Weekly Services

 

March 7, 2021 

Good morning everyone. What a bright looking day out there!

 

A couple of announcements:

For those who are working your way through the United Church’s Lenten Study, Faith on the Move, please join in the zoom study group on Thurs. @ 6:30pm. Watch for details of how to do this in your email. We have had two lively and fun sessions so far!

 

For Official Board members: Reminder of next meeting, Sunday, March 14 @ 11:00 am in the church hall. Don’t forget mask and pandemic protocols. Sonja will be sending out agenda this week in your email so watch for it. 

 

Enjoy this day- there is no other like it!

The heavens are telling the glory of God.

 With the whole firmament, let us proclaim God’s handiwork.

 The law of the LORD revives the soul.

 May God’s teaching bring us wisdom in our worship.

 Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to   you, O LORD,

For you are our rock and redeemer, and so we praise you! ( from Psalm 19)

 

Welcome to our worship service this morning. We are glad you have made time in your day to worship God with us. Please light a candle and know that you are in the presence of Christ and in the company of his followers in our community and around the world.

Let us pray:

God, you have set the whirling cosmos in motion

and called all creatures into being.

All that exists speaks of your majesty,

yet no detail misses your care and attention.

You know each of us by name,

and make yourself known to those who seek you.

Your wisdom delights the human heart and purifies the soul.

In our world where there is so much to distract us from your presence,

so many things that compete for our attention,

we give thanks for these moments when we can bring life into focus

and listen for your Word for our times and our lives.

Draw us into deeper relationship with you, we pray. Amen.

Hymn: 117 VU Jesus Christ is Waiting   

 No More “Business as Usual”

As vaccines start to roll out, most of us are holding out hope for some semblance of a “return to normal” in the not too distant future. Nonetheless, as we are also discovering, whatever sector of society we choose to look at, nothing will be exactly the same as it once was. Just this week, I was talking with one of the staff members at my mom’s nursing home. As much as they were excited to celebrate the arrival of the vaccine with a party and balloons, they also are cautioning families that this will not mean a return to pre-Covid visitation practices when everyone could just come and go freely through the front doors. There will still be a need for screening and masking for the foreseeable future. There are still a lot of unknowns about how long the vaccine will be effective. As she said to me, this will not simply be “business as usual.” The experience of living with the virus and now, its variants, has reshaped and called into question almost every aspect of our day to day living- our school and work lives, the way we shop, the way we socialize, the way we receive medical treatment and the ways we worship. As historians look back on these months, I am certain that they will interpret and mark them as a pivotal time of both upheaval and new learning for all of us.

It struck me that both of our readings from scripture this morning represent similar kinds of defining moments in the people’s understanding of who they were as God’s people and how God was calling them to live. In both readings, the people are called and challenged to look at the world differently and to grow deeper in their relationships with God and with one another.

Our first reading is the ten commandments. They were given as gifts to a formerly enslaved people after their time in the wilderness. Rather than as “heavies” and obligations to weigh us down or as a check list to determine whether or not we are “good” persons, they were offered as an invitation to the people of Israel to structure and shape their common lives together with the hope that they might flourish as they entered the Promised Land. These commandments were given as a means of imagining and working toward a whole new world- one filled with respect for God and for each other. They describe a way of life that would no longer be “business as usual”. This new way would be an alternative to the forced labour, the oppression, and the 24-7 work lives that the people had known back in Egypt. As Tom Long summarizes, ” The ten commandments are not weights, but wings that enable hearts to catch God’s Spirit and to soar.” As we read them, let us listen for reminders  of what it means to live together faithfully:

Exodus 20: 1-17

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 You shall not murder.

14 You shall not commit adultery.

15 You shall not steal.

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Our gospel reading is the story of Jesus driving  the moneychangers out of the temple. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, this is the event that leads directly to Jesus’ arrest, the straw that breaks the camel’s back if you like. In those gospel accounts, it comes at the end.  The writer of John, however, has a different take on it. He places it at the very beginning, just after the story of the Wedding at Cana where Jesus turns the water into wine. This suggests that John uses it as a defining moment  for Jesus- making clear from the very start that with Jesus, change is on the way. The status quo is on its way out. Systems that oppress are about to be toppled. With Jesus, it will no longer be “business as usual”.

As we prepare to read this story, you might like to imagine yourself as a bystander in the temple courtyard that day. Think about what you might see and hear- mooing cows, bleating sheep, cooing doves, yelling voices, clanging coins. It is a virtual hubbub of activity as pilgrims scramble to get their Roman coins exchanged for temple coins so they can purchase unblemished animals to offer for the temple sacrifice.  This was a system that was in place for hundreds of years. All of it was part and parcel of the worship experience. The moneychangers were doing what needed to be done in order to make the system work. As a practicing Jew, Jesus would have been most familiar with it. This time though, as Jesus entered, everything comes to a screeching halt. From this moment on, it will no longer be “business as usual.” 

John 2:13-22 ( to hear Linnea tell this story, click here: )

13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. 15 He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. 16 He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me.

18 Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? What miraculous sign will you show us?”

19 Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.”

20 The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” 21 But the temple Jesus was talking about was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered what he had said, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

 

So what caused Jesus to lose his cool that day? Obviously one traditional line of thought is that the moneychangers were exploiting the pilgrims by skimming off a portion for themselves as they exchanged the Roman currency with the emperor’s head on it for the temple currency that did not have any graven image on it. Unlike the other gospels though, John does not have Jesus saying anything about the temple being a “den of thieves”.  Yes, that may be part of his anger but there is something more at play here I think. In speaking of his body as the temple, Jesus is pushing them to imagine a whole new system that will no longer require animal sacrifices. The new temple, his body, is where people will meet God. God’s presence will no longer be confined to a building. Like the prophets before him, Jesus calls for a dismantling of unjust systems that exploit the weak and the poor and invites people into a whole new way of faithful living. In over toppling the tables of the moneychangers, Jesus announces a whole new value system of worship- one that replaced the sacrificial system for worship of God in Spirit. This serves as a reminder to us that church buildings, customs, traditions or other features of church life cannot become a substitution for worship and devotion to God. They cannot be our idols. What Jesus is more concerned about is how we live together faithfully, how we care for and respect one another by challenging unjust systems and structures at work in our world -things like racism, bullying,  the exploitation of the earth and its many vulnerable people.

