March 19, 2023

Welcome to our worship service at Faith Memorial United Church for this 4th Sunday of Lent.

Hard to believe that we are only 2 weeks away from the beginning of Holy Week.

Our Lenten wilderness tree continues to receive your weekly thoughts. Please check it out on our Facebook site as it gets updated.

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.

In the name of Jesus who said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”, we light this candle as a symbol of the insight he brings to our living.

Call to Worship:

Come into the wilderness where the world looks different.

We come to follow Jesus who challenges us to shift our perspectives.

Come into this time of worship open to the promise of new possibilities.

We come to open our eyes to endless grace and new insights.

Let us worship and praise God together!


Let us pray:

Gracious God,
we are grateful for all that you have done for us,
for all that you are doing in us,
and for all that you will do through us.
Open our eyes to see your presence among us,
moving in powerful ways at all times
and in all places.
Open our ears to hear familiar words in new ways—
ways that will change us and challenge us
to become the people you created us to be.
Shift our perspectives this day,

that we might be transformed to look at the world differently. Amen.

Hymn: 371 VU   Open My Eyes, that I May See 

Prayer of Confession:

God of endless possibilities,

you know how we have held on to our own ways too long,

trusting in what we have come to know so well,

and believing in our own comforts.

We find it challenging to let go of the familiar

and to trust in you.

Forgive us when we have become stuck in old ways of seeing,

ways that fail to challenge us beyond long-held perspectives.

Teach us to let go of our pride and our fears

that we might look deeper at the issues of this world.

Show us how to see, to really see, and to understand

all that you are revealing to us. Amen.


Words of Affirmation:

In the letter to the Ephesians (from the Message) we hear these words:

“You groped your way through the murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now.”

“The bright light of Christ makes our way plain.”

Let us live as children of that light- open to God’s love, grace and direction. Amen.

Reading and Reflection:

Shifting Our Vision in the Wilderness

Who can we blame? As I listen to the news lately, it seems to me that there is a lot of focus on that question. A week or so ago, the CEOs of our country’s major grocery chains were hauled in before Parliament to discuss the rising food costs. There was much finger pointing as you might recall. MPs blamed these companies for profiteering on the backs of hard-working Canadians. Meanwhile, the executives blamed things like weak supply chains, the war in the Ukraine, general inflation, increased transportation costs and the lack of labour availability. Another day, here in our province, I saw the headline “Blame Covid for Big Unspent Bucks”.

I guess it is probably human nature to want to assign blame to life’s difficulties and tragedies. Someone, something must be at fault, we say. We are desperate to have a reason or an explanation for what is happening in our lives or in the world around us. We do it all the time. The roof leaks or the basement floods- we search for a cause, sometimes we fault the contractor who skipped an important step in the construction of the building. A divorce happens and we blame one partner or the other. A couple unable to conceive a child meets with a fertility specialist and each of them secretly wonder who is to blame. A church budget falls short. Who, or what is to blame? A young person is charged with a driving offense. Fingers are pointed at the parents- were they too lenient with their child or maybe they put too much pressure on him or her.

Who can we blame? Who sinned? That is the very question the disciples ask of Jesus as they walk past a man born blind sitting and begging by the road. Who is responsible? Is it the man himself? Or was it his parents? In the context of Jesus’ time when blindness and other ailments were viewed as punishment for sins, it was, in all fairness to these disciples, an innocent question. Yet, as you will hear in this story, Jesus resists going down that rabbit hole of assigning blame. Instead, Jesus says that his blindness has nothing to do with sin at all. The world doesn’t work that way. You’re asking the wrong question. Think of it another way, he says. Change your perception from obsessing over the past. Shift your vision. Ask yourself instead what is God doing here, how is God’s glory breaking through in the here and now and  how you can be part of it. Unfortunately, though, only one person in this story really gets this. The rest continue to scratch their heads, turning themselves inside out, trying desperately to link cause and effect by obsessing over the details of what took place. All the while, they attempt to assign blame to the parents, to Jesus as the healer and to the man himself. If you really listen carefully, this story reads much like a comedy. Yet, at the same time, it is also a sad commentary on our inability to enlarge our perspective in order to see God’s grace at work. As you hear this story, notice too that the healing takes only a couple of verses. The other 39 verses occupy themselves with the ensuing controversy and debate that keeps the whole community stuck and unable to move ahead in their understanding about who Jesus is.

John 9: 1-41 (in person service is in reader’s theatre format)

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So, the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.

The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”

But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”

10 So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”

11 He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So, I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 They asked, “Where is this man?”

He replied, “I don’t know.”

13 Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. 15 So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So, they were divided. 17 Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?”

He replied, “He’s a prophet.”

18 The Jewish leaders didn’t believe the man had been blind and received his sight until they called for his parents. 19 The Jewish leaders asked them, “Is this your son? Are you saying he was born blind? How can he now see?”

20 His parents answered, “We know he is our son. We know he was born blind. 21 But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who healed his eyes. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they feared the Jewish authorities. This is because the Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That’s why his parents said, “He’s old enough. Ask him.”

24 Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”

25 The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”

26 They questioned him: “What did he do to you? How did he heal your eyes?”

27 He replied, “I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.”

30 The man answered, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. 32 No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this.”

34 They responded, “You were born completely in sin! How is it that you dare to teach us?” Then they expelled him.

35 Jesus heard they had expelled the man born blind. Finding him, Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Human One?”

36 He answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have seen him. In fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Jesus.

39 Jesus said, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard what he said and asked, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

You see what I mean? A man receives his sight and everyone else loses theirs. A good thing happens- the man is given vision by Jesus but no one- not his community, not the religious leaders, not even his own parents say alleluia, praise the Lord. No one is excited about this new thing that has taken place. Instead, one by one, they work their hardest to disprove what has happened.

The neighbours debate whether he actually is the same man that used to sit at the roadside. But he is no longer in his usual place. Maybe, he just looks like him. Besides where did the healer go? What was keeping them from recognizing him? Was the man’s disability the only thing that defined who he was to them? Did they not know him as a person?  Whatever it was, the neighbours were intensely divided over what had taken place.

The religious authorities jump in next with their fingers pointing. No way, this can’t be. And who is this so-called healer and how can you claim he is a prophet of God? If he were from God, he would be following the Sabbath rules, our rules, and would not be healing on the Sabbath. We would know if this fellow was from God and he is not. We’ve got to put a stop to this. He is a sinner. How dare he subvert our authority and break our rules? He needs to be punished for messing with propriety. How dare he disrupt our set way of doing things! How dare he try to change our way of looking at the world and threaten our good order around here! How dare he rattle our world with his inconvenient truth. So, much like us when our systems are disrupted, when our way of doing things is turned upside down- even like what has happened to so many things during Covid, they did their best to get everything back to where it belonged. They wanted nothing to do with this disorienting fellow Jesus and the disruptions to their ways of doing and being.

Even his own parents can’t see what has happened. When questioned, they plead ignorance. They know that claiming that they believe in this man Jesus will be cause to have them thrown out of the synagogue. So out of fear, they pass the buck back to their son. We haven’t a clue what has happened. Ask our son. He is old enough to speak for himself.

Meanwhile, through all this turmoil, the now healed man stands alone in his story. Through each round of questioning, he reiterates what has taken place. He alone is smiling. Everyone else is deadly serious. They deny what is right under their noses, refusing to shift their vision. He alone sees Jesus for who he is- the one who has come into the world to bring sight and light. Yet, his testimony goes unheard to the point where by the end of the story when even, despite his newly found sight and insight into who Jesus is, he is cast out of the synagogue.

But that’s when Jesus re-enters the scene and overturns all the conventional hierarchies. In a conversation with this man, in the words of commentator Matthew Myers Boulton, Jesus recruits a new apostle from among this formerly excluded outsider at the side of the road. The rest of this man’s community simply couldn’t see, they couldn’t get who Jesus was. They couldn’t see the new thing God was doing through Jesus in their very midst. They were stuck in their old molds. They had got bogged down in keeping things the same- In maintaining the status quo by their rigid adherence to the Sabbath laws and the way things had always been done. They couldn’t shift their vision from finger- pointing and blaming in order to see the new possibilities and opportunities of God’s healing, love and grace that were being revealed through Jesus.

As the story concludes, it is only the healed man who could get his head around all that Jesus was doing. Only he could see, not just physically see, but spiritually see, the abundant life and light Jesus was bringing to the world. As he keeps reiterating, “All I know is I once was blind, but now I see.” Meanwhile, the rest of the people in the story are oblivious, too caught up in their old ways of blaming and finger pointing to be free enough to see, too focussed on thinking of hardships only as sins of the past rather than occasions for participating in God’s work of amazing grace in the here and now.

The religious authorities were closed to that new reality present in Jesus. To echo back to the very beginning of this story it is their sin that remains. They can’t recognize the grace of God alive and active in Jesus. They are caught in the past, in finding someone to blame. They can’t see the present possibility and new future Jesus is ushering in through his life and ministry. In essence, that’s why Jesus was such a threat to them. They were too busy looking through their rear-view mirrors instead of their windshields. They couldn’t see what God was up to.

Our Lenten journey through the wilderness challenges us to shift our vision, to see with new insight, and to listen for God’s prompting to enlarge our perspectives. This means seeing the world as God sees it.  When we learn to do so, opportunities for new direction and new life abound. In clearing our eyes, we develop new skills to see with greater compassion the suffering of our world. Once we find ways to acknowledge our blind spots, our own finger- pointing and blaming, realizing the futility of such efforts, there is no end to the possibilities of witnessing to God’s amazing love and grace. Amen.

Minute for Mission

Educating the Ministers of Tomorrow

The care of people who are strangers to one another―the importance and impact of that can’t be overstated. (See video link)

You may think Mission & Service just happens far away from your church.

But the effects of Mission & Service may be as close as your local pulpit.

Mission & Service does a surprising amount of development in your local church, recruiting new ministers and funding theological schools. It even shapes the hymn books you sing from every service.

Another important way Mission & Service supports local ministry: by providing academic bursaries for students studying to become ministers and theological leaders.

“The church has a lot to offer in terms of witness to the community and supporting people who are struggling,” explains the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Janzen-Ball, the United Church’s Executive Minister for Theological Leadership.

The money is really helpful, but the other thing that is so important to students is realizing that people throughout the church cared enough to donate to Mission & Service.

Janzen-Ball knows there’s more to a bursary than just the financial gift. “The money is really helpful,” she says, “but the other thing that is so important to students is realizing that people throughout the church cared enough to donate to Mission & Service.”

The Rev. Alexa Gilmour received one of these bursaries when she was still a ministry candidate. “I was a single parent, and I knew I couldn’t get through without support,” Gilmour says. “I felt blessed by God through people who donated and who, by giving, encouraged me on my journey.

“I have tremendous gratitude for that important role the church played in my life at that time.”

Janzen-Ball wants you to know that your gifts do matter.

“They matter both tangibly in peoples’ lives in a real way but also in intangible ways because they signal the support of the wider community,” she says. “The care of people who are strangers to one another―the importance and impact of that can’t be overstated.

“Giving to Mission & Service is an opportunity to support future and current leaders. Those gifts make a significant difference.”


Invitation to Prayer: One way that my vision shifted through an experience in a wilderness time of my life was…

Let us pray:

God of light and fresh understandings, as we continue along this season of Lent, we give thanks for the gift of light that brightens our days- for the sun that rises and sets and offers us day and night, for the moon and stars that mark the passage of time and seasons. Thank for sight and insight, for the ability to notice beauty in nature, for moments of clarity as we ponder life’s deeper questions and look toward the future. We remember also God, that you are present and active in the darkness as well- when we sleep and are refreshed, when seeds are dormant and animals hibernate undisturbed, when new life can grow safely in the womb.

We thank you for the many ways you challenge us to shift our vision, lifting our blind spots and enlarging our perception. As we look around our world, as we share encounters with neighbours and strangers alike, teach us to see with the eyes of your compassion and respond to needs that present. Make us especially attentive to those who are struggling, to those, like the man born blind in our gospel, who are marginalized, standing on the edges of our community. Show us ways that we might work together to change systems that cause suffering and pain to others. Open our eyes to see those who are denied the basic necessities of life, who live with fear or shame, the many who are on the receiving end of fingers being pointed or insults being hurled, the many who are living in the midst of war, the many who are ill and receiving treatment, the many who are acting to care and to reach out to the oppressed.  Create in us a desire to encounter others with deep respect. Enlighten us to live as people who share the gift of your amazing grace, holding the others’ well-being above personal interests. In your goodness and mercy, O God, hear these prayers of our hearts, as we offer them in the name of Jesus, who brings us light for our way as we pray together… Our Father…

Hymn: 266 VU Amazing Grace 


In the wilderness, our eyes have been opened to new insights.

God now sends us out to be beacons of light in the world,

witnesses to Christ’s healing presence and alive to the Spirit’s imaginings

for a new world.

Christ sends us out to tell our stories and to make a creative difference.


We go in peace to love and serve. Amen.


March 12, 2023

Good afternoon, everyone! Such a beautiful day out there. Here’s hoping!

Welcome to our worship service for this 3rd Sunday of Lent.

Good Courage Lenten Book Study and Fellowship continues on Wed. @ 7pm. Watch for your link in email if you have the book.

Knitting Circle will meet next Sunday after worship. 

Have a great week! Remember: God moments are all around you through all the ups and downs of your journey. Be sure to remain open to God’s in breaking in your life- often through the little things, the simple things, the moments of inspiration, the conversations…


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.

As we gather for worship, we light this candle to remind us that our lives are centred in Jesus who offers us living water.

Call to Worship:

Come into the wilderness of possibility where strangers meet,

and everything changes in one conversation.

Come away from all that you thought you knew and find your voice.

We have so much to say, so much has gone unsaid.

Come into the wilderness and find others who are eager and ready to speak with you and hear your truth.

Come let us worship God who offers us refreshment amidst our questions.


Let us pray: (responsive)

In the driest desert, O God, you provided a rock that held a fountain for those who thirst.

We too come with thirsty souls, seeking to be filled with your love.

In the place of quarrelling, you provided an answer that holds life for those who hope.

We too come with thirsty souls, seeking to be filled with your love.

Beside a well, in the noontime heat, you provided living water that opened a woman to share the good news with her neighbours.

We too come with thirsty souls, seeking to be filled with your love.

Meet us here, God, that we too might drink of the new life you offer us. Amen.


Hymn: 626 VU  I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say  

Prayer of Confession:

Patient and ever-faithful God,
we come to you this morning
confessing that we can be a grumpy
and unsatisfied people.
When things are not perfect in our eyes,
we murmur and complain,
and grumble and doubt.
We lose hope in the people around us
and, even worse, we lose hope in you.
We challenge instead of accept.
We become impatient with you, with others and even ourselves.
We dip our buckets into old wells of regret and bitterness.

We close ourselves off from your life-giving water

that can truly satisfy our many thirsts.
Forgive our doubts and complaining.
Forgive our loss of hope.
Let your healing, life-giving waters pour over us.
Restore our souls. Amen.


Words of Assurance:

In Jesus Christ, we are promised living water.

It is given to us in such abundance that we will never be thirsty again.

Over and over again, we are loved into life’s fullness. Thanks be to God! Amen.


Readings and Reflection:

Thirsty Voices in the Wilderness

As I mentioned earlier this week in one of the emails, this week’s readings are all about water. We all know the importance of water in our lives. It is critical for our existence. How many times have we been told- be sure to keep well-hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water. It is especially crucial in the midst of heat waves and when we are exercising. Drink before you are thirsty as thirst is a sign that we are already dehydrated. All our vital organs from our skin to our circulatory and digestive systems to our brain function depend on having plenty of water in our bodies. When I think back over my life, thankfully, I have never known a time when I have not had easy access to good drinking water. Yes, I have experienced thirst and know how, when I have felt that, water was all I could think about.  However, I cannot imagine the panic that must set in being unable to turn to a faucet or a nearby well for water in the midst of that thirst.

Yet, this is far from the norm for many people in our world. Water shortages affect 400 million people on this earth. The World Health Association predicts that by the year 2050 that figure will be 4 billion. For this reason, it is little wonder that many are predicting that the next wars facing this earth will be fought over water. The current droughts we are hearing about in the Horn of Africa are frightening. Imagine what it is like to be unable to irrigate crops. Think about the problem the lack of water creates for proper sanitation and hygiene and the ensuing levels of disease. Even in our own country we have heard the stories of First Nations communities who have no access to clean water. At any given time, there are upwards of 100 of these First Nations who have either long term or short-term water advisories in place.

Many of these current concerns over water can help us understand the crisis facing the Israelite people as they journeyed through the wilderness. There is no way possible that they could have carried enough water for their 40 years of journeying. We can imagine how parched they would be each time on their trek, at least until they reached the next oasis. Is it any wonder that they complain of thirst to Moses? Who could blame them?

