Board next Sunday after worship.


Have a blessed week.


This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly, the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us.

As we light this candle this morning, we are reminded of the call to centre our lives on Jesus, who models for us a way of life centred on love for all God’s children.

Call to Worship:(inspired by Psalm 103)

Bless the Holy One with our whole selves. Praise the Maker of our being!
Remember the mighty deeds and the good works of our God.
The Sovereign One endows us with many gifts and equips us to do good work.
Remember the mighty deeds and the good works of our God.
Holy Love entered the world without condemnation but with grace and forgiveness, mercy and compassion, redemption and restoration.
Hallelujah! We give thanks for the mighty deeds and the good works of our God!

Opening Prayer: (adapted from Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology, United Church of Christ.)

Loving and forgiving God, it is you who gathers us together and forms us as a community.

It is you who makes us uniquely individual and who designs us for companionship.

Let us journey together this day in your presence reminded of our interdependence with one another.

May we see your glory and be inspired to demonstrate your goodness and care through our lives. Amen.

Hymn: 232 VU Joyful, Joyful We Adore You

Prayer of Confession:
God of grace, we need your strength in our weakness.

We confess that we can be judgemental and hyper-critical of our neighbours, family, and friends. (silence)

We confess the times when we have held on to our grudges, rather than letting them go. (silence)

We confess how we have projected our own shortcomings on others in order to deflect attention from our own mistakes. (silence)

We withhold and condition forgiveness, mercy, and grace from those who wrong us at the same time we seek it for the wrongs we have done. (silence)

Even still, we struggle to forgive ourselves.

You have shown us the better way.

Help us to follow your path–receiving and extending forgiveness in a world in need of an infusion of grace for transformation.

In your mercy, O God, hear our prayer, and let us forgive as you forgive. Amen.


Words of Affirmation
Beloved, grace has always been part of God’s relationship with humanity. God does not want us condemned or held captive by unresolved anger leading to bitterness. Rather, Creator desires for all of us to be released as both forgiven and forgiver so that all may live a life that is whole, free, and flourishing.

To forgive and to be for forgiven from the heart as God forgives us, that is our call.

May it be so among us. Amen.

Readings and Reflection:

Forgiveness as a Way of Life

During the summer in our worship services, we followed through the story of Abraham and Sarah, then Isaac and Rebekkah and their sons, Jacob and Esau. Then we came to the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph, who was despised by his brothers and sold off to travelling merchants. We heard how, after a series of twists and turns, he became a “big wig” in the Egyptian government. Then, came a great famine back and his brothers came to Egypt looking for food. Joseph was in charge of food distribution but the brothers did not recognize him, thinking he was long gone. After toying with them for a bit, Joseph eventually revealed his identity to them and there was this great reunion and reconciliation. However, even after their father Jacob’s death, the brothers were still uncertain of their relationship with Joseph, still having a hard time feeling forgiven and still wondering if Joseph might seek revenge. I know that a couple of weeks ago we moved on to the story of Moses with the burning bush. However, today, I am going to backtrack a bit to a reading from the end of Genesis to the scene at the time of Jacob’s death and the brothers hear, once again, Joseph’s words of forgiveness.

Genesis 50: 15-21

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Our gospel reading is part of a larger section in Matthew where Jesus is talking about relationships in the Christian community- the kind of things Elizabeth was encouraging us with last week- doing everything in our power to nourish and to strengthen the bonds of love. In this passage bold Peter, once again, is asking a question. He wants to know the limits he needs to place on forgiveness. When is enough, enough? When can I draw a line in the sand and say that is as far as I need to go? Let’s listen to how Jesus answers him, and the story he tells.

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”

22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times. 23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. 25 Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.

28 “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’

29 “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.

31 “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32 His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.

35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

It is not hard to see how these two passages are related through the common theme of forgiveness. In my opinion, probably one of the hardest things about living in community as faithful followers of Christ. Whether it is in granting another forgiveness or receiving the forgiveness of another it is something that, if we are at all honest with ourselves, we wrestle with a lot.

Take a few moments with me and think about someone whose name you dread seeing on your caller id on your phone or whose name in your email box places you on guard. Or maybe you are thinking of a neighbour who often gives you trouble. Or a co-worker or even a family member, or dare I say it a fellow worshipper who has hurt you and you just can’t forgive. Maybe you dread being in their presence. Who among us has never found ourselves involved in a situation where someone has wronged us and we have found it hard to forgive.

Just recently I was hurt by something a long-time friend said to me. And, for months, I seethed. I rehearsed the conversation over and over again in my mind. I told other close friends what was said. Eventually, after a while of not being in conversation with each other, this friend called me and asked if there was a problem. Finally, I spoke of my hurt and long story short, we reconciled. Yet, prior to that point, I could relate to that greatly forgiven slave in the parable Jesus tells who refused to forgive another slave a small debt. It was far easier to nurse my grudge and to tell others how I had been wronged rather than to name it and discuss it with my friend. As it turned out, my friend was not even aware how her words had been interpreted by me!

Then there are other times in our lives when we have hurt others and find ourselves in need of their forgiveness. We know how the guilt and shame of our actions or maybe our words can eat away at us.  To be human is to face these kinds of situations in our relationships at home, in the community, at work and even in the church. We all make mistakes and find ourselves needing forgiveness from time to time.  And the interesting thing is that even when we think such brokenness is only between ourselves and another person, it has an effect on the whole community. Think back to the parable again. When the much-forgiven slave refused to forgive his fellow slave and grabbed him by the throat, all the others slaves witnessed this and were greatly distressed.  It disturbed their sense of community. It caused unrest within the body.

Forgiveness sounds easy. It sounds basic to our lives as people of faith. That is, until, as Cameron Trimble once put it, we have someone to forgive or something to forgive. Then it becomes a bit more complicated. Somewhere. Sometime. We have all found ourselves in the role of being either wounded or having wounded another.

Land only knows because of our common humanity, there have been countless stories told of people’s phenomenal ability to forgive horrible and tragic experiences in their lives. The story of Corrie Ten Boom that I sent out to you earlier in the week is one such example. The same with how to books giving us instruction about how to forgive. Yet, let’s be honest with ourselves. Forgiveness is hard. It is much easier for us to get fed up with another who has hurt us and to just stay that way. As with the forgiven slave in our parable, vengeance becomes our more natural response when we are offended by another. We snarl. We dig out our claws. Often, we grow bitter. We allow things to fester. Then, we pull out the ledger and add even more offenses to the list of what another has done to us. Yet, isn’t this the point of Jesus’ parable- if we start keeping ledgers on forgiveness, we will always end up in the red! Because no amount of tallying our forgiveness of others can ever compare to how God has forgiven us. Because God does not keep track!

I don’t pretend to have any magic formula about forgiveness. Commentator Karoline Lewis however offers us this piece of advice which I found rather helpful, “often our resistance to forgive is rooted in our resistance to believe that we ourselves can be forgiven. Knowing ourselves as forgiven children of God is a gift that confers upon us the capacity to forgive as a response” That was what happened to the much-forgiven servant in our story- he missed the significance of being forgiven. Only when we perceive God’s remarkable love and grace given to us will we be filled with the desire to love and forgive others. Still, though, I maintain that this is often easier said than done.

Maybe, though, it has something to do with how we attempt to define forgiveness. And maybe in doing that we need to first outline what forgiveness is not:

-it is not “forgive and forget”. It still means addressing the wrongs. I think of something like the abuse at aboriginal residential schools. Many years ago, our United Church of Canada offered an apology for our involvement in those schools. Yet, we continue to work with aboriginal people in living out that apology, in setting things right again, by the actions we take and by the words we speak. Only then will the healing take place.

– forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone or overlook another’s bad behaviour. It doesn’t mean we deny or minimize the hurt it caused us or others. It is not simply letting bygones be bygones, pretending that what happened to us didn’t matter. It simply means not letting the wrong have power over us. Rabbi Harold Kushner once told the story of a woman in his congregation who came to see him. She was a single mother, divorced and working to support herself and raise her 3 children. She tells him, “Since my husband walked out on us, every month is a struggle to pay the bills. I have to tell my kids there is no money to go to the movies while he is living it up with his new wife. How can you tell me to forgive him?”

Kushner responds to her, “I’m not asking you to forgive him because what he did to you was acceptable. It wasn’t. It was mean and selfish. I’m asking you to forgive because he doesn’t deserve the power to live in your head and turn you into a bitter and angry woman. I’d like to see him out of your life emotionally as completely as he is out of it physically but you keep holding on to him. You’re not hurting him by holding on to that resentment, but you are hurting yourself.”

That is similar to a question one prisoner of war asked another-

Have you forgiven your captors yet?

No, I will never do that, said the other.

Then, they still hold you in prison, don’t they?

Nelson Mandela put it this way, “when we hold a grudge, it like drinking poison, hoping it will kill our enemies.”

-Forgiveness doesn’t mean giving another the license to continue with the injustice, the abuse or the oppression. It doesn’t mean acting like things don’t need to change.

-Forgiveness is has nothing to do with allowing people to continue walking over us like a doormat or placing ourselves in the position of being a perpetual victim. It does not mean staying in a toxic relationship or pretending that the hurt didn’t happen.

So, what is forgiveness then? There is no shortage of attempts to define it. Let me give you a couple:

Frederick Buechner writes: “To forgive someone is to say one way or another, ‘you have done something unspeakable and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I have no guarantee that I will be able to forgive what you’ve done, and though we many both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.’

Marjorie Thompson, a Presbyterian minister, writes in an article “Moving Toward Forgiveness”:

“To forgive is to make a conscious choice to release the person who has wounded us from the sentence of our judgment, however justified that judgment may be. It represents a choice to leave behind our resentment and desire for retribution, however fair such punishment may seem…. Forgiveness involves excusing persons from the punitive consequences they deserve because of their behavior. The behavior remains condemned, but the offender is released from its effects as far as the forgiver is concerned. Forgiveness means the power of the original wound’s power to hold us trapped is broken.”

It is little wonder that Jesus refuses to quantify the number of times we need to forgive. That’s because forgiveness is vast. It is not quantifiable. It is an ongoing quality of our hearts and minds that we need to keep working at as individuals and as a community of faith. It is a skill set for living, a way of walking in the ways of Jesus and a huge part of who we are as children of God, living in response to God’s amazing grace poured out on us. And I do believe that it is not something that comes easy to most of us, nor is it a natural way of responding to the wounds that we have received and the hurts that we have caused to others. It is more like a muscle that needs our work. Something that we need to keep practicing over and over again if, as Father Richard Rohr writes, “humanity is to have a sustainable future. Otherwise, we are controlled by the past, both individually and corporately.” Forgiveness is our way of paying forward the healing grace and forgiveness of God, a gift we give both to another and to ourselves. A lifestyle. An ongoing and never-ending practice, a way of life that sets us all free. Amen.

Your Generosity Matters!

 Every child has the right to learn.

Image: Head shot of a young Black man against a background in Africa

Credit: The United Church of Canada

Where would you be if you had no education? School fees, violence, child labour, and discrimination mean that too many children can’t go to or stay in school in parts of the world.

Every child has the right to learn.

Mission and Service partner Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children (KAACR) brings together child rights organizations to share information about child protection and safeguarding and helps to support children in schools.

Thanks to your support, KAACR has established over 300 child rights clubs in schools. One of these clubs helped Meshack through primary school. A bursary program has helped him pay high school fees, and the child rights club at his school is teaching him how to be a positive role model.

“To start [going to] school was a problem. KAACR has helped me. They encouraged me a lot. They enabled me to start my primary school. Now I’m in high school,” Meshack says. “The club is helping us a lot, too. They give us role models to teach us what is bad and help us be confident in whatever we are doing. I’m very happy.”

Thank you for helping to break down barriers so every child can go to school, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. Your generous support through Mission and Service means that children around the world have the opportunity to go to school thanks to partnerships with organizations like KAACR.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

O God, as our lives take on new rhythms after the summer months, we are mindful of your gifts and patterns revealed in creation- the rising and setting of the sun, planting and harvest, the changing seasons and for your bounty in supplying all our needs. We praise you for times of joy and celebration like we experienced last week in our amalgamation worship service. We praise you also for life’s challenges when we search for your presence and direction. We thank you for times of wonder as we listen to the migration of the geese honking overhead, as we feel the autumn winds blowing through trees that are losing their leaves and as we watch all of nature preparing for a time of rest and renewal over the coming winter months. As we bask in the beauty of it all, help us as we seek to live in a caring and respectful relationship with creation.

We thank you for our community of faith and for the relationships that we are striving to build together. Help us to encourage one another to share our gifts and to serve in your ways of love and justice. Teach us to forgive one another as you forgive us. Where there is resentment from old offenses, may we be the first to reach out and to set things right. Teach us patience with others and with ourselves. May our communication with one another model your ways of respect for diversity and differences and inclusion of all.

We pray this day for all among us who carry painful baggage of hurts received and who struggle for a way to move forward, for all who have been abused and struggle with flashbacks, for all who have felt betrayed by another and find it difficult to let go. Help each person to find healing and hope.

We pray for all who this day are feeling unsettled about their health or the health of a loved one. For all who journey through grief, for all who are living through the tumult of natural disasters- hurricanes, fires, floods and earthquakes. We pray especially for the people of Libia and Morocco. Give them the courage and resilience they need as they rebuild their lives. Grant strength to all who are working day and night to relieve their needs.

Hear these our prayers, loving God, together with the unspoken prayers of our hearts, as we offer them in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray as one, saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 684 VU Make Me a Channel of Your Peace 


Let us go from this place with a posture of forgiveness,

leading and being led by the grace that calls us into right relationships


with God, neighbour, self and creation. Amen.


September 3, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to worship for Sept.3 ,2023 at Faith Memorial United.

We are looking forward to our amalgamation service next Sunday, Sept. 10, when our two congregations, St. Paul’s (Centreville) and Faith Memorial (Florenceville-Bristol) will (finally!) formally covenant together.

Confirmed members of the former St. Paul’s United, who have indicated to Session their desire to do so, will be received by Transfer of Membership.

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevenson, President of Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region of the United Church of Canada, will be our guest preacher.

Following worship, we will enjoy a celebration potluck in the hall.

It promises to be an exciting day for us all as we mark this important step in our journey.

Please note that there will be no emailed service next week.


Our worship today is offered as a preparation for the vows we will make together next week.

Blessings as we head into our new relationship together and we look forward to seeing you!


This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us.

We light this candle, ever mindful of the light of Christ in our life together in community as well as in our personal lives.

Call to Worship

Many are the reasons we gather:

we are one as the Body of Christ.

Excited, anxious, reluctant, curious:

we are one as the Body of Christ.

Brought here, sent here, drawn here, just here:

we are one as the body of Christ.

Here we are! God meets us and welcomes us as we are.

So, we turn aside and open ourselves to God’s call in our lives.


Opening Prayer:

God, in response to your call, we gather as your people.

We come seeking to be a community of faith where we find courage

   to befriend our enemies and practice reconciliation,

   to touch grief with comfort,

   and to speak hope to despair.

Focus our attention and sharpen our awareness of the sacredness

in all of life.

Open us to you and all the things you are stirring within us. Amen.

Hymn: 509 VU I the Lord of Sea and Sky

Prayer of Confession: (based on Romans 12:9-21)

For all the ways we hold fast to what is convenient, easy or agreeable (silence),

instead of what is good,

Christ, have mercy.

For all the ways we long for personal gain and self satisfaction (silence)

instead of mutuality,

Christ have mercy.

For all the ways we cling to old hurts and familiar habits that nurse anger and envy (silence),

instead of letting go,

Christ have mercy.