Jesus, in describing himself as the new temple, is inviting us to a new way to be church, his body in the world. Certainly this time of pandemic has given us lots of time to think about what it means to be church. As we have discovered and lived out this past year, it means more than just “showing up” Sunday after Sunday and going through the motions of sliding into the pew, singing hymns, listening and greeting one another and then going back out to our Monday to Saturday lives. When Jesus enters the temple that day, he interrupts “business as usual” for the sake of justice. Biblical commentator Debie Thomas writes, ” if we are temples or sanctuaries, holy places where heaven and earth meet, it is more than simply being ‘nice’.” It is about asking the hard questions , doing the hard things and challenging complacency.”  Being the Body of Christ in the world means being open to having our comfortable and safe faith challenged beyond “business as usual.”

I liken it to what happened to the people of Gander, Newfoundland on Sept. 11, 2001 when planes from all over the world started to land at their airport. The people of Gander were not long in recognizing that this particular day would not be business as usual for them. Within a span of 12 hours, 38 international aircraft and almost 7000 people landed in Gander, nearly doubling the size of its population. As Rev. Cameron Trimble writes in a blog I was reading this week,

“When it became clear that the “plane people” were going to be stranded for a few days, the community sprang into action. They housed people in their own homes, cooked every meal, turned the local hockey rink into a freezer for food storage, set up additional phone towers so that people could call home, and cared for the 19 animals stranded on the planes for those days. The people of Gander showed extraordinary hospitality on one of the hardest days in our shared history.
Recently I was talking with the pastor who was in Gander during that experience. She told me about how the community leaders issued a call for citizens to bring any blankets they could spare to the overflow shelters to keep people warm.
 All most people had in their homes were handmade quilts, heirlooms they had inherited over generations or created for future ones. Without hesitation, the citizens of Gander brought those quilts to keep the “plane people” warm.

Five days later, as the passengers packed up and prepared to re-board the planes, the people of Gander who had donated the quilts told the “plane people” to keep them, to take them with them as a remembrance of their meeting and sign of their care. Cameron continues:
Here is what I love most about this story: Today, throughout the world, quilts beautifully stitched and lovingly gifted are all over the world still keeping people warm. They remind us all that in the end, we are held together, stitch by stitch, through sacred and sacrificial love.”

I can’t help but think of this when I envision what Jesus had in mind when he walked into the temple that day and through his actions, demonstrated the toppling of old systems of people just going through the motions of doing as the law required. He was talking about a whole new way of living in relationship with one another and of reaching out .

As we continue our Lenten journeys, Jesus challenges us  to examine what it means to live together faithfully, to relate to God and to others in a new way by turning things around, by making things better for others and by responding to his call to be his body throughout the world. Sometimes it is as simple as the offering of a quilt. In doing so, we point to another holy place, a place where God is found, a place not limited by bricks and mortar, a place where the human and the divine lovingly connect.

At the very least, this pandemic has helped us to discover  one big learning as we, the church, have left our buildings.  As Debie Thomas expresses it so well,

” When the pandemic winds down, our communities open up and we find ourselves free to return to “business as usual” on Sunday mornings, I hope we won’t. I hope we remember Jesus who upended the temple when it forgot how to be the Father’s house. I hope we will burn with the passion that animated the whip-wielding, coin scattering Christ. I hope we will settle for nothing less than churches that are truly houses for prayer, welcome, freedom and hope for all nations.” Then, hopefully, unlike those in the temple that day, we will not miss out on God’s glory standing right in front of us- in the person of Jesus Christ.   Amen

Minute for Mission:

“Roofs…are every bit as important as ensuring that there are enough marshmallows for the s’mores.”

Two one-storey buildings at the end of a gravel road

Two West Haven Camp buildings have new roofs thanks to Mission & Service support.

Credit: Sharon Bell

 

When is a roof more than a roof? This isn’t a trick question. Buying a roof isn’t exciting. It isn’t particularly inspiring, either. But it is necessary, and it is what allows exciting, inspiring things to take place safely beneath it.

Thanks to your gifts through Mission & Service, West Haven United Church Camp in the Humber Valley region of Newfoundland and Labrador was able to repair the roofs of its registration building and cookhouse.

Picture what happens under these roofs: Staff gather to plan activities for young campers; families line up to register little ones who will learn skills and make friendships that last a lifetime; faith deepens through prayers and camp songs; hungry campers chat excitedly over healthy meals and, best of all, snacks.

A roof is more than a roof when it facilitates sharing food, friendship, and faith.

Your generosity through Mission & Service is often directed to “core funding.” Sometimes our church supports trendy projects, but often we support trusted organizations that decide themselves which projects most need to be completed or which organizational infrastructure needs to be funded.

That’s a good thing for two reasons. First, it means that partners can direct the support to projects that aren’t as easy to get funding for―seemingly mundane things like roofs, for example. Second, it means that when emergencies happen, like a global pandemic, the funds aren’t earmarked for a particular project and can be quickly redirected where they are needed most.

“With West Haven’s emphasis on expanding campers’ physical, mental, and spiritual health, roofs might be the farthest thing from most campers’ minds, but they are every bit as important as ensuring that there are enough marshmallows for the s’mores,” says Josephine Belbin, director of grants at West Haven.