Exodus 17: 1-7:

 From the wilderness of Sin, the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do for this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Having such thirst was a serious matter, especially in the desert heat, especially when they were lugging children, cooking utensils and perhaps some kind of sleeping pack on their backs. This was not just them being cranky and irritable toward Moses and God. Their thirst was a matter of life and death. It is little wonder too that, in the midst of their physical thirsts, they also express their spiritual thirsts for a sign of God’s presence in what feels very much like abandonment. It is little wonder that they are quickly losing patience and asking Moses, “Why did you bring us here anyway?” Yet, God’s immediate response in providing Moses with instruction to strike that rock reminds them that, even in the barrenness of the wilderness, God still can be trusted to provide refreshment for the journey.

The water they receive satiates their thirst on both a physical and a spiritual level, offering them the reassurance they need to keep going. But as we know the rest of the story of their long journey through the wilderness, they, much like us on our journeys, will need to be reminded of God’s presence again, and again and again. It was in their expression of their thirst and in all the vulnerable parts of their wilderness journey that their relationship with God deepens. It is then that they learn what it means to trust in God, what it means to trust in God’s provision for them, often in unexpected ways, like the water that comes from that rock.

In our gospel reading, at the beginning at least, Jesus is the thirsty one. We find him sitting at a well in the noon day sun, parched and weary from his travels. There, in a wilderness of sorts, he initiates a conversation with a Samaritan woman who is in her own sort of spiritual wilderness. Yet, she has what he needs- a bucket to draw water from the well. As she offers him physical water, he, in turn, offers her what she needs – living water. In the course of their somewhat confusing conversation, the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and a woman in the gospels, the woman asks questions and receives answers. At first, she struggles with what he is saying. But she remains open as the content of their exchange deepens. Bridges are built. She moves from seeing Jesus simply as a Jewish man in an unusual place to seeing him as a prophet, the Messiah and finally the Saviour of the world. From this simple everyday encounter at this well comes a life- changing moment- not just for this Samaritan woman but for all her Samaritan neighbours as Jesus gives her a voice that others will hear. And that voice effects change as she leads them to believe in Jesus.

Let’s listen to the story (readers’ theatre format in person) as it is told in

John 4: 5-42

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

I am not going to get into all the details of this lengthy story. However, I do like how well-known Biblical commentator and preacher Barbara Brown Taylor summarizes it: “By telling the woman who she is, Jesus shows her who he is. By confirming her true identity, he reveals his own and that is how it still happens. The Messiah is the one in whose presence you know who you really are- the good and bad of it, the all of it- the hope of it. There is no hiding.”

Jesus takes this woman from being an outsider and places her in the role of a provider. In crossing the taboo of speaking to her as a woman and a Samaritan, Jesus breaks down the barriers of sexism and racism. Unlike her peers who treated her with contempt, branding her as a fallen woman and refusing to associate with her, Jesus sees her for who she truly is- a child of God. No wonder she is so surprised when he first speaks to her.  He gives her life the worth and meaning she had been thirsting for. He knows the truth of her painful past but nowhere does he condemn her or call for repentance of her sin as many have interpreted this story. He simply ‘sees” her and reaches out to give her dignity. Not having ever received such affirmation before, it is little wonder that at this point she recognized him as a prophet- one who knows all about her and accepts her anyway.

Her restless thirst for that something more in life is now quenched. The living water that becomes a spring of water is now overflowing within her and out into the life of her neighbours. No wonder she leaves the water jar behind. It is nothing more than a symbol of her past. Now, she is excited to embrace the peace and provision Jesus offers. She has moved from a wilderness of isolation, of whispers and assumptions people made about her to a life of dignity and self-worth. All because of one encounter and a conversation initiated by Jesus who took her seriously and remained patient with her, nudging her along as she took those baby steps toward greater understanding. Sort of how we take those steps in our journey- not with all the answers, but with an openness and a willingness to engage in the conversations and to express our thirst for new life. In the midst of the everyday routines we, like this woman encountering Jesus on her daily trip to the well, can discover that God provides the refreshment that we so desperately desire and go forth to share it with others who are thirsting in our community and world. Thanks be to God. Amen

Minute for Mission

 WSCF-ME’s role is to be a mediator of peace and understanding.

Two men prepare to cast a fishing net into the ocean as a several people on the beach look on.

“Cast your nets,” public beach, Sidon, Lebanon

Credit: WSCF-ME


The entanglement of religion and politics in the Middle East often divides communities and leads to conflict, particularly among young people. “We all agreed that it is important to focus on universal values and ethics, reject extremism, and make the necessary efforts to develop practical formulas for fruitful cooperation,” says Rima Bayan Sleem, a 33-year-old judicial assistant from Chouf, Lebanon.

Thanks to your Mission & Service gifts, Rima and 36 other young adults gathered in Beirut, Lebanon, for the World Student Christian Federation-Middle East Region (WSCF-ME) 2021. They participated in an Interfaith Dialogue program that develops leaders skilled in preventing violence and fostering peace between communities.

WSCF-ME’s role is to be a mediator of peace and understanding amid all the overwhelming regional issues that include sectarian strife. “The Interfaith Dialogue program’s importance lies in the fact that it brings together youth from different religious backgrounds…to engage in a constructive peace-facilitating dialogue,” says Mira Neaimeh, Regional Executive for WSCF-ME. “I personally believe that change is done in small steps, starting from our regional gatherings that sow seeds of peace to be reaped in the future.”

Your Mission & Service gifts help leaders in the Middle East and across the world collaborate and promote peaceful dialogue.

The United Church of Canada is strongly committed to working ecumenically with Christians of diverse traditions and with people of other faiths for the common good, particularly in building peace and addressing shared concerns, such as climate change.


Invitation to Prayer: In the wilderness times of life, I quench my spiritual thirst     by… ( please write on your water drop and place on our wilderness tree)


Let us pray:


God of all our journeys, we thank you that through your life-giving water you refresh us along the way. You shower us with gifts of love and life, of faith and hope, of family and friends. You offer us courage over the difficult hurdles. You hear us in our grumbling and times of doubt. You bring healing when we need comfort. In those many places when we are feeling depleted and empty, you fill us with your grace overflowing.    As with the woman at the well, you know us through and through, and still, you offer us your love and acceptance. Thank you, God, for your constant presence in our lives, especially in our wilderness times, when we are impatient and find ourselves searching for meaning and purpose.

We pray this day for all among us who are thirsting… for acceptance, for peace, for the basic necessities of life like food, clothing or shelter, for freedom, for companionship and a sense of community and belonging. We pray for the many places in our country and world where water is needed, for places of drought, for places where the water is polluted, for places where people must travel long distances to community wells in order to get water for their daily living, and for places where issues around access to clean drinking water have been caught up in financial and political wrangling.

O God, help us be vessels through which your living water flows forth to others. Show us ways to treat others with respect and the dignity they deserve. Make us willing, as Jesus was at the well, to cross boundaries, to initiate conversations with people we have never met before. Help us to listen to their stories and their struggles. Help us to support one another as we look for ways of speaking and acting on your good news in our daily living.

O God, we entrust these prayers and our voices to you in the name of Jesus, who gives us strength for our journeys and hope for the way, and we continue to pray as he taught us saying… Our Father…



Hymn: 625 VU Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah  

In our Lenten wildernesses, we have been refreshed by the living water that God gives to us so freely.
Now we are sent out to be water bearers to a dry and parched world,

to bring hope and healing to others in need of the new life God offers.


We go knowing that the God of love and hope
knows our story and is listening for each of our voices.  Amen


March 5, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to our worship service. 

Lenten Book Conversation on Courage to Hope continues this Wed. @ 7pm. Any who purchased book, please watch for details in your email box.

Be sure to watch for details later this week about a soup take out!

Also, be sure to check out our latest decorations on our Lenten wilderness tree. See FMUC Facebook page.

Have a great week.


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.

 Christ’s presence offers us a way when often it feels like there is no way. As a reminder of this assurance on our journeys, we light this candle.

Call to Worship:

Come into the wilderness.

Step into the unknown opportunity that is here in this place with all our questions.

The wilderness can leave us uncertain and filled with doubts.

We step into the wilderness because we have questions and it is here that it feels safe to ask what we long to know.

We come together to find a deeper understanding of God’s love.

May God meet us here as we worship.

Let us pray: (in unison)

O God, keeper of our lives, watcher of our souls,

we dare to venture into the unknown-

to the edge of the wilderness where you will guide us.

We come to be led and encouraged.

We come to find answers to questions we didn’t even know we had.

We come to find you, steadfast and true. Amen.


Hymn: p. 842 VU Unto the Hills (Psalm 121) 

Prayer of Confession:

Looking out on the many wilderness challenges of our lives, O God,

can feel like an impassable mountain or a wide, deepening sea,

hindering our way forward.

Often, we feel discouraged and overwhelmed, longing for greater control.

Sometimes, we don’t move from where we are because it feels too uncertain.

Yet, you know our hearts, God, and the disbelief that lives there.

We fail to listen for life-giving possibilities.

We are timid. We fear failure.

We even confess our fear of dying even if it is for the sake of truly living.

Hold us in your grace, O God, and give us strength for the journey. Amen.

Words of Affirmation:

Beloved, the God who calls us to take bold steps outward, is the One who journeys closely within.

In God, there is companionship and renewed strength through all the wildernesses we encounter along our way.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Readings and Reflection:

Wilderness Vulnerabilities and Opportunities

You would think that having grown up only 15 minutes from the Lobster Capital of the World, I might have known this. If I had ever learned it, I guess I must have forgotten it. The fact that lobsters have to leave their shells in order to grow. It is a process known as molting. If they don’t abandon their shells, the old shell soon becomes their prison and finally their casket. And the tricky part for the lobster is that brief period of time when the old shell is discarded and the new shell is not yet formed. During that time, the lobster is terribly vulnerable. Now I don’t know much about how a lobster reasons but I would think that this in between time has to be a scary time. Hungry schools of fish are ready to eat them. For a while, at least, the old shell must look pretty good!

I have been thinking about that in light of the theme of wilderness and the wilderness tree we have in our sanctuary. I am not sure if any of you wrote this word on your leaf last week when you were trying to describe how wilderness feels, but I think ‘vulnerable’ might be a good word. It kind of captures a whole pile of feelings- like fearfulness, discomfort, anxiety or uncertainty.

I would think that this might also describe how Abram and Sarai must have felt when God called them to let go of their familiar and settled life and go forth to embrace a future not yet revealed to them. Such a strange request, especially given that in their culture it was unheard of for anyone to leave their homeland and family. How unsettling this must have been for them! Let’s listen to how the story goes:

Genesis 12: 1-4

12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Imagine that! Talk about going forth on nothing but a wing and a prayer! And that part about “the land that I will show you”. What’s all that about? Doesn’t this place have a name? Isn’t there a map or an itinerary? Not a lot of clarity is there? Should we wait until things are a bit more certain? Imagine the wondering and confusion of both Abram and Sarai as they took their first steps into the wilderness of the unknown. Are we doing the right thing? Then, that first night out under the stars- did we take the right turn back there? How can we be sure? Yet, step by step, as time went on, they learned to let go of the need to be in control of their destiny. It was not easy. The journey took as many wrong steps as right ones. Maybe not having a map was a good thing though. God gave them the freedom to make mistakes, to risk failure, to learn and grow in ways they never before imagined. All the while, they realized that God was accompanying them through the vulnerabilities of this unknown wilderness, calling them to embrace a vision far greater than themselves. They may both have been old, but God wasn’t finished with them yet!

Nicodemus took a similar risk as he set forth under the cover of darkness to have a conversation with this travelling rabbi, Jesus, whom he had listened to earlier in the day. Nicodemus had been wrestling with some of the things he had heard Jesus say. At first, he embarks upon his conversation with Jesus in a very confident, self- assured manner. After all, Nicodemus was a teacher of the law, a well-respected Pharisee. But it didn’t take him long to figure out that what Jesus was speaking about would push him into a new territory, a new way of understanding. In order to really get what Jesus was saying, Nicodemus would have to let go of that confidence and his need to be in control of the process, to shed his lobster shell, if you like, and to take the risk of being vulnerable. Much like Abram and Sarai, he had to take that leap of faith. Only then could he be open to understand where the Spirit was directing him and the possibilities that awaited him.

John 3:1-17

 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with that person.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You] must be born from above.’ 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. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen, yet youdo not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him.

For Abram and Sarai and for Nicodemus, the way forward called for trust in something larger than themselves. For both, it meant letting go and moving toward the new life that awaited them, a life centred on being open to the opportunities and pathways that God was showing them as they journeyed. It meant a willingness to risk change and redirection, to start over again in a new way. And it didn’t involve being 100% certain of the details of that direction before taking those first steps. It simply called them to get going- all the while looking out for the presence and guidance of the Spirit to bring them new understandings along the way.

I have been thinking about all this in light of where we find ourselves as church communities just now. Our conversation at our annual meeting last Sunday was a good one. It felt healthy and wholesome to hear the honesty of your openness to name our wilderness vulnerabilities we face as we try to wrestle with the questions and the risks of being faithful people. As I mentioned last week, we all feel like beginners, novices in the midst of this new reality facing our churches. We realize the truth of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, that we must be born anew. But like Nicodemus, we question how we can do this. It has to be through some other way than simply the route in which we came, the route with which we are all familiar. As United Church ministers Rob Fennell and Russ Daye say in their book I mentioned a couple of weeks ago called Turning Ourselves Inside Out- Thriving Christian Communities, we can all lament that the church is declining. But what we really mean when we say this is that my/our preferred version of the church is declining. We all know the wilderness feelings of vulnerability that emerge when we lament like this. They go on to say, though, that the question should be not how do we fix the church but rather what is God up to in this wilderness time? The life of the church is not limited to what we know and are already doing. I wonder if we need to see ourselves more like Nicodemus as he was called by Jesus to let go of all that he was so sure that he understood and could control and open ourselves to being led by the Spirit and where it is blowing us.

In their book, Daye and Fennell, share stories of thriving churches they have observed. These churches don’t embody an identity of decline but an identity of hopeful expectation about what God can do when we allow God to take the lead. One of the main points they keep coming back to, much like we see in our scriptures this morning, is that we need to be prepared to take risks and to come at things with a new understanding- that we don’t need to be in control of the journey. God is.

They go on to say that thriving churches they visited are churches that were not afraid to risk failure. They had enough humility not to assume that they have things all figured out, something that Nicodemus learned as he spoke with Jesus that night. They needed to see themselves as life long learners and seekers, ready to discover what it meant to be a disciple. For most of these churches, it began by acknowledging their wilderness vulnerabilities. As the authors said, many of these churches began simply by saying, look, we are almost dead, so let’s try doing things differently. What do we have to lose? At the very worst, we crash and burn. Yet, at the very best, new opportunities just might emerge in this wilderness. As one aging grandmother who had maturity in her faith to speak with courage in one of these congregations said, “Let’s not worry about it. Let’s just do it. It will happen. When God is leading, the right things will happen.”

It begins with the kind of honest truth telling and deep sharing that we heard last Sunday around our annual meeting table. It is when we have those safe and honest conversations and allow ourselves to be open to God and the possibility that God is still acting in our lives and in our church that we begin to look for new life bubbling up within us. It is when we share our God moments together that we encourage each other to look around for God’s presence, even now, even in this wilderness time. This is how we grow. As one of these thriving churches reminds the people of their congregation, noted with a dose of both grace and humor, “ Just because you walk through these doors and this happens to be a church, doesn’t mean you are growing in Christ.” We need to be open to an encounter with God everywhere- in the study of Scripture, in spontaneous conversations at the grocery store, and coaching each other in the habit of speaking about God’s presence in our lives. In our small groups, in our committees we need to keep asking the deeper questions- what is God doing in your life. The key question they say we need to be asking in our mainline churches is not how shall we die but how will we join in what God is doing and live?  This means not simply making our churches busier but being open to matters of the Spirit, doing that deep kind of wilderness heart listening, learning to say yes to the call of God to break out of the norm and to become something new. What do we have to lose?

It might involve entering into relationship with people who might never put a thin dime on an offering plate or taking risks to expose ourselves to unknown dangers and hardships, a little like Abram and Sarai, without confidence of where we might end up or whether or not we will be successful. Because it is not about success. It is about faithfulness.

There was a time, of course, when as mainline churches we didn’t have to think about such risks. As Daye and Fennell describe those post war years, “the population grew, churches were built and the neighbours showed up. In the United Church, a minister would be sent to a community, and 20-30 families would start a new church plant. Within a year or two, a new sanctuary would be ready, and two or three hundred people would fill it. A few years later, a Christian Education wing would be built” … (p.85). We all know this is not our current reality. Today, we need to focus on how can we serve our neighbour, how can we turn ourselves outward. This involves a willingness to try new projects, experiments and programs, without overthinking them. Like Abram and Sarah and like Nicodemus we need to go forth into the vulnerability of the wilderness, often feeling discomfort or uncertainty, wrestling with those hard conversations. Still, at the same time, it is in that same wilderness where the Spirit of God continues to blow and the birth of new opportunities continues to take place. Our call is simply to say yes to the unknown journey and to go forth to serve. What do we have to lose? Amen.  

 (Note: This reflection contains brief quotations from Turning Ourselves Inside Out: Thriving Christian Communities, Russell Day and Robert Fennell, copyright 2021, Fortress Press, an imprint of 1517 Media)

Minute for Mission

Creating a safe space for single women in India

Headshot of Maina Bai, an Indian woman, in a pattern pink sari.