For all the times we have been so self-absorbed (silence)

instead of reaching out beyond our selves,

Christ have mercy.

Forgive what we have been, amend who we are,

and guide us toward who we may become

according to your generous grace. Amen

Words of Affirmation

In all we do, let our love be genuine; for if we love as God taught us,

we will not be overcome by evil, but we will, by the grace of God, overcome evil with good.

Thanks be to God! Amen

Readings and Reflection

Holy Building Tools

September. A month that always signifies a shift. Back to our routines. Children and teachers go back to school. University and community college students move furniture into dorms. Parents adjust to walking by an empty room in their homes. We find ourselves having to turn on the lights in our homes a little earlier in the evenings. Community activities resume after a bit of a summer hiatus. Farmers prepare for harvest. We, here at Faith Memorial, look forward to finally being able to officially celebrate our coming together as a brand-new amalgamated church new week.

Shifts such as these carry with them the promise of new possibilities. New friendships. New adventures. New learnings. All of which is very exciting. Yet, there are still reservations. Parents may wonder if they have equipped their children for the next stages of life. Students may wonder about how they will meet new friends. Farmers may worry about whether the weather will prove suitable for doing the necessary labour on the land or whether a certain piece of machinery will hold out another season. As a church, we might think about how we will work to bridge differences and find ways of working together. How will we live in authentic relationship with God and with one another? How will we live as our best selves? What does living a life of faith really look like?

The first 2 scriptures we are going to read this morning involve accounts of people undergoing shifts in their way of life. The first is the familiar story of Moses and the burning bush. The ultimate God moment, we might say! A life changing moment for sure. As Joseph Heller once wrote, “Moses took off his shoes and there went the rest of his life!” He dared to turn aside from his shepherding duties and his life from that time forward was set on a whole different course.

Exodus 3: 1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.

For the disciples too, things begin to shift as they enter a new phase of their journey with Jesus. Last week, you might recall, we heard Jesus asking the disciples “Who do you say that I am?” And remember, it was Peter who came up with the right answer of Messiah. Jesus then commended him for his answer and promised him the keys to the kingdom. This week however, after Jesus explains that Messiah has a different meaning than the disciples had thought, that it would involve suffering and death rather than glory and victory over the Romans, the disciples are shocked. Peter says no way, Jesus. This isn’t going to happen. They had the right words, but the wrong understanding. As you will see in this passage, Jesus points out to them that living a life of faith will not mean safety and comfort. Instead, it will involve pouring one’s life out for the sake of others. From that time on, things begin to shift for both Jesus and the disciples.

 Matthew 16: 21-28

 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Both of these scriptures remind us that answering God’s call in our lives and being a follower of Jesus involves shifts in our priorities. For Moses, it meant leaving behind his life of shepherding sheep to moving toward a life of speaking up on behalf of an oppressed people and leading them to freedom. For the disciples, it meant letting go of self-interest and self-concern in order to pick up Christ’s way of humility and self-sacrifice. For both Moses and the disciples, embracing God’s call involved becoming part of something bigger than themselves and helping to bring to birth a whole new kind of community.

For Paul, in his letter to the Romans, this involved learning how to live love. In our passage this morning that carries on from where we left off last week with that reminder to be transformed, not conformed to the world, Paul gives us some practical tools for building up our community of faith. I especially was drawn to them as we formalize our amalgamation next week. Some have referred to Paul’s words here as Paul’s sermon on the mount because they give us some helpful ideas about how to live well with others in community. Originally, they were given as instructions to the Roman church as it dealt with conflicts with the Jewish people and the Gentile Christians working through their own amalgamations. There was a need for lots of bridge building both within the church and with the culture at large who did not approve of the new behavior of the Christians, especially as they no longer worshipped idols. More often than not, they were entrenched on opposite sides of a number of issues. As Barbara Brown Taylor describes it was a mess! “Some people wouldn’t sit with other people. There were bad feelings everywhere.  Yet everyone said they believed in a God of love- that is until someone crossed them. Then all that love and goodness fell out the window and revenge and retaliation took over.  If you have ever been on the receiving end of a grievous wrong, then you know how your mind works- ‘this is wrong, you tell yourself. I am in a lot of pain here. This should not have happened to me. Someone should pay for this. Evildoers must be stopped and if I don’t do it, someone else will get hurt. It’s not my nature, but I will strike back. I will fight fire with fire. God is a God of justice after all and what has happened to me is not right, not by any reckoning. Then you know what follows in our world- the lawsuits, the insults, the silence, the fighting back.”

Paul, however, in these words calls for a shift, a summons to a better way of living their best selves. In these instructions, we, too as a church community are offered some much-needed advice as we enter our new relationship together.

Romans 12: 9-21

  Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 Instead, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink, for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

After hearing these words of instruction, perhaps you are thinking, okay, nothing new here. You won’t get any argument from me. It all sounds like a list of do’s and don’ts your mother might give you as you leave home. What is there not to like in these points Paul is making? Pretty basic- hospitality, generosity, self-giving love. The kind of behaviour we expect from everyone. Besides, what is particularly Christian about all those things? True yes, except for when the rubber meets the road, like when we are called to bless our enemies and to not repay evil with evil but to overcome evil with good. Now that’s a bit more challenging, isn’t it? Kind of ups the ante as we think about what it means to follow Christ. It involves reaching out beyond the people who think like we do. Paul writes these words because he could see that retaliation and revenge were growing within that church at Rome. He is trying to remind them that the minute they curse those who have wronged them, they join them in keeping the cycle of revenge going. The only way to end this is by breaking the cycle. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not conquer my enemy by making him my friend?” Easier said than done though, isn’t it? I wonder if Paul might also have added, “Don’t try this alone!” We need each other in community to work at this and to figure out this more excellent way he is describing- a way of using the strongest power available to us- the power of love to which God calls us.

In some ways, Paul’s message to that early church in Rome and to us gives us, as a community on the verge of our new relationship as an amalgamated church, some helpful reminders of the radical changes and shifts that being a follower of Christ and living together in community requires. As Jesus reminded the disciples, it involves “setting our mind on divine things rather than on human things.” It calls us to renewed ways of thinking and behaving together as we study God’s words, as we pray and worship together, as we support one another and as we discover and live our present tense vision as God’s people in this time and place.

Living this new and different life is not always easy. We need constant reminders like Paul gives us here today to help us find the common ground we seek.  Some of you probably are not aware, but each time we gather as an Official Board, we read something that is called Holy Manners. These were written in 2003 by former Moderator, Rev. Marion Pardy and have been used in General Council meetings ever since. In essence the statements serve as a behavioural covenant, an invitation to a way of being as the Body of Christ that is life- giving and that encourages us to be our best selves as we live, grow and serve God together. I offer them to you as our holy building tools for our future together:

We will:

• keep God at the centre of everything we do;

• each speak for ourselves;

• speak for a purpose;

• separate people from problems;

• allow for full and equitable participation;

• attend to others carefully without interruption;

• welcome the conflict of ideas;

• take a future orientation;

• demonstrate appreciation;

• honour the decisions of the body;

• commit to holding one another to account when we do not keep our holy manners;

• keep the discussion at the table;

• be mindful of our body language;

• check in about good use of time;

• allow the quiet people to speak, with an invitation to speak; and

• sincerely say what we really feel

May they help us grow into our new relationship together and in the words of one anonymous writer, may they help us to live in such a way that those who know us but don’t know God may come to know God because they know us. Amen.


Your Generosity Matters!

How do you make the world a better place?

You can start by taking kids to school.

Around the world, 57 million children cannot attend school. * They may never learn to read, to add or subtract, or to write. These are the skills they need to succeed.

Even more importantly, they never learn about their basic human rights.

It’s a complicated problem, says Patti Talbot, the United Church’s Global Partnership Team Leader. “The work we do isn’t going to lead to immediate societal change,” she says, “but it will make a big difference down the road.”

When children can’t go to school, society suffers. And that is why Mission & Service is in partnership with 85 organizations that work to increase access to education across the globe.

Each partner has their own approach to education and skills training, each supported by your gifts to Mission and Service.

Colombia’s Center for Communication uses arts and media to teach children about their rights. Women for Change in Zambia creates educational groups where participants share agricultural knowledge and awareness of their rights. At Japan’s Asian Rural Institute, local leaders gather to learn sustainable agriculture techniques they can take home and transform their communities.

“How can we make the world a better place?” asks Talbot before responding, “We can’t do that by ourselves; our partners know best what the challenges are.”

Talbot, a child of missionaries who was raised in Japan and Korea, knows that educational partnerships are critical. “In our partnerships, we learn from and teach each other,” she says. “The United Church’s focus is more than just sharing resources, but really sharing life together.”

It’s an approach that Talbot knows works, even if results take time. “Our partners are very grateful that the United Church of Canada has demonstrated over and over again that we are there for the long term,” Talbot says.

“Partners say to us ‘It makes such a difference to us to know that the United Church is with us, walking with us in prayer, supporting us, remembering us in their lives.’”

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

O God, as we share these moments in prayer, pausing to give you our thanks and praise, may we be reminded that here in this time of worship, and in each moment of our lives, we are standing on holy ground. Your presence is all around us and within us, flowing through our every breath, meeting us in every silence, in every encounter and every experience. Help us to notice, and like Moses, to turn aside that we might hear your voice calling us and stirring us to new learnings about ourselves and the world around us.

On this Labour Day weekend, we acknowledge the many shifts that are present as we prepare for the fall season ahead. We pray for teachers and students as they enter a new year of discovery together, for young people moving away from home for the first time to further their education or to seek employment that they might feel a sense of your direction along the way. We pray for all for whom this summer has been a difficult one- for the many whose homes and communities have been destroyed by fires and floods, others who cope with crops that have withered in the heat and drought. May they find courage in the midst of their despair. We pray for the many who labour in deplorable conditions, the many whose paycheques are inadequate to meet their needs for the basics of life, and for the many who search for meaningful work. We hold before you all who seek secure and affordable housing in this time when supply is low.

We remember Jesus who walks with people in pain and grief as we think of people we know, situations that we have read about or heard of in the news where lives are filled with crisis, unexpected tragedy or loss, critical illness or injury and we name them in our hearts, we ask that you might surround them with compassion and hope…

God, there are so many burning issues that call for our attention and our help. As followers of Jesus, make us ready to step forward, to offer whatever assistance and resources we can in order to alleviate suffering and despair. Walk with us and support us as a faith community as we journey into a new future together. May our lives, the words we speak and the actions we take demonstrate that we are your beloved children called to make a difference, one person at a time. We gather these prayers in the strong name of Jesus, saying together… Our Father…

Hymn: 649 VU   Walk with Me

Blessing: (from Susan Ivany, based on words from Swiss writer, philosopher Henri Frederick Amiel in 1883)

Let us go forth into the world God loves.

Let us do so remembering that life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us.

So be swift to love and make haste to be kind and just.

And may the blessing of God- Creator, Christ and ever-present Spirit


be with us this day and forevermore. Amen.


August 27, 2023

Welcome to our worship service at Faith Memorial United.


Thanks for all your efforts in bringing in school supplies. They will be delivered to the Valley Food Bank this week and then distributed.


Next week is Food Bank Sunday so remember your non perishable food items for the box in the foyer.


Reminder that on Sept. 10 we will be celebrating the amalgamation of Faith Memorial United with St. Paul’s United congregation from Centreville. The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevenson, President of Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region of the United Church of Canada will be our guest preacher. At this service, we will formally transfer in the members of the former St. Paul’s United. Potluck lunch to follow.


Have a blessed “last” week of summer before fall activities start up in our communities!


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, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” As we light this candle this morning, we proclaim him as the one who brings light to our lives and to our world.

Call to Worship:

Who do you say Jesus is?

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Because of this confession, we have gathered to worship God.

God has done wonderful things for us.

God has been a stronghold in our distress, a welcoming hug in our loneliness and a guiding hand in our life’s journey.

With all our being, we gather to praise God and to proclaim God’s love to all.          

Opening Prayer:

Liberating God,

We thank you for the many ways you have brought us into new life over and over again.

We praise you for protecting us when the threats of life have overwhelmed us.

If you had not been there for us, O God, we would not be here.

As we worship you this day, give us the courageous faith of Shiphrah and Puah,

the creativity of Moses’ mother,

the cleverness of Moses’ sister Miriam,

and the compassion of the Pharoah’s daughter.

Show us ways of taking action to bring forth life in this world.

Inspire to discern your will. Amen.

Hymn: 12 MV Come Touch our Hearts   

Prayer of Confession:

Renewing God, we confess that all too often we conform to this world.

The voices we prioritize are far removed from you.

We drown out your ever-present voice with the noise of consumerism and commercialism.

We do not recognize the power and privilege you have shared with us.

We have ignored your gentle nudge in favor of our own desires and comfort.

We have closed our eyes to the possibilities for transformation within our communities, nation and world.

We have lacked creativity and thrown up our hands in frustration.

We have denied our gifts.

We have resisted the renewing of our minds and settled for what is, rather than what could be.

Forgive us, O God.

Challenge us, once again, to be the people you have empowered and equipped us to be.


Words of Affirmation
The One who created us knows our struggles.

This God does not abandon us, even when we abandon each other.

God is still speaking, renewing, and transforming.

God’s grace is still sufficient and made new each and every day.

God has faith in us and abides with us in the journey of new life and transformation.

In this we are assured. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Transformed, Not Conformed

I had the opportunity this week to see the movie, Barbie. I know it is one of those movies with a lot of hype but personally, I really liked it. In fact, it had way more depth to it than I initially would have had thought. I was more than impressed with the writer’s ability to probe at a number of issues in society. And you men out there- if you think this is merely -dare I say it- a “chick flick”, think again. The movie was every bit as much about Ken as it was about Barbie! It is a great reminder to us about how the world often squeezes both men and women into certain moulds like how we should speak, how we should act and dress and the kinds of values we should uphold based on gender stereotypes with which we have been raised and that constantly bombard us in so many ways. As the movie points out, because of all these influences and pressures, we create a world where so often, both men and women, do not feel they measure up to the “ideal” and are left feeling that they are “not enough.” In my opinion, I would certainly recommend this movie to everyone- not sure if it is still playing but please consider it when it becomes available in other at home formats.

Our reading from Romans this morning, which you will hear in a few moments, has a wonderful line it that reads, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” What does it mean for us to not be conformed to the ways of the world but to be transformed? That sounds like a pretty tall order. Besides, how can we discern God’s will?  How do we know what that is? And on top of all this, we live in a world that bombards us day in and day out with advertisements on our televisions and computers, on billboards calling us to be conformed to the ways of the world. Buy this and you will fit in. Think this way and you will be accepted and respected by others. Choose this product and your face will look radiant. Follow this path and you will meet with success. No doubt about it, it is easy to get sucked into the world’s view of what constitutes achievement, success and advancement. Most of this usually comes down to matters of looking out for number one as opposed to being concerned with the bigger issues of taking action and living out our faith in response to God’s greater call to help bring about God’s will in the world.

Our first reading this morning is about several women who, by offering their gifts in a sacrificial way, worked as a team to bring about transformation on a big level. No doubt, as they acted with courage and creativity in preserving the life of Moses, they had no idea of the ripple effect of their actions. Let’s listen to how, one by one, they resist oppression, injustice and the tyranny of the Pharoah. (In person worship, we are reading from Read, Wonder and Listen, Stories from the Bible for Young Readers, by Laura Alary) We pick up the story about 400 years later from where we left off last week with Joseph and his brothers all in Egypt. Now, instead of the respect that Joseph and the people of Israel once had as foreigners living in Egypt, the tables are turned. Now they are seen as a threat to Egypt’s security. And, as we have seen so many times in history and in our society today, when people are threatened, measures are taken to tighten control.

