November 27, 2022

Welcome to worship at Faith Memorial United Church on this first Sunday of Advent.

 

A few announcements…

We had a great time guessing who’s who with our childhood photos in the hall today after worship.  In case you forgot, you are not too late…. you can add yours next week. Amazing how some folks hardly changed!  Be sure to watch Facebook.

 

A few church calendars are still available. $10.00 see Bev.

 

Reminder: Please try to have White Gift donations  in no later than Dec. 11. Please make sure your envelope is marked with your name.

Cheques will be received by mail if you are worshipping at home. Make sure you write White Gift on cheque. The monies offered by you will be divided between Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Sanctuary House, Valley Food Bank and We’ve Got Your Back backpack program. Together, we can make a difference in so many lives.

 

Also, Dec. 11 ( snow date Dec. 18) plans are being made for congregational carol singing out in the community.  Please ask a friend to join this effort with us! The more the merrier! We will meet in hall after worship. Make sure you dress for the weather. Songbooks will be available! 

 

Dec. 18 we will be celebrating the Sacrament of Communion 

 

 And, for those of you who are thinking way ahead ( not me, yet!) Christmas Eve worship is at 4:30 pm.

 

May our service of worship found attached for Advent 1 help set the tone for you in these Advent days!

 

 

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

                                            

Call to Worship: (inspired by Psalm 122 and Isaiah 2:15)

  I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Giver of hope!”
 We come today with eager expectation.
Our feet are standing within God’s gates.

Come, let us go up to the mountain
that the Giver may teach us the way of peace.
 We come today with holy expectation.
Our hands are lifted with grateful praise.

We gather at the edge of the throne of justice.
 Come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

 

Advent Candle Lighting:

What do you hope for in the new world?

We hope for a future that is more amazing than anything we could ever imagine.

We hope for the healing of creation.

We hope for good mental health and wellness.

We hope for a world where everyone seeks the good.

What else might you hope for… (feel free to give your ideas)

Voice 2:

Advent is the beginning of this new world, a better world, where we can dare to hope boldly.

May it be so.       (candle of hope is lit)

Hymn: (seated) 220 MV Hope Shines as the Solitary Star 

Let us pray:

God, be a light along all our paths.

Lead us to a more just world.

and help us to stay awake

and present to your love

in each ordinary day. Amen.

Hymn: 2 VU Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus  

Prayer of Confession:

Gracious God,

You know that we fail to live as you would have us fully live,

and we fail to love as you would have us fully love,

and the result is a world where so many live in various kinds of conflict.

Consumed by the worries of the world,

we struggle to think about anything other than ourselves and our own.

It seems that our failings only fuel bad habits of forgetting about you.

We lay before you, Holy God, our broken promises, hurtful words,

bad intentions and sinful ways,

that you might somehow love us into wholeness

and help us take small steps towards your greatest peace.

In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Words of Affirmation

Hear the Good News.

Our gracious God gathers us from our warring ways and grants us freedom to join

God’s new vision of a peaceful world.

Let us learn the ways of peace and know that in Jesus the Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Readings and Reflection:

Aligning Ourselves with the Vision

Happy New Year! Advent has always been one of my most favourite seasons of our church year. It always strikes me as so invitational. The readings each Sunday call us to imagine a different kind of world and a world transformed. They invite us to open ourselves to possibility and to hope, while at the same time calling us to imagine the impossible and to take those first steps toward achieving a world as it could be and should be- a world of healing, of justice, of peace and restoration.

It is also important for us to remember that Advent is not just a run up to Christmas. It is a season with an integrity all its own. Yes, partly it involves anticipating once again the birth of Christ. Secondly, it looks toward the coming again of Jesus in the fulfillment of his reign on earth. And thirdly, it looks toward the everyday arrival of Jesus in our lives, often in the most unexpected places and faces. Generally, we are pretty good at the first part- we scurry around setting up creche scenes in our church and our homes, we put up lights and decorations and so on. But the second and third parts- that’s where we get a little fuzzy. How are we to live in the meantime? What is God calling us to be and do?

Our first reading this morning from the prophet Isaiah paints us a picture of God’s dream for the world. Written to a people in the face of an uncertain future, with the Assyrian army threatening invasion, Isaiah dares to dream beyond what is, to what could be. As he invites them into this vision, he urges them to set their feet on the path of what God is longing for in this world and to do the “leg work” in making it a reality.

Isaiah 2: 1-5

  The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
    Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

What I see here is an invitation to a new path- a path of peace that looks beyond the threat of the encroaching Assyrians. A path that calls for the unlearning of the ways of war and a rechanneling of efforts elsewhere and an invitation to live toward that day by leaning toward the light of God and trusting in it. I wonder how these words would be heard by the Ukrainian people in light of the Russian invasion? Would they, can we, find a way to imagine this kind of peace? Or do we just give up and say but this is not the kind of world we live in? What if, in the meantime, we concentrated on living “as if” this vision was a possibility by beginning with even the smallest of actions that honour the earth, that respect diversity among the peoples of our communities and our world and that work to promote peace within the closest of our relationships? What if, as the song says, we were to let peace begin with me/us? How might we make the necessary adjustments to break with the way things are by imagining the way things could be- the new future God has in mind “in days to come.”?