Maina Bai can now read and write and is empowering others to become literate.

Credit: ASWA

Maina Bai’s mother died when she was a baby, and Maina never went to school.

When she was just 10 years old, her father married her off to an older man. By 16, she had a child. A few years after the birth of her daughter, her husband died. When she returned to her maternal home, Maina was married off―again.

After a few years of marriage, Maina became a widow again. Single, she faced extraordinary stigma.

Approximately 2.18 million single women like Maina live in the state of Rajasthan, India. Whether they are widowed, divorced, or have never been married, these women are deemed “incomplete” and a disgrace to their families. As a result, many live lives marked by stigma, fear, and violence―simply for not being married.

Your gifts support Mission & Service partner Astha Sansthan, “Association of Strong Women Alone” (ASWA). In 20 years, the association grew from 450 single women to over 70,000 members.

ASWA’s approach is simple: Create a safe space for single women to come together and get the knowledge and skills necessary to improve their lives.

The association has made all the difference for Maina.

She can now read and write and is empowering other women to become literate. Because of her leadership, 35 women have enrolled in adult learning. All of them now have grade eight certificates. What’s more, the generational cycle of illiteracy has been broken. Maina’s daughter can not only read and write but is also teaching others to do the same, opening up opportunities and increasing independence.

Your Mission & Service gifts empower women like Maina to be agents of change within their communities. Thank you for your generosity.


When I think about the journey of faith, I think of… (write on your foot and place on tree)

Let us pray:

God of our journeys, God of all the ups and downs, God of all the joys and challenges of life, we come to you as pilgrims and seekers. We come from questions that we wrestle with as we toss and turn at night, we come from those places where we are feeling overwhelmed or confused by choices and doubts. We come looking for strength. We come looking for fresh winds of your Spirit to blow among us and stir us with new birth and new possibilities. We come with the concerns of the world on our shoulders- places of war and unbelievable tragedy, refugees and migrants seeking safety and security, so many who long for peace and justice. There is so much that needs rebirth, so much that yearns for a new beginning, so much that longs for the freedom of the wind to sweep through and to refresh with new hope.

We ask for courage as we dare to take those first steps to challenge the voices of hatred and uncaring, as we learn to let go of all that keeps us divided from one another and as we find our way forward in these uncertain times. Open in us to the ways of genuine compassion and generosity.

We pray this day for all whose journeys feel especially heavy- for all who grieve a loss, for all who are caring for a loved one who needs extra support, for young people who are challenged by so many choices and others whose choices feel limited, for all who live with daily fear and insecurity, for all who worry about how they will make ends meet in the midst of rising prices for food, heat and the basic necessities of life.

O God, hear these prayers and all the questions of our hearts as we continue to live in a world of so many contrasts- beauty and ugliness, generosity and impoverishment, hope and despair, honesty and deception. Remind us always that our help comes from you, the maker of heaven and earth. With that strong assurance, we pray in the name of Jesus the prayer he taught us to pray as his disciples… Our Father…

Hymn: 639 VU One More Step Along the World I Go


Blessing: (from Worship Ways, The United Church of Christ)

Friends, go forth with the courage of God to guide you into those wildernesses of restlessness and uncertainty.
For we are called to go…
From our places of comfort.
From our certainties and complacency.
From our old life and into the new.

May the call of God not just call us “from” but “toward” a love so compelling that we are willing to trust our whole self into the embrace of the Creator, into the abiding love of Christ, and into the sacred dance of the Holy Spirit.

We go forth in the peace of Christ. Amen!





February 26, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to the first Sunday of Lent.

We are just back from our annual meeting. Thanks to all those who were in attendance as we considered not only the past year but the year upcoming. 

Be sure to check out face book photos for a picture of our wilderness tree that we decorated with leaves this morning!

Have a blessed week. Don’t forget to be on the lookout for those moments when God feels especially close.


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.

In the wildernesses of our lives, we look for some flicker of light to provide us with the direction we need. For us, that light is found in Jesus.

Call to Worship:

Come into the wilderness.

Come away from the world and all that is so familiar,

and begin wandering through all that lives here.

We see there is life here.

It is not as barren as we had thought.

Come into the wilderness and discover that you are not alone.

There is nothing to fear.

The Spirit leads us here.

We are together in this sacred place.

We come to find ourselves changed and restored in this wilderness together.

Let us enter into conversations about what really matters.


Opening Prayer: (in unison)

God of love and mercy, we come together from different places.

Some of us arrive content, others muddled and broken, and others somewhere between.

We come seeking the way of faithfulness.

We aren’t sure what we will find wandering through this wilderness.

As we step forward, make our steps curious and bold.

Help us to experience your companionship along the way.

Grant us eyes to see new things and hearts to feel new feelings.

Lead us to greater wisdom and flexibility as we seek to grow in your grace and love. Amen.

Hymn: 108 VU Throughout these Lenten Days and Nights 

Prayer of Confession:

O God, the Season of Lent is not an easy place for us to be.

It is not a place we would choose because the wilderness is so unpredictable and unknown.

The uncertainty challenges us,

and brings us closer to doubt.

There are so many voices enticing us to seek “more”- more success, more power, more credibility, more possessions, more independence from you.

We confess that this wilderness place is not a place we expect to find you.

Yet, your Spirit calls us and leads us here.

Hold us in your grace, O God. Amen.


Words of Affirmation

Beloved, we are held here with all that we are and all that we are feeling.

God will instruct us and teach us the way to go.

Steadfast love surrounds us, now and always.

Readings and Reflection:

 The Wilderness is Calling

“Know your why”. That is a popular phrase that is used in the business world. It involves being able to clearly state the purpose of an organization, its reason for being. Here are a few examples:

  • We aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. – Apple
  • To connect millions of people in real life all over the world, through a community marketplace– so that you can belong anywhere. – Airbnb
  • To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. – Microsoft
  • To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. – Google

That is a little like how I see the season of Lent. It’s the season of the year when we can take that step back to consider our “why” both as individuals and as a church community. What is it that matters most? Our Lenten devotional book that some of us are reading together explores the word “devotion”. Devotion, it says, is how we spend our time and to what we give our attention. In the very first reading on Ash Wednesday, it goes on to say that “our devotion is divided between the breath of the Holy Spirit and the callings of the world.”  What will serve as our guideposts that will anchor us and shape us?

These are the very kinds of questions with which our readings on this first Sunday of Lent wrestle. What will be our ultimate why? Where will we put our trust? In God? In ourselves? In pride? In possessions? In power? What will determine our priorities as we journey?

Great questions to wrestle with on this first Sunday of Lent. They are also great questions for us to think about as we prepare for our annual meeting today as we think about our call, our mission and our purpose as a community of faith. Who do we want to be? To what and to whom will we give our attention? What will we allow to influence our decisions? Let’s think about these kinds of questions as we hear two different, yet similar stories, of people struggling with choices and directions for their futures, people trying to figure out their “whys”:

Genesis 2: 15-17; 3: 1-7

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

So, there Adam and Eve were, out there in the wilderness of ambiguity and thrown off balance. They forgot their why. They gave up trust in God and God’s direction for their lives in order to go it alone, to be in charge, to choose the path of self-determination, to fly solo if you like, to choose a path and to define themselves separately and independent of God. They wanted something “more”.

In essence, the 3 temptations placed before Jesus in the wilderness were quite similar. Will he choose the path of more power, more celebrity, more possessions? What will be his ultimate why? Watch as his time in the wilderness helps him to develop new insights into what direction his life will take:

Matthew 4: 1-11:

4 Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.”

Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.”

After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.[

Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.”

Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” 11 The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.

I think it is important for us to remember that all this testing took place immediately after Jesus was baptized. It was the same Spirit that descended on him like a dove and proclaimed him as God’s beloved Son that now led him into this wilderness time when he indeed figured out his “why”. And it didn’t happen right away. It took a lot of thinking, of sitting with the questions. 40 days and 40 night’s worth, in fact. I agree with what Biblical commentator Rev. Dr. Janet Hunt says in one of her reflections- “The challenging time for Jesus in the wilderness was not the tests that came after the 40 days but the 40 days before, when nothing appeared to be happening, nothing visible. It was then that God must have seemed far away. Yet, that time deepened his strength and sharpened his clarity.” It confirmed his identity in relationship with God and his future mission and ministry as dependent on God and God alone.

I liken that to the gift of these Lenten days for us when we, too, are called into the wilderness. We all know what wilderness feels like. I am not talking about the kind of wilderness that we escape to when we go on vacation but the more metaphorical times of wilderness that happen to us all over the course of our lifetimes- like when we receive news of a serious illness in a hospital corridor or doctor’s office, or we lose our job, or we suffer with depression or anxiety, or we find ourselves caught between two forks in the road and unsure which path to take, or when relationships are toxic or abusive, and we are wondering what is next for us. We all know how vulnerable we feel in such times. Like Adam and Eve and like Jesus, it is at such times that we find ourselves tempted to long for that “more”.

These wilderness feelings, when everything feels so pared back, are what many of us are sensing in our communities of faith these days. We know the insecurity and uncertainties we face. It is hard to sit with all the questions. Like Adam and Eve, sometimes we try to go it alone, to take things into our own hands, forgetting that the Spirit is accompanying us through this experience. Sometimes, we may find ourselves tempted to snap our fingers and grab at the quick fix that will solve all our hungers and give us, as churches, a greater sense of credibility in our society. Certainly, these pandemic years have felt like wilderness for us, not only as individuals but also as a community of faith.

I wonder though if we might look at wilderness from the flip side as well. Take for example, the people of Israel in those 40 years in the desert. Despite their whining and complaining, the wilderness was a formative time for them- a time of new discovery. It helped them to sort through what really mattered and to figure out what being known as children of God really meant. The same with Jesus. His time in the wilderness, difficult as it was, helped him to clarify what his baptismal identity as Son of God would mean for his ministry and mission. It was there in the barrenness that he gained new awareness of the grace of God leading him. It was there that angels ministered or waited upon him. When I think of such wilderness angels, I think of them as gestures of inspiration, acts of kindness or words of hope and encouragement that come to us in our wildernesses.

I can’t help but reflect on how this pandemic wilderness that we are coming through, difficult as it has been on all of us in so many ways, might also be seen as a chance for us as a church to do some rebooting. Are we able to see the possibilities that it has brought to us as we find ourselves pared back, much like Jesus was in the wilderness, given that chance to really think about our “why”, to ask ourselves why we exist, what is our purpose and most of all, where is God leading us next?

As we go into these wilderness days of Lent and as we prepare for our annual meeting today, hopefully we can learn to trust as Jesus did, that the Spirit never leaves us, but travels with us into the unknown. It is that Spirit that confirms our identity and reminds us of our purpose, our “why” as a community of faith and that reminds us that our goal is not simply survival but faithfulness. Friends, none of us has the simple way through this wilderness. We are simply trying to clear away the branches and discard the debris, the things that encumber our journey. All we can do is to be courageous in our efforts to try new paths forward. We are all novices – beginners trying to ask the right questions and seeking to learn what it means to rely on God and to love one another as we discover together to what we will give our attention, our time and energy. Only then, as we worship, deliberate and cut paths together, will we find our why and our way. Amen.  

      Minute for Mission

Elders teach students the words, phrases, songs, and stories of their ancestors.

 Take a moment to think about your favourite story.

Now imagine that story being at risk of disappearing because the language it’s written in is endangered. This is something that nine Elders from Haida Gwaii are passionately trying to change.

Once there were over 15,000 fluent speakers of Haida, but today, because of assimilation tactics like residential schools, almost all Haida people speak English at home. The nine Elders—with an average age of more than 80—represent about half of the fluent Haida speakers who remain.

With partner support, the work of these Elders in a research-based revitalization project keeps the Haida language alive and growing.

The Elders are teaching students the words, phrases, songs and stories of their ancestors. The response has been empowering, with language learners near and far dedicating themselves to study. Lessons are given through the Longhouse of Skidegate village, but the program reaches much further, with more than 120 online lessons available. The opportunity to connect across the globe has allowed Haida language, stories, and culture to be shared broadly.

The program also gives young people from the Haida Nation the opportunity to connect with the Elders to nurture their cultural pride and understanding. “I appreciate the work the Elders are doing with our language and culture,” said one young student. “They work very hard every day so that my generation can remember.”

 The Haida language is not the only Indigenous language that has been    endangered. Your gifts to Mission & Service support programs and partnerships   for Indigenous cultural revitalization around the world.


  Invitation to Prayer

When I am in the wilderness, I feel/ I think of… (complete on leaves and place on tree)

Reflect- Do you feel in the wilderness now? Wandering, tired, drained, need of direction, despair, broken, anxious, depressed, lifeless, fearful, uncertain

Where do you see our community, our nation, humanity in wilderness?

(Sickness, grief, tragedy, hopelessness, etc.)

Let us pray:

As Jesus went to the wilderness to be alone with you, loving Creator, so lead us to turn to you when we find ourselves in wildernesses, in deserts, in lonely and destitute places of our lives.

 Help us to ask the hard questions about who or what is getting our devotion, our time, our energy and our resources.

 May we find you in all the places of our lives;

 in places of joy and hope and in places of despair and heartache;

in times of wonder and imagining,

and in times of anxiety and fear.

Help us to hear your call to us as a church community as we emerge from the changes that these pandemic years have brought upon on our world, our everyday lives and even our ways of worshipping and being together. Breathe hope into our midst as we gather for our annual meeting. Remind us your presence is found wherever we worship and continue to share your good news of love and justice for all people. Help us to know that you are with us as we continue to evolve even in the new realities that we face. Love us into wholeness as we are reshaped and redirected. Work among us and within us as we seek to listen to one another and to the call of your Spirit. Help us to know, that wherever we are, and whatever is going on in our lives, you hear us and you respond to us- and above all that, you love and care for each one of us.

This we ask as those who have chosen to follow the Way of Jesus and who have chosen this community of faith in which to worship and serve, as we pray together in his name… saying Our Father…


Hymn: 115 VU Jesus Tempted in the Desert 


Donald Schmidt in a piece called “Reclaiming Wilderness “writes the following:

“… It is in the night

in the desert

in the wilderness

when I let go of me-

that I can truly grab hold

of the one who made me.”

Friends, let us go into the wilderness of these Lenten days,

knowing that we are led by the Spirit.

It is this same Spirit that sends us out to love and serve.


Go with the faith that you are held in grace and surrounded by love. Amen.



February 19, 2023

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.

In the name of the One whose light shines within us and in our world, we light this candle.

Call to Worship:

As God called to Moses from the mountain,
we are called to be God’s people.
As Jesus called the disciples to climb with him
to the peak of another mountain,
we are called to follow wherever he leads.
As the disciples stood in awe at the sound of God’s voice,
we are called to worship in wonder and praise.


Opening Prayer: (in unison)

Light of lights, we may not be able to climb a hill for you

but we gather in this space and time.

We may not have the words to explain all that you are

but we have hearts that want to worship all that you are.

Open our ears and eyes to you wherever and in whomever

you choose to reveal yourself.

Shine in us, around us and through us that we might meet you.

Then, transfigured by your love, may the world see your glory in our faces. Amen.

Hymn: 371 VU Open My Eyes 

Prayer of Confession: (responsive)

Sometimes in life there are precious moments when we feel God especially close to us, when time seems to stand still.

We want to hang on to those times. We want to stay on the mountaintop.

But the valley calls us; we have to go back to the valley.

We want to shut our ears and eyes to the cries of people for justice, to the cries of the poor for food, to the cries of the lonely and the outcast to be hugged and accepted.

We want to forget about the “real world.” We want to stay on the mountaintop.

But the valley calls us; we have to go back to the valley.

It is a good thing to spend time in quiet prayer and meditation, to sit and listen to the voice of God. But it is not good when we want to shut ourselves off from the needs and blessings of being part of the world.

Forgive us, God, for those times when we want to escape, to run away, or when we want to stay on the mountaintop.

But the valley calls us; we have to go back to the valley.

Words of Affirmation:

In the blazing and dazzling light of God’s grace, we receive renewal and refreshment on the mountaintop. Jesus touches us in our fears.

We are filled with love and light is rekindled within us.

Then Christ leads us back down, ready to shine for all the world to see. Amen.

Readings and Reflection:

God Moments

For those of you who follow along in the These Days devotional readings, there was a line in one of entries this week that made me grin. It noted how in the readings for Transfiguration, as Moses and the disciples encounter God’s glory on mountaintops, there are more pyrotechnics than any Super Bowl half-time show. It is a day that is filled with all kinds of hype- clouds, fire, voices and bright shining lights and clothing. Yet, at the same time, it is a day that is also shrouded in mystery and awe. Each year we hear the stories of these sacred encounters when for a few brief moments the veil is lifted and God’s glory is revealed in a crystal clear way. The Celtic people label such experiences as “thin places” or “heaven-touching- earth moments.” We might call them holy moments or God moments, when it feels like God is pulling out all the stops, making things crystal clear. Let’s listen to descriptions of what these God moments were like for Moses, and then for the disciples.