Exodus 1:8- 2: 10:

Now a new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13 The Egyptians subjected the Israelites to hard servitude 14 and made their lives bitter with hard servitude in mortar and bricks and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this and allowed the boys to live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So, the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So. the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Probably you were not counting, but if you were, you would have noted that there were five women in that story all acting together to save Moses’ life- there are the two named midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, the mother of Moses often referred to as Jochebed but not given a name here, Moses’ sister Miriam and the Pharoah’s daughter. Collectively, through their ingenuity and creativity, they perform an act of civil disobedience, an act of defiance in the face of the Pharoah’s orders to kill all the boy babies. By their quick thinking, they pull the wool over his face and unknowingly participate in God’s unfolding promise- a promise and a vision that would one day liberate the Israelite people from slavery through the leadership of Moses.

Their act of resistance and non-conformity to the powers that be pairs well with our reading from Romans:

Romans 12: 1-8

 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

In a somewhat similar vein, Jesus encourages the disciples not to conform to what others are saying about him, but to take a stand for themselves. In the midst of the competing voices of the world, Jesus calls them and us to express in own words who he is for us. Then, having professed who he is, to let our lives- our thinking and our actions be transformed in such a way that through even the smallest acts, we work to make a difference in the world.

Matthew 16:13-20

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter,] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

As I was thinking about Shiphrah and Puah and the other women in our Exodus story, I am pretty certain that in acting as they did, they had no idea of the bigger impact, the ripple effect of their actions on the larger history of the people of Israel. In saying “no” to a Pharoah who called for death, they acted to bring forth life. By concocting that cock and bull story about the Hebrew women giving birth too quickly, they dupe a rather naïve Pharoah. Where he thought that the birth of male babies would be his downfall, little did he realize that it was the collective actions of these females that worked to overthrow his orders, allowing the Hebrew people to survive and thrive. And that’s not the only ironic thing that happened here. The Pharoah’s own daughter was in on it too when, with the help of Miriam, Moses ends up being nurtured by his own mother. There he stayed until the time when he was adopted into the Pharoah’s household where he grew up as one of their own. Through each of these women’s actions of non conformity to the powers that be, life prevailed and the power of God’s blessing continued.

In many ways their story reminded me of countless others throughout history who, by their saying no, set in motion immense transformation in our world. Yet, I am sure that much like Shiphrah and Puah, Jochebed, Miriam and the Pharoah’s daughter, they had no idea at the time of the ripple effect of their actions into the future. I think of Rosa Parks on that day in 1955, when, after working all day as a seamstress in a department store, boarded a bus, paid her fare, and sat down in the first row of seats at the back of the bus that was reserved for blacks. When the white people filled the front seats, the bus driver moved the “coloured” sign behind Rosa and told her and three other black people to move back to accommodate the white passengers. The three others moved but Rosa did not. In her words, “I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter’s night. When he saw me still not standing, he asked if I was going to move and I said, no, I am not. And he said well, if you don’t move, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested. I said, you may do that.” Later, when people told the story they said she did not want to stand because she was tired from her work. But that was not the reason she refused to stand. As she explained, she was tired of being treated as second class.

As we know, her arrest for violating Montgomery’s segregation law led to her being fired from her job. Yet, her quiet act of civil disobedience set in force the Montgomery Bus Boycott 3 days later that lasted for 381 days until bus segregation was ruled by the Supreme Court to be illegal.

But my question is this- Did she wake up that morning and realize that day would be the day when all this would be set in motion? I doubt it very much. The same with Viola Desmond, the business woman of black descent in Nova Scotia. In refusing to leave a white only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow back in 1946 and spending a night in jail, she was subsequently convicted of a tax violation for the one cent difference between the seat she paid for and the seat she used which was more expensive. With her action that day, she helped start the civil rights movement in Canada. It took until 1954 for this kind of segregation to be legally ended. Again, how could she have ever known that her act of non-conformity that one day in her life would have led to a movement that sparked others to work for equal treatment of all human beings.

Perhaps we will never have the opportunity to do the kinds of things that led to the sweeping changes that came about from the actions of these women. Nonetheless, our actions of speaking up for the vulnerable of our world can and do make a difference. No, we can’t individually do it all. Sometimes, though, unfortunately, we feel like an insignificant ripple in a large ocean even though we know how small actions have greatly affected our own lives- whether it was an unsuspected kind word spoken to us, or a simple gesture that said someone cared. Experience has shown us that as we discern God’s will together, collectively offering our gifts and skills and resources in the way Paul encouraged the Romans, our seemingly insignificant offerings do have impact. More often than not, it is not always evident or immediate. I think of the teacher who affirms a student’s gifts and the student later goes on to a career that helps or encourages others. I think of a volunteer who helps a child read and the child later becomes a writer. I think of someone who dares to stand up to a bully and the bully later goes on to a career in law enforcement or social work. The possibilities of this kind of butterfly effect are endless.

What we do may feel bold at the time or it may seem insignificant. Sometimes it means thinking outside the box as Shiphrah and Puah and the other women did. Sometimes it means changing direction of the box that society says we should stay in and thinking instead about the path God is laying out for us. Sometimes, as is often said, we need to live simply that others may simply live. That might mean letting go of all the ways society calls us to conform to values of greed, power, influence, ego and competition in order to pick up values of compassion, humility and cooperation. It also involves noticing the injustices of our world rather than turning our heads away. It means detaching from the things that really don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things and looking at God’s bigger picture and concern for issues of social justice and the care for the outcast and marginalized of our world. It involves joining efforts in community, sharing our skills and resources to bring about life, rather than death. Choosing to be transformed rather than conformed.

This goes for our church too. How very often we find ourselves lamenting our loss of influence and privilege within our society at large. Yet, the church was never meant to be a cultural “institution” but rather a counter cultural community of love, forgiveness and justice. A transformed and transforming community of Christ’s authentic disciples called to love and serve God. However, given what is all around us, it is easy to get sucked into the world’s values of power, wealth and achievement even in our churches.  As a community of faith, the message we proclaim needs to be distinctive. That doesn’t mean being separate and secluded from the world around us, but somehow distinguishable. Part of this involves listening for and being inspired by the Spirit, challenging ourselves to new ways of thinking, relating and acting that contrast to ways of power, domination and greed. It also requires that we work to build one another up as the Body of Christ, rather than tearing each other down. Realizing, as the Barbie movie so aptly demonstrated, that the gifts we have are more than adequate and who we are is good enough to make a difference and to have an impact in this world. As we each identify and use these gifts as a team, the changes we desire will come about in God’s good timing. In addition, as we offer our lives as living sacrifices, as we engage and interact with the issues of our world and as we work to seek justice and resist evil, God’s grace will help us find our way. It is those actions we take together that will witness to the world the liberating words of Christ whom we praise with our lips. May God be our helper. Amen.

Your Generosity Matters!      

There’s this huge misconception that refugees choose to be refugees.”

Imagine being forced to leave your home.

Set adrift, hoping to find a place to land, somewhere safe so you can rebuild your life.

“There’s this huge misconception that refugees choose to be refugees,” says ChrisAnn Alvarez, Refugee Support at The United Church of Canada. “It’s not a choice. It’s something they’re forced into.”

It’s a reality that is faced by millions of refugees, and it’s a reality that is becoming more and more prominent. More people are displaced today than ever before: 117.2 million, says the UN Refugee Agency. *

That’s the equivalent of three Canadas.

There are many causes: human conflict, climate change, human rights violations, and more.

We can help.

Your gifts provide food, water, sanitation, and social support to people forced to flee their homes. Mission and Service creates educational and confidence-building programs in refugee camps.

Mission and Service also helps refugees find new homes. “Congregations form sponsorship groups together to sponsor the refugee,” Alvarez explains. “What Mission and Service allows is for them to sponsor through their own congregation.”

She tells one story of a sponsor who renovated their basement after it flooded and immediately planned to sponsor a refugee in the new space.

“Who thinks like that?!” Alvarez exclaims with wonder and awe. “It’s just so beautiful!”

The refugee stayed with his sponsors for years, and they became an adopted family to one another. “The sponsor told me, ‘We have no kids, so this was an unexpected blessing,’” Alvarez recalls, tearing up. “That’s one example of someone opening their home in their home, in their heart, and allowing themselves to be transformed.”

When we help protect one refugee from persecution, death, or years in a refugee camp, we save the world for that one person—and just maybe for ourselves, too.

Let us pray:

Protecting and liberating God, you have created each of us and gifted us with unique skills and talents to offer as parts of the Body of Christ in this world. We celebrate these gifts in both ourselves and one another. As the summer winds down and the evenings grow cooler, we thank you for all that these months have brought to us- renewed relationships with family and friends, time to rest and reflect and opportunities for new learnings and discoveries.

As we journey into the fall months, we bring our prayers for our faith community. We look to you for courage and direction as we strive to be a people who demonstrate compassion, who care for the vulnerable and the oppressed, who speak up and act for our planet in the midst of climate crisis, and who work for justice in this world. Help us to encourage one another as we work together to discern your will. May the creativity and resourcefulness of the women who rescued Moses inspire us to share our gifts and to act as we are able to preserve life.

Where there is hatred, may we sow love.

Where there is prejudice and lack of respect, may we offer understanding.

Where there is brokenness, may we be agents of reconciliation.

Where there is despair, may we speak hope.

Where there is fear, may we kindle courage.

Where there is darkness, may we offer the light of your presence and mercy.

Show us ways, big or small, bold or subtle, where we can make a difference in the life of another. Perhaps it is an offer of assistance, a friendly phone call, an encouraging word. Remind us that every action aligned with your will can be perfectly grand.

We lift before you the concerns we have for our world and loved ones this day, the many who are suffering in the face of wars, fires or floods, the many who are anxious about a new school year, a new job, the many who are struggling in the face of rising prices for the basics of life-food, shelter, transportation and school supplies, the many who are ill, facing surgery or medical treatments, the many who are experiencing change and the uncertainty that accompanies it.

Hear these our prayers as we offer them in the name of Jesus Christ, who promises us strength for the journey and hope for the way… Our Father…

Hymn: 209 MV Go Make a Difference 


Go to the world. Use your God-given gifts in community.

Dare to encourage and affirm the gifts of others.

Dare to be transformed.

We go with minds open to receive new truth

and with spirits attuned to God’s challenging word,

ready to move and act with compassion,


ready to change the world, as God, in Christ, continues to change us. Amen.


August 20,2023

Good afternoon. Welcome to our worship service for Aug. 20.

Rev. Alice Finnamore from Prince William Pastoral Charge invites us to the closing worship service of Riverside United, 6682 HWY 102 next Sunday afternoon at 3Pm.

Anyone wishing to go to the Barbie movie in Woodstock on Tues. Aug. 22, please meet at the FMUC parking lot at 6pm and we will try to carpool.

Next Sunday after worship Session meets.


Sept. 10- The President of Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region, The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Stevenson, will be our guest preacher at our worship service to celebrate the merger of St. Paul’s United, Centreville and Faith Memorial United. Transfers of Membership from those who have indicated their desire to do so will be formally received at this service. Potluck will follow worship. Watch for details to come!

 Have a blessed week.


The light of Christ welcomes us into this time of worship. As it shines among us, we open our lives to new learnings and new insights he offers.

Call to Worship:

Hoping to find a place of belonging and refuge amidst the stresses and strains of life,

we come to be welcomed by God whose arms are open to all.

Longing to cross boundaries that divide us by ages and stages,

ethnicities and genders, hurts and disagreements,

we come to be welcomed by God whose arms are open to all.

Believing that love is possible and that true peace can be found

in the midst of wars, tensions and suffering,

we come to be welcomed by God whose arms are open to all.

Here, as we worship, we open our hearts and ready our hands to reach out to one another, and discover God who is within us and beyond us.

Let us praise God together!


Opening Prayer:

We reach out to you, O God,

in our believing and in our doubting.

We reach out to you with our dreams, our hymns, our listening and our speaking.

We know you have already reached out to us

before we even thought about reaching out to you.


So we come to give you our thanks and praise. Amen.


Hymn: 218 VU We Praise You, O God  

Prayer of Confession:

Giver of life, forgive us for thinking we have you all figured out and have nothing more to learn.

We pretend to know who is in and who is out of your love, forgetting that you love all people.

There are places and situations where we need to let go of old hurts and grudges,

places where we need restoration and reconciliation,

places where we need to do the hard work of building relationships and understanding,

places where we need your mercy and your promise to help us begin again.



Words of Affirmation (based on ideas from Psalm 133)

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live and work together in unity.

There is where God bestows the blessing, life for evermore.


Readings and Reflection:


Beyond Barriers to New Beginnings

If we have learned anything at all this summer from reading the book of Genesis, it is that human relationships are tricky. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to set them off in unhealthy ways- maybe a comment spoken without thinking about how it might have been heard or interpreted by another, an act of favoritism toward one child over another or the desire to get even. Certainly, we have seen glimpses of all this in the Jacob and Joseph stories these past few weeks. As we have been listening to these stories, we get a glance at how quickly things can kind of spiral out of control to the point where things get just plain messy. I think of Jacob and Esau and how for years they held each other at arm’s length with what seemed like irreconcilable differences. Last week, it was history repeating itself as Joseph was placed in a pit and sold off as a slave to passing merchants. His brothers had had enough of his prideful dreaming.

If we look at our own lives, we all have people, who for some reason or another, we keep at arm’s length. It might be because of past encounters that have soured us. In addition, we all have prejudices and biases shaped by our culture and our experiences or based on what someone else has told us about some person or some group. As Laura Alary in her Bible Story book Read, Wonder, Listen says, “We all like to draw maps. To put people in their place. Insiders. Outsiders. Us. Them. Most of the time, Jesus threw out the maps. He opened up closed circles. But now and then even Jesus needed a reminder of just how far God’s love would reach.”

That’s because, along with being divine, Jesus is also human. We too are human. So was Joseph. After what his brothers had done to him, we might expect that Joseph would respond as humans often do, by seeking revenge. Yet, as you recall, he was not really a shiny example himself as he flaunted around with that special coat his father made him and taunted his hard-working brothers out in the field telling them about how one day, they would bow down to him. When he finds himself as a slave in Egypt, his life takes a number of twists and turns including some prison time. It is while in prison that the Pharoah gets word of Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams which lands him a position in the government where he is placed in charge of food distribution during a famine. Low and behold, who shows up in need of food but his brothers. While he recognizes them, they have no idea it is him. As far as they were concerned, Joseph was long gone. After giving them a hard time and charging them as spies, he finally reveals himself to them. This marks a new beginning in their relationship. Through many tears and much conversation, together these brothers do the difficult work of breaking down the barriers and beginning all over again. With the help of God’s grace, they discover a new way forward. Let’s listen to see how the reunion and reconciliation works itself out.

Genesis 45: 1-15

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So, no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me; do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there, since there are five more years of famine to come, so that you and your household and all that you have will not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them, and after that his brothers talked with him.

It was indeed a moment of transformation for them all as together, they worked to get beyond their former preconceptions of each other and to find healing and forgiveness. In what must have felt like an emotional roller coaster, they put the pieces together and started over.