Mission & Service doesn’t always support exciting projects, but we always support necessary, meaningful ones.

Thank you for being the kind of informed supporter who knows that a roof isn’t really a roof: It’s safety. It’s community. It’s love.

 

As Jesus showed us in the temple, living a life of faith calls us to question practices, customs, laws and traditions that are not in line with God’s teachings and covenant. God calls us to overturn abuse, oppression and brokenness in the world- to work to bring about justice and healing by not being afraid to speak up and to act.  Love for God and love for our neighbours must be central. May this prayer / blessing from Saint Francis help channel our thoughts and actions as we go into this new week:

May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy

And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.

Amen.

 

Hymn: 601 VU The Church of Christ in Every Age  

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Go with God’s grace. Live with kindness and love toward one another. Have a good week everyone!

 

February 28, 2021

“As the sun with longer journey melts the winter’s snow and ice… may the sun of Christ’s uprising gently bring our hearts to life” ( from VU 111 As the Sun with Longer Journey)

Please light a candle.

Welcome everyone to our time of worship.

Today we are invited to walk with Jesus who does not hide from the suffering of our world.

We come seeking God in the face of our uncertainty, our fears and our doubts.

From generation to generation we come to celebrate our Creator who seeks goodness for all creation.

Let us pray:

We praise you God of all generations, all time and all space.

When we wonder if you will respond to our prayers, remind us that you answer.

Strengthen our faith so that we might trust in your promises and walk in your ways.

Open us to your impossible possibilities as we seek to be your people in our time and place. Amen.

Hymn: 120 VU   O Jesus I have Promised  

Readings and Reflection:

                                   Faith on the Move

Several of us in the congregation are working through the United Church’s Lenten study book entitled Faith on the Move.  In the foreword to this book, the editor, Julie McGonegal, writes about how the editorial team  wrestled with that theme of movement and change. They wondered whether or not readers could relate and resonate with it in the midst of living through a pandemic. Perhaps as people sheltered at home, it would appear to be tone-deaf. Yet, the more they pondered, the more they realized that although the pandemic has prevented us from physical journeys, we have all been on spiritual journeys unlike any we have ever experienced before. At the same time the editorial team also acknowledges that for migrants, refugees and those without shelter, their journeys have been more than metaphorical. They have involved risk and vulnerability that those of us who have had the security and safety of our homes in this pandemic have never experienced.

This idea of ” journey” though is a common one used to describe faith. Many of our psalms are “journeying psalms” sung by pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem.  Think of some of the hymns we like to sing that have themes of journey- One More Step Along the World I Go, We are Pilgrims on a Journey, the line from O Jesus I have Promised: I shall not fear the journey if you are by my side, All the Way my Saviour Leads Me, Jesus Saviour Pilot Me, We are Marching in the Light of God, Walk with Me, O God of Bethel, Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah. There are lots more! They all suggest movement, a constant forging ahead with the trust that God accompanies us into our futures.

The Season of Lent is big on the idea of journey. Jesus journeys to the cross. We focus on our own journeys of discovery as we try to figure out for ourselves what it means to be faithful disciples of Jesus in our day and age. We never know where our journeys will end up. We never know what people we will encounter or the experiences we will have along the way. There is always risk in stepping forth. Faith is certainly never static.

That’s how it was for Abraham and Sarah and later, for the disciples too. There were no maps with clear destination points. So much simply involved trust- trust that God would be with them, trust that God would give them the resources they needed and that God would keep God’s promises to them. Yet, that trust was not always easy. It meant a willingness to let God take the driver’s seat and steer them toward unknown and unexpected destinations.

Let’s begin with Abram and Sarai. They were old. A physical move was not on their agenda. They were more than what we might call “settled in for retirement” when God first spoke to them.  About 2 decades prior to our reading this morning, God had showed up to Abram calling him to leave his familiar home country to go to a land that God would show him. So he and Sarai gathered up their livestock and portable belongings and off they went. Seemingly there were no questions asked. A little while later, God showed Abram all the stars in the night sky and promised him that they would have descendents as many as the stars. It was like God was saying to them “you are never too old to be part of my plan.” Over time fear and panic though got in the way. Patience was wearing thin. There was no child forthcoming. Abram and Sarai decided to take things into their own hands by getting Abram to father a son, Ishmael, through their slave Hagar. Still though, God kept renewing the covenant promise, this time adding a name change for both of them:

Genesis 17:1-7,15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty, walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

I like that line- ” walk before me and be blameless.” In other words, keep moving forward with me. Keep on the journey. Don’t give up on the promises. Keep walking even when you don’t have all the answers. Keep walking even when there is risk involved. Such is the journey of faith, isn’t it? Take those small steps but keep moving. Be open to the possibilities that present even when things seem impossible or against all odds. Put your whole self out there. Live faithfully. Live with possibility, even if you are 99 years old!Jonathan Sacks provides an eloquent summation: “Faith is the ability to live with delay without losing trust in the promise; to experience disappointment without losing hope, to know that the road between the real and the ideal is long and yet be willing to undertake the journey. That was Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith.”

As I was thinking about Abraham this week, I was remembering another 99 year old who has inspired and captured the hearts of many this past year. His name is  Sir Captain Tom Moore. You probably remember hearing of his death recently. He is the British war vet who raised millions of dollars for health care workers during the Covid-19 outbreak in England last year by walking with his walker 100 laps of his garden, 10 each day in time for his 100th birthday. He proved to the nation and to the world that you are never too old to set out on a new path. He could have given up and rested, deciding he had nothing else left to give. Yet, he chose to move forward by finding a new possibility for his life in a cause greater than himself. Despite his age, much like Abraham and Sarah, his thoughts were still on the future. He put his heart and soul into making a difference, on forging ahead.