Exodus 24: 12-18

12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there; I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up onto the mountain of God. 14 To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come back to you. Look, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.”

15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the Israelites. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

In scripture, mountaintops are significant in that they often mark a place of divine encounter. So, when God leads Moses up that mountain, we can be pretty sure something significant is about to happen. It makes sense, doesn’t it? We know from our own experiences that having a view from the mountaintop, whether it be Mount Carleton, Mars Hill, Mount Washington or the Rockies, we get a new perspective on life. In leading Moses up the mountain, God offers Moses a time of revelation and begins to shape the people of Israel for their new life ahead.

This is the same thing that we see happening as Jesus accompanies Peter, James and John up the mountain. He is giving them a vision to hold onto as he prepares them for the way ahead.

Matthew 17: 1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became bright as light. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will set up three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they raised their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

We can only imagine the sense of wonderment and confusion these experiences must have had on those who were there. No wonder Peter offers to build tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus! He wants to savour the moment because it is all too awesome and glorious. He doesn’t want to leave and go back to everyday life. We can’t blame him, can we? The view was incredible! It couldn’t get any better than this!

We’ve all had those moments- God moments, although unfortunately we don’t always feel confident in sharing them with others. Jim Taylor, a well-known author and spiritual writer in United Church circles, noted in one of his recent blogs that when his congregation gathers each week, they share something they call their God moments- times during the past week when they felt the presence of God close to them. He says it is the best part of worship for him. And, because they do it on a regular basis at the beginning of their worship time, it makes them more attentive to God’s presence in their lives.

C.S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer writes, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with God. God walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to stay awake.”

There are indeed all kinds of these moments in our daily lives. Moments, when like Peter, we might say, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Moments that dazzle us somehow. Moments that shift our perspective. Moments that feel holy and sacred. Often, they happen in nature- like when suddenly a flock of geese honks overhead. Or when a deer crosses our path when we are out for a drive or hiking a trail in the woods. Or when we are looking over a body of water. Or when we take notice of a shooting star in the night sky. Such God moments can also happen in the routine of our day when an unexpected thought enters our minds while we are doing the laundry, washing the dishes or shovelling off the front steps. The moments don’t have to be sensational or dazzling either. They can feel more like whispers or nudges. Like when we are reading a book or sharing in a conversation with someone at the grocery story. Or around a knitting circle. Or when we are worshipping on a Sunday morning. Or driving somewhere. Or looking at art. Or listening to a piece of music. Or holding a newborn baby in our arms. Or listening to a cat purring in our lap. And they don’t always have to be particularly happy moments. Just moments that enlighten us, that change us and that help us remember who we are and what we are called to do.

Jim Taylor shares one of these God moments that happened as he and his daughter took turns sitting at his wife’s bedside in a hospice on the last night of her life. Jim was dozing and his daughter woke him saying to him, “It is over.” He shares how he felt the presence of God close to both of them at the time.

In such moments, much like Peter on the mountain with Jesus, we don’t always know what to say. More often than not, words fail us. Yet, somehow, we know that what we have experienced has left us changed. We’re left with that feeling as if for a brief moment, time has stood still. The way forward for us will be different.

Storyteller, Ralph Milton, whom you know from his most recent book Well-Aged shares one such example of a time when he and his wife Bev were travelling along the California coast and ended up in a small community where they had heard quite by chance that there was going to be an eclipse of the sun. As they gathered with curious onlookers on the beach awaiting this eclipse, he felt a gentle arm around his knee and glanced down to see a small boy about 5 or 6 years old, to whom one blue jeaned leg was much like any other. The boy’s head leaned against Milton’s hip and Milton rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Don’t look up little boy because you will know that I am not your father and you will be embarrassed. You will not know of the tender memories your have brought to my mind of being a young dad whose kids also leaned their trusting heads against me as you are doing now. The boy’s mother gently reminded him that Milton was not his dad. The mom smiled at Milton and he hoped she understood the glistening tear in his aging eyes. The eclipse then took place as the people clapped their wordless prayer of thanks and everyone went home. And Milton said thanks to God who spoke to him in this child’s quiet tenderness and through the majesty of the eclipse. But he could not say which was the greater holiness.

It is no wonder that in that transfiguration experience on the mountain, after the voice says, just as it did at Jesus baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased” there is also that other part “listen to him”. It is true, isn’t it? Sometimes, as we sense those God moments in our lives, it is best just to savour them for a bit by just listening to what they are saying to us and where they might be leading us. Maybe that is why in coming down the mountain with the disciples, Jesus cautions them against sharing the vision with anyone until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. Yet, there will come a time, as they process this God moment that they can then share it with others. They didn’t need to keep the experience to themselves forever. They would need to let it percolate a bit and then reflect it back out there to the world, allowing it to shine forth as they lived and served.

This week, I have begun to read a book called Turning Ourselves Inside Out, written by two Maritime ministers, Russell Day and Rob Fennell. Together they are exploring ways of renewal and hope for our United Church. I was interested to note that one of their critiques of mainline churches like our own is that, unlike charismatic churches, we rarely demonstrate as we worship a passionate belief that God is an active agent in our lives! We rarely show up to worship with a “palpable hunger for encounter with the Spirit and an openness to having our lives melted down and remolded by that encounter.” After I got over the shock of hearing those words, I thought to myself I think they are right. Sometimes, in all of the many other things on our agendas as a church community, we forget to be open to these God moments, to name them and to share with others what they reveal to us and then to find ways of reflecting them back out to the world. Maybe it is because, like Peter, we can’t find a way to nail them down or to give words to them. Or that we are afraid to share them. Yet, through such voices as Jim Taylor and Ralph Milton, we do know the power of story in helping us find the words to describe our God moments when we find ourselves stammering.

As for Moses and then later the disciples on the mountain with Jesus, God moments are transforming. As C.S. Lewis said they are everywhere. They happen in the most ordinary of our life experiences and often unexpectedly. Transfiguration Sunday, the hinge Sunday between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent this week, serves as a reminder to us to keep our eyes and ears open to God’s grace and glory breaking into our lives. It calls us to come awake and to remain awake. It is these moments of revelation and clarity, fleeting as they may be, that inform us and prepare us for what comes next. They shape us and bring us courage for the journey that awaits. Amen.

Minute for Mission:

The work of becoming anti-racist is an ongoing journey for everyone.

Logo: 40 Days of Engagement with Anti-Racism

Credit: melitas | Dreamstime.com

From October 11 to November 25, 2022, the 40 Days of Engagement on Anti-Racism program was relaunched with brand new content. The response to date has been overwhelming, with high levels of participation.

The program, designed to move people through a journey towards becoming anti-racist, offered an opportunity for participants within the United Church and beyond to engage in learning and develop their faith.

The learnings allow for deep, thought-provoking discussion for both individuals and communities of faith. Written reflections, video workshops, and readings explore internalized racism, systemic racism, anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, and more.

The United Church of Canada has made the declaration that it will become an anti-racist denomination, and the work of becoming anti-racist is an ongoing journey for everyone. Your Mission & Service gifts support expanding this crucial initiative each year, amplifying voices and encouraging deep reflection.

To deepen your learning and understanding, 40 Days of Engagement on Anti-Racism materials are available at any time on the United Church website.

Let us pray:

God of awe and wonder, we thank you for the ways that you use both ordinary and challenging circumstances in our lives to reach out to us. You reveal yourself to us on clear mountaintop vistas as well as in valleys of brokenness, hurt and disappointment. Your light shines in all the cracks and crevices. Help us to notice you and the ways you are calling us to serve in your name. Send us your guidance, when like Peter, we don’t know what to do or say when your presence overwhelms us. Teach us simply to listen to you and to ponder what it is that you are asking us to do. In the midst of the fears and confusion that often cloud our thoughts and hearts, touch us with an assurance of your presence.

We offer our prayers to you this day for the people of Syria and Turkey in all the tragedy and upheaval of the recent earthquake, for all who are trying to offer help in the midst of unimaginable conditions, for the people of Ukraine in the ongoing war, for the many who suffer in grief in the wake of senseless shootings and violence that we learn about all too frequently on the nightly news. Open our eyes to needs of those close at hand… to the people we know who are feeling isolated or discouraged in hospitals, care homes or in their own homes, to the many individuals and families who are having difficulty making ends meet, to the many who are struggling in the midst of abusive relationships, to the many who are facing changes in their physical and mental health and who are having difficulty accessing treatment. Show us ways that we might offer our support, whether it be in the form of a word of encouragement, the gift of our time, or simply a listening ear that helps them to know they are not alone.

O God, help us to work for the kind of world that you have shown to us through the example of Jesus Christ, one where all people are valued and loved, where diversity is celebrated and where justice and peace become a lived reality. May the light you have shown us on the mountaintop shine through us and guide our travels as we begin the season of Lent this week. In the name of Jesus, we pray together saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 104 VU We Have Come at Christ’s Own Bidding 


After their journey to the mount of transfiguration the disciples’ understanding of Jesus was forever changed.


May our own understandings continue to grow and change and expand each time we encounter Christ in our daily living.
May the dazzling splendor of God surprise us.
May we remember these God moments with wonder and awe.
And may we come down renewed and empowered to go into the world ready to offer the Christ- alive in each us- to those we meet. Amen.


MissiFebruary 12, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to our worship service.

For today anyway, it feels like spring is in the air. Be sure to stick your neck out the door and soak up some of those rays!

Reminder of yesterday’s email re our United Church of Canada’s response in the aftermath of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. Today’s death total is an unimaginable 28,000. See how you can make a donation by e transfer, mail, credit card, cheque, etc.

Annual Meeting date is Feb. 26 after worship. Please mark that date. Bev. Is compiling reports now so be kind to her in the midst of that extra work at this time of the year! Thanks Bev!

Lenten devotional books are available from Bev at cost of $20 to those who ordered them. Watch for Wed. night group study in next couple of weeks.

Sympathy to the Crain family, Clifford and Eileen, Connie and Bob Flemming on the death of brother and brother-in-law, David Crain.

For those who remember the reference in a recent sermon to the movie “Wonder”, it is on tonight on CBC. As I was told this morning, it is up against the football game on CTV. I would recommend the movie, but that is just me!

Watch for an announcement from the Visioning Team later this week re a knitting group that is forming. Gather up your yarn and needles!

Have a good week!

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.

There was a man who, by the words he spoke and the things he did attracted many. His name was Jesus. He said to them, “I am the light of the world.” Come, follow me.

Call to Worship: (based on Psalm 119: 1-2)

How sacred are those whose path is honest and just,

who boldly stride out in the Spirit of God!

Sacred are they that pay attention to Wisdom,

seeking God’s inner voice with all their heart.

Friends, be joyful in the kindness of God.

May the Spirit lead us further into the ways of costly love.

Come, let us worship.


Let us pray: (in unison)

God of our deepest yearnings,

discerner of our souls,

explorer of our hearts,

we invite you into the depths of our struggles.

Open our hearts to the wisdom of Jesus,

that they might be softened to choose

the ways of life and love to which he calls us. Amen.

Hymn: 661 VU Come to My Heart 

Prayer of Confession:

God of extraordinary and wise ways,

ways that stretch us to the limit of creative possibilities,

we admit how difficult it can be to live our faith without

turning to rule books- new or old.

Have mercy on us for rigid patterns of belief

often inherited and rarely questioned.

Forgive us also for the grief

we cause ourselves and others,

when we relax some of your commandments and break others.

Forgive us for the ways we have prevented new life

from taking root and flourishing within us and among us.

Renew us with your gift of unconditional compassion

and let that be the wise rule and guide in our lives. Amen.

Words of Affirmation:

Friends, through God’s amazing love and forgiveness,

we are set free to live, choose and love with passion and joy.

Thanks be to God! Amen

Readings and Reflection:

Choosing Life is Hard Work!

In the run of the average day, I wonder how many choices we make? There are the mundane choices like what will we eat for breakfast? What clothes will we wear? What will we make for lunch and supper? Where will we shop? What radio station will we listen to or what program on television will I watch? Will we stay up late and watch the final period of the hockey game or will we tape it and catch it in the morning? Many of these choices we make almost subconsciously, without really deliberating about them all that much. Almost like we are on auto pilot.

But then there are other choices that require a lot more thought. Things like the choice of a life partner, a major purchase, a career path, what values we want to pass on to children, whether or not to downsize at this point in our lives.

Our readings today are all about choices. However, I don’t think they really fall in either of these categories I just outlined. They involve choices that cast a much wider vision for us as interconnected citizens of our community and world. Do I speak out in the face of an injustice I am seeing at work, in the community or the world or do I stay silent? Do I explore the root causes of hunger or do I decide that that is too risky? Do I live in ways that protect the environment for future generations or do I continue to ignore the warnings and do as I please? Even such simple things as do I buy those flowers for a loved one at Valentine’s even though they were grown by a company that has a history of unfair labour practices? You see what I mean? So many of our choices have that feel to them. On the one hand they may feel like the right and good thing to do but on the other hand such choices often have implications and consequences that are much farther reaching than we initially thought. Making choices is not always so cut and dry. How then can we make life- affirming choices and how might we make choices that allow all to live God’s dream? Choices that take into account our relationships with other people and the generations that will follow us.

This was exactly the concern that Moses had as he considered the way forward for the people of Israel. He was worried as he stood with them on the threshold of the promised land. He would not be crossing the Jordan with them. They would be on their own as they entered the new land. No doubt, he was remembering how they hadn’t done so well in his small absences from them in the past. Their wilderness choices were far from stellar ones. They grumbled and complained along the journey, often lamenting that they had it better back in Egypt when they were slaves. Then there was that decision they made to build and worship a golden calf. Now he wondered what would happen when he was gone permanently from them. Would they be capable of making sound choices based on God’s covenant promises to them now that they were entering a new land and encountering a people who would think and believe differently? Or would they mess up and be tempted to make other choices that would lead to their demise?  Let’s listen to his final words to them:

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20:

Now listen!

Today I am giving you a choice between life

and death,

between prosperity

and disaster. 

For I command you this day to love the Lord your God

and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations

by walking in his ways.

If you do this, you will live and multiply,

and the Lord your God will bless you

and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen,

and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 

then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed.

You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

Today I have given you the choice between life

and death,

between blessings

and curses.

Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make.

Oh, that you would choose life,

so that you and your descendants might live! 

You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God,

obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him.

This is the key to your life.

And if you love and obey the Lord,

you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


In other words, then, the people of Israel will have to learn to choose not only once, but every day and in each situation and encounter what it means to walk in God’s ways, to live lives of integrity and obedience to God. It will be a lifelong process of learning to live in a new way- God’s way.

This is the same instruction Jesus gives to the crowds who had gathered on the mountain. He is calling them to live a new way of life- the way of God’s Kingdom, a way that involves choosing to live a life fully committed to God and the community God calls into being. Jesus describes this way by beginning with the commandments with which they were familiar and engaging them in a way that represents life for the community as a whole. In so doing, he reminds them that keeping the law is not merely about making sure that their own noses were clean by seeing the law as a simple check list. He calls them to broaden their interpretation of the law- to go beyond saying, ok, I didn’t murder anyone today, check. I didn’t commit adultery, check. He is trying to point out to them that being faithful goes way beyond following the rules. It means choosing to live by the Spirit of God that undergirds the law. And, I am sure, that much like the people of Israel hearing the final words of Moses encouraging them to choose life, the people Jesus addressed from the mountain probably realized also that choosing to live life in the way that Jesus was outlining for them was much harder than they thought.

Now before I read this passage, I do want to explain one thing. It mentions marriage and divorce but not in the way we understand it today. In Jesus’ day divorce was a hotly debated topic. Only a man could issue a letter of divorce and that could be for any reason at all, for something as simple as a badly cooked meal. Women, in Jesus’ day had no rights at all so if she received a letter of divorce, she was cast out from the community, treated as an object. Jesus, in expanding and broadening the commandments here is pushing for a new kind of community- one that doesn’t settle for bare minimums and loopholes, but upholds a way of justice, righteousness and the equal personhood of both men and women.

Matthew 5: 21-37

21 “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. 23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. 25 Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery. 28 But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into hell.31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago: Don’t make a false solemn pledge, but you should follow through on what you have pledged to the Lord. 34 But I say to you that you must not pledge at all. You must not pledge by heaven, because it’s God’s throne. 35 You must not pledge by the earth, because it’s God’s footstool. You must not pledge by Jerusalem, because it’s the city of the great king. 36 And you must not pledge by your head, because you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.

In each of these commandments concerning murder, adultery, divorce and swearing oaths, Jesus is describing new ways of being human, new ways of being in relationship with others. He challenges them to look at the commandments, not in a literal way, but to cast their thoughts on what is at the heart of these laws. We might say that he is kicking them up a notch.

It reminded me a bit of a story about a young lad that went to summer camp. When he returned, his mother was shocked to notice that he had hardly used the shampoo she had sent with him. When asked why, the boy said, “The first night our counsellor said to make sure to use soap and shampoo in the shower but after that, he just said to use soap.”

That’s a little like what had happened with the crowds in front of Jesus. They had reduced the commandments to the bare minimum, interpreting them in a literal way. It was like they were looking for loopholes like this young camper to get them off the hook.