As I mentioned earlier, even Jesus had his moments when he, too, had to start over in a new way. Our gospel lesson is one such moment when he had to reframe his own biases and prejudices that he had absorbed as a Jewish male of his own time and culture. Sometimes we forget that, don’t we? Jesus wasn’t born knowing everything. For example, even though he was a carpenter’s son, that didn’t mean he could construct a building without some need to learn the basics. We can be pretty sure that his first construction project didn’t turn out perfectly the first time. His skills would have developed with practice. I like to imagine that discovering who he was and the mission and ministry to which he was being called by God involved some shuffling of priorities from time to time.  Let’s listen to what happens when he finds himself in Gentile territory and a woman with a sick daughter approaches him. Watch how his initial response and reaction changes.

Matthew 15: 21-28

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that moment.

It might be helpful to unpack this story a bit by placing ourselves in the sandals of the Canaanite woman who pleads for her sick daughter. She is desperate as any parent in a similar situation would be. Her first attempt at getting Jesus’ attention is met with silence. Surely, she must have wondered, “Did he not hear me or is he ignoring me?” She even called him, Son of David, a term that even his own hand- picked disciples had not yet used to identify him. Even more so, she knelt at his feet in humility. It is an action befitting what one would do for a king. But no response from Jesus whatsoever. It was like she was invisible to him. Surely, she must have heard all kinds of stories about this rabbi Jesus who was in town, stories of his kindness and compassion and how he was open to everyone. Coming to kneel at his feet as she did, she wanted to believe it all to be true. But right there and then, this was not her experience of him at all.

Having been given the brush off like that, many of us probably would have given up and gone home. But not this woman. She took another step forward and yelled all the louder. This time she heard his disciples asking Jesus to send her away. But she wasn’t going anywhere. Finally, Jesus spoke, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Ouch! That had to have hurt. That would have sounded something like ‘your people are not my problem’. Perhaps the woman, though, expected as much. She was used to these barriers going up between Jews and Gentiles. Yet, on the other hand, it didn’t jive with all that she had been hearing about him. She was led to believe that he was different. Still, this was like having the door shut in her face and being called a foreigner or an outsider. It was like he took a stick and drew a line in the sand that said no crossing over this.

Was this the same Jesus who had fed the multitudes in the wilderness the five loaves and two fish? What had happened to his compassion?

The woman though persisted despite his callousness. This time, Jesus took another step forward and said, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” That would be like getting a slap in the face. But the woman refuses to give up. You don’t get to ignore me Jesus. Now she was really angry. Imagine being called a dog! That’s when I imagine her standing straight up and looking Jesus right in the eye and saying, “Even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Surely, there is food for both the children and the pets. Can’t you see, Jesus, that I am a person, a human being with a sick child?  You can tighten your circle all you want, Jesus, but I am going to draw a bigger one around you and put me and my daughter in it. So don’t tell me no, Jesus.

For some reason, that did it. Jesus heard her and something shifted deep within his thinking. He realized the woman was right. And in that moment of reconsidering the barriers and boundaries of his own prejudices, the circle widened to include even Gentiles in the grace of God. “Woman,” he says, “great is your faith.” And immediately her daughter was healed.

Jesus had to face up to his prejudices. He realized he was wrong in his narrow way of seeing his mission and ministry as being only to the people of Israel. Instead, there is room for all in God’s grace. It marked a moment of growth in Jesus’ understanding of who he was and what he was being called to do. It was a far cry from his earlier commission to the disciples when he told them to avoid going among the Gentiles or to Samaria. Now, the mission was going to expand “to make disciples of all the nations.” The grace and mercy of God could not be gated and restricted to a chosen few. It was for all. A new beginning was on the way.

Moving beyond previously held convictions to see and understand the world and our relationships in it takes courage. Hearing that even Jesus wasn’t perfect and had to stretch and grow beyond his previous understandings to reconsider his own biases that had shaped him is a great reminder to us all. If he can be transformed, then we can be too.

Rev. Sue Eaves, shares a story when she experienced first hand this kind of transformation beyond barriers to new beginnings:

Many years ago, I was travelling with a group of very conservative

business men. We were on our way to meet with Yasser Arafat, the

Palestinian President, on the Gaza strip. Our leader had to remind

everyone to be polite, no matter their personal opinion of this

controversial leader, considered a terrorist by many.

We were ushered into a room at his headquarters where he

appeared a few minutes later. The atmosphere was tense. He told

us of the poverty and sufferings of his people. He talked of their

hunger and helplessness. The hearts of the businessmen began to

soften. Instead of judgement, they began to ask what they could do,

expecting demands of their considerable wealth. To their surprise

Arafat made a simple request. He asked them to advocate for the

passing of America’s budget for that year. It had been delayed by

political bickering. In it, President Arafat explained, alongside the

billions for Israel, was a small amount for the Palestinians. About

1/30th of what America was providing for Israel. They needed it so

badly, he said. Would they help? Would they appeal to the

7 American politicians for action? Yes, they said, yes, they most

certainly would. And, as we left, each man present embraced the

one they had considered their enemy. Yes, indeed they would help.

They would go home. They would speak out for justice.

We might ask ourselves- What about us? Who needs to be drawn into our embrace as a congregation or as individuals? Where are we being called to learn, to expand or perhaps to unlearn some previously held ideas, prejudices or biases?

Where might we work to think beyond the barriers and to pull down walls? Who are the people who don’t feel included in our congregation or our community? Where might we find ourselves called to rub out the lines that separate us from one another and build community together as we formalize our amalgamation in a few weeks? Where do we need to do some letting go of old wounds from 20, 30 or 40 years ago? Where are we being asked, like Joseph and his brothers, to look back over the chaos of our lives and begin again in a new way? Where are we being asked to recognize that our circles just might need to be expanded? Or that like Jesus, we just might need to reconsider shuffling the priority of our church’s mission? What might need to unravel in terms of our long-held biases? Who in our larger society, like the Canaanite women calling out to Jesus, is trying to get our attention? What is it they are asking of us? Are we listening? Those are some pretty heavy questions but questions, nonetheless, that we need to discuss and share in formal and informal ways in our congregation.

Indeed, relationships are tricky. Sometimes it is difficult to be open to new insights about others. Sometimes it is pretty challenging to face our own blind spots in order to move in new directions. Sometimes it is difficult to let go of past hurts and create a different future than the one controlled by events from the past. I think of the ongoing work of reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of our nation as one example. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes lots and lots of conversations, story telling and deep listening to bring about transformation. The good news though is that with God’s grace working in and through these relationships as it did with Joseph and his brothers, as it did with Jesus and this Canaanite woman, new beginnings are possible. A way can be found. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Your Generosity Matters!

“We are there for people who have nowhere else to go.”

Several people, many women holding babies, are lined up outdoors and have the same bag of food in front of each of them.

Food baskets are distributed in Agadir, Morocco.

Credit: Église Evangelique Au Maroc

In the last three years, the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Morocco has more than doubled. Today, the country is both a transit and a host country with 18,102 refugees and asylum seekers. *

Each person arrives in Morocco hoping for a better life for themselves and their family. Many attempt to cross the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Europe. Some make the 14-km trip; others don’t because it proves too costly and dangerous.

“To give you an idea of what this ‘trip’ looks like, they get on an inflated boat normally made for 10‒20 people and they are more than 40 people on it hoping that the wind, their manual manoeuvres, and God will get them to Europe. And they pay thousands of euros to get on that boat!” write Fritz Joseph and Emmanuela Loccident, who served four years in Morocco with the United Church in partnership with Global Ministries of the Disciples of Christ.

“Every day we hear of people who die trying to cross over. A lot don’t even know how to swim. Many of those wishing to cross the sea and ultimately go to Europe were, and still are, living in scarcity and poverty because they have used all their money to get to Morocco. Every country they must cross requires fees for passage. So, when arriving in Morocco, they must find a way to pay for their next and final trip to Europe.”

In Morocco, your Mission and Service gifts support refugees and migrants by providing life-saving medication as well as blankets, food, clothes, and professional training.

“Without the help of partners, none of this tremendous help that is offered to migrating people in Morocco would be possible. None,” explain Fritz and Emmanuela. “Helping migrants is one of the biggest ministries of the church. We are there for people who have nowhere else to go.”

This is only one story of how your generosity through Mission and Service helps change lives. Thank you for your gifts!

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession:

O God, your love for us and all creation is without limits. Your mercy and grace continue to astound us. Where we draw circles, you bring in your eraser and push back all the boundaries and barriers that keep us from reaching out to you and to one another. As you challenged Jesus, so you challenge us to seeing long-held social divisions with new and broader understandings. We thank you for opportunities to grow through our learning and our unlearning. We thank you for moments in our days that allow us time to reflect, to notice your presence and sense your hand guiding us through both the joys and struggles of life.

We thank you that each day marks another new beginning, a chance to start over.

We pray this day for all who struggle in relationships, all who are estranged from family, friends, or neighbours and search for reconciliation, for countries at war that they might work for peace,

for all who carry heavy feelings of guilt or regret for something they have done or failed to do and who find it difficult to forgive themselves,

 for all who feel far from you, God, who struggle with doubts or disillusionment and wonder how to find their way back to your loving embrace.

We pray for all who are coping with illness or injury, with grief or loneliness,

with abuse, hunger, homelessness or violence,

for refugee and asylum seekers who are risking their own safety and the safety of their families in search of freedom,

for the people of Yellowknife and surrounding areas as they flee wildfires,

 for the people of Maui as they process the horrors of their experiences and find ways of rebuilding their lives and for all who are striving to help.

O God, hear these our prayers, as we offer them in the name of Jesus, whose hand continues to reach out in compassion to heal, to guide and to strengthen all people in distress, and who taught us to pray in community saying… Our Father…  

Hymn: 145 MV Draw the Circle Wide 


People of God, take a moment to look around at one another…

We are all God’s children.

Nothing divides us other than our limitations.

Released from barriers and burdens of fear, anger, resentment and pain,

a new beginning is before us.

Let us go into the world made new, celebrating our new freedom,


reaching out to God as God has reached out to us. Amen.


August 13, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to worship at Faith Memorial United Church. 

Reminder that for the next two weeks, you are invited to bring school supplies to add to our box for Valley Food Bank. It is a difficult time of year for struggling families. Added to the ever-increasing cost of food and gas is the need for all the necessities for a good learning experience at school. Scribblers, loose leaf… all the basics. Again, if we all bring something, together we can make a difference! 

Uke group meets next week after worship!

 Have a good week and stay dry!


This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly, the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us.

A bright light to guide us through the storms and pitfalls of life, a reminder that we are not alone- the light of Christ.

Call to Worship:

In a world overwhelmed by waves of bad news,

we feel tossed and turned in the chaos of current events.

Here we are, carrying dreams in our spirits,

wondering what God dreams in the storms and turmoil.

Here, in this time, we gather to listen and to wonder, to praise and to celebrate.

Here, in these moments, we are reminded that God is with us always.

We need not fear as we hear again Christ’s words:

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Opening Prayer:

O God, awaken us to your presence with us.

Come to us, we pray, as Jesus came to the disciples in that stormy sea.

Come bringing your calming touch.

Enter our boat and be in our midst in ways so tangible that we have

no room left for doubt or fear.

Come and anchor our confidence in your grace.

Prepare us for the sea ahead and paddle with us we pray. Amen.


Hymn: 296 VU This is God’s Wondrous World

Prayer of Confession:

God, we confess that in the face of life’s uncertainties and struggles,

it is easy to feel adrift, abandoned and doubtful.

We wonder where you are.

When waves and winds of change are all around us,

we search frantically for a safe harbour.

We forget that you are in the boat with us.

Christ’s hand beckons to grasp ours, bringing reassurance and guidance.

Teach us to reach for that hand and to trust him as we find our way. Amen.


Words of Affirmation

With God, the impossible is made possible.

Even when our hearts are closed to God,

even when we cannot see the Spirit’s presence in our midst,

God moments are all around us.

God is here with us, ready to catch and comfort.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Readings and Reflection:

 In or Out of the Boat?

“You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to see that there are a few unresolved issues here.” So says Ralph Milton of our Genesis reading this morning. In it, we read about the next generation after Jacob. And sure enough, it is the same old story that we have been hearing all summer in Genesis- sibling rivalry, family brokenness, trickery and revenge. These are themes that just don’t seem to go away. This time it is between Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, and his brothers. Joseph had been having dreams about his brothers who would one day serve him. Rather than keeping these dreams to himself, Joseph couldn’t wait to share them with his brothers. As you might imagine, this goes over with them like a lead balloon. So, the brothers unite in taking action to rid themselves of this spoiled brat. This is where we pick up the story this morning.

Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28

 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. These are the descendants of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children because he was the son of his old age, and he made him an ornamented robe. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring word back to me.” So, he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, 15 and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So, Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the ornamented robe that he wore, 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat, and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Left like that, it is pretty cruel and violent story. No doubt, the brothers are thinking that they have seen the last of this dreamer. Yet, as we will see next week, God is still at work even in the brokenness of these relationships.

Our gospel reading is a familiar one. Even people who are unfamiliar with scripture probably have some sense of what is meant by the term “walking on water.” Here we find the disciples sent out in a boat by Jesus just after the feeding of the 5000. Jesus is anxious to get some of that “me” time he had been craving ever since learning about John the Baptist’s death. While he finds some peace and quiet, the disciples are in a panic. A sudden storm erupts. Soon, they are soaked. Their teeth are chattering. Their hands are blistered in trying to hold the rudder. They are bailing water and anxiously looking for land, fearing the worst.

Matthew 14: 22-33

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I wonder what the disciples were thinking as Peter tossed his legs over the side of that boat? Perhaps it was something like, “oh, there he goes again being impulsive. Why doesn’t he think before he acts? What is with him, anyway? Why does he always have to be grandstanding like this? Can’t he see that we are in a raging storm here? Why is he not in here trying to steady this boat like the rest of us? We could use another set of hands to help with the bailing. Who does he think he is?

It is true, isn’t it? I am sure that whenever most of us have considered this well-known story we have generally concluded that its message to us is to be brave, to be courageous enough to step out of the boat even in the storms of life, to risk everything for our faith and to keep our eyes focussed on Jesus. Nothing wrong with this interpretation. I have certainly preached that kind of sermon before- the idea of being confident and assured of a hand to grasp us when the waves of life overwhelm us. With God’s help we can do the impossible. So, get out of the boat.

Yet, for some reason this time around, I couldn’t help but identify with the rest of the disciples back in that boat bailing and rowing away in the face of the winds and waves that splashed over the gunnels. What started me thinking about it this way was a thought shared by a commentator named Adam Hearlson. He writes:

 I am convinced that Peter should have stayed in the boat. For all the praise he receives for water walking, it was a bad choice. It’s simple: no one, no matter how much faith they have, should exit a boat in the midst of a raging storm. Peter endangers everyone—himself and the rest of the disciples—by leaving the boat. Instead of focusing on surviving a storm, everyone on the boat now needs to pay attention to Peter.

I think he is on to something here. Really, the story is not about Peter, is it? It is about Jesus and his presence in the midst of the storm. Jesus never said “Get out of the boat, Peter and prove your faith to me. Getting out of the boat was Peter’s idea. In fact, nowhere in the gospels are we called to prove our faith by taking pointless risks or that bad things will happen to us if we don’t take risks. Recklessness does not equal faith nor does stupidity equal courage. I think what we have here is Peter putting Jesus to the test by refusing to let Jesus simply approach him and the others in the boat. Peter, in his brashness, feels he has to take control of the situation for himself. Listen again to his words to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”.  Doesn’t that sound a lot like words Jesus heard from the tempter in the wilderness: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to turn to bread or leap from this high pinnacle and God’s angels will bear you up.” Considered this way, what if Peter’s getting out of the boat really was an act of doubt rather than an act of faith as we have so traditionally interpreted it? Why could Peter not wait with the others in the boat for Jesus to reach them? Why was he so impatient that he left his community of disciples to fight the waves alone? Besides, what was Peter’s walking on water going to prove anyway? What did he think leaving the others to do all the work of bailing and guiding the ship was going to accomplish? Why was Jesus’ assurance that he was coming to them in the boat not enough for Peter? Why did he think that he needed to do a solo and be heroic?