Take for instance the tensions between Israel and Palestine where many Palestinian Christians and Muslims are denied access to the Holy City. Every Friday, an Israeli Jewish Peace Group meets in a silent vigil to end the military occupation of Palestinian territories. It is their way of holding up Isaiah’s vision of people streaming to God’s ways. In so doing, they are choosing to align themselves and channeling their energies toward peace. Small steps, perhaps. But steps that, little by little, lead to transformation.

Similar in many ways to stories of whole communities bringing guns to parking lots in the United States where blacksmiths are set up who help pound them into shovels and garden tools. People imagining a whole new way and taking those steps to bring it about. Looking beyond what is and imagining what could be. Awakening to a whole new world. Leaning in to God’s promises. Examining our own behaviour, motives, jealousies and hostilities and learning to lay them down as we embark on that journey up the mountain toward God’s shalom.

Such are the themes and the work of this Advent Season for us. Putting on our shoes and taking that deliberate walk that looks for the light in the shadows of this world. Standing on tiptoe as we dream with Isaiah of a world as it could be and not as it is. Living today in light of God’s tomorrow. Being the light, this world needs by sharing the love of God, encouraging one another and making the reign of God visible through our lives.

Our reading from Matthew likens it to being awake and alert, paying attention to what we see around us, holding to the vision of what could be and finding ways of giving others glimpses of the hope that is ours.

This passage is written to a community feeling like their world is crumbling. They are waiting for Jesus’ return. Matthew gives them instruction about how to live in the meantime, calling them and us to attend to the important things of life today, and living each and every day as if it were our last.

Matthew 24:36-44

36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so, too, will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42 Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what dayyour Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

In some ways this reminds me of that bumper sticker- Jesus is coming. Get busy! In some ways, all kidding aside, there is some truth to that! Matthew is cautioning them about their need to stop obsessing on the when, and to start paying attention to the now. Look around and find ways to align yourselves with the vision of where God is calling you to act. Wake up to the moment. Resist saving your best self for tomorrow. Begin today. Don’t put things off. Be alert and attentive to God’s in breaking all around you. Sit on the edge of your seats and expect the unexpected. Pay attention to what really matters. Don’t get side-tracked by your complacency, to business as usual. Be vigilant. Be ready to live in the light of a transformed reality. Don’t be like the householder who gets lulled into a false sense of security. Like a thief in the night, God can surprise us. So, wake up to the blessings of each day, to the chance encounters, to the deep conversations with friends and strangers alike. Find ways to express your love to others, to say you are sorry when you have hurt someone and to make amends. Work to bring hope and reassurance to someone in despair. Wake from all the distractions of this season and focus on the deeper meanings of hope, peace, joy and love. Do the things that really matter. Care for the vulnerable. Share what you have with another in need. Look for God’s in breaking. And most of all, don’t act like today is like everyday. Live this, and every day, as if it were your last. Be directed by a spirit of community, not competition; by sharing rather than over consumption; orient yourself to the ways of peace rather than war. Picture that world Isaiah paints and walk toward it, living “as if” it was already here, knowing that with even the smallest flicker of the light of hope piercing this world’s shadows, anything is possible. Amen.  

Minute for Mission

Your gifts will be put to work in the areas where they are needed most.

 

ACT Alliance distributes hygiene and shelter kits, jerry cans, and mosquito nets after flooding in Pakistan.

Credit: RDF

People facing the worst crisis of their lives urgently need our support.

  • While some refugees are returning to Ukraine, over 6 million are still displaced and have no home to return to.
  • COVID-19 cases are starting to rise again, and some countries still have no access to vaccines or boosters.
  • In Africa, food prices are soaring, leaving 146 million people hungry.
  • Entire communities in Pakistan are left without shelter, farmland, healthcare facilities, and basic necessities of life because of flooding and landslides.

After the headlines fade, the emergency remains. You can help.

November 29 is Giving Tuesday, a day that is all about generosity. This year, Giving Tuesday gifts will support the United Church’s vital emergency response work. Your gift will help provide critical support like food, water, shelter, personal care, rebuilding efforts, and trauma counselling.

Your gifts will be put to work as soon as they are needed in the areas where they are needed most. And your support will be there to help rebuild long after the headlines fade.