Jesus challenged this way of seeing them by inviting them to live from the heart. Ok, he says, so you didn’t murder anyone this week. But maybe you said something or did something hurtful to another in the midst of your anger and in so doing, attacked their sense of worth. Or maybe you brought your money to offer it in worship but maybe you continued to carry a grudge for someone. Or you said you would do something but then didn’t follow through. Or maybe you didn’t swear an oath, but somehow you manipulated your words to get your own way. Or you put your own self- interest at the forefront, rather than the needs of the whole. Or maybe you didn’t commit adultery, but you objectified another by treating them as disposable or not caring for someone who is vulnerable.

You get the idea. Yes, I know that part about cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye is more than a bit of an exaggeration from Jesus, but we can see what he is getting at. He wants us to do the hard work of choosing a new and different kind of life, a life that calls us to live together in community in loving and caring relationships. It’s a life that calls us to live with integrity and authenticity. It involves an examination of our hearts every bit as much as our actions. Take murder as an example. I would think that for most of us it is far easier for us to avoid committing murder than it is for us to avoid the kind of anger that leads to insults or back- stabbing. Not that anger is wrong. It is just that we need to consider how we channel it.

For the people of Israel on the cusp of the Promised Land as well as for the crowds hearing Jesus on that mountain and to us as a community as well, the same invitation is given. Choose life. This is God’s intention for us. God wants us to flourish as individuals and to work for ways that restore relationships and that strengthen community. It is not about bare minimums or ‘the least I have to do’ to be considered a ‘good’ person. None of it is easy. Choosing to follow the ways of God and living as people of the kingdom in the here and now is hard work. Yet, at the same time, it is the reason we worship and come together in the community of faith- to encourage one another as we learn and grow together in the way. May God help us to make those hard choices- choices from the heart.  Amen.

Minute for Mission

Grandmothers connect love for their grandchildren to God’s love for all.


Five older African women are seated on the porch of a building holding parcels and shopping bags.

Credit: World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy

We would like to introduce Glenn Waterman, our new Annual Giving Lead. Glenn felt drawn to this story of discrimination changing through education and compassion because it mirrored the work he was involved in at two of his prior organizations, The Leprosy Mission and International Justice Mission. In both cases, one through stigma surrounding leprosy and the other dealing with slavery, the people he interacted with needed understanding, compassion, and justice.

In the Rift Valley of Kenya, 7 percent of the people who live there are HIV positive—nearly 900,000—and many will not survive. Grandmothers whose children have died of AIDS are often left alone to care for their grandchildren, and to add insult to injury, their church community condemns them, leaving them without support as they raise their grandchildren.

Some pastors in the Rift Valley, as in many other places, believe and teach that faithful Christians cannot contract the disease and that it is a judgment from God—a disease for sexual sinners.

“The pastors had little information about HIV and AIDS; to them, and others in the community, it was a strange disease…. [They believed] HIV was a result of sexual sin and was a judgement from God for the sexually immoral,” writes Esther Mombo of the World Council of Churches.

In partnership with the United Church, Mombo and Pauline Wanjuru of St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya, led a series of workshops in one Rift Valley community that has been hit especially hard by HIV/AIDS. They invited grandmothers and pastors to connect and learn from each other.

One grandmother who attended the workshops was 70 years old. She had lost both her daughter and her son and was left to raise three grandchildren on her own. Instead of stepping up to help, her neighbours refused to visit her because they said her daughter and son had been sexually immoral. Her pastor wouldn’t even attend her children’s funerals because he didn’t want to be seen associating with her family. When she went to church, the pastor preached about the punishment for sexual immorality.

At the workshops, this woman bravely told her story to the pastors who attended. She also shared with them how it felt to be shamed for loving her children and grandchildren. Another grandmother explained that her grandchildren were born with the virus and couldn’t have been involved in any sexual immorality. Yet another spoke of God’s love for everyone. Pastors listened and learned, and ended by making a commitment to extend compassion and offer pastoral care to the grandmothers.

All of us know from our own life experience that when we know better, we do better. Your Mission & Service gifts gave these grandmothers the opportunity to help their pastors learn to do better by connecting their love for their grandchildren to God’s love for all. Thank you.


Let us Pray:

God of love and life, in the midst of our week, we are grateful for this time to be together in community to worship and praise you. We thank you for the simple pleasures of life- a warm bed to crawl into on a cold night, food on our tables and in our cupboards, the encouragement of family and friends, the beauty of a winter’s sunset, the sparkle of sunshine on snow. We thank you for the privilege of making choices.

We thank you for the wisdom and guidance of Jesus who calls us to live our lives with authenticity, cautioning us to choose ways that are life-giving and justice- seeking, not simply for ourselves but for one another. Help us as we grow and learn more and more about your how you are calling us to live as faithful people.

Keep us from settling for just the bare minimums of the law. Teach us to examine our hearts, our thoughts and our motivations as we speak and act.

We pray this day for all who are struggling with difficult choices in their lives, for all who are feeling torn between many options and uncertain about which path to follow. Show us how we might live in ways that restore relationships and strengthen community by listening and offering support to one another, even when we see issues from different perspectives. May love and respect for the common good be at the heart of our choices as we live and serve together.

As we look around our world this week, we are saddened at the deaths of so many in Syria and Turkey after the earthquake. We pray for each person in their grief and for the many who are working to bring aid to the survivors. We remember the parents of the children killed and injured at a day care in Laval and ask that you might be present to all who grieve such senseless losses of young lives.

In the face of so much despair, bring words and gestures of your hope, O God. Help us, O God, to work with you, to be instruments of reconciliation and peacemaking, wherever and whenever we are able.

In the quietness of these moments, we lift before you the situations that weigh on our own hearts and on the hearts of those we know and love, as we seek your healing, your comfort and your strength….

Hear these and all our prayers as we offer them in the name of Jesus… saying together… Our Father…

Hymn: 427 VU To Show by Touch and Word 

Blessing: (adapted partially from Responsive Prayers, Year A, David Sparks)

God has placed before you life & death, blessings & curses.
Therefore choose life, follow God’s way.

In the hurt of resentment, we choose to forgive.

In the numbness of disappointment, we choose to be patient.
In the roar of anger, we choose the peaceful way.
In the conflict of different directions, we choose the faithful way.
In the heartbreaking, deadening situations, we choose life.

And in all the paths you walk, may God hold you steady and close.

May Christ Jesus bless you in every moment.

And may the Spirit give you length of days and fullness of life as you speak and act for love and compassion.




 February 5, 2023

Welcome everyone to our worship service at Faith Memorial United Church.

Reminder that reports for the annual report need to be in to Bev no later than Feb. 12.

Annual Meeting date is Feb. 26 after worship.

You might want to reach for your salt shaker as you light your Christ candle and prepare for worship.

Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

Each night this past week, especially when the sun has been shining, we have appreciated the lengthening of the daylight hours. Light is so important. It brings us hope. It overcomes the shadows and despair. It suggests promise. In Jesus Christ, we have all this and more. May the lighting of this candle and its presence in our worship space be a symbol of the light he offers us.

Call to Worship:

To a society that lives in the shadows of doubt and fear,

God calls us to be light.

To a world where every greed is fed until there is no taste to life,

God calls us to be salt.

To a time when so many voices call out for our attention and commitment,

God calls us to be faithful.

Disciples of Christ, we have a purpose.

Come, let us worship God and be renewed for service to the world                                       

Let us pray (responsive)

Light of the world,

be our light this day.

Creator of life,

preserve our life this day.

Holy God,

pour out your righteousness on us this day.

May all that we do as we gather to praise you

connect us to you this day. Amen.

Hymn: 585 VU Jesus Bids Us Shine  

Prayer of Confession: (reflective, responsive)

In silence, we contemplate the injustices that exist in this community… (silence)

God of grace,

forgive us.

For times when we let have let the busyness of life dominate and oppress,

forgive us.

For times when we have turned away from needs and troubles of and in community,

forgive us.

For times when we have failed to shine your light or make a difference through our gifts, skills or even our very presence out in our everyday lives,

forgive us.

Guide us as we seek to practice your righteousness, and conduct our affairs generously.


Words of Affirmation:

Even in the cracks and brokenness of our living, the light of Christ breaks in.

God embraces us in all our frailties and woundedness, offering us the light of God’s mercy.

A fresh start is always possible. Thanks be to God.

Readings and Reflection:

 Fulfilling Our Purpose as Disciples

As many of you know, last week I attended a facilitator training event with a couple of dozen other United Church ministry personnel in Sackville at our regional office. The training itself was fairly intense and I will be speaking more to you about that as time goes on.  One of the highlights for me was the opportunity to share some in person time with colleagues over a few days together. As communities of faith, we are all wrestling with similar issues as we live into our new normal. What does it mean to live our faith and to be disciples of Christ in our time? How can we stay true to the heart and core of who we are when so much feels so different? Where is God calling us next?

As I turned to our reading from Isaiah this week I found it reassuring that we are not the first people who have asked these bigger kind of identity questions. In fact, they even questioned if God had abandoned them all together. While they did all the things they had done in the past- they worshipped, prayed and fasted, they felt that it was all to little avail. It was as if God was giving them the silent treatment. They couldn’t understand why, despite doing everything they were supposed to be doing, showing up to worship and carrying out the rituals, God seemed to be ignoring them. So, they speak their frustration and disillusionment. Let’s listen to Isaiah as he interprets for them God’s call to go deeper:

Isaiah 58: 1-12

Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
    raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
    desiring knowledge of my ways
    like a nation that acted righteously,
    that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
    wanting to be close to God.
“Why do we fast and you don’t see;
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
    and oppress all your workers.
You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
    you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
    if you want to make your voice heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10     if you open your heart to the hungry,
    and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
    your light will shine in the darkness,
    and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually
    and provide for you, even in parched places.
    He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
    the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Livable Streets.


It isn’t that worship and rituals are bad. It is simply that performing them without changing behaviour is not enough. You can’t do the rituals and then conduct the rest of your week in a business-as-usual way by exploiting your workers and so on.  Something has to give. Faith needs to permeate every aspect of their public and private lives. Fasting has its place but it must go broader than simply refraining from food. It must be accompanied by transformed living or we have missed the point. Without demonstrating care for their neighbours by feeding the hungry, sheltering the poor and clothing the naked, their faith was a sham. Worship must be coupled with justice for the oppressed, peacemaking and compassion. Otherwise worship was just showing up and going through the motions of sitting, standing and saying all the right things. What God wanted them to do was to close the gaps between their belief and their behaviour. Only by living in this generous way of justice, kindness and mercy will their light shine forth and bring impact in the world. Only then, as they fulfill their true purpose will God’s presence be made known to them.

As I was thinking about how the returning exiles lamented that God had somehow grown distant from them, I stumbled upon this quote from theologian Sally McFague: “ If God is absent from this world, it is because we are.” How true that is. We need to be difference makers out in the world, caring about what God cares about, and making God’s presence known through our lives and actions.


As we shared some informal conversations in Sackville, I have been reflecting a lot about this. In our church communities, most of us are so concentrated on the internals- things like meeting the budget, paying the bills and basically… surviving as a faith community. And believe me, as I heard stories around those circles, being leaders in the church just now is not easy. There is much finger pointing. Sometimes, I think, we have forgotten just why we gather in the first place- to receive encouragement and inspiration in our week so that we can fulfill our purpose as disciples.


In our gospel reading, Jesus trusts us to do just that by reminding us who we are- salt and light. That is our identity. Not you will be salt and light. Not if you do this or that, you will become salt and light. Not you ought to be salt and light. But you, as my disciples, right now, right here are salt and light. As we consider this passage, you might like to think about these very substances, how, when they are shared, like salt in a soup, for instance, or a flicker of light in a dark room, they have impact.

Matthew 5: 13-20

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.17 “Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them. 18 I say to you very seriously that as long as heaven and earth exist, neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality. 19 Therefore, whoever ignores one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the lowest in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps these commands and teaches people to keep them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once again, I think of that quote, “ If God is absent from this world, it is because we are.” For the people of Israel returning from exile, it was because their religion stopped with worship practices and failed to move beyond the doors of their worship spaces. In essence, they were like salt that stayed in the salt shaker on the shelf or light that was hidden or covered.

I wonder, could it be do you suppose, that this same kind of thing has happened to us as faith communities? In a book called The Secret Message of Jesus, theologian Brian McLaren ponders this very idea as he laments the empty cathedrals in Europe:

“We haven’t trained people, or challenged and inspired them to live out the Kingdom of God in their jobs, neighbourhoods, families, schools and societies between Sundays. We have tried to make people nice, quiet citizens of their earthly kingdoms and energetic consumers in their earthly economies but we didn’t fire them up and inspire them to invest and sacrifice their time, intelligence, money and energy in the revolutionary cause of the Kingdom of God.”

I think he is on to something, don’t you? When Jesus calls us light and salt, he is calling us to be catalysts for change, to be difference makers, to bring out the best in our community and society, to act to oppose decay and disruption and most of all… to draw attention not to ourselves but to the God we worship and serve. That is our purpose. Still, though, in all our angst about our buildings and our future as faith communities, I can’t help but wonder if we have forgotten or cast that purpose over onto the sidelines. Or has fear stopped us? Or is it a lack of confidence in our ability to make a difference out there? Or is it our longing for a return of what once was but is no more that is holding us back? Truthfully, when we really think about it, who is putting a bushel basket over our light? It is us. We put them there and very often the bushel basket becomes our identity that we cling to and that preoccupies all our energy. We forget that we are the vessels through whom God works. Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, is speaking to people, much like us in these changing times in which we find ourselves as a faith community, people who are reviled and persecuted, dismissed and bullied by times. He is not speaking to celebrities when he calls them the light of the world and the salt of the earth. He is speaking to ordinary, everyday people like us.

 As we think about salt and light, both of them, small as they are, make an impact but without drawing attention to themselves. The salt doesn’t say… look at me… I am the reason your soup tastes so good. Nor does the candle or flashlight say… look at me… I am the reason you can find your way through this dark cave or deep woods. I think this is what Jesus is trying to get across as he calls us salt and light. It means we have purpose as we mix with others out there in the world- as we knit and deliver prayer shawls, as we offer words of encouragement, as we remember people in prayer and with our actions, as we generously support efforts like the food bank, Mission and Service, school breakfast and lunch programs and so on. McLaren writes, “Wow! When I see the goodness and kindness of your lives, I can believe there is a good and kind God out there too.”

In other words, as we fulfill our purpose as disciples in our Monday to Saturday lives and shine that flicker of Christ’s light within us out there in our everyday world, we are making God’s presence known. Whether it be by showing our care for the hungry by adding our items for the food bank, whether it be in standing up for liveable wages for workers, whether it be in understanding more about the issues of racism, sexism, poverty, homelessness and working to break the chains of oppression, we are taking our worship practices beyond the confines of this Sunday morning space and time. Each effort we make in these directions has impact in helping us to live lives that mirror the love of God and fulfill our purpose as disciples of Christ. In so doing, we are speaking volumes about who we are as salt and light.

You might remember a while back, after one of the many mass shootings in the United States, survivors and activists shouted very loudly, “We don’t want your thoughts and prayers. We want your action. We need someone to stop this senseless slaughter.” Once again, it is not that we need to throw out the ritual and the worship. It is just that we need to take it out there into our lives, to live our identity as salt and light. Pope Francis said it so well, “First you pray for the hungry, then you feed them.” It is all about letting our worship reorder us.

Salt and light. It is who we are. All of us. It is also our purpose. To spread forth out there in our everyday lives. To enhance. To add flavour. To shine. To make God’s reign visible in the here and now. To show mercy and love to all.

In all the challenges that we, as faith communities are facing just now, may we not forget that fundamental identity and the responsibilities that come with it. Salt and light. Let’s not minimize our impact out there! Amen.

Minute for Mission

  “The work that we’re doing helps us move collectively towards healing as a church and beyond.”

Adele Halliday talks to young adults sitting around tables at Rendez-vous 2017.

Credit: Robert Massey

When was the first time you became aware of discrimination or oppression?

Adele Halliday, the United Church’s Anti-Racism Equity Lead, says that parts of her work focus on racial discrimination―and she encounters many people across the church who are surprised by the ongoing systemic racism in church and society.

“I grew up as a racialized person and in a multiracial context, so this always surprises me. There’s almost a kind of initial moment of realization,” she says. “In my work, what I encourage people to do is move beyond that moment of realization, asking, ‘So what does that mean for you in your life?’ If you’re a person who’s benefited from racism, now what? What’s your next action? What does it mean for your life in the church and society as a person, as an individual, as a family member?’”

Racialized people are among the people who have felt the negative effects of racism. It can take many forms, but all are harmful. And even worse, racism still exists in Canada and in the United Church today.

Your gifts to Mission & Service support educational initiatives, programs, and partners that work hard to dismantle racism. One of these programs is the 40 Days of Engagement on Anti-Racism, which tackles topics like internalized racism, systemic racism, and anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism.

While the program was designed for The United Church of Canada, Halliday says the impact is global. “I have gotten messages from people in other denominations and in other parts of the world like the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States who are excited about the program and who want to use it,” she says.