The disciples, however, were having more of a struggle with the new path Jesus was suggesting to them. We might say that they were comfortable, thank you very much, with where Jesus’ movement was heading so far. If they could have, they would have tossed an anchor overboard and grounded themselves firmly in place. They had witnessed Jesus’ teachings and healings. As far as they were concerned, they had backed a winner. Jesus was the one who would save them from the oppression of the Roman government. At least that is what they thought until now. Suddenly, though, Jesus changes the water on the beans. He drops a bombshell on the disciples as he shares with them where the journey will lead. Listen to their response:

Mark 8:31-38 ( to hear Linnea share this passage, click here )

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

It is Peter who speaks up. No way, Jesus. Say it isn’t so. This is not the way it is supposed to play out. We signed on for a crown, not a cross. A suffering and dying Messiah just didn’t go together for the disciples. Jesus was to be their champion, their hero. What Jesus is talking about was the last thing on their minds. Their idea of the journey did not involve anything but a smooth road ahead. They wanted comfort, not struggle.

Nonetheless, they had missed the point. As Jesus outlines the route ahead with talk about his rejection, suffering and death, we can imagine all of the disciples standing there with their jaws dropping. This was not on any of their radars. It was not where they saw the whole movement leading. All this talk about saving their lives resulting in loss of life and losing their lives resulting in saving their lives left them scratching their heads.

Yet Jesus says such is the life of faith and walking the road with him. The alternative is to stay put- to avoid risk all together and to play it safe. For Abraham and Sarah, it would probably have meant setting their feet on a footstool and sitting in their rocking chair and only being worried and concerned about themselves. For Captain Tom, it might have meant a little exercise to stretch that new hip, but no thought at all for the risks that health care providers were taking to care for others in the time of this pandemic.

That’s not the kind of journey Jesus was envisioning. Discipleship would mean forging ahead, embracing what felt like impossible possibilities by giving our lives sacrificially to acts of love, service, justice and peace. It could very well involve removing ourselves from the centre of our concerns in order to assist others. It was a journey, a call to a new way of living and being in the world.

Our Lenten book, Faith on the Move asks the same questions of us as individuals and as a congregation as we journey through this season. To what is God inviting us as we move through Lent this year? Are we up for the challenges? Are we bold enough to embrace the new discoveries  and surprises along the way? Can we trust in God’s promises and God’s guidance as we move forward one step at a time?

What consoles me is that through all our foibles, our attempts to take things into our own hands, to charter our own courses, God keeps stepping in there, as God did with Abraham and Sarah and with the bumbling disciples, continually renewing the covenant, setting us back on the path and calling us to walk on with hope and trust that we do not journey alone. For this we say- thanks be to God. Amen.

Minute for Mission


Your gifts to Mission & Service help the church advocate for refugees, migrant workers, those who are homeless, and other marginalized groups.

Cover image of

Credit: The United Church of Canada

Mission and Service is often described as the “lifeblood” of our church. That’s because it runs through the veins of everything we do together as a church. If you have ever sung out of a United Church hymnbook, your life has been touched through Mission & Service. If you have been cared for by a United Church minister, Mission & Service has had an impact on you. No matter which region your church is in, there is an organization near you doing life-changing work that is supported through Mission & Service.

If your church matters to you, then Mission & Service should matter too.

Through Mission & Service, we help transform lives and inspire purpose. In other words, we connect action and faith.

For example, right now, our United Church is exploring what it means to be on the move. You may have purchased the Lenten devotional book Faith on the Move  or are taking part in the webinar study series which is in full swing. (By the way, you can still join in). The development of resources like these are partially subsidized through Mission & Service so that they can be offered at a reasonable cost and in many cases, no cost.

It’s no coincidence that we are studying being “on the move.” Not only is our faith always in transition, but our United Church literally reaches out to people on the move. We advocate for refugees, migrant workers, those who are homeless, and many other marginalized groups.

Did you know that over 272 million people in the world today do not live in the country in which they were born? While most people leave their home countries for work, millions of others are forced to leave because of conflict, persecution, and terrorism.

The United Nations reports that for the first time in the history, the number of people forced to leave their home has topped 70 million. Think about that. It’s one thing to be “on the move” because we’ve made a choice. It’s another to be forced out.  

As Christians, we are called to help build a better world. To do that, our faith needs to connect with our action. Mission & Service  supports us as a church to both learn and advocate.  

Thank you for generously helping our church deepen faith and live out the compassion of Jesus in all that we think and do.

 

Let us pray:

Loving God, through the gift of your covenant, you reached into Abraham and Sarah’s lives and asked them to dream the impossible dream. You promised that you would transform their barren situation into one overflowing with hope and new life. You invited the disciples too to risk their security, their comfort and their reputations for the sake of following your Son, Jesus and called them to witness to your alternative kingdom through their lives. That call and covenant continues to be made even to us in our day, and to all who come after us, all humanity, all living creatures. As we move through this Lenten Season, may we boldly embrace your promises as we walk into our futures. When we stumble, set us back on our feet that we might serve you and others. Teach us to trust, even in moments when we feel most fearful and uncertain. May we give thanks for those moments in this pandemic that make us laugh or smile, that restore our courage along the way. Thank you for those times when you help us to overcome the temptation to choose the easy or smooth way when we know that the road you are asking us to take requires something deeper.

We pray this day for healing and restoration in this world, for people, places and situations in need of your grace…

We remember all who struggle to clothe, feed or shelter their families or themselves, for all who worry about their future.

We pray for the earth and its creatures and ask that you might help us to live with respect for all living things.

We pray for peace and justice in the face of upheaval.

We pray for our leaders and health care workers as they work to co-ordinate vaccines for our nations.