What if the real heroic ones in this story were those back in the boat willing to row against the wind for as long as it took until Jesus reached them where they were? Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that maybe the miracle here was when Jesus walked on the sea toward them, scooping up Peter along the way and tossing him back in with the rest of the disciples. As the story says, it was then that wind ceased and that they recognized Jesus as the Son of God.

Seeing the story in this way helps me to realize that the Christian life of discipleship is not about heroics. We are not called to “be” Jesus and perform miracles. We don’t need to feel guilty if we are unable to walk on water! We are simply being called to stay the course and to leave the walking on water to Jesus!  I think that more often than not, we are being called to simply stay in the boat and work with one another in community to ride out the storms. Translated, this means doing the small things, the things we often deem to be insignificant, like offering compassion to another, being generous, reaching out to needs that present and doing them with both humility and faith. We don’t need to grandstand. We don’t need to compete with what another person or another church is doing. We are called to trust God and to trust that being in community in the boat is better than trying to go it alone. It is interesting how the World Council of Churches uses a boat as its symbol. It is a reminder to us that Christ is present with us in our churches even now as we face probably the most radical shifts we have seen since the Protestant Reformation.

I don’t know about you but I find that seeing this story in this fresh way makes it a little less brow beating and guilt inducing than we are used to hearing it. Not that the other way of looking at it, of course, has no merit. It is just that in the face of the storms of transition that are all around us, sometimes not being so hard on ourselves is really what is needed. Besides, it is the boat, the church community, that helps us hold together in the storm. And, as we find at the end of our story this morning, that’s also where we find Jesus- back in the boat, helping us all move forward to the other side, to new and different challenges of being the church in these times in which we find ourselves. As Barbara Brown Taylor best concludes,

   And the miracle is not that Peter managed that same trick (of walking on water) for a moment or two.  No, the miracle is that when it was all said and done–while a soggy and chagrined Peter sputtered seawater out of his lungs and as the boat continued to bob around in the dead of that rather dark night–somehow in the midst of those humble surroundings way out there in the middle of nowhere, the disciples realized that no one less than God’s own Son was sitting right in front of them.  So, they worshiped him.  They believed.

And so do we, my friends, so do we. Praise be to God. Amen.

Your Generosity Matters!

“They opened the gate for me; I have no words.”


A woman wearing a headscarf stands in her kitchen smiling at the camera.

Credit: Provided by Almaz Fesshaye

When Almaz Fesshaye and her two young children arrived in Canada in 1991, they did not know what to expect. None of them knew the language or culture but hoped and prayed that Canada would be a safer place than Eritrea, a war-torn country in Eastern Africa.

Leaving Eritrea could have meant the difference between life and death. “Everyone had to be a soldier,” Almaz describes, before sharing the sombre note that “people have died trying to escape.” She was devastated to have to flee her home and frightened by not knowing what would come next.

When Almaz and her two children—then aged four and six—arrived in Alberta, they were greeted with warmth and love by members of Gaetz Memorial United Church. “They opened the gate for me; I have no words,” she says with gratitude. “They changed my life, starting from getting furniture, renting a place to live, helping me with the language, and support for my kids.”

Almaz describes the congregation and community as “selfless and kind.” The church was one block from the family’s new home, and Almaz says, “My son was very forgetful, so I gave the church secretary an extra key.”

Now settled in Red Deer, Alberta, Almaz is joyfully giving back to her community. She works in social services and offers her time as a volunteer with local programs that help people experiencing homelessness and poverty. She is also passionate about helping other refugees learn the local culture and language.

Your gifts to Mission and Service help support life-changing programming and staffing to support families seeking safety.

Almaz has some words for anyone considering supporting refugee programs through Mission and Service: “Don’t think twice! It doesn’t have to be millions—whatever you give means a lot. If it is financial, educational, time, knowledge, it means a lot. You are saving the lives of human beings and making the world better.”

Thank you for your generosity.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession:

Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the blessings of life- for the beauty and wonder of the world, for the diversity of peoples, for the love of family and friends and for the gifts of our faith community.

We thank you for Jesus, whose love surrounds us, whose courage inspires us and whose wisdom guides us. We thank you that in those moments of life when, like the disciples, we feel that we are sinking, he comes to us in our fears and uncertainties, offering us an open hand to grasp. Teach us to trust in him always.

We pray this day for our church and all churches throughout the world as we seek to follow your ways of justice and healing, as we care for creation, for neighbours and strangers, for those isolated by sickness or sorrow, violence or fear, for those broken down by the oppression of this world, for those who face death or disease. Help us as we adapt to the many challenges that come our way. Remind us of the assurance of being in the boat with you and with one another, that we do not journey alone.

We lift before you the prayers and concerns of our hearts… for decisions that weigh heavy on us, for people we know, for people we will never know, for all who are threatened or anxious, for all who are broken by life, for all who feel they have run out of possibilities and options, for the many refugees supported by our gifts to Mission and Service… we name them before you in the silence of these moments…

O God, hear these our prayers and strengthen us to partner with you in working to do your will as agents of your grace and compassion in this world. In the name of Jesus, we pray saying together… Our Father…

Hymn: 675 VU Will Your Anchor Hold?  


Like a rock,

God is under our feet.

Like a roof,

God is over our head.

Like the horizon,

God is beyond us.

Like water in a pitcher,

God is within us and in the pouring out of us.

Like a pebble in the sea,

we are in God.

God has us surrounded.

In the dim as well as bright times,

we will seek God’s strength

and rest in the peace of Christ accompanying us

and the Spirit’s presence that guides us always.




August 6, 2023

Good afternoon. Welcome to worship at Faith Memorial United Church.

Blessings for the week ahead!                                                      

This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly, the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us

We light this candle as a reminder of Jesus’ abundant presence in our lives and in our world.

Call to Worship:

Like a hungry crowd,

we come to be fed.

Like an anxious child,

we come to be comforted.

Like an agitated mob,

we come demanding answers.

Like a refugee,

we come seeking a home.

Like a long-lost friend,

we come waiting to be embraced in joy.

Like a newborn babe,

we come with hearts and minds open to all that life offers.

Like pilgrims of old,

we come looking for truth.

Here we reach out to grasp God’s hand, striving for God’s blessing.

Here we come to worship.


Opening Prayer:

As you have always been with those who have drawn apart for solitude,

for grieving, for prayer,

out of fear or out of hope.

Be with us now, O God.

As you have always been with the ones who search or flee,

struggle or hunger,

Be with us now, O God.

As you have always been in this place and time of worship,

and in every place where those who sought you have encountered you,

Be with us now, O God.

Find us here in the celebrations and struggles of this moment.

Help us to find words for the blessing we so need,

And ears to hear how others wrestle with you.

Feed us with your abundant love and grace, we pray. Amen.


Hymn: 501 VU Break Now the Bread of Life 

Prayer of Confession:

We confess, O God that we are a people who wrestle with many things weighing on our hearts. When we think we have no solutions to our problems,

Forgive us, O God and transform us.

When we think we have nothing to offer and fall into hoarding rather than sharing,

Forgive us, O God, and transform us.

When we are ashamed to be honest with you, and dare not bring our struggles before you,

Forgive us, O God and transform us.

When we find it hard to trust that you will provide and wring our hands in fear of scarcity,

Forgive us, O God, and transform us.


Words of Affirmation:

God always reaches out to us, striving to hold us and assure us.

Our weaknesses reveal God’s strength,

our doubts reveal God’s grace,

our indifference reveals God’s never-ending love.

God’s grace shines in and through us.

Thanks be to God! Amen.


Readings and Reflection:

Time for a Reset

This week I have been intrigued by the story in the news about Katrina O’Neil of Fredericton. She is the 36-year-old woman who, at the age of 29, suffered a cardiac arrest while playing baseball. When she arrived at the hospital, despite having received CPR, it was determined that she had gone 22 minutes without oxygen. As you might conclude, prospects for her survival were grim. She was in a coma for 21 days. Yet, she made a miraculous recovery. Physically she was fine. However, it was determined that because of that long time of being deprived oxygen, her memory loss was extensive. When she came out of the coma, she thought she was 15-years-old. The past 13 years of her life were gone. She had no recognition of her 3 children. Everything was very confusing and disorienting for her, as you can well imagine. With the help of memory exercises, she has worked to rebuild connection with her children and her life. Her inspiring story is now available in a short documentary online.

As I thought about her story, I couldn’t help but wonder what that experience must be like for her- to have to completely reset, almost like the way a computer shuts down and reboots, only for her the memory part is wiped out. In the struggle, everything shifted for her and shr had to rebuild in a new way.

Hopefully, none of us will have to endure such a life-shattering experience. Nonetheless, at various points in all our lives, we do experience shifts in our thinking or ways of living. Sometimes it means letting go of old priorities and moving in new directions. Sometimes it means seeing things in new ways. The death of a loved one, a change in our health, a crisis of some sort or another in our relationships or some kind of struggle in our lives often bring about these kinds of shifts. I think of the many in Nova Scotia who have been interviewed after both the recent wildfires and floods. When asked about the loss of their homes, I listen as so many keep saying but… we have our lives. Suddenly, the things that used to matter, are not nearly as important anymore.

In light of this, I have been reflecting on the concept of paradigm shifts. The dictionary defines this as “an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way.” It could mean a change in our personal belief system or a way of organizing. Kind of like a reboot or a reset. This is what I see happening in our scriptures this morning.

In our Genesis reading, we continue with the story of Jacob. You might remember the story a few weeks back where Jacob tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright. Esau, of course, is furious. This causes Jacob to run for his life until the point where he ends up among his mother’s kinfolk in Haran. There he falls in love with his uncle Laban’s daughter Rachel (yes, his cousin, don’t ask!) Laban agrees to Jacob marrying Rachel but only after Jacob works for him for 7 years which he does. After those 7 years though, it is Jacob himself who is tricked by Laban at the wedding ceremony. As it turned out, Jacob had not married Rachel but her sister Leah. Jacob ends up working another 7 years in order to marry Rachel.

In today’s passage, it is now 15 or 20 years later and God has called Jacob to return to his homeland. This means he must face his brother Esau. The night before this encounter, as you might imagine, Jacob is pretty anxious. In an effort to butter up Esau, he sends some gifts of animals on ahead to him. Word has got back to Jacob that his brother has an army of 400 ready to attack him. Jacob sends his wives and family on ahead at the Jabbok River. This leaves Jacob alone with his thoughts and guilt, alone with his conscience, vulnerable and fearful. This is where we pick up the story;

Genesis 32: 22-31

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.


While we might speculate about the identity of this other wrestler- maybe it was his conscience, or perhaps his father Isaac, or perhaps Esau himself or some sort of divine messenger, it is clear that come morning, Jacob concludes that he has had a “God moment.” If we were to read along a little further, we would discover that Jacob does indeed meet up with his brother Esau. Yet, instead of retaliation, Esau greets him with welcome and reconciliation.

As a result of that wrestling match in the night, Jacob’s life is reset. Prior to this encounter, he had gotten what he wanted in life, usually through his cunning and trickery – the birthright and Rachel’s hand in marriage, wealth and possessions. He had been very much in control. Now his self-centred grasping had caught up to him, leaving him wounded, yet transformed. He emerged with a new identity and a fresh start. From now on, he would be called Israel which literally means “one who struggles with God.” His dark night of the soul so to speak marked the end of his attempts at making deals with God. Through the struggle, he became a new man. As much as he had fooled others along the way, he realized that he couldn’t fool God. A paradigm had shifted and a new way forward was in store for him as he learned to collapse into God’s strength and direction. Rather than grasping for God’s blessing, Jacob could now see that it was abundantly available.

The disciples, in a somewhat similar way, figure out the same thing in the familiar story of the feeding of the 5000. This is a story that is told in all 4 gospels. In it we find the disciples, much like Jacob, at a crisis moment wrestling with a new way of seeing things. Jesus has just learned of the murder of John the Baptist.

Matthew 14: 13-21

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled, and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

When I think about this story, there is a part of me that simply would have loved to have been there to see the look on those disciples’ faces when Jesus said to them “You give them something to eat.” One of my favourite commentators, Barbara Brown Taylor describes it like this:

“Us? You are in charge here, Jesus. You are the boss. What do you mean, us? All we have between us is 5 loaves and 2 fish- hardly a snack for us 12, let alone a meal for 5000! No disrespect, Jesus but you are not making sense!”

It was a crazy idea. Certainly, the crowds would have thought the same way. Jesus was promising way too much. Let’s face it Jesus. Do the math. That’s one loaf per 1000 plus people. It won’t be enough- there is no point trying.

Yet, Jesus challenges those disciples to bring what they describe as nothing. Bring it forward even if it feels insignificant. Offer it. Use what you have, not what you don’t have. Don’t just sit back and watch me. You do it. Participate. Trust what you have. It will be enough. Interesting isn’t it- he doesn’t say get out and fish some more or go get some more flour. He doesn’t wait for ideal conditions in order to do something. He tells them to act now. Take care of the crowd’s hunger. Roll up your sleeves. And we know what happens next. There is food enough for all.

So, what is the real miracle here? Well, I don’t think it is merely that somehow the loaves and fishes are multiplied. I think it is that the disciples’ ideas of what is possible are reset. A paradigm shift is happening here. They move from a feeling of scarcity, of having hit a wall, of being overwhelmed by a crisis and thinking the situation at hand is hopeless. Their vision is changed. In fact, they realize that what they thought was a math problem is really a vision problem. They open themselves to the possibility of abundance. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it,

“Jesus operates out of a different set of assumptions. Where the disciples saw scarcity, Jesus operates out of a sense of plenty. He looked at the same thing the disciples looked at, but where they saw not enough, he saw plenty: plenty of time, plenty of food, plenty of possibilities with the resources at hand.”

Yet, in order to understand this fully, the disciples had to undergo a paradigm shift- a reset in their way of thinking and seeing the situation at hand. They had to allow themselves to be part of the solution rather than simply throwing up their hands in defeat and calling on Jesus to send the crowds home. They had to stop waiting for food to fall from the sky and share what they had. They had to stop waiting for a miracle and participate in the miracle themselves. Jesus was not going to act alone. He required their cooperation and participation.

Both of these stories this morning, I think, speak to moments of crisis that we all encounter in life. There are times when, like Jacob, we feel depleted and overwhelmed, up against all that has come before us in life. There are times, when, like the disciples, we look at what we have to offer and it all seems so insignificant in the face of the many needs of our world. We may feel like more is being asked of us that we can handle. I am sure many people who have recently lost their homes and possessions in fires and floods feel this way. We might wonder what we can do in the midst of what feels like such an overwhelming situation. Yet, to be disciples we are called to get out there to offer what we can as we do through the work of our Mission and Service, through our community outreach with the food bank and the layette program, as we offer a helping hand or a listening ear to neighbours near and far in distress. Jesus says don’t just wait around. Share. Set the table. Look at the resources you do have and offer them. Don’t just throw up your hands and say there is nothing I can do. Spend some time wrestling a bit, as Jacob did, trying to figure out what is next, trying to discern what is being asked of you.