“There are people who are hurting because of racial injustice and racial trauma,” says Halliday. “The work that we’re doing helps us move collectively towards healing as a church and beyond.”

Let us pray:

Thank you, God, for calling us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In those identifying words, you give us our purpose. It is such an awesome responsibility and yet, you have confidence in each of us. No matter how small or inadequate we may sometimes feel as individuals and as a faith community, through the power of the Holy Spirit we are given the confidence to be agents of your kingdom here and now, in the places where we live and serve. We long to be people who make a difference through our gifts. We long to bring love to the unloved. We long to bring friendship to the lonely. We long to bring food to the hungry. We long to free the oppressed from chains that hold them captive. We long to shelter the homeless and clothe the naked. We long to bring hope to the despairing. We long to be stirred from our complacency and inward-looking ways. We long to move beyond platitudes and move to action. Keep us from hiding under bushel baskets of fear, indifference or compassion fatigue. Show us how to put the light of your peace and justice high on the lampstands of our community, our nation and our world so that all might see and learn of your ways and give you praise.

Help us to be a generous people, picking up on the unspoken cues of those who are bearing heavy burdens or seeking to be understood. We name before you this day the people and situations we hold close to us, places and hearts where your strong and reassuring presence is needed… all who are facing changes in health, all who sit at the bedside of loved ones nearing death, all whose grief is fresh, all who find themselves in the midst of medical treatments or facing surgeries, all who find these winter months long and isolating, all who are in need of light of your grace and some gesture that says we care.

Help us, dear God, to rework these spoken prayers into action as we go forth into this new week. Gathering them as one, we pray as Jesus taught us saying… Our Father…

Hymn:  209 MV   Go Make a Difference  


Writer Marianne Williamson writes that “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Friends, we are salt. We are light. Sent forth by God to make a difference in the world.

Go, claim your identity. Follow the love of God.

Lift your voice for love and compassion.

And most of all, dare to believe that you are people on a mission of healing and grace.


Amen and amen!




January 29, 2023

Epiphany 4

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.

We light this candle to remind us of the One who came as a light for all the nations.


Call to Worship

Friends, come!

Gather around deep insight.

Feed on words of unusual wisdom,

seeing before us an unfolding vision

of a renewed and just world

as close and real as our breathing.




our teacher, healer,

leader, and friend,

invites our good and attentive company.

Our time together will be blessed.


Opening Prayer (unison)

Open to your Spirit

and alive to the Christ,

who was, who is, and who comes,

we gather in thanksgiving, O God.

We offer you our adoration,

our acclaim,

and our very lives as we sing.


HYMN  VU 382 Breathe on me, Breath of God

Prayer of Confession

This prayer seeks to highlight how conventional wisdom is not the way of Christ. There was a cue to begin each stanza by ringing a bell or singing bowl each time.


We have heard it said:

It’s just common sense.

Self-protection at all costs.

Conquer or be conquered.

Charity always begins at home;

and we often believe without thinking

(observe silence followed by bell).


We have heard it said:

Of course, our culture is superior.

Warheads make for peace and security.

Wealth will buy happiness.

Celebrities are role models;

and we often believe without thinking

(observe silence followed by bell).


We have heard it said:

Nothing can be done to change that.

The poor will always be with us.

I am not my brother or sister’s keeper.

Tears are for women and children;

and we often believe without thinking

(observe silence followed by bell).


God of surprises and non-convention,

grace us with a vulnerability and openness

to hear the wise and lyrical voice of Jesus anew.


May our way of seeing,



and responding

be changed in light of Jesus’

great love of you

and the world of your making.



Words of Affirmation

Blessed ones, the God who gathers us

together with words of peace and hope,

is the same God who renews grace and peace within us now.

We are a loved and forgiven people.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


Readings & Reflection

Micah 6:1–8

Listen to what the Lord says:

“Stand up, plead my case before the mountains;
    let the hills hear what you have to say.

“Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation;
    listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the Lord has a case against his people;
    he is lodging a charge against Israel.

“My people, what have I done to you?
    How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
    and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you,
    also Aaron and Miriam.
My people, remember
    what Balak king of Moab plotted
    and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
    that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.


On his blog post The Waking Dreamer Alan Brehm wrote —

The Secret of Happiness

A few years ago a film called “The Secret” was all the rage. It purported to reveal an ancient principle that had enabled people for generations to achieve wealth, success and happiness. That principle was called the “Law of Attraction”: all you have to do to get everything you want in life is to simply believe that you will get it, envision your life with it, and speak about it as if it is a reality. This will then “attract” what you want into your life.  The more we hear of hucksters like this, the more we tend to be skeptical that there is any such thing as a “secret to happiness.” But I would say that there is a “secret” to happiness that has been recognized throughout human history, and by most of the world’s major religions. The true secret to happiness is not to hold tightly to whatever it is you want and come up with all kinds of schemes for getting it. The true secret to happiness is to let go what you want and accept life as it is. Call it what you will—trusting God, being enlightened, letting go—it is the true secret to happiness.

What does this have to do with our lessons for today? It seems to me that the qualities for living expressed in our Scripture readings today—justice, kindness, integrity, and humility—come from embracing this way of living. There is something about letting go our obsession with getting what we want and accepting what life brings us that opens us up to be able to enjoy the goodness all around us. And in turn it opens us up to relate to those around us with compassion —even those we may or may not “like.” When we can look at another human being—even one who may be an “enemy”—with compassion, we can let go all our fears and our preconceived notions, and just see a human being who is struggling to find happiness. We can be truly kind to those we see in that light, and we can also begin to care about their well-being, which means that we care about their peace and justice and we accept our calling to relate to them with integrity.

One of the reasons why this approach to living remains so elusive to us is that it requires that we accept the fact that we are broken people. We have to accept our basic vulnerability to life in order to let go and embrace life as it is. Most of us find this quite difficult, if not downright impossible. It requires that we experience some measure of brokenness—which is something most of us spend a lot of energy and effort trying to avoid. We have to encounter what Anne Lamott calls the “gift of failure.”[3] Many of us may find that language strange, but failure is a gift in that it enables you to accept the humility of looking foolish, of being broken and flawed. In a very real sense, failure enables you to embrace the vulnerability of being human. And throughout the ages, many have recognized the profound wisdom that it is only through accepting our vulnerability that we find the path to peace, the path to blessedness, the path to life and true happiness.

I think this idea finds expression in our lessons most clearly in the Gospel reading—Jesus’ “Beatitudes.” Many of us may have been raised to hear these verses as an outline of character traits that we as Christians are called to embody. It may be that in a secondary way, but that is not the main point. The main point is that the Kingdom of God turns everything in this world upside down![5] “Blessed are the poor in spirit” first of all says that those whom society has deemed unfortunate are truly blessed in God’s realm. It says that those who have no reason in this world for hope or joy, those who have been deprived of their fair share of goodness and justice—these are the ones for whom God’s Kingdom and God’s justice and God’s peace are incredible gifts.[6]

Part of what makes the Beatitudes so counter-intuitive is that Jesus pronounces God’s blessing on those who expose our vulnerability![7] From that perspective, the secret to happiness—to open yourself and accept life as it is and then to live out of the compassion and integrity of that wholeness—may sound foolish.[8] Our typical approach to life is that success or wealth or power equals happiness. The problem with that is that the more you succeed, the more wealth and power you gain, the more you have to lose, and therefore the more you relate to life in fear and competition. This way of life leads us to think we can only be happy in life by winning, by beating someone else at the game.

As those who seek to follow Jesus Christ we are called to embody a completely different vision of life. We are called to spend our lives working to extend God’s mercy to the left out and beat down in this world, to seek to establish God’s peace and God’s justice for all the dispossessed and disenfranchised of this world. We are called to align our lives with those whom the world despises and rejects—which means that we too will be despised and rejected because of our commitment to God’s mercy and peace and justice. But like those whom the world tramples, when we align our lives in that way we also can rejoice when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.[9] As St. Paul says it, “God has chose what is low and despised in the world” (1 Cor. 1:28).

We may not like those words, but we cannot avoid the truth they confront us with. The only way we can truly embody Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom and God’s justice and God’s peace is by opening ourselves to accept life as it is and our own vulnerability to the pains and losses and disappointments of life. It is only as we embrace life in this way that we can find true joy, and can open ourselves enough to leave competition behind and instead relate to those around us in compassion and integrity. May God grant us the courage to embark on that path of life—to walk in the light that our savior Jesus the Christ has brought to us, and so find the true secret to blessedness.

Matthew 5:1–12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the

mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples

came to him.

We are called to be God’s people and are open to

receive God’s holy word.

Then Jesus began to speak, and taught them,

saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is

the kingdom of heaven.

VU 266 “Amazing Grace” verse 1


Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Comfort me, O Lord! For I am weak and lack the

confidence to lead a saintly life.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

VU 266 “Amazing Grace” verse 2


Bless are those who hunger and thirst for

righteousness, for they will be filled

For God knows our every thought, God lives in

the midst of God’s people.

VU 266 “Amazing Grace” verse 3


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

God’s grace is the holy love given to us unconditionally.

Blessed are the peacemakers

for they will be called children of God.

VU 266 “Amazing Grace” verse 4


Blessed are those who are persecuted for

righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In baptism, we are called, claimed, and

commissioned into the life of Christ.

Blessed are those who are reviled and persecuted,

against whom all kinds of evil is falsely uttered on

my account.

VU 266 “Amazing Grace” verses 1 and 5


Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven;

for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets

who were before you.



(Written by Tammy Fergusson

Gathering, Advent/Christmas/Epiphany 2022/23 Page 76  Used with Permission)


Contrasting Jesus’ beatitudes with contemporary ones:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying

Blessed are the rich in spirit — who think they are really special, and insist on others treating them that way, whether they like it or not. theirs is the world!

Blessed are the poor in spirit – – whose egos are not puffed up with self-importance, who know that even the greatest person is made of dust, and who look to God for their support, and approval. Theirs is the Kingdom of God.

Blessed are those who  avoid facing their own faults, and don’t let themselves feel the misery of others or think too deeply- Blessed are they, for ignorance is bliss.

Blessed are those who mourn- who are aware of their own losses and failures, the suffering of others, and the sadness of a world that is so much less than it was created to be. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the aggressive – – who know what they want and go for it, and don’t worry about the whiners and the losers for they shall take over the earth.

Blessed are the MEEK — who do not seek their own advantage over others, but seek what is best for all; they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after SUCCESS AND POPULARITY for they shall make it to the top.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness — who long for God’s will to be done in their lives and in the world — for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the GUARDIANS of MORALITY – – who do not need mercy because they follow the rules pretty darn well, and who make sure that those who DON’T follow the rules are punished, to set an example. They shall receive acclaim as “pillars of society”.

Blessed are the MERCIFUL – – who understand and have compassion, seeking to heal and forgive, and not taking pleasure in condemning. They shall receive mercy.

Blessed are those who figure out how the game is played and learn how to play it well — being moral and ethical when it pays, but not hesitating to abandon high principles when necessary — for they shall see short term profits rise.

Blessed are the pure in heart. For they shall see God.

Blessed are those who succeed in imposing their will on others, for they shall be called “winners.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called “children of God.”

Blessed are those who do not make waves and never offend anyone, for theirs is the kingdom of cheap peace. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are YOU – – when people revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of untrue stuff about you when you try genuinely to follow me. Rejoice — be really, really glad when you stir up trouble by saying and doing the kinds of things that I would. For it means you’re on the right track – – you are helping to bring about the Kingdom of God — and your reward in heaven is great. For that’s exactly how they treated the prophets who came before you.


Minute for Mission

The name calling started when she was about three years old.

Four young children wearing masks sit together at the top of a playground slide.

Credit: kali9/iStock

Your Mission & Service gifts support anti-racism programs and initiatives like the ones Adele Halliday develops as the United Church’s Anti-Racism and Equity Lead to help all of us be in deeper, more equitable relationships with one another.


The name calling started when she was about three years old. They were racial slurs, and names, and taunts. My child, my own flesh and blood, was being ostracized for having Black skin. The people slinging the insults? Other children on the playground.


She may not have necessarily always understood the particular terms that they used, but she knew that it was related to her Blackness and her racial identity. And this deeply wounded her tender heart.


Despite all of our intentional modelling, teaching, and proactive actions, our child is still already developing internalized racism and inferior notions of herself.

The children who were taunting her were offering explicit and overt notions of racism, but they were children! They had not even started primary school! And yet, the children had already learned behaviour (at home, or elsewhere in society) that Whiteness is superior. And, they had the audacity to vocalize that to an innocent little child.


This is in part why I am so deeply committed to dismantling racism in all its forms—racism is damaging and destructive for all people in society. It reinforces negative notions for people of colour. I live it in a particular way because of my own racial identity, as a Black person who has lived with racial injustice my entire life.


The systemic nature of racism is something that cannot be ignored…. This effort to overcome racism is a continuous effort. And I am committed to this work for the long haul.


I hope that you will be too.


Prayers of the People

God of all goodness,

by glimpsing something of your vision

of a just and merciful world,

we become acutely aware

of how much inhumanity

and suffering still exists in the world.


It would overwhelm us

if it were not for the tender beauty

and hope that arises each new morning

and shimmers from the heavens at night.

And so from graced places

of gratitude and wonder we pray:


For Earth staggering under the weight

of global warming and deforestation,

together, may we see and find another way.


For people staggering under the weight

of poverty, violence, and loss,

together, may we see and find another way.


For nations staggering under the weight

of pride and a need to impose their will,

together, may we see and find another way.


And for the Christian Church staggering under the weight

of seeming irrelevance within secular cultures,

together, may we see and find another way.


God of all, honour the desires in our hearts

and may they flourish within the people

of grace and compassion we seek to be.


we gather these spoken prayers together with the prayers that rest deep within us, as we continue to pray as he taught us saying… Our Father…



HYMN   896 VU Blest are They 




Go now, beloved,

to follow the love of God

to be surprised by God’s wonder

to lift your voice for love and compassion.


Dare to believe that you are people

on a mission of healing and grace.

Feel God’s encouragement

to be a blessing as you offer blessings

with your heart and hands and

know that you never, ever go alone. 






January 22., 2023

Good afternoon folks. Welcome to worship at FMUC.

Last call for Lenten Devotional book from United Church that we will use for our Lenten study. Cost $20 when it arrives. Please let Bev know by tomorrow (Mon) if you would like a copy.

This week, I will be out of the office attending a United Fresh Start facilitator training event with leadership from General Council. I will be joining with 23 other clergy from the Maritime area. This is a learning program designed to help ministers and congregational groups explore in depth some specific dynamics of congregational life. It looks fairly intensive but it will give us access to practical hands-on material for learning events.


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.

From Isaiah we read, “The people who walked in shadows have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep despair- on them light has shined.” As we light this candle, may we remember Christ as the centre of who we are and why we gather.

Call to Worship:

With many questions we need to ask God

and with so many things we don’t quite understand,

we gather to worship, called by God’s grace.

From many places to this place

we come as disciples of Christ, called by Christ’s peace.

As sisters and brothers, united as people of the Spirit,

we are called to change direction, to live in newness of life.

We belong to each other and to our God.

Praise be to God!


Let us pray:

O God, you are our light and our salvation.

You invite us to follow, to witness and to wonder.

You hold us close.

We ask so much of you, O God.

We want your beauty and comfort.

We need your strength and peace.

Help us to accept your offer to be our guide

as we seek to bring light and love to the world. Amen.

Hymn:  563 VU Jesus, You Have Come to the Lakeshore 

Prayer of Confession:

Holy God,

your voice invites us, beckons us and inspires us to risk going in new directions.

Sometimes, though, we don’t pause long enough to listen.

Instead, we move forward, doing what needs to be done,

but without much enthusiasm or direction.

We simply cross things off our lists and move on to the next thing.

We find ourselves splitting hairs over things that are really not all that important.

Forgive us, God.

Remind us of what truly matters- centering our lives on you and seeking to follow in your ways.

Unite us in that purpose, we pray. Amen.


Words of Affirmation:

God hears our prayers and promises us peace.

God forgives us and sets us on a new path.

We are a new people invited to journey in new directions.

This is good news! Thanks be to God. Amen.


Readings and Reflection:

Invitations to Change Direction

Barbara Lemmel in an article in the Christian Century tells a story that reminds us that congregational divisions are not unique to the Christian tradition.  It seems that a young rabbi discovered a serious problem in his new congregation.  During Friday services, half his congregation stood for prayers while the other half remained seated.  Each faction shouted at the other that they were observing the true tradition.

Since the rabbi couldn’t find a way to solve the dilemma, he had a conversation with the synagogue’s 99-year-old founder.  When he met the elderly rabbi, he described his problem.  “Tell me,” the young rabbi pleaded, “was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?”

“No,” the elderly rabbi answered.

“So,” the younger rabbi responded, “then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers.”

“No,” the elderly rabbi again answered.

“Well,” the younger rabbi pressed, “what we have is complete chaos!  Half the people stand, and the other half sits and screams.”

“Ah,” said the aged rabbi, “that was the tradition.”