We pray for those whose names, faces and needs are resting on our hearts this day…

Hear these our prayers, O God, as we join with our brothers and sisters in faith, from generation to generation, in praying the prayer Jesus taught… Our Father….

Hymn: 639 VU  One More Step   

 

Blessing:

May the God of Abraham and Sarah walk with us and bless us.

May we go with courage into this new week,

knowing that God’s hand is leading us

and God’s love is supporting us wherever we go. Amen

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Have a good week everyone!

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February 21, 2021

Vignettes of Canadian Black History
A Service for Black History Month

Invitation

“Hush! Hush!” (MV 167) https://youtu.be/S20TTam_Nm4

Welcome and Announcements

Acknowledgment of Traditional Territory

We acknowledge this sacred land we gather on
As the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq First Nations.
As Treaty members, we commit to Reconciliation.
We honour the heritage and gifts of Mi’kmaq people.

We Light the Christ Candle

Friends, the Light of Christ!

Over My Head” (MV 88) https://youtu.be/gOaEa4DHhis

Vignettes of Canadian Black History

Black people have been present in the land we call Canada since long before confederation. Multilinguist Mathieu da Costa, of partial African ancestry, is the first known Black person to arrive on this land. Da Costa is understood to have spoken Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, Mi’kmaq, and pidgin Basque, and because of his ability to learn new languages traveled with João Fernandes Lavrador, exploring Greenland and the north Atlantic coast of Canada as early as 1499. Additionally da Costa would voyage with Pierre Dugua de Mons and Samuel de Champlain.

We Confess Our Common Faith: A New Creed

Please join me as we share the story of our hearts (VU p. 918).

A New Creed  https://youtu.be/j0JWQ-e8CRQ

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (African-American spiritual): https://youtu.be/FPCO-Cbn5qQ

Confession

Let’s pray:

Gracious God, Jesus our Anointed,

We pray for your mercy today, knowing that anything short
Of just living is not the kingdom of heaven,
The living arrangement we live and long for.
At the heart of your renewed creation
Is a quest for healthy relationships
And the building up of marginalized individuals and communities.
We ask for the courage to hear and support
The stories of racialized individuals and communities
That we might meet Jesus in the story
And be transformed.
Amen.

We Pass the Peace

The Peace of Christ be with you!
And also with your spirit.

Vignettes of Canadian Black History

The story that is dawning on the minds of more and more Canadians in recent years is that slavery connected to European colonialism existed in Canada for about 205 years. It began with the arrival of Olivier Le Jeune, an African boy from Madagascar, about 7 years old, in New France (modern-day Quebec). There is little known about Le Jeune, but he was educated by a Jesuit priest, Father Le Jeune, and upon baptism took the name Olivier after the colony’s head clerk Olivier Letardif. He would later take the priest’s surname. By the time Le Jeune died in May 1654, it is thought that his status had changed from slave to free domestic servant.

The Offering

We, the United Church of Canada, have made a commitment to becoming an anti-racist denomination. Another way of saying this is that we are committed to developing healthy relationships with individuals and communities, especially those experiencing marginalization, because this was a focus of Jesus’ redemptive work.

Thank you for being invested in this transformative work, and thank-you for being dedicated to living out this incredible vision for our community and the world. Your time, talents, and gifts make a huge difference, and we are forever grateful to see what God is doing in you and in our community.

Offering Song

I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me” (VU 575, 2X)    https://youtu.be/G8ls2jxBqVk

Offering Prayer

God, bless these gifts
May they be put to good use
Here at Faith Memorial United Church
And around the world.
Amen.

Vignettes of Canadian Black History

Marie-Joseph Angélique was an enslaved woman living in what is now called “Old Montreal” in New France (modern-day Quebec). She was convicted of setting fire to her slaveholder’s house and causing much of Old Montreal to burn in a chain reaction of events.

It has long been assumed that Angélique was guilty of the crime, but in more recent years historians have questioned her trial, suggesting that her conviction was based more on her reputation than on credible evidence. Angélique seems to have been viewed at the time as a rebellious “runaway slave”. Her story exposes the challenges that Blacks who longed to be free faced in the early days of Canada.

Scripture

Mark 1:29–39

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House

29 As soon as they[a] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

A Preaching Tour in Galilee

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

 

Song

“Wade in the Water” (African-American Spiritual): https://youtu.be/7_euSS86dvE

Sermon

Friends, we are on an exciting adventure as we explore what it means to be human together. Humans are complex beings, which means that human relationships are challenging and have the capacity to be highly volatile. The joy for us, however, who are in Jesus, is that we get to look upon every challenge as an opportunity for the birthing of a new world.

I always keep the book The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis in the back of my mind. As Digory and Polly find their way into the unborn world of what is to become Narnia, they are there when the Creator, the mighty lion Aslan, begins to sing creation’s song.

The Coldplay song, “A Head Full of Dreams” reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia with its opening line, “Oh I think I’ve landed in a world I hadn’t seen…”

These works of art remind me that being a follower of Jesus is being a people caught up in the imagination of God—if you can imagine it, then it can happen.

Revelation 7:9 says this:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.

This is to say that we are dealing with a God who has a big imagination.

And I know that this could come across as, perhaps, a one-size-fits-all colonial scripture, I also think of that text from Amos 7:9, which says:

Are you not like the Ethiopians to me,
O people of Israel? says the Lord.
Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt,
and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?

The idea here being presented to us is that other nations and peoples have experienced liberation in the same way that our ancestors in faith did, and we can attribute it to the same source of our own liberation. This isn’t to cast our God on anyone else, but rather to name to our own community; that whatever this source of liberation be that we speak of, we do not own it, nor do we have any control over it.

As the scripture says,

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. (John 3:8)

The Spirit, which is of Jesus, isn’t held captive to our religious beliefs, but invites us to, as one song says, “colour outside the lines”.