It is interesting that many are describing the Covid experience as a paradigm shift, a time of resetting. I believe that is true. As with all moments and times of crisis, things have been and continue to be reshaped and reframed. Things we once thought were so important are not as important any more. Some of that is good.  Some, perhaps not so good. We are very much in a wrestling time as things continue to evolve and be transformed. Like Jacob in the night, I am sure we are all wrestling as we learn new things about ourselves and as we find our way forward. Like the disciples out there in the wilderness among a hungry crowd, we are being challenged to see situations that face us with new perspectives.

The good news is that in all the struggles, when we feel we have reached our limits, God is there with us, saying to us, bring what you have, the resources at hand. Collapse it all into my strength. I can work with whatever you have to offer.  I will make it more than enough. Amen.

Your Generosity Matters!  

United Churches are so well placed to support refugee families.”

The sign outside Westminster United Church says

Credit: Provided by Donna Nelson

Helping a newcomer transition into Canada is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. From helping someone access health services, to sourcing Halloween costumes, to registering children for school and camp, every little bit helps.

Donna Nelson is no stranger to the hard and rewarding work that comes with welcoming someone to Canada. In the late 1980s, she had recently become a member of The United Church of Canada when her friend Barb asked her to help host two young Vietnamese men through the Regina Open Door Society. “That was all it took to get me hooked,” Donna shares.

At the time, she was a single parent to her four-year-old daughter Vicki. Together, they celebrated birthdays with their new friends, shared meals, visited tourist attractions, and enjoyed good friendship until the men moved to another province.

Since then, Donna has helped host refugees from countries like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, and Vietnam. Vicki and some newcomers learned Canadian geography together so the newcomers could pass the citizenship test. Donna even taught some newcomers to drive! At times life got busy, but Donna found herself called back to helping families.

Currently, Donna is actively involved with the refugee committee at Knox-Metropolitan United Church in Regina. She says, “The refugee ministry at Knox-Met is one of the most tangible and urgent ministries of welcome the congregation offers. We all benefit with the richness newcomers offer to our city and this community.

“United Churches are so well placed to support refugee families. We have both financial and community connections. It is a collaborative relationship—local congregations welcome families and provide the financial backing, and the national church helps with the bureaucracy. I am grateful to The United Church of Canada and Mission and Service for the support over the years.”

Your gifts to Mission and Service create opportunities for refugee families and church communities to work as partners. Thank you for your generosity.

Let us pray

Gracious and loving God, you have been and continue to be so abundantly generous to us. Each day brings with it new possibilities, new opportunities and new experiences that open us to your grace. The beauty of the summertime earth, the riches of our gardens and the sharing times with family and friends are all reminders to us of your ongoing presence and love. May we never forget to share the strength that comes from community and faith by giving back some of what has been so freely shared with us.

We thank you for Jesus, who even in his grief over a loved one’s death, reached out in compassion to the crowds, calling his disciples to work with him to feed their hunger.

When we wrestle with our faith and the direction of our lives as Jacob did, when we have doubts and struggles along our journeys, you continue to hold us and see us through to daybreak, offering whatever we need, whether it be healing, comfort or renewed trust in you.

We pray this day for all who are struggling with life and its uncertainties. For those who are hungry or homeless. For those facing the stress of rising prices for the necessities of life. For those who have lost everything in recent fires and floods throughout our country. For those who grieve the loss of a loved one. For those who are sick and awaiting treatment. For those who struggle to gain an education. For those who live in the midst of war and conflict. For those who long for healing of mind or spirit. Show us ways that we might use the resources that we have at hand, whether it be our time, our listening ears, our compassion, our money or our skills to reach out as we are able. Remind us that no gift is insignificant when it is offered with your love.

Help us, O God, as your disciples in our day and age, to live as your faithful people, with eyes and ears and hands wide open to the needs that surround us. We offer these prayers in the name of Jesus, the Bread of Life, praying together as he taught us saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 355 VU For the Crowd of Thousands 


God never lets us go.

Embrace the fullness of that love and be ready to notice God in your neighbors’ hungers.

Go today at rest in God and ready to struggle in loving service for our neighbors.


And as we go, may we find the face of God in the hungering, feeding, wrestling, and resting. Amen.


Laughing Jesus

A Gathering* Worship Resource Service 2023 

July 23, 2023

 Today, we explore the spiritual gifts of laughter and joy. We also recognize that we come to worship with many different feelings. If you are not feeling joyful, if sorrow and grief weigh heavily on your heart, we understand. Please know that you, too, have a place here to share your feelings with God.



The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And also, with you.


This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly, the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us.


Lighting the Christ Candle:  MV156 – Dance With the Spirit

Cathy Howatt – speaks about the recent Regional Meeting in PEI. (in person)


Call to Worship(Richard Bott, Vancouver, B.C.)

From many places,

God calls us to this place of worship.

From school and from work,

from busyness and from relaxation,

from laughter and from tears,

God calls us to this place of worship,

to share and to learn,

to sing and to pray,

to be family of God.

To be family of God! Alleluia!

Opening Prayer (Eric Hebert-Dale)

Come, Holy Spirit, be present with us as we cherish the bounty of the summer: the sweet berries, the smell of the wildflowers, the dancing shade under the tree, the laughter shared with family and friends. We are grateful for your creation, and we ask that you open our heartsso that we may plant the seeds of your joyful kingdom in this world. Through us, may your love be better understood and shared. Be with us, we pray. Amen


Hymn: VU 820 “Make a Joyful Noise”    

Prayer of Confession (Jeanee Wilson, Trillium U.C. St Catherines, Ontario)

Loving God, receive our prayers.

We bring our whole lives before your today,

especially our failures and our inattentiveness to

your word and your ways.

We bring broken relationships with you and with family.

We rejoice in the perfect colours of summer but

cry out to you when we realize the destruction

humans are causing to this home you have given to us.

Holy God, we come to your house seeking healing

for our brokenness and strength in our weakness.

We ask forgiveness for the times we have chosen

our path rather than yours.

Holy God, we wait for you and put our hope and trust in your.



Words of Assurance (Jeanee Wilson, Trillium U.C. St Catherines, Ontario)

Receive the Good News:

With God is unfailing love and full redemption.

God redeem sthe people of God from all their sins

and brokenness.  God restores the people of God to

loving relationships.

We are forgiven and redeemed, through Jesus

Christ our Lord.  Thanks be to God.



Prayer of Illumination from Psalm 126:2

As we receive your word today, Joyful and Loving God, may our mouths be filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy, so that we may declare, “God has done great things for us.” Amen.

First Scripture: Philippians 2:1-5

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Second Scripture: John 15:10-12

 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Reflection: The Story of the “Laughing Jesus”

The “Laughing Jesus” picture has inspired many people over the years, ever since Canadian artist Willis Wheatley created it in 1973. But very few people know how this beautiful ink sketch came to be in the first place. Here is the rest of the story.


In 1972, The United Church of Canada created a youth team to coordinate its work with young people. Kay Bentley and I were tasked with providing training and resources to help this age group identify and claim their spiritual path.



One of the resources we created was a poster-based workbook called “The Fold-Out Hang-Up Push-Out Global Think and Do Thing.” And the theme of one of the first series was helping young people wrestle with the question Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say I am?”


As we gathered material for this theme, Kay and I were also searching for a suitable poster image of Jesus that young people could relate to and would want to hang in their rooms. To our dismay, most of the available images of Jesus seemed unlikely to catch their imagination or enthusiasm in that age of youth revolt and the overturning of all things traditional. We realized that what we needed was a picture of Jesus that affirmed life; we decided to find a picture of Jesus laughing.


But there wasn’t such a picture. So, we went to the United Church’s resident artist, Willis Wheatley, with our quest. He didn’t know of any such portrayal either but agreed to find someone who might be able to create a laughing Jesus picture. A week later, Willis’s assistant called to say he had a picture. He showed us a black-and-white sketch of Jesus, head back and laughing with the enthusiasm of someone who lived life to the fullest. It was exactly the right poster image for the Youth Team’s target audience!


Kay and I wanted the laughing Jesus poster to convey warmth, so we printed the poster with brown ink on a pale orange background. And that’s how the first publication of the “Laughing Jesus” appeared, poster-sized and ready to be hung in churches and youth bedrooms across Canada.


It was only after the “Laughing Jesus” picture had been published, without the artist’s signature, that the Youth Team found out the artist was actually Willis Wheatley himself. Because of the ethos of the times and the tumultuous rebellion of the 1970s-with mottoes like “Trust no one over 30!” _Willis was fearful that his artwork would be rejected because he, the artist, was too old! And that’s why the “Laughing Jesus” picture was never produced with Willis Wheatley’s signature.


The “Laughing Jesus” poster created quite a stir in church circles! Many people loved it; others were quite upset! It forced people to confront their basic approach to spirituality: whether it was life-restricting and severe or life-giving and open.


Within the next year, an “adult version” of the “Laughing Jesus” was produced as part of a set of four images of Jesus. Willis was asked to make three similar sketches portraying Jesus in contrasting roles, and the “Laughing Jesus” became Jesus Christ Liberator. This version was published in black-and-white, in keeping with Willis Wheatley’s preference for graphic contrast and simplicity.


But the “Laughing Jesus” portrayal was the image that caught people’s imagination, and very quickly, it became popular with other denominations. Soon, permission was given to the Paulist Press to reproduce the poster for US audiences. In 1977, Ralph Kozak discovered Wheatley’s picture and began to reproduce it with some added colouring. Due to his excellent online marketing, this is probably the most common version of Wheatley’s picture available today.

(I suspect Willis would be less happy about the idea that his ink sketch has been “coloured in”!)


Willis Wheatley would be quite thrilled at the impact his line drawing of the “Laughing Jesus” has had around the world and over several generations since his hesitant offering to a restless and rebellious youth generation back in 1973. 


Your Generosity Matters

Thank you for helping to give youth the space to learn and grow.

City skyline

Harare, Zimbabwe, where the Zimbabwe Council of Churches’ office is located.

Credit: Image by toubibe from Pixabay

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches will be hosting an annual three-day youth leadership development program in 2023.

In partnership with Mission and Service, the program will host 50 youth from 10 provinces to increase young people’s knowledge and skills as active citizens. Through involvement and education around policy reforms, electoral and budgetary processes, natural resource governance, and peace-building, youth will gain skills in nation-building processes.

The young people will take their skills and experiences from the program to their churches and communities. They will have the knowledge and resources to create their own plans of action, and opportunities to regularly meet or check in with other attendees.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches will continue to engage young people in all of its programming to ensure the voices of youth are represented and heard.

Your gifts to Mission and Service help develop and continue programs where young people can flourish. Thank you for helping to give youth the space to learn and grow.

Let Us Pray & the Lord’s Prayer

Holy One, we thank you for your presence with us. We thank you for the challenge you give to all of us that we should live lives that reflect your loving nature. We come before you in prayer for our world, and for all those who are hurt by the injustice of others. We pray for the church, that it might be a sanctuary of safety, a beacon of hope, and a strong voice for justice. We pray for all leaders – of governments, labour, and business – that they may be guided only by a desire to serve all people. And we pray for ourselves: guide us when we go off the path you have set for us, and lead us in your holy ways. We pray as he taught us saying…Our Father…


Hymn: VU 59 “Joy to the World”  


Benediction(Gord Dunbar, Kincardine P.C., Kincardine, Ont.)

May Jesus’ laughter continue to bubble within us and among us so we can love and live joyfully, without taking ourselves too seriously.

May we feel in our inner being Jesus’ mirth-filled joy as we share the joyful love he came to share with the world. Amen.



July 16, 2023

This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly, the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us

In the chaos and confusion of life, we look for the One who brings us calm. We light this candle as we centre ourselves on Jesus, our Light and our way.

Call to Worship:

We bring our hopes and fears,

our struggles and our lives as they are,

into the presence of the One who leaves doors and futures

open to gracious possibilities.

God’s word lights the paths before us.

May this time of worship empower us to make faithful choices.

God’s word lights the paths before us.

May this time of worship renew and restore our relationships with God

and with each other.

God’s word lights the paths before us.


Opening Prayer:

Come, Holy Presence, into the questions and wonderings of life.

Come to us in our uncertainty and our seeking.

Come to us in our struggles and tensions,

into the tangles and unravelling of all that restricts us.

Open us to the seed of your word at work within us.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Hymn: 232 VU Joyful, Joyful We Adore You                                       

Prayer of Confession:

God of Peace,

we come before you, scattered in the present and separated from our past.

We play favourites when we shouldn’t,

hold grudges instead of forgiveness,

and fail to do the work of healing and reconciliation so needed in your world.

It is rocky ground, and we know we cannot grow here.

Show us, God of Peace, the way of love through every division. (silence)

Words of Affirmation:

Hear the promise of God. Through all these divisions, amidst all these separations,

God offers the Spirit’s transformative power as our companion, guide and hope.

Thanks be to God.

Readings and Reflection:

 God Blesses Messes

I always get kind of kick out of people who want to return to “Biblical family values”. It makes me wonder if they ever read the book of Genesis! The family situations that seem to keep recurring there are far from ideal. Little House on the Prairie or the Waltons they are not! Probably the old television series of Dallas would be a better description. Do a quick review in your mind. There’s the story of Cain killing his brother Abel. There’s the story of Sarah and Abraham taking God’s promise of descendants into their own hands by using their servant Hagar as a surrogate and then later banishing her and her son Ishmael into the wilderness almost meeting with death. Then there is that ugly story of the near sacrifice of Isaac. Hardly stellar families. Yet, real human people. With real family conflicts.

It is all very messy. Today’s reading from Genesis is no exception. We pick up the story from last week’s wedding story of Isaac and Rebekah. Now, in a theme we saw earlier with Abraham and Sarah, Rebekah and Isaac are having difficulty conceiving. Once again, there is that dilemma of how will God’s covenantal promise and blessing of many descendants be fulfilled into the next generation if there is no next generation. Let’s listen as the dysfunction, the rivalry and the messy relationships surface yet again.

Genesis 25: 19-34

  19 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren, and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other;
the elder shall serve the younger.”

24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle, so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel, so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he was fond of game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore, he was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So, he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus, Esau despised his birthright.

Wow! Wouldn’t that make an intriguing television series! It has it all- sibling rivalry, jealousy, greed, manipulation, parental favoritism, opportunism and exploitation. Messy relationships galore! No one comes out looking very good.

There’s Jacob who, much like his grandmother Sarah, couldn’t just let God’s promises work themselves out in due time. Even though he had heard his mother tell him of God’s revelation to her while he and Esau were in her womb- that part about how the elder will serve the younger, Jacob couldn’t wait for that to happen in God’s good timing. Instead, he chooses to take things into his own hands by tricking hungry Esau out of his birthright. That would mean that even though Esau was the first born and set to inherit two thirds of his father’s property, Jacob would now get that. In fact, if you were to read a little further in Genesis, you would see how Rebekah even helps him do that by disguising Jacob in a hairy outfit to look like Esau and then appearing before his near blind father, Isaac. What is wrong with Rebekah? Aren’t parents supposed to love their children equally? What a tangled web of deceit! And that Esau doesn’t come out looking much better either. He’s willing to give up his birthright for his impulsive need to fill his stomach with some of that lentil stew that Jacob has on the fire pit. All he could think about was that present moment. We can only wonder if, after his hunger was satiated, Esau surely must have kicked himself for being so short-sighted and acting so stupidly. No wonder as Esau is ready to kill Jacob. Today, there would probably be a lawsuit.

Yet, before we demonize Esau or Jacob or Rebekah for that matter, let’s remember that they are human. In the story, no moral judgement is applied to any of them. They are not described as evil or condoned by God. They are simply acting like humans- seeing opportunity and grasping at it, acting on impulses, trying to get ahead of another, caught in power struggles. In essence- doing what we see all the time in relationships, in communities and between nations- the very things that contribute to the messiness of our world.