Complete chaos. This is exactly what Paul was facing in the Corinthian church. You would think that being a small, fledgling church numbering in the dozens that they might band together. However, you know what it is like- human nature being as it is. After leaving them and heading off to help establish other communities in other areas, Paul gets whiff of the chaos through a report brought to him. It seems that the church in Corinth was a mess. Internal squabbles and factions had become the norm. People insisted on forming themselves into cliques based on which leader had baptized them. Strife and jealousy were building up among them. It was not at all the vision that Paul had for them. We can imagine how he must have been feeling, ready to pull his hair out and wondering what he might say to get them to change direction. Listen for the sarcasm in his remarks as he tries to get them to pull together:

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you but that you be knit together in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been made clear to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel—and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul’s words sound much like those my mother used to say to us when we were kids, “Stop your bickering. Would you please try to get along.” I think though there was even more to it than just keeping the peace. In breaking off into all sorts of individual loyalties to various leaders, the Corinthian church had become sidetracked from its very core- the heart of what they were called to be about as followers of Christ. Paul reminds them that their concern with who did the baptizing was not the essence of who they were. It was in whose name they were baptized- Christ’s name, that mattered. It is through Christ, not through any of their human leaders, that God’s saving grace and power was being made known to them. Circling their wagons around human leaders was not the way to go. I am certain that what Paul would have preferred to have heard in the reports about them would have been news about how they were following Christ by keeping the cross firmly in view and spreading the good news far and wide. It is little wonder his tone is sarcastic, even rambling and humorous in places as he forgets just who he may have baptized. It is little wonder that he seems to be losing patience with them. It is not hard to tell that he is more than a little frustrated with them!

 It was not that disagreements were bad. I don’t think he meant that honest discussion and debate within the Christian community were unwelcome or needing to be discouraged. The challenge, however, was how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. It involved learning how to celebrate the diversity of gifts present without descending into destructive rivalries. They needed to keep the love of Christ as the central foundation. We know from our own experiences that having everyone agree all the time is impossible. Certainly, measures taken during the pandemic have shown us that! Over and over again, diverse opinions have been expressed about which direction we should be taking and when. We also have realized hopefully by now that caring for one another in community has often meant laying aside our own preferences for the safety and protection of the whole.

Paul’s reminder to that early Corinthian church is a good reminder to us too. It is easy to lose sight of Christ and to get caught in what I call “majoring in minors.” It is natural too because we are all human. We come from different families, traditions, experiences and cultures. We are not all the same. Differences are inevitable. What that early church experienced has continued to be present throughout the history of church communities. Splits between the East and the West. The Protestant Reformation with some following Luther, others following John Wesley, others Calvin and so on. Stronger allegiances to certain popes more than to others. Yet, what Paul is saying to us is this- Christ is bigger than any religious movement and that is something we can never lose sight of as we live and serve in his name.

Following Christ challenges us to this new way of being and living in community, remembering that it is not simply about us and our desires. It involves being respectful of the whole. In our gospel lesson we get a very concrete example of how those first disciples experienced this. Jesus meets them on the seashore in the midst of their ordinary lives and, much like Paul in speaking to the Corinthian church, invites them to change direction.

Matthew 4: 12-23

  Now when Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.]

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishers. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

23 Jesuswent throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good newsof the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

For these disciples, Jesus’ message was simple-“follow me”. He knew that he could not do it alone. He needed to encourage some helpers to journey with him. He needed them to live into his unfolding vision. For them, that meant a change in direction, becoming life-long learners of the mission of Jesus. Yet, we know that it didn’t take long before they too fell into the kind of squabbles Paul saw emerging in the Corinthian church. James and John would later argue about who was the greatest and ask for prominent status in the coming kingdom. When Jesus was no longer physically with them, they struggled with how to be his body in the world. In calling them at the shoreline that day to come and follow, to change direction in their lives, Jesus called them as they were. He didn’t seem concerned with calling model disciples who would never mess up. It was like he knew they, much like us as followers today, would always be a work in progress.

It’s a little like a story I was reading online about an aunt who was sharing how in their younger days, her niece and nephew fought over issues large and small. She watched one day how they were arguing over who got to sit in the front seat of the car. The exasperated Mom asked, “Is there anything you two won’t fight about?” For a minute they stopped shouting. They happily beamed and said, “No.” Then they resumed their fighting. Yet, the aunt noted, these two loved one another indivisibly.

For both the early disciples on the seashore that day hearing Jesus inviting them and for that early church at Corinth, it was that kind of love that would need to stand above all the human divisions and differences of opinion that would challenge them along their journeys.

As we look around our own church and the churches of our global community today, we are no different. There are all kinds of things that we may disagree on- understandings of baptism, the ordination of women, how we worship, the climate crisis, sexual identities, ways to reach out, social issues galore. There are many ways we can draw lines in the sand. The key is how, in following Jesus, we choose to deal with our differences. Like that story I told you earlier of the young rabbi’s dilemma in dealing with his congregation that was divided over whether to stand or sit during the prayers, we can crumble into brokenness and division. Or, as Paul encouraged the struggling church at Corinth, we can choose to change direction, holding up our ultimate loyalty to Christ and to one another as the glue that holds us together, even in our all our diversities and disagreements.

That’s something I am sure that that the fishers – Peter and Andrew, James and John, had to figure out as well as time went on as well. That no matter what, we are in it together. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves, bigger than just Jesus and me. I like how an African proverb puts it:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

What really matters is hearing and being transformed by Christ’s ongoing invitation to change direction. What holds us together is our experience of Christ’s love. What reassures us is his promise to equip us as we follow. With it though there is no promise of success. There are no details of the journey and no set destinations. Simply follow as you are. Bring your skills, your talents, your regrets, your failures. Bring every bit of it. By God’s grace, Jesus will use it all. Nothing will be wasted.  Put it all in there and offer it with the gifts of others, not in a spirit of competition or rivalry, but in a spirit of love and with the understanding that whatever we offer, with God’s help, it will be used to bring about transformation in our world. An invitation to us all to live into the new kind of community of God’s unfolding love for the world- a community that calls for our ultimate loyalty to Christ and one that invites us all to pull together. Amen.

Minute for Mission

The Path toward Healing: Murray Pruden’s Work

Healing begins with truth and reconciliation.

In late October 2022, the federal government recognized the residential school system as an act of genocide against Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

It was a reminder that we are still very much on the path to reconciliation and healing.

“We know that we have an impact as The United Church of Canada,” says the Rev. Murray Pruden. He is Nehiyaw, Cree First Nations, from the Goodfish Lake and Saddle Lake First Nations and is the current Executive Minister for Indigenous Ministries and Justice for The United Church of Canada.

Supported by Mission & Service, Pruden has made significant gains in building relationships of trust and healing between the church and Indigenous communities.

After unmarked graves were discovered in Kamloops, BC, in 2021, the United Church gave an additional $3 million to help Indigenous communities respond, mourn, heal, and potentially find other unmarked graves.

Because we believe every child matters!

The funds also supported the dedication of memorials to lost children, like one for a BC community that raised a totem pole funded in part by Mission & Service.

Other healing initiatives include the translation of the Mohawk Language Bible, the Food for the North program, healing circles, and programs for Indigenous youth to learn and reclaim their languages.

Pruden stresses the need for patience.

“Ever since Kamloops, we had many non-Indigenous church communities and people ask what they can do or how can they contribute in different ways,” he says. “And we at the time really kind of put our hands up and said, ‘Whoa, we need to pause for a minute because we need to mourn.’

“I think that we still have so much to give, to teach, and to be in relationship with. And as long as we have a greater understanding within the church and the supports, we can do it.”

Relationships, friendships, understanding, and trust―these are the foundations of the work Mission & Service is doing across Turtle Island thanks to your generosity.

Let us pray:

Gracious God, you have called us each by name and invited us to be your disciples. Like the early disciples, you speak to us in the midst of our ordinary, everyday routines challenging us to risk journeying down new pathways. We are grateful for the gift of this day and for the beauty of this planet where we live, work, worship and play. Help us to preserve its beauty and the natural life it supports.

We are grateful for the people in our lives- co-workers, neighbours, friends and families, for those who join with us to worship you and to serve in your name. Show us how we can support one another as we seek to answer your call in our lives. Help us to leave aside differences for the sake of the gospel, that our witness to your love and grace in the community and the world might be all the stronger.

We pray this day for all whose bodies, lives and spirits are broken. We think of the many who struggle with delay in medical attention as they wait on long lists for diagnosis, for treatments and surgeries. We pray for all who work under great stresses to care for others. We lift before you those who grieve the loss of loved ones and others who sit at bedsides as death looms. Speak your word of healing and reassurance, O God. We remember the many who are shut in during these icy and snowy months and who long for companionship, some little gesture that says someone is thinking about them. We pray for families who are struggling for so many reasons- the rising costs of daily necessities, worries about job security, those who have lost their savings or businesses and are in need of some kind of reassurance from you. Show us ways to offer support where and when we can. We remember our aboriginal communities as once again we are learning of unmarked graves of innocent children being discovered and all the anguish and trauma this surfaces. We call on you to bring peace in our world where conflict rages and comfort where despair reigns. We pray for all who are seeking to cope in the midst of floods, storms and power outages. We remember before you today people living face to face with war and violence, especially those places where ancient hatreds burn.

We remember people living face to face with discrimination and social prejudice, those who are bullied at school, at work or at home. Speak to them your word of dignity and love, O God.

 In this week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we remember people of different creeds and faiths, those who seek understanding and co-operation among different religious traditions, and those who show love to their neighbours, whatever their creed or conviction. God, speak to us a word of reconciliation. And so, in unity with your Church around the world you love,

we pray together the words Jesus taught us saying… Our Father

Hymn: 331 Vu The Church is One Foundation 


Go now to follow the love of God

to be surprised by God’s wonder

to lift your voice for love and compassion.

Dare to believe that you are people

on a mission of healing and grace,

invited and encouraged by God to change direction

to be a blessing as you offer blessings to others

and know that you never, ever go alone.


The light of Christ is what you carry with you. Amen.



January 15, 2023

This past week, 106 pounds of non-perishable food were dropped off at Valley Food Bank from our church.

Remember that the box is always there for you to add your items. Drop offs are made after the first Sunday of the month.

If you are able to help with the delivery, please sign the sheet in the entry way.

Thanks to all who are remembering to bring in their items.


Reminder that the meeting of the Official Board to approve the budget prior to its presentation to annual meeting is next Sunday after in person worship.


Good to see folks picking up some new reading material at the book swap! Be sure to add your titles!

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.

We light this candle to remind us of the One who came as a light for all the nations.

Call to Worship: (refers to 1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

Grace and peace to you from God and from Jesus Christ.

Friends, in God we have been graced with wisdom and knowledge,

we are not lacking in any spiritual gift.

We are continually encouraged and strengthened,

called as partners in Christ’s mission of love and service to the world.

We gather in hope.

We worship with the Spirit at play in our hearts.

Praise be to the God of goodness and light.


Let us pray;

Faithful God, you give us your all,

holding nothing back for the sake of fuller, wider expressions of love.

Move us to take similar risks.

Grace us with renewed confidence,

and inspire us to come and see your touchable vision

for life, work and service in your name. Amen.

Hymn: 96 VU Will You Come and See the Light 

Prayer of Confession:

Holy God, from all the many paths our lives take,

we hear you asking us again and again, “What are you looking for?”

We admit before you and to those around us,

that at times it all seems too hard;

when we see little fruit for our labours,

receive ingratitude for honest efforts,

or feel we are simply spinning our tires without getting anywhere.

Fear and uncertainty haunt our stepping forth in faith.

We prefer playing it safe rather than answering your call to ‘come and see’.

Forgive us,

not just for a lack of belief in you but a lack of belief in who we are.

Forgive us for negative conclusions and false humilities

that would have us hide away and not hear the calls for creative love and justice

that you place ever before us.

Restore us in the undying courage of Christ

and the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Words of Affirmation

Before you were born, you were named with love and grace.

God is still listening now and paying attention to each honest confession.

You are forgiven.

You are redeemed.

You are loved.

May we dare to grow into this affirmation of God’s love.


Readings and Reflection:

 What Are You Looking For?

What are you looking for? That’s a question we hear often from salespersons when we enter a store. Can I help you find something? Are you looking for anything special? It is also a question that we can ask ourselves on a much deeper level as well. What are you looking for in life? What answers would I get if I were to ask that question out on the streets- Loving relationships? Safety? Acceptance? Fulfillment? Meaning? Purpose? Success? Wisdom? Guidance? Material wealth? Fame?

In both of our readings this morning that question seems to play a central role. Our reading from Isaiah is one of the suffering servant passages. There has been a lot of speculation as to the identity of this servant. Is it the prophet Isaiah?  Is it the people of Israel in the midst of exile? No one has ever been entirely certain. Nonetheless, we can all relate to the feelings that are shared by this servant. He(or she!) has been called to a task, to proclaim that God is faithful but now feels like he has hit a brick wall. Despite all the best efforts, there are no visible results. There is nothing to show. The servant is ready to throw in the towel. What he has been looking for cannot be found. The servant feels stuck- as if all his labour has been in vain. Watch, though, how God responds to the servant’s feelings, not by letting him off the hook, but by upping the challenge:

Isaiah 49: 1-7:

Listen to me, O coastlands;
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born;
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the Lord
and my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
he says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Thus says the Lord,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,
the slave of rulers,
“Kings shall see and stand up;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Did you catch that? Despite a feeling of having done nothing but spin his wheels, God doesn’t let this servant off the hook. Despite a sense of not being up to the task, of not having achieved the results that were desired, the servant receives an even bigger challenge- to be a light to all the nations, not just Israel. God redirects the servant from the fruitlessness of previous efforts with meager results and clarifies the call, pushing the servant beyond self- interest to something wider and more global.

I don’t know about you, but I can identify with this servant some days. Some days I wish I was a house painter. I could start out in the morning on one corner of the house and maybe, by the end of the day, I could get down off the ladder, step back and say, “There, now that is finished. It looks much better.” Thankfully, there are things in life like that where we can see almost instantly the results we have been looking for- things like finishing the lawn mowing or ploughing the driveway, or taking a favourite dish out of the oven.

I remember a retired grade 1 teacher in one of my pastoral charges sharing a story with me about a little girl she once had in her class who came from a difficult home environment. The little girl would arrive at school each morning with her hair uncombed and her face unwashed. This teacher though worked with her, bringing a little mirror for her and a comb, showing her how to take pride in her appearance. Over the course of the year, the teacher was feeling rather satisfied that she was helping to make a difference in this little girl’s life as she seemed to be getting the idea. However, about 20 years later, sure enough, in this same community, this little girl had grown up and had her own little girl who was in the same teacher’s class. And, as often happens, the same instruction was needed.

No doubt, the teacher could relate to the words of that Isaiah passage: “I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord and my reward is with God.” Despite seeing little visible results, this teacher continued to labour on. It is little wonder, though, that burnout is so common in helping professions. Unlike painting a house, the results of our efforts are not instantly evident.

Much of what I do in ministry is like that too. I read recently of a study that was conducted to measure the effort of preaching on racial attitudes. Prior to a preaching series, a questionnaire was given to a congregation asking their opinions on race. A series of sermons was preached attempting to apply the gospel to the issue of racism. The questionnaire was given again to measure change and sure enough, the congregation was 2.5% more racist after the sermons than before! Go figure!

Being commissioned and empowered by our baptisms to be servants and disciples of God is like that too. We volunteer our time. We give of ourselves. Sometimes we burn the candle at both ends working for justice in our world, even doing things like bringing canned goods for the food bank. Yet, hunger and needs continue. Just this week on the news, we heard of the increased demands on our food banks. We might even ask much like the servant in Isaiah, “Why do I bother? Why do we continue our efforts when there are no measurable results? We can understand the servant’s frustration and impatience. No wonder there is that desire to want to throw in the towel.

Yet, God doesn’t let us off the hook that easily. God doesn’t say, there, there now. You go take a rest. No, instead, God says to the servant, I will give you more responsibility by enlarging the scope of your mission. If God were a business manager and did such a thing, we would just shake our heads, wouldn’t we? Think about it- if you were in charge of local production at McCains and your efforts didn’t meet the quotas and then your boss said, don’t worry, I will put you in charge of McCain’s international. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what happens for the servant in this passage. Where the results we might be looking for are not achieved, God says let the results be up to me to evaluate. Sometimes, it simply means we need to take our hands off the throttle by simply being a light out there, by acting in faithful ways and remembering that it is not entirely up to us to be responsible for the outcomes.

I can’t help but think that this is what Jesus is trying to get across to those first disciples too. In the gospel from John, Jesus’ ministry begins with a question- “What are you looking for?” Watch how the disciples seem kind of stumped by the question, unsure perhaps what to say, but curious enough, nonetheless, to ask their own questions of Jesus:

John 1: 29-42:

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Chosen One.”

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas] (which is translated Peter]).

It is interesting that the question the disciples ask in return, ‘where are you staying?’ doesn’t simply imply they want to know his address in town. They want to pin him down, to discover where is he heading, the purpose of his mission and ministry. In other words, what will be the results? Jesus though, doesn’t spell it all out. He refuses to be boxed in. He simply invites them to ‘come and see’ for themselves. They will learn as they go. All they need is their curiosity that keeps asking what are we looking for?