When we think of today’s story one line sticks out to me
and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Is the Spirit that speaks to you giving you the courage to stand up to the demon of racism and inviting you and your community to speak truth to power in such a way as it causes others to have no response?

I’m not talking about shutting down deep conversations (for there are many who really have no idea), but rather allowing others to see the world inside of suffering, leading them to respond with empathy, saying to themselves, “I didn’t know…”. End of conversation.

Anti-racism work is really life-affirming work. Demons seek to destroy life, but we, the people of God, seek to bear witness to the life we have in Jesus, the Christ.

We continue to peer into what should be our Narnia—the world we hadn’t seen—the world as God sees it, where people of every nation, tribe, language, and more are able to bear witness to their own liberation and autonomy, for the demon of racism has been stood up to, opposed, and vanquished.

As the prophet declared,

If you do not stand firm in faith,
You shall not stand at all (Isaiah 7:9b)

“Spirit, Open My Heart” (MV 79) https://youtu.be/nnU09HqzJvs

 

Minute for Mission https://united-church.ca/stories/young-adults-lead-church-become-anti-racist

 

Prayers of the People

To you, O God, we pray.

In you, O God, we trust.

For you, O God, we wait.

Lead us, so that we may always follow in your way.

Teach us so that we may remain steadfast and faithful.

Remind us of our covenant,

so that we may be a covenantal people,

striving to care for all of creation as you care for us.

 

Where there is brokenness and discord in your creation…

(name parts of creation that are in unrest – environmental and social.)

Where there is death and dying…

(name people, places and species that have died or are dying, including endangered species.)

Where there is isolation, exile, and forced migration…

(name people, places, and species being displaced.)

Please send reminders of your love and, where possible, help us to be your messengers.

Amen.

Blessing and Sending Out

The amazing grace of our teacher, Jesus Christ
The extravagant love of God
And the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit
Be with you.

 

―The Rev. Adam Kilner is minister at Dunlop United Church in Sarnia, Ontario.

© 2021 The United Church of Canada/L’Église Unie du Canada. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ca. Any copy must include this notice.

All biblical quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Transfiguration Sunday- February 14, 2021

Good Morning Folks

Susan is still away, so today’s service has been prepared by the Worship Supply Team.

 

We will be starting with a hymn today, a pretty piece that Sonja found  https://youtu.be/vJec8-pfVQk

 

Have a great day!

 

Opening prayer

Based on Psalm 50:1–6

God of fire and rain,

you call us to you, you call on the soil beneath our feet, and it rises;

you pull on our heartstrings, and our chests heave at the sound of your voice.

Draw us near your merciful justice;

we ache to be comforted by your presence.

Set us apart from whatever would inhibit our most fervent adoration.

Amen.

 

Scripture Readings

2 Kings 2:1-12

Elijah Taken Up to Heaven

2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from

Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives

and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take

your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.

5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to

take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord

lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha

had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the

right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me

inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—

otherwise, it will not.”

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and

separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no

more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Mark 9:2-9

The Transfiguration

2After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.

There he was transfigured before them. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could

bleach them.

4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus,

“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

6

(He did

not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the

cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

8

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone

with them except Jesus.

9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they

had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by

permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Reflection: https://united-church.ca/blogs/round-table/praying-way-jesus-prayed

 

Prayers of the people

In the shadows of this world,

working for a politic of justice;

in the hunger of your people,

speaking out for trade rules that are fair.

May we be people of the transfiguration.

In the conflict of the world,

living lives of peace;

in the prejudice of our traditions,

speaking words of inclusion and acceptance.

May we be people of the transfiguration.

In the grieving of your people,

being the presence of hope;

in the propaganda of the nations,

being the way of truth.

May we be people of the transfiguration.

In the living of the faith,

being the community of love;

in the needs of your people,

being the hands of heaven.

May we be people of the transfiguration.

In the bad news of the papers,

being the good news of God;

in the ordinariness of the world,

being the presence of your glory.

May we be people of the transfiguration.

 

Minute for Mission: https://united-church.ca/stories/fresh-start-arias-story

 

Prayer: We offer time, talent, treasure. We offer one another the best of what we have to give and know you will

know just how to use it for your glory. Amen.

 

Benediction

We may fail; God does not.

We may end; God does not.

 

Bless and be blessed. Amen.

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February 7, 2021

A bright looking morning out there with the promise of moderating temperatures this afternoon!

Be sure to enjoy it!

Sounds like we in the north might be escaping the next blast of winter tonight!

Guess it is a good thing to share.

 

Welcome to our worship service at Faith Memorial United Church!

We are glad you have joined us from wherever you are this morning!

In these days of so much uncertainty and anxiety, it is good to connect with a power greater than our own, a light that offers us guidance for the journey. For us, as Christians, that source and light is Jesus. We celebrate his presence as we light a candle….

Those who wait for God shall renew their strength. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not grow weak.

So we come to these moments to worship, to be renewed, to wait for God,

to seek meaning and purpose for the living of our days.

Worship offers us the invitation to listen for the still, small voice of God

that we might be inspired by that voice to find a way forward.

Come, then, let us worship our God.

Let us pray:

Renewing and restoring God,

when our lives are wintry, you warm us with love.

When our spirits are weary, you breathe encouragement into our souls, helping us to soar.

May we know you in these moments of stillness.

May we wait for you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Hymn: 374 VU Come and Find the Quiet Centre    https://youtu.be/Mpb_nHwex-A

                             Time to Plug into Your Power Source

A month or so ago I purchased a portable emergency radio that I thought would come in handy in the event of a power outage. In addition to using regular batteries, it also can be powered with through a solar panel, a rechargeable battery pack and a hand crank. Surely one of those methods will see me through a storm as long as I remember to keep it charged!