Nonetheless, the good news for us here is that even in this messiness God is at work extending blessings to both Jacob and Esau over time. God’s grace has a way of finding its way through the twists and turns yet to come for both these brothers. In time, as the story unravels, Jacob spends the rest of his life wrestling with what he has done and even giving back to Esau what he had stolen. Similarly, Esau finds a way to reconcile with Jacob. When their father Isaac dies, they discover that God has enough blessing for both of them. Jacob then becomes the father of the twelve tribes of Israel and Esau the father of the Edomites.

Seeing how God’s grace works through their dysfunction is encouraging for us in our own flawed family and community histories. It gives us inspiration as we look at the messiness of things in our world by reminding us that although we so often see little results for some of our efforts, God’s grace is still there working away in sometimes the most surprising places and people. As Frederick Buechner once wrote about this story, “Luckily for Jacob, God doesn’t love people because of who they are but because of who God is.”

That’s why, like the following parable from Matthew, God keeps scattering seed everywhere and anywhere. It’s because God works in messy places and with ordinary, everyday, often vulnerable people like you and me.

Matthew 13: 1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on a path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. If you have ears, hear!”

Those of you who are good Biblical scholars will recognize that I only used the first part of the traditional reading of that story. The second part, often called the “parable of the sower explained”, goes on to liken us to the four different kinds of soil. The reason I left that out is because Jesus normally did not explain his parables. He simply left them for people to wrestle with on their own. The explanation part in Matthew is believed to be an addition by the early church. So for this morning, I want us to focus solely on the actions of the sower rather than wrestling with trying to figure out our soil type.

This way it is all about the sower- a messy sower at that! Not at all the way we would meticulously plant our gardens. You know how we do it. We loosen up the soil and clear the rocks and debris. We apply fertilizer. We choose the best seed. We ever so carefully place that seed into little rows and holes. We do whatever we can to assure a bountiful harvest. Yet, this is not the way of this sower. No, this sower doesn’t give a hoot where the seed lands. Instead, this sower just opens their hands and flings the seed indiscriminately without any concern about the soil or its receptivity. It might be sort of like taking the John Deere tractor, hooking up the planter before it is out of the driveway and just letting the corn seed scatter everywhere- in the ditches, on the pavement it doesn’t matter- helter- skelter as we say, throwing it all out there. Imagine how messy that would be! But this sower doesn’t care. Whatever grows, grows. Maybe it will land in crack on the road- kind of like a dandelion, and something will come up. Maybe it will land in a swamp. Who knows? The sower keeps on doing their thing. Maybe the results are not immediate. Maybe they are disappointing. Yet, consistency is the key. Where it lands or if it meets with success is not as important a concern as getting that seed out there- back alleys, playgrounds, meadows, sidewalks, parking lots- it matters not. The sower continues along with absurd generosity, letting go of the need to control outcomes.

Because, as we saw in the story of Jacob and Esau, even the messy grounds are holy. Over time, growth happens even when we can’t see it, even when we are preoccupied with trying to control things ourselves, even when life feels uncertain even when we are met with blank stares at the foolishness of our efforts in persisting and even when we feel taken for granted.

Makes me think of think of our church community and how often we forget that God’ grace is at work beyond our efforts and even despite our efforts. God is not waiting for perfection or for our current messes to get all cleaned up. God is not saying sit tight until everything returns to those “so called ideal conditions” of whatever era you think the glory days in our churches were. God is not saying wait for the right kind of soil to start flinging the seed. Just continue to spread it broadly and widely- in the community where you live and work, in your families, over your church websites and Facebook sites, wherever and whenever. Just reach your open hands into that seed bag and let it fly out there. So what if the place you cast it last time didn’t work. What if the person with whom you shared it was unresponsive before? Does that mean the soil condition can’t change over time as it did for Jacob and Esau? What if that unreceptive person has now come to a time of crisis in their lives as Jacob later did when he was pursued by Esau? What if there is a new openness?

From our readings today I can’t help but wonder that it is just in such messy places of our lives and our world where God’s grace works its way- looking beyond the imperfections, beyond the ideal soil conditions and landing us in places where we can thrive. What if we were to trust that God knows what God is doing- even now in the place where we as the Christian church find ourselves in these changing times? What if we were to look for God in what we often deem to be a mess of uncertainty and thorny ground? What if we learned to live with hope in our generous God who continues to fling forth seeds of possibility even in the messes and dysfunction of life, offering blessing to whomever and wherever? Even us. Thanks be to God who never gives up on any of us and invites us to do the same with one another as we risk scattering seed with abandon. We never know. Somewhere. Sometime. The work of God’s realm will yield a harvest even in the messes and struggles of this world. Amen  

Your Generosity Matters!

   I can say with confidence that we are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today.”

Selina Chipunza of Mutare is a member of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. During the 2022 Zimbabwe Council of Churches General Assembly, youth brought forward a declaration that they wanted to be engaged in decision making; that declaration was received.

“I’m so excited that I was one of the youth members to be appointed. I’m on the Human Resources, Governance and Compliance committee,” explains Selina.

Selina’s experiences as a lawyer are of great benefit to the committee. Previously, youth were not on these committees. “This is a success to us and we are all celebrating.”

Selina shared that now, whatever decision is being made, the interests of youth are included. These opportunities have “Given us opportunities to grow and learn in experience and careers. I can say with confidence that we are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today.”

Your gifts to Mission and Service help youth like Selina advocate to have their voices heard. Thank you.

Let us pray;

God of us all, we thank you that you nurture us and help us to grow in your love. Even in the messy parts of our lives – in our failures and flaws, you never stop loving us. Your generosity with us astounds us. You invite us to partner with you in scattering the seeds of this love far and wide. When results are not forthcoming in the way we desire, remind us that sometimes you have something else in mind. Teach us to persevere in the scattering, learning to let go of the need to control the outcome. Grant us the patience we need in the face of moments of frustration and disappointment. Help us to encourage one another along the way.

We pray this day for our families- those with whom we are drawn together by birth, by marriage or by adoption. May they receive care and love from you and from us. Where tension or disagreements abound, show us ways that lean toward listening and reconciliation.

 We pray for friends and neighbours, those with whom we are drawn together by common places where we live, work or learn, those who share with us common values and hopes as well as those with whom we differ or disagree. Strengthen the ties between us that together we might find ways of building the kind of communities that nurture us and the world around us.

We pray for those who are part of this community of faith as well as for the Christian church worldwide as we seek to thrive in ministry, deepen our spirituality and share your vision of love and justice amidst divisions. Show us ways that we might work together for peace and equality in the face of issues like the climate crisis, poverty, war, hunger, prejudice and fear of the other. Free us to recognize the stranger as no stranger but as siblings fashioned in your image, people with whom we are drawn together in one family.

Remind us, O God, that you are not looking for perfection but simply honest effort in listening and acting on your word in our lives. May our hearts and hands be open and ready to share your grace with one another. We bring before you our prayers for all who are sick and in need of healing and comfort in their suffering, others who are anxious about the future, where they will live and who will take care of them, the many who are coping with the disruption caused by fires, drought, or floods, others who are grieving a loss of a loved one or a dream for their lives. In the silence of these summer moments, we lift our hearts to you, O God…  Hear these and all our prayers as we offer them in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray boldly saying… Our Father…  

 Hymn: 691 Vu Walls that Divide 


Go into this new week with confidence that God’s living word is sown in you.

Scatter seeds of love and joy, justice and hope, peace and reconciliation

along every path, in every corner, everywhere and anywhere.

Trust that in God’s good timing, bountiful fruit will come forth in even the most unlikely places.


We go in Christ’s peace to be the love needed within the world. Amen.


July 2, 2023

This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly, the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us

In the name of Jesus who welcomes us to this time and space, we light this candle.

Call to Worship:

Come into God’s love. God’s love stretches wide,

ready to embrace all with love.

Come thirsty for the presence of God,

ready to satisfy every thirst.

Come to find a caring touch,

ready to know grace in this community.

Come together, full of welcome.

ready to drink deeply in God’s presence.

Come, let us worship God together.


Opening Prayer:

Welcoming God, we are here at your invitation.

Here, we bring our insecurities.

Here, we bring our pain to share.

Here, we bring our joy, our hope.

Here, we learn to trust you and follow your lead.

Here, we give thanks that you love each of us exactly as we are,

and you model how we should be with one another.

May you be patient with us and help us as we seek to understand

what your welcome means for us as we build community together. Amen.

Hymn: 169 MVWhen Hands Reach Out Beyond Divides 

Prayer of Confession

God, in the example of Jesus, you have shown us what it means to welcome and to be welcomed.

You have given us a vision of your beloved community where there is room for all.

Yet, there are times when we close doors and turn our backs,

rather than receive and embrace.

We like the power and privilege of being able to choose who to include.

It is easy to dismiss those who are different.

Forgive us for the pain we have caused by our privilege and bias.

Forgive us for the times when the church has not been a place of grace. Amen.


Words of Affirmation:

God hears every truth and rejoices in every open heart.

God gives us everything we need to be God’s faithful people.

Let us have the courage to open ourselves to the Love that is life itself,

the Love that forgives and heals us.

Thanks be to God.


Readings and Reflection:

If you think last week’s reading about the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael to the wilderness by Abraham and Sarah was a difficult story, this week’s story is even worse! In reviewing some of the commentators this week, many even said that they would have preferred if it were not in the Bible at all! It’s the story of the near- sacrifice of Isaac. It is not very easy to hear. Shocking and unsettling to say the least. What kind of God would ask a father to do such a thing? And why does Abraham express such little emotion? Why doesn’t he protest what is being asked of him? I don’t have many satisfying answers or interpretations. That’s why I am simply going to read it today from a story Bible version in Read, Wonder, Listen for Young Readers, written by Laura Alary. (for those of you at home, sorry, this is copyrighted so I will print the Biblical version only). I like this story Bible version because it imagines a few more details, like what Sarah might have thought of the whole thing plus it presents both Isaac and Abraham with a little more emotional response to what was happening, leaving a little more room for us to ponder for ourselves its significance.

Genesis 22: 1-14

 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. And the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide,” as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”


Our gospel lesson, this morning concludes a section of Jesus’ teaching on the costs and rewards of discipleship. As we heard last week, he was sending the apostles out like sheep among the wolves. The road would not be easy. Today we learn that they will not always be welcomed. Carrying a message of love and justice that ran contrary to the ways of the surrounding empire values would place them in some pretty vulnerable predicaments. Going out as a marginalized and minority group of disciples meant that they would face many dangers. They would need to rely on the hospitality of the people who welcomed them. This would be the key to the success of their mission.

Matthew 10: 40-42

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

  On Being a Welcomed Guest

A couple of weeks ago, as you might recall, a young man, Chris, arrived at our worship service. It was not hard to tell that he was struggling, perhaps passing through our area, I am not sure. Not a particularly unusual event for most people in our more urban areas as they come to worship on Sundays but, for us, something that only happens every once and while. So, we did what we do best… we tried to make him feel comfortable. After service, in the spirit of that passage in scripture that says, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink…” we filled his water container, gave him a few muffins and a voucher and sent him on his way. A simple basic act of human kindness to someone in need. Exactly what God asks of us. There is no shortage of other passages in scripture that remind us of the importance of showing hospitality to others. In ancient Hebrew tradition, such hospitality to travellers was not simply a good and nice thing to do, it was a moral obligation. It usually meant washing and anointing their feet after a day on the dusty roads and offering them a cup of water. However, later in Jesus’ time, the tradition was starting to wane a bit as better roads and hostels were built. It meant that private homes were not used by travellers quite as much.

I would expect that when I say the word “hospitality”, many of you might think of things like welcoming guests into your homes, perhaps even this summer. Maybe friends or family members you haven’t seen in a while. Perhaps your thoughts are going to things like the need to freshen up the guest room or making sure there is something extra in the fridge or freezer to haul out when they arrive. One commentator I was reading this week recounts how, as a child, she lived in a small house. When relatives came to visit, her parents would always give up their bedroom for them while they slept on recliners in their living rooms. These recliners were comfortable for watching tv or spending an evening in conversation. However, sleeping on them all night would leave one stiff and achy the next morning. Yet, she says that my parents’ demonstration of hospitality still informs my understanding of what welcome means. She goes on to say, “What if we treated the world we encounter each day in the same way we treat a favoured guest- as a member of the family whose comfort is as important as our own? What if churches were like that? What if we could disrupt our comfort like that to include and make room for others who might be different? What if we were to choose welcome over comfort?”

Certainly, the ministry of hospitality is an important one for us as churches. It is easy to look at our passage today and say, yes, God wants me to be welcoming, no problem. God wants us as a church to be welcoming. Check.  And certainly, Jesus was well known for welcoming “the other” as he crossed numerous social, class, gender and racial boundaries to reach out to others. And, more often than not, his efforts were frowned upon by many. We cannot underestimate the importance of showing welcome to others. It is at the heart of who we are as Christians.

I have preached that kind of sermon before using this gospel text. Yet, as I studied it further, I have come to the realization that while lots of other texts speak to the importance of us offering welcome to others, this one focuses on receiving the welcome of others. In sending the apostles out, Jesus is preparing them for the possibility that they may not be welcomed. In fact, because they are such a marginalized group, they are more likely to receive persecution, especially from the Roman authorities. Rather than being the hosts who welcome others, he is reminding them that they are called to be guests, to receive the hospitality others offer them.

Jan Richardson, a minister, artist and author, shares a time when she was on the receiving end of such hospitality. Just after the death of her husband, she and her sister went to Ireland. There, they discovered a restaurant that became a regular spot for Jan after her sister went home and as she continued to work on her book. In the midst of so much solitary time in writing, it was a gift for her to know that she had a place to go where they called her by name, welcomed her to table, talked with her and fed both her belly and soul. When she returned again the following summer and when she walked in, she heard a voice say, “Jan, you’re back.” It was then that she learned the importance of being on the receiving end of a welcome.

Rev. Whitney Rice, an Episcopal priest in Indiana, discovered the same thing as she pondered our gospel for today. She describes it like this:

 I have been reading that Matthew passage for years as, “Listen, guys, make sure you welcome people. Welcome prophets and marginalized folks and kids and give them cups of cold water.” I was placing myself in the position of power, rich with resources and grace that I would generously give away and thereby earn the right to pat myself on the back. That’s not what it says at all.

Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” We, the disciples, are the ones being welcomed, not doing the welcoming ourselves. That puts a whole different slant on the concept of being church. We’re not allowed to sit in our beautiful buildings and our well-established ministries and our comfortable mindsets and wait for people to come to us. Even reaching out to people from our safe and controlled environment is not enough. We don’t get to do the welcoming, because we no longer get to hold on to our power. We have to be welcomed by others.

What a scary thought. That means we have to go outside, outside the church, outside our familiar community, outside ourselves. It turns out that discipleship is a profoundly vulnerable state of mind and way of life. We have to abandon our place of safety and power, thus abandoning our ability to welcome anyone to anything, and we have to trust that strangers will welcome us.

As I read her words, I thought to myself, she is right! When we are the guests, we are the vulnerable ones. We are in a learning position. We assume a posture of humility.  We are not the ones standing in the foyer of our church and having the central role, the privilege and power. This is exactly the posture we are needing to take as we in the United Church of Canada consider a remit from the Indigenous Church to develop and sustain an autonomous National Indigenous Organization within The United Church of Canada. As part of that consideration, we have to think about our openness and willingness to being guests, rather than hosts.  Our Official Board is currently doing some reading on this and will be voting on it within the next few months.