That’s a question that we as beloved sons and daughters of God need to keep asking ourselves on a daily basis. What is it that we are looking for? If it is instant and measurable results for our efforts, we may find ourselves easily discouraged or disappointed like the servant in Isaiah. While some days, we may be overjoyed when our efforts at witnessing to the good news are met with a sense of inner peace, there will also be other days, when, as his followers, we will have nothing to show for our work. Sometimes we won’t see the changes that are taking place through our seemingly futile efforts. Like the servant, we may feel we are labouring in vain. Sometimes, the harvest, or concrete results if you like, only comes years later in God’s good timing. They may not even be recognizable to us because they have come about in a round about way, a way that we might never even have imagined would have been possible.

What are we looking for as a church community? What do we need most? How would we answer that if Jesus were to ask it of us? Would it be that we are looking for silence in the midst of a noisy world? Or inner peace? Or a way of life that offers us something different, something more than our culture can offer? Or hope and courage in the face of news that is full of despair and fear? Or community in the face of isolation and individualism that runs rampant in our world? Or justice for the many who are scarred by abuse, war and violence in this world? What do we need most as we embark on this new year? Where might God be calling us together in new directions beyond our previous ways of being and enlarging the scope of our mission and ministry beyond ourselves, beyond even our community and calling us to be lights to the nations? Where is Jesus simply beckoning us to be curious, to come and see for ourselves, to risk new journeys of faithfulness, to explore new opportunities together and to be witnesses to others of our own stories and experiences of God’s presence in our lives?  Where are we being called beyond ourselves to see God’s bigger plans and visions for our faith community even when like Isaiah, sometimes it feels like our efforts are futile?  It is not about beating ourselves up by saying things like we would be a “better” church if this or that happened, or if we had this or that. It is about simply exploring what we are really and sincerely looking for, what are we seeking as we participate in a worshipping community together and seeking to engage our faith in our every day lives? Where is Jesus inviting us to go deeper, to listen for our names being called, to hear the invitation to be part of something bigger than ourselves and then to allow ourselves to be used in the service of God’s love?

As a Presbyterian minister, Carla Pratt Keyes, summarizes so well:

 What are you looking for? . . . Come and see. These first words of the incarnate word hold one of the most gracious invitations I know: to discern what we desire most deeply and to pursue it in the company of one who is patient with our uncertainty, our missteps, our wrong-headed striving. Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of all we want or need . . . but it’s OK with him if we don’t understand that yet. Come, learn what you want, he says. Come, figure it out. Come and see. Amen

Minute for Mission

   “The care of people who are strangers to one another―the importance and impact of that can’t be overstated.”

Jennifer Janzen-Ball is seen in a selfie against a blue background.Credit: Jennifer Janzen-Ball

 You may think Mission & Service just happens far away from your church.

But the effects of Mission & Service may be as close as your local pulpit.

Mission & Service does a surprising amount of development in your local church, recruiting new ministers and funding theological schools. It even shapes the hymn books you sing from every service.

Another important way Mission & Service supports local ministry: by providing academic bursaries for students studying to become ministers and theological leaders.

“The church has a lot to offer in terms of witness to the community and supporting people who are struggling,” explains the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Janzen-Ball, the United Church’s Executive Minister for Theological Leadership.

Janzen-Ball knows there’s more to a bursary than just the financial gift. “The money is really helpful,” she says, “but the other thing that is so important to students is realizing that people throughout the church cared enough to donate to Mission & Service.”

The Rev. Alexa Gilmour received one of these bursaries when she was still a ministry candidate. “I was a single parent, and I knew I couldn’t get through without support,” Gilmour says. “I felt blessed by God through people who donated and who, by giving, encouraged me on my journey.

“I have tremendous gratitude for that important role the church played in my life at that time.”

Janzen-Ball wants you to know that your gifts do matter.

“They matter both tangibly in peoples’ lives in a real way but also in intangible ways because they signal the support of the wider community,” she says. “The care of people who are strangers to one another―the importance and impact of that can’t be overstated.

“Giving to Mission & Service is an opportunity to support future and current leaders. Those gifts make a significant difference.”

Let us pray:

 Gracious God, source of light and life, we thank you that you have called us to be your servants in the world: to work for justice and goodness, to help those who feel unloved and unworthy to know that they are loved by you; to reach out to those who are in need, helping alleviate not only their needs but their sense of hopelessness.

 Gracious God, we thank you that you have called us to be your saints in the world: to be set apart for your purposes, and to live our lives a little differently than those around us, not because we are better than they are, but because you call us to a different standard than that of the world. We are set apart to experience your presence always, and to find ways to make your presence felt by others in our world.

 Gracious God, we thank you that you have called us to be a light in the world: to shine boldly so that others might see that your way leads to wholeness and new life, and to show others the ways you invite them to live.

Help us to know that we are not alone.  Help us to feel our way through the shadows. Help us to know that sometimes the questions are the answers and that by asking them we are given direction to the home within ourselves where you dwell. Be our guiding presence, leading us to each other, showing us companions along the journey. Teach us to risk going broader and wider and deeper. Stand with us when we feel stuck or uncertain about which path to take. Show us how to witness to your good news in gentle ways by listening to the many needs that call out for our attention and our action, in our personal lives, in our communal lives and in the wider world of which we are a part. In the name of Jesus, we gather these spoken prayers together with the prayers that rest deep within us, as we continue to pray as he taught us saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 509 VU I, the Lord of Sea and Sky  


God, who chose us before our birth,

who calls us and knows us each by name,

now sends us out into the world—

to bring light to those in sit in the shadows,

comfort to those who grieve,

hope to those who despair.

Dare to believe that working and serving together

we have everything we need to make this happen.

Go with the blessing of God

the love of Jesus Christ,

and the presence of the Holy Spirit




January 7, 2023

Good afternoon on this bright but cold day!

Welcome to our Worship service for Baptism of Christ Sunday.

Be sure to check out the photos on our Facebook page as we looked at each other’s baptismal “artifacts” in the hall after worship. So great to see such a variety of things and to hear the stories that surrounded our baptisms.

Next week, we are starting a book swap table in the hall. Bring a book or two to add to the table ( not your whole library!) and find a book to take home. Great way to catch up on some reading over these winter months.

Have a great week!


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

The light of even this tiny, flickering flame of the Christ candle reminds us the difference his coming to be with us brings to our lives and our world, offering calm and strength to this day and everyday.

Call to Worship:

From different homes and different lives,

from different journeys and life experiences,

we gather as God’s servants, filled with God’s Spirit.

The waters of baptism beckon us

to live in the ways of Christ.

As beloved sons and daughters of God

we are ready to answer the call

to bring healing and hope in our world

as we worship and serve together.


Let us pray: (in unison)

Source of life and love,

our identity, our being and our calling begins with you.

We gather this day on the banks of the River Jordan

ready to wade in and follow Jesus.

Renew us and affirm us as your own.

Equip us by your Spirit

to journey where you lead us.

Ignite even the tiniest and most fragile wicks of faith within us

that we might humbly answer your call to serve in your name. Amen.

Hymn: 100 VU   When Jesus Comes to be Baptized  

Prayer of Confession: (responsive)

Creator God, you love us and see such great potential in us,

potential that we are often blind to because we are so focused on what we are not, or what we lack, or how we don’t measure up to others. Yet, in the background, we hear words spoken at Jesus’ baptism and our baptism:

Beloved, beloved, beloved.

We confess that we do always see ourselves as worthy enough of your attention yet your voice speaks out over all the other voices in our heads:

Beloved, beloved, beloved.

Wash over us. Refresh us, that call of your Beloved might echo in our hearts,

and reflect in one another. Amen.


Words of Affirmation:

God claims us, accepts us and calls us God’s beloved.

No matter how far we have wandered, no matter how much we have thwarted God’s plans for us,

God continues to forgive us, and sends us out to bring peace and hope to others.

Empowered by such amazing grace, may we know ourselves as forgiven and loved beyond all measure.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


Readings and Reflection:

 Beloved, Commissioned and Empowered

So, here we are 8 days into the new year. How are those new year’s resolutions going for you? Still hanging in there? Or are they already forgotten? Regardless of how things are turning out for you in the resolution department, there is still something fresh and hopeful about the start of a new year. Even the very act of putting up that brand new calendar on the wall carries with it our hopes and expectations for renewal and reawakening.

Today is a Sunday we call Baptism of Christ Sunday when we not only remember Jesus’ baptism, but we also remember our own baptisms and the promises that were made. And, even if you have not yet been baptized, it is a day when we remember the gift of God’s grace poured out on us all, naming us, claiming us and empowering us by the Holy Spirit to live in Christ’s ways of love, justice and service in the world. Because baptism marks a recognition of the beginning of Christ’s ministry, I love how we always celebrate it just after Epiphany Sunday, at the beginning of a new year.

In our reading from Isaiah today, we find a portrait of a servant who models a style of leadership one might expect from one called by God. It gives us a glimpse of what it means to participate in the new and fresh ways that God calls us to live out our baptismal vows. Unlike the oppressive and bullying style of leadership that the people of Israel had been used to from their kings, the prophet Isaiah paints a radically different picture of what it means to serve. In this description, we find a servant who works through tender acts of care and mercy rather than loud, grandiose, forceful and self-centred actions. What we find here is a much gentler way of serving. Something new is emerging. Something fresh.

Isaiah 42:1-9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or lift up his voice
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth,
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.

In this passage we hear the familiar words echoed at the baptism of Jesus- “here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights”. While Isaiah didn’t have Jesus in mind in proclaiming these words, it is clear that the writer of Matthew’s gospel is recalling them as he tells of Jesus’ baptism, pointing out to the people how Jesus’ ministry will fulfill the ancient Jewish prophecies. As we will come to learn, God’s justice will be modelled in Jesus, not by a lashing out and stomping of feet but by acts of gentleness, forgiveness, love and patience.

Let’s listen to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism:

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved] with whom I am well pleased.”

Unlike the accounts of Jesus’ baptism in Mark and Luke, Matthew’s version is the only one that has this little theological debate happening between John and Jesus about who should be baptizing whom. John thinks it should be the other way around. Jesus should be baptizing him. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, it surely would have been more appropriate if Jesus just came in and said to John, ‘thanks for your preparation, my friend, I will take over now.’ But that is not how it went. Jesus is baptized by John. In fact, there is no record of Jesus ever baptizing anyone. So why was Jesus baptized anyway? As theologian John Dominic Crossan once said, “Jesus’ baptism was an acute embarrassment to the early church.”

It is a good question, isn’t it? People have often wondered about that. Jesus’ response here marks the first words he speaks in the gospel of Matthew, “it is to fulfil all righteousness.” At his baptism, Jesus publicly enters into solidarity with all humanity. He embodies the kind of servanthood that Isaiah spoke about- one that identifies with the people by his willingness to get his feet wet by intertwining and connecting with humanity. Baptism becomes for Jesus a sign of his obedience to the will of God, the launching point of his ministry  as servant to all the people, a light to the nations, a public demonstration of his belonging to a different realm, the realm of God, a community where love reigns. From that moment on, Jesus’ life would no longer be his own. Now, he is saying very clearly, “I am in this with you.” He was publicly declaring that he was now joining the revolution where God’s justice will be made known in the world. He was stepping into solidarity with something much bigger than himself- into the fullness of humanity, complete with its pain, brokenness and suffering, its problems, its fears and anxieties, its neediness, embracing it all and accepting it all unconditionally. His leadership would not be over the people but with the people, beside the people, accompanying the people; playing by a different set of rules as he witnessed to a greater power- the power of God.

As he emerges from those waters, Jesus is named “beloved”, and then commissioned, much like the servant in Isaiah, to be a light to the nations, as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit. And that, my friends, is exactly what happens at our own baptisms too. In the waters that are sprinkled or poured over us, we symbolize how we are accepted, recognized, named as God’s sons and daughters and invited to something much bigger than ourselves. We become part of a community. And what could be more powerful to us than that? As theologian Paul Tillich once said, “to be told that you are accepted is one of the most fundamental human needs.” That’s why baptism is such a big deal for us. It is that public recognition that tells us we are worthy right now, that no matter where we go, no matter what our trials in life may be, God does not abandon us. We have a name. We are beloved. We are enough. That goes both for us as individuals and for us as a community of faith, the people of Faith Memorial United Church.

And the best part is we don’t have to do anything to earn that worthiness. Such a contrast to the messages that society gives us, isn’t it? Things like we will be more worthy if we lose 20 pounds, more likes on our Facebook page, if we drive the right car, wear the right clothes, make a good living, have the right kind of relationships, attend the right kinds of social functions… you fill in the blanks. Or we will be a better church if we have more people in our pews or parking lots or whatever. I like how Richard Rohr expresses this, “life is not a matter of making a special name for ourselves but uncovering the name we have always had- that name is beloved.” There is no need to prove ourselves. There are no hoops to jump through. By the gift of grace, we are God’s. Valued. Cherished. That is the name we receive and the truth of who we are and the identity we are called to see in one another. It is the identity that commissions us and empowers us to embrace and embody Christ’s larger way of seeing and responding to the world around us. It is what enables us to step into God’s fresh and ongoing purpose and visions for our lives and our community of faith.

Over the holidays I watched an inspiring and heartwarming movie called Wonder. I read the book a few years back and was happy the movie was on television one night. It is about a rather precocious boy named Auggie who was born with facial differences that required a number of surgeries. His parents homeschooled him until middle school when they decided it was time for him to be with other students. As you might imagine his first days at school were far from easy as he endured the stares and bullying. All the while though, he received the encouragement of his parents, his sister, his teachers and the reassurance of their love for him. It was much like how Isaiah envisioned the servant leader- they cupped their hands around the tiny flame of Auggie’s spirit, preventing the dimly burning wick from being extinguished, and helping his light to grow and spread. As the year progressed, Auggie’s classmates recognized his strengths and his popularity grew. At graduation that year, he was awarded a medal for strength and courage. He turned to his mom and said to her, “Thanks for enrolling me at the school.’’ And she turned to him saying, “Thank you, Auggie, for coming into our lives. For being you. You really are a wonder, Auggie.”

I couldn’t help but hear in those words God’s ultimate affirmation of each one of us.

Remembering our baptismal identity as beloved sons and daughters of God is the launching point of our ministries to the world. The rest of our lives is all about keeping the flame burning by caring for the bruised and vulnerable of our world, doing what we can to remind ourselves and to help others remember that just like Auggie, God has made each one of us, God loves us as we are, and God has plans for us. Beloved. Commissioned. Empowered. The journey is before us. We can make a difference. We can influence this world to a new way through our gentle love that we allow to shine forth in the most ordinary of encounters. Here we are, God’s beloved servants, sons and daughters in whom God delights. Touch your foreheads (say aloud- I am God’s beloved, commissioned and empowered) Remember who you are- a person with an identity as a servant and disciple of Jesus Christ. Or, as this same movie says so simply, learning who you are is what you are here to do. So, whether your place of witnessing, encouraging, caring, offering wisdom or bringing healing and justice is in the classroom, at the hospital, in the neighbourhood, at the kitchen table, at your desk, in the arena, at the gym, the post office or wherever you find yourself on a daily basis, live as one who claims and is claimed by the Holy One. Amen.  

Minute for Mission:

 When children can’t go to school, society suffers.


Patti Talbot speaks into a microphone beside other people on a stage. A World Council of Churches banner is in the background.

Credit: Patti Talbot


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 & 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.’”


Let us pray;

Gracious God, from the moment your Spirit hovered over the watery chaos, calling forth life, you have hovered close to us and have remained close. You have journeyed with your people, parting the sea, delivering them from bondage, sustaining them with freedom and new life. In the waters of the Jordan, your Son, Jesus, was named as your beloved, and called to be a light to all the nations, modelling your revolutionary ways of love and justice.

We give you thanks for the gift of water, for the cleansing and renewal it brings. We thank you that you continue to name us and call us your beloved sons and daughters, cupping your hands around our flickering faith and breathing us to new life. You call us to work for justice through intentional acts of service. You offer us courage to speak words of hope. Your gentle presence among us whispers words of love to broken hearts, offering strength and renewal.

We lift before you the names of people and situations that need your healing and gentle embrace of grace this day. For homes and countries in need of peace…, for people facing transition and loss, loneliness or illness, for the many who are struggling in the face of rising prices for the basics of life like food and shelter, for all who are living with uncertainty and anxiety, for all who question if anyone cares. Bring your reassurance, O God, to all our lives and remind us that no matter what we may be experiencing, whether it is joy or sorrow, you continue to call us beloved and send us out to share your good news. Drenched in your love, may we always remember that our identity, our being and our calling begins and ends and begins again with you. Marked as your own, we pray with confidence as Jesus taught us, saying… Our Father…


Hymn: 161 MV I have Called You by your Name  


Go now, beloved, to follow the way of Christ, to share the love of God, to be surprised by God’s wonder.

Feel the Holy Spirit’s encouragement to be a blessing as you offer blessings with your heart and hands,

and know that you never, ever go alone. Amen.