I don’t know about you but as we approach the one year mark of this pandemic, it is feeling more and more like we all could use a little recharging! Both Premier Higgs and Dr. Russell have acknowledged over and over again that we are all getting tired with continually trying to cope with interpreting constantly changing rules and regulations in efforts to stave off the virus and now, its variants. Sometimes, our weariness is making us all a little testy. While the hope of a vaccine helps us to see a possible end in sight, we know that we are still a ways off. The constant call to be patient in our waiting and vigilant in our adherence to safe practices is wearing thin on most of us. Now, more than ever, we need to pay attention to the fact that we can’t do this on our own. Our power is not self generated. We need to plug into another source.

Our scriptures this morning call us to both remember and connect to a power source much greater than ourselves.

Isaiah addresses a people deep in the midst of exile. They are far from their homeland. Their homes and their temple have been plundered by an invading army. For many years they have been living in a strange world unable to practice their traditions and unable to worship as they once did. Some had even grown up without the memory of their homeland. This exile had left them both disoriented and depleted as a nation. Like us in many ways, they were weary and feeling vulnerable. Nonetheless, hope was in sight. Isaiah speaks to them of a return to Israel as he calls them to find their strength in God. As he does so, he invites them to get a grip, to cast a wider vision and to see God’s larger perspective. As you read this passage, you might listen for Isaiah’s tone of exasperation. To me it sounds a bit like a frustrated parent- ” I told you before. Don’t you remember anything? Look around. Don’t you get it? How many times do I have to tell you? As scolding as it sounds, Isaiah also offers reassurance and the promise of God’s revival:

Isaiah 40:21-31

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
    or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
    calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
    mighty in power,
    not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint
.

I see this as Isaiah replugging the people into their power source by helping them to remember that their story and their roots as a people  are intricately connected to God who created them and who continues to journey with them. Only when they reach out and connect to that power can they find hope. Only then will the crippling fear and frustration that has overtaken them be overcome. Only then, as they learn to trust, will they recognize that God isn’t finished with them yet. Only then will they receive the energy they need to reboot and move into the future God has in store for them.

 

That same power source is offered to us too in our bone deep weariness, not only with this pandemic but with so many issues in our world and our personal lives that continue to weigh us down- illnesses, work and family dynamics, the environmental crisis, the economy, racism, violence, oppression, abuse… you name it. As Isaiah calls to the people of Israel in their waiting to have patience and to remember their story as part of God’s people, so we too hear in his words a call to step back and to see God’s bigger picture. It is this connection that will gift us with determination to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint even when life feels so overwhelming to us. Like them, we know of the strength God offers. Still, like them, we find ourselves needing to be reminded and encouraged by that strength in order to stay the course.

 

Jesus knew this as well. In our gospel which finds him “here, there and everywhere”, he also knew the importance of recharging and going deeper. This passage reads almost like “a day in the life of Jesus”. Just after he had taught in the synagogue and driven out a demon( last week’s reading), we now find him seeking a private retreat at the home of Simon Peter. Once again, though, he is called into action as Simon Peter’s mother in law presents with a fever:

Mark 1:29-39

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

I like this passage because as much as Jesus always seemed to be on the go, he also recognized that a life of ‘go,go,go’ could very well leave him depleted. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him when ” the whole city” gathers at the door seeking healing. One commentator put it this way- “news about him spread faster than an ice cream truck speaker in a July heat wave!” Today we might say word of his healing went viral. Yet, surprisingly, despite the demands on him, Jesus at some point said no. He set up a personal boundary space to give him a chance to recharge. I imagine the disciples to be a little indignant as they set out to find him. Where could he be? Doesn’t he know he is needed?

When they do find him, they discover that he had been off by himself in a deserted place for a time of prayer. When the disciples try to beckon him back, Jesus refuses. From his time in prayer, he connects to that bigger picture of his life’s work and purpose. He did not want people to follow him merely because he was able to give them what they wanted by dispensing healings. He did not want to ride on his reputation as a wonder worker. He knew that God had given him a different life agenda. His mission was to preach the Good News by sharing with them God’s alternative vision for the world. Rather than being enticed by the popularity and applause of the ministry that had just happened, Jesus chose to move on toward those who hadn’t yet heard the Good News.

That time spent in prayer was his recharging time. It allowed him the opportunity to connect with his purpose and power source in God, to see the bigger picture, much like what Isaiah had been calling the people of Israel to experience in their time of exile. Doing so enabled both of them to claim their anchor in God’s purposes and to discern their next steps into the future. I imagine it to be like hitting the “reset” button on an appliance. It provided opportunity to begin in a new direction.

As tired as we all are with this pandemic and its restrictions, I can’t help but wonder if, in the midst of it, we too are not be calling to use it as a time of replugging into our power source and to do a bit of rebooting of our own as individuals, as communities and as churches.

A week or so ago, I was part of a  zoom meeting with 250 plus people from our 3 Eastern Regions of the United Church( New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Gaspe and Bermuda) The topic was annual meetings and annual reports in pandemic times. There was a lot of helpful information that brought much reprieve to us as congregations. Nonetheless, I also was interested to hear how so many are trying to keep everything exactly like it always was despite the fact that we are living in a global pandemic! Some were worrying about much that, given our circumstances, seems not to be as important as we once thought it was. As I see it, now is the time for focussing on the essentials of our faith journeys and our life together in community. That is why I have been trying to stress with you the importance of staying in touch and encouraging one another. Now is the time for us to connect to the Source who sustains us in the chaos and uncertainty of these times. That way, when we get together again in person, we will be stronger having been fed by the God’s word and by our relationships. All the other pieces will fall in place in time.