Or you might think about it using your own homes as an example, if you like- when you are welcoming your guest, you are the one who controls who you let in, the surroundings, the setting. Yet, when you go to someone else’s home as a guest, you are on the receiving end of a welcome. You are at their mercy, so to speak. You rely on them to show you around their home- where to find the towels and so on.

You take part in their customs and eat at their table. Thinking about this during the week reminded me of an older gentleman I used to visit in my first pastoral charge in Louisbourg, NS. When I would go there, I remember he always had a Sears catalogue by the door and this is where I wiped my feet. Then, he would simply tear out a sheet and prepare for the next person. Next, he would grab one of his previously used tea bags hung up with clothes pins and plop it in his kettle that sat on his coal stove in the kitchen. Then, he would reach for his box of chocolates long grown white and stale in his cupboard and we would have tea. Believe me, in my work over the years, I have developed a stomach of steel!

So, when we see this passage not simply as one about extending hospitality to others but about receiving hospitality, it allows us, as a church, to see ourselves in a very different light. Jesus is sending out the disciples, like us, as vulnerable outsiders with no power except that of the Holy Spirit. Earlier we heard how they were to carry no money bag, no extra food or extra clothing. They were to be dependent on the hospitality of those they served. That is different from where we as Christian churches so often see ourselves today. Debie Thomas writes that this means learning to serve from the edges rather than the seat of power. She goes on to say that so often we find ourselves as churches lamenting our declining influence and power in society. But what if that is a good thing, she asks. What if we need to learn the art of receiving welcome before we can extend it honestly in Christ’s name? What if the “Chris’s” of our world who show up at our churches, the people on the sidelines of our charity are actually meant to be our teachers?

I can’t help then but wonder that maybe, where we find ourselves as churches these days, is perhaps more like where the apostles found themselves in those first missional encounters- in a place of vulnerability, on the edges of society. And maybe, as Thomas maintains, that is not such a bad thing.

I wonder if, in assuming this more vulnerable position, this is where Jesus meant us to be – out there encountering others who are “not like us”, being open to what we might learn from them, stepping into unfamiliar territory and practicing being a guest, strangers even, at the mercy of others, awaiting their welcome to their space. Seems to me that Jesus, himself, was pretty good at being on that receiving end of such hospitality, on being a guest, rather than a host. In fact, it was almost always where his best connections were made, don’t you think? No wonder his message to us is simply go.

Your Generosity Matters!

“We have power. It’s the society at large that assumes we don’t take part; often we’re behind the scenes.”


A young woman wearing a black top smiles at the camera against the scene of a lawn and trees.

Credit: Amy Zavitz/The United Church of Canada

 Eunice Chianka felt a calling to preach and share the gift of education. Growing up, most of the religious leaders she knew were male ministers. When she had the opportunity to encounter female ministers, she felt inspired, and knew she wanted to inspire and empower other young girls in the same way.

“I always ask God: Do you really love us as women? I need to do my best as a woman to challenge the dominance of men,” Eunice says.

Coming from the United Methodist Church, Eunice is one of the students who received a scholarship from the United Church of Canada’s partnership with the United Theological Seminary in Zimbabwe. She shared that she wanted to “express her humble gratitude for this opportunity.”

When it comes to inspiring young women, Eunice shares a few words: “If I can do it, they can do the same,” she explains. “We have power. It’s the society at large that assumes we don’t take part, often we’re behind the scenes.”

The strength and determination of leaders such as Eunice inspires us all. Your Mission and Service  gifts empower young women like Eunice as they grow to become leaders for the future. Thank you.


Let us pray:

God of all people, those who feel welcome and those who feel shut out, on this Canada Day weekend we come before you in thanksgiving for the beauty of our land, for the richness of its resources, for the diversity of its people and cultures and for the freedoms we enjoy. As we move into our future as a nation, we ask that you might show us ways to welcome newcomers and live with respect for one another. Strengthen us in these challenging times to show your love to others.

 We pray for the Church and those who lead it as we seek to find new ways of reaching out in a culture with changing values.

We pray for all who wander without a home because of economic turmoil or political unrest, or social or family conflicts. We pray for all who yearn for cups of cold water to quench their thirsts for water, for relationship, for health or peace of mind. Help us to offer welcome, hope or companionship, to reach out and to embody the kind of welcome extended to all through Christ.

We pray for creation that we may learn to reverence and care for it.

We pray for those who lead the nations of the world, our own nation and our communities, that they may work for the well-being of the most vulnerable and seek peace together. For those who make decisions about health care, education and social services in these times when there are many demands in every area . . . For the poor, the hungry and those struggling to find affordable housing when prices for everything seem to rise each day . . .For those who struggle with illness, addiction, disability or despair, and for those who mourn the loss of someone dear . . .For the powerless and the oppressed, wherever they live, and for those who work to defend them . . .   

Hear us now as we pray in silence for situations on our hearts this day… Eternal God, thank you for listening to us in every situation. Keep our eyes open for your Spirit at work among us. In the name of Jesus, we pray saying… Our Father…


Hymn: 138 MV My Love Colours Outside the Lines 

Blessing: (from Wetaskiwin Writers, Alberta in Gathering, Pentecost 1, 2023)

It is time. God sends us out to meet the neighbours.

We will find hospitality in unexpected places.

May we share the peace of Christ graciously and humbly.

We go to be radiant with the Spirit’s light!

May we search diligently for Christ in the people we meet.


We go to live our lives as good news! Amen and amen.


June 25, 2023

Good afternoon on this soggy day.

Please find the worship service for Faith Memorial United Church attached.

Reminder that next week is Food Bank Sunday.

Great start at the uke group! July 16 is the next lesson! 

Have a blessed week!

This land on which we gather is traditional land of the Wabanaki peoples, predominantly, the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. We worship the Creator on this land and acknowledge with respect the thousands of years of ceremony and relationship that are etched in footprint, fire and faithfulness on the soil and rock that surrounds us

We gather to worship in the name of Christ whose love unites us and calls us to shine.

Call to Worship (from Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

There is no hope like you, O God!

Hope for those who cry out from the deserts of their lives.
There is no grace like you, O God!

Grace for those rejected, ignored, and cast aside by the world.
There is no love like you, O God!

Love for those who have known days of trouble

and nights of loneliness.

There is no one like you, O God!

No one! No one! No one!


Opening Prayer:

God of the smallest sparrow and God of the largest whale,

we are thankful that you are God of us all.

You know us individually and intimately and you care for each of us.

Even the number of hairs on our heads is known by you.

In our time together today, may we know ourselves and all people as blessed.

Teach us to sense your presence in all of life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Hymn: 229 VU God of the Sparrow 

Prayer of Confession:

Sometimes, like Sarah, we are jealous of others.

We wish we were like them; we want the things they have.

Forgive us, God.

Sometimes we put others down.

We laugh at them, call them names, and treat them like they are less than human.

Forgive us, God.

Sometimes we judge people because they are different than we are.

We treat whole nations and groups of people as if they were not as “good” as us.

Forgive us, God.

Help us to appreciate and celebrate the beauty and gifts of each person.

For we are all your children, God. Amen.

Words of Affirmation

In his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that with Christ, we are given new life.

So let us be done with old, hurtful ideas and live as God’s forgiven people.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Blessings Enough for All

Last week we heard the story of how Abraham and Sarah in their old age became the parents of Isaac. We might well remember the laughter that both of them shared at the absurdity of the whole thing. This week, however, in our Genesis reading, we are presented with a shadow side of the Abraham and Sarah story. In fact, until recently, most children’s story Bibles avoided this story all together. What we discover in our reading this morning is that our so-called “heroes” of the faith were far from perfect. Abraham and Sarah’s home life was far from ideal. In fact, as you will see in a few minutes, it was downright messy- filled with many of the conflicts and disputes that often erupt in our own lives- things like jealousy, bullying and rivalry. We pick up the story not long after Isaac is born. This time, though, we are introduced to Hagar, their slave, and her son Ishmael. It is not a very pretty story, to say the least.

Genesis 21: 8-21

 The child (Isaac) grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. 13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.


Trying to follow God’s call in our lives and to prioritize the kingdom values Jesus models for us is never easy. Jesus, in sending out the apostles, does not sugarcoat the precariousness of the task. There are often hard choices to be made. Sometimes being faithful will place us in some pretty vulnerable predicaments. Sometimes we will face persecution and opposition. More often than not, the greatest tension and adversity we face as disciples can come from those closest to us, those we expect to have our backs in the face of uncertainty. Still, even when we are called to do the hard things, God has a way of letting us know that as insignificant and as vulnerable as we may feel, we are never left alone in the midst of the adversity and chaos that come our way. In this gospel passage, we are reminded that in sharing the good news to an often-inhospitable world, there is no need to fear. God continues to care for us.  Let’s listen as Jesus continues with his instructions to the apostles:

Matthew 10: 24-39

24 “A disciple is not above the teacher nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 “Everyone, therefore, who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.

35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

While I am not of your faith, I get that part about not being afraid and knowing what it means to be of more value than many sparrows. My name is Ishmael. Ever since I was a young boy, my mother Hagar has reminded me of the meaning of my name. It means “God Hears”. While I live in my ancestral home of Egypt now, this is not where I was born. My mother was born here but long ago, she had been taken away as a slave to serve a couple named Abraham and Sarah in a faraway land. While mom died many years ago, she made sure that I knew the whole story about my birth and how I ended up back here in her homeland after all these years.

As a female, a slave and a foreigner, mom had 3 strikes against her. She was a virtual nobody, caught up in a system with very few options. At first, Sarah was kind to her but over time, as mom grew older, Sarah mistreated her. Mom said it was because Sarah was bitter. You see God had promised to give Abraham and her a child and through that child they would have many descendants. But they were getting up in years and the both of them had pretty well given up on having any children. That’s where mom came in. She told me that Sarah just pushed her at Abraham one day and said, “Here Abraham, take this slave girl (she didn’t even call mom by name) and make her pregnant. If I can’t bear a child for you, she can. But it will be my child. Do you hear that slave girl? Mom just nodded and did as she was told. It happened all the time. A slave owner could just have his way with any slave he wanted. So, in no time at all, Mom found out that she was pregnant with me. This only made Sarah resent Mom all the more. Mom said it was brutal. Finally, when she couldn’t take it anymore, mom ran away to the wilderness and wept. That’s when she encountered this stranger who encouraged her to go back, promising that she will be the mother of many descendants. It was this same stranger who said that Mom was to name me Ishmael for God hears your cries. Well, Mom went back to Sarah but nothing had changed. In fact, it had gone from bad to worse. In time, Mom gave birth to me but Sarah became all the more resentful and jealous. She kept on reminding Mom, “He’s not your child.”

Then low and behold, what was thought to be impossible became possible. Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. For a while there was lots of laughter and celebration- but not for Mom and me. Sarah resented me because I was the first- born of Abraham and she knew that I, not Isaac, would be the one who would inherit all of Abraham’s land and livestock. Nonetheless, I liked little Isaac, and had fun entertaining him, making him laugh at my funny faces and all that. Sarah didn’t like it one bit. One day she just snapped. Hagar, she said, I want you and that boy out of here. I don’t want to set eyes on either of you again.

As Mom told me, Sarah’s outburst left Abraham in a bind. He was torn between the two of us, in the awkward position of having to choose between his two sons. Mom said he tried to reason with Sarah and get her to come to her senses. We can’t kick them out. Where will they go?  Besides, Sarah, it was you that arranged Ishmael’s birth in the first place. Sarah, however, refused to back down in her protests saying to Abraham, but Abraham, if you die, that boy will inherit everything. It was then that God spoke to Abraham promising him that it would all work out. Isaac will be your descendent but I will make of Ishmael a great nation too.

I was old enough by then to remember the day we were sent out with a few meager provisions and a skin of water. It wasn’t much and it didn’t last long in the desert heat. We had no idea what would become of us. It was like being discarded like trash at the roadside. With so little food and water, I remember feeling faint. Mom and I sat down under the noon day sun. Then I blanked out. Mom told me that it was then that she carried me as best she could over to the shade of a bush. I don’t remember that part at all.

When I later asked what happened next, she told me that she cried and cried, wondering why the both of us had been so abandoned and left to die like this. She told me that she couldn’t bare to look at my parched body. Yet, there in her weeping, she heard a voice telling her not to be afraid. Go over to your son and lift him up. I will make of him a great nation. Then, as she turned around, she noticed a well. If it had been there before, she had not seen it. But it was there then. So she scurried over some thorns and stones to bring water to my lips to revive me before it was too late. That’s when she said she knew that God’s promise is for all people. That God cares for us all. That’s when she told me she was sure that we were going to live.

After that time, we never saw Abraham and Sarah or Isaac again. Mom and I made our way back to her homeland of Egypt where I have remained ever since. In time, I found a wife and, in time, I became the father of a desert people. Today, I am honoured by Muslims as the forebearer of the Arab nation. And isn’t it remarkable that my people join with the Jewish people and with you as Christians in looking to Abraham as our ancestor in faith.

Each time I remember my story, I am reminded that God’s love is for all people. No one is forgotten. No one of us has a corner on God. Just as God did not allow Mom and I to be thrown aside and forgotten, so God continues to pay attention to those who are cast aside and marginalized in your world today. Over and over again, after that time in the wilderness, Mom and I shared how God’s family tree has many branches. I have never forgotten that. Even when it felt hopeless for us, God heard our cries and struggles in the face of our vulnerable situation and God acted.

No one is left outside the bounds of God’s love. God sees every refugee, every migrant, the abused, the bullied, the dispossessed. Human categories and boundaries based on race, gender or sexual identity, creed, or colour do not deter God. God hears all the cries of those cast aside and suffering, of the vulnerable and the rejected.

Too bad we all couldn’t get that instead of pitting ourselves against one another in so many ways. It has taken me a life time to learn from my experiences and the stories my mom shared with me those many years ago. At first, I resented what Abraham and Sarah did to us.  But now, I think I am getting it. Just because God loves one people doesn’t mean God can’t love another people too. Like the sparrow, we are all valued. And as my name, Ishmael, reminds me, God hears us one and all.  Thanks be to God!  

Your Generosity Matters!

   Fewer than 600 people can still speak Inuinnaqtun fluently.

A young woman sews fur while an older woman looks on smiling

Credit: Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society

These days, most of us have access to technology that allows us to learn the world’s common languages. But countless languages—including many Indigenous languages—can only be learned from their few remaining speakers.

Revitalizing a lost language, as one of our partners in Nunavut is doing, is an important way to preserve not just the language but also the culture that surrounds it.

The Inuinnaqtun language is the cultural foundation of the Inuinnait people, who live in the central Canadian Arctic. The literal meaning of the word Inuinnaqtun is “to be like an Inuinnaq (a person).” Today, fewer than 600 people can still speak Inuinnaqtun fluently. Many lost the language when they were removed from their communities and sent to residential schools.

Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq/Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is working hard to keep Inuinnaqtun alive. One-on-one language immersion sessions with mentors inspire reconnection. Through everyday conversations at home and on the land, mentorship is helping to heal the wounds of systemic oppression.

In partnership with Mission & Service, Inuinnaqtun language mentors get resources to allow them to spend 300 hours a year working with their apprentices to begin to restore the language.

Your gifts to Mission & Service help partners continue to restore language and culture. Thank you.


(In person service continues with celebration of Holy Communion)


Hymn:424 VU May the God of Hope 




May God- the God of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, the God of Ishmael and Hagar,

the God of all promises and all peoples

lead us to streams of life-giving water.


In the name of Christ, we go to love and serve. Amen.