Every gift counts. Make a life-saving gift this Giving Tuesday

 

Let us pray:

God of new visions and hope, we have heard your prophet Isaiah calling us to take those first steps toward the light of your presence, to go to your mountain and to learn your ways of peace. Like your people of long ago, we are waiting… waiting for compassion and healing for the many who struggle with illnesses and disease, waiting for the Earth to be cared for, waiting for an equal sharing of the Earth’s resources, waiting for differences in race, religion, culture and ability to be honoured and respected, waiting for long-term measures to be put in place for all who are without shelter on our streets, waiting for an end to violence.

 

It is hard to wait, God, especially when the nightly news speaks of gunfire and explosions, people fleeing for their lives, overcrowded emergency rooms, innocent people being shot in nightclubs, streets and in homes, increasing numbers lining up at soup kitchens and food banks, spiralling costs of heating oil. We wonder how we can take small steps and large steps to turn swords into ploughshares, to bring about transformation in our communities and our world. We don’t know all the answers, God, to these many questions that plague our living, but we do know to whom we pray. We pray to you, Creator God. And we are thankful that we are part of a faith community that wonders about these very same things. We do not journey alone. Give us courage to act where and when we can act in little ways, in big ways to bear Jesus’ gifts of love and life and hope to the world. Help us to use these Advent days as a time to pay attention, to be alert and to be awake to opportunities where we can make a difference. 

We pause now in silence, lifting up to you those nations, those households, those workplaces, those marriages, those schools, those hearts, where we know that conflict of some kind rages, places where your peace is needed…

Show us how to live in these days of uncertainty and unrest. Help us to live as if your reign is among us, seeking out those places in hearts where we need transformation, deeper understanding and a sense of your presence and guidance. We offer these prayers to you in the spirit of Jesus Christ, who came as a little child, who grew up and brought transformation to this world and who continues to inspire our world to revolution and new possibilities, saying together, Our Father…

 

Hymn: 5 VU All Earth is Waiting  

Blessing:

May God take us

and hold us

call us

and love us

unsettle us

and challenge us

waken us

and guide us

remold us

and transform us

align us

and grant us vision

as we wait and work for God’s revolutionary in-breaking in our world. Amen.

 +++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

November 20, 2022

Good afternoon and welcome to our worship service on this last Sunday of our church year.

Next Sunday is like our church’s New Year’s party as we begin Advent, and a brand-new cycle of our church calendar!

 

Hope you are all snug in your homes with a cup of something hot in your hands.

 

Blessings for your week ahead.

 

 

 

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

We light this candle to remind us of Jesus, who lives and reigns among us, not as power and might, but as the tiniest flicker of light offering forgiveness and compassion even from a cross.

 

Call to Worship: (adapted from Rev. Beth Johnston, in The Gathering)     

We have come to the end of a journey.

A full year has passed since we first began to wait in hope for God’s reign.

We looked for the baby Jesus in a palace.

But Jesus was not there.

We looked for Jesus in all the respectable places.

But Jesus was often associating in places less accepted by society.

We looked for Jesus in the tomb.

But Jesus was not there; he had been raised.

We continue to look for Jesus.

And we find him, in the glimpses of our daily lives and often in the most unexpected places.

As we gather for worship, his presence breaks in through the Holy Spirit.

Come, Jesus, and let your reign begin in us!       

 

Let us pray:

Gracious God, you reach out to us in so many different ways,

showing us over and over again how your realm of grace and love

is different from the powers of our day.

Through the witness of Jesus as he brings healing in the midst of brokenness,

strength in the midst of suffering,

and hope in the midst of despair,

we continue to see glimpses of how you reign in our world, even now.

Guide us by your truth and love as we gather in worship today

and as we seek to live as people of your vision. Amen.

Hymn: 213 VU Rejoice, the Lord is King   

Prayer of Confession: (from Lectionary Liturgies, Thom Shuman)

In these moments, Remembering God, we bring to you all the ways we have not lived as your people:
we stand by watching
while those in need struggle to survive;
we cast our lots with those
who worship power and success;
we offer insults rather than words of grace
to those who care for us;
we scoff at your words
which call us to a different lifestyle.
Forgive us, God of Mercy, for not knowing what we do to you, to others, to ourselves.  Speak to us through Jesus Christ, our King and our Savior, who bears words filled with your tender mercy and gracious hope.

Words of Affirmation:

The forgiveness of God sheds light on the shadows and guides us into new ways of peace.

Resting in this forgiveness, let us replace old grievances and resentments with new love.

 

Readings and Reflection:

A King on a Cross? Now This is Different!

As I mentioned earlier in the week in one of your morning emails, today is Reign of Christ Sunday. It is the day when we celebrate that we have come through another cycle of our church year- a year that began with Advent, then Christmas, then Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. In our own lives that year has hopefully brought with it some new experiences and discoveries for each of you on your personal and spiritual journeys. For most of us, there have been a mix of joys and struggles along the way. We tuck all these into our hearts as we take stock and reflect on what his reign means for us personally and how