We might see this time as our “deserted place” where we can reenergize and recharge. Some of you, as I know from talking with you, are discovering the power of this time for prayer and contemplation, for rebalancing your lives and your relationships with friends and loved ones. Some are enjoying the time to connect with the purpose and meaning of life, to go deeper and regain perspective. Funny, somehow, as much as we all might desire to be freer right now to go where we please without having to worry so much, did you ever think about how so often, what we were doing before was simply being in constant motion but not necessarily going anywhere?

This, of course, doesn’t mean that we need to use this waiting time as a time to be passive and do nothing constructive at all. Nonetheless, maybe it is simply calling us to slow down and to allow ourselves to connect to our divine power source who reminds us that we don’t have to fix everything in our lives and in this world ourselves. We have help.

In an email message I sent you a week or so ago, I highlighted the podcast Making Hope Visible hosted by Laura Hunter from our Regional Office in Sackville. In a recent episode she interviewed retired minister Don MacDougall of Fredericton who has been intentional all his life in practicing contemplation. Just as Jesus was unapologetic in stating his need to withdraw into times of prayer in order to retreat and recharge, so it is important  for us also to take time out of this world of “doing” in order to, as writer Tom Harper in his book The Hidden Fire says it, concentrate on the process of “being and becoming”.

Sometimes, we maybe just need to decide not to do something in much the same way as Jesus did by opting not to go back to the ministry of healing he had been preoccupied with the day before. Sometimes we may simply need to take our hands off the throttle for a bit as in the words of our hymn earlier in our worship,” to find our quiet centre, to be at peace and simply be.” Such times can be nourishing and deepening moments for us, if we are open to allowing them to be. They can help to redirect us as individuals and as church communities to new ministries among new people.

Maybe this time in which we find ourselves is truly Sabbath time that will give shape and renewed purpose to our lives as disciples of Christ in community with one another.  My hope is that it might rebuild us in a new way, if we are open to what it might be saying to us. Perhaps too, from this experience, we might emerge with a more renewed balance for our living and a renewed sense of direction for our churches.

So hang in there, my friends. Find your power cord and don’t forget to plug it in! It is that connection to our divine power source that will both sustain us in this wearisome and troubling time and reenergize for the new future ministries that are ahead. Amen.     

  Minute for Mission

The sustainability goals are important because we are all interconnected…”

Text of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, each in a separate square

Mission & Service is one of the ways we work toward meeting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

What are your dreams for the world? And if you could turn your dreams into concrete goals, what would they be? Surely, right now a quick end to the COVID-19 pandemic would top the list!

Did you know the United Nations made a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the world? In 2015, the UN vowed to achieve these goals by 2030. The list includes eliminating poverty and hunger as well as making sure everyone has access to quality education and health care.

These are ambitious goals. In light of COVID-19, they are more necessary than ever.

The first week of February is International Development Week (IDW). During this week, Global Affairs Canada encourages organizations across the country to celebrate the ways we are working to achieve the UN’s goals.

Did you know your generosity through Mission & Service supports justice work in 19 countries around the world through 80 trusted organizational partnerships? In Canada, we support 81 life-changing ministries like food banks and shelters.

These numbers aren’t empty statistics; they reflect real people who, thanks to Mission & Service, receive the support they need. This support means they can access crucial things the goals highlight, like clean water, food, education, and healthcare.

“The sustainability goals are important because we are all interconnected, and as people of faith, we are called to care about the world. What’s happening globally affects us here, and what happens here has a global impact,” says Thivan Hoang, Program Coordinator for Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Response at The United Church of Canada. “In the COVID-19 crisis we’ve seen, for example, how parts of the world that don’t have the means or governance to protect and vaccinate affects all of us. This crisis has really underlined that there is no us and them. We are one community. Keeping our eye on the goals reminds us of that.”

Mission & Service is your church―our church―in action. Together, we work to achieve life-changing, indeed world-changing, goals.

Mission & Service is one of the ways we are living the dream―God’s dream of a world where no one goes hungry, no one lacks healthcare, and no one feels alone.

Thank you for your generosity.

 

Let us pray:

Gracious God, like the people of Israel long ago, sometimes we too need to ask and answer for ourselves the questions Isaiah posed. Yes, God, we know you are with us in the snow and ice, in the barrenness of the trees, in the weariness of this pandemic. You hear the worries on our minds and spirits…

We look to you for renewal and revival as we strive to continue to be your people. Be the wings of our strength in this wilderness waiting. Grant us courage for the facing of these days. Fill us with hope as we seek to serve you and our neighbours. Even on days when we are at our weakest, help us to walk and not faint. In hours of pain and fear, in times of trial, in hours of sleeplessness and despair, steady us and support us like a mother eagle carries her young to safety.

We lift before you all the many this day who are feeling tired and worn down in this world- the many who are struggling for racial justice and equality, the many who are working for the restoration of the environment, the many who are imprisoned, the many whose task it is to care for others, the many who are hungry for food, for love and for respect, the many who are struggling with physical, mental or emotional stresses and challenges, the many who are seeking fair wages and affordable housing, the many who are concerned for their personal safety in the face of disease, violence and threatening relationships. Help us to reconnect to our mission of sharing your Good News through our words and our actions to support others both locally and globally. Remind us, when the way seems long, to let go of the throttle and to turn to you in prayer and silence.

Hear our prayers, O God, for ourselves, for one another and for this world you have made, as we offer them in the name of Jesus, who brings us hope and strength for our journeys, and who taught us to pray saying.. Our Father

 

Hymn: 808 VU On Eagle’s Wings

 https://youtu.be/MvpjxfWrjzY

 

Blessing:

As we go into this new week,

may we know the strength of God’s wings to carry us,

may we find renewal and peace in Christ

and may the power of the Holy Spirit uphold us. Amen.

 

Take care everyone. Plug into God’s strength and keep the faith!

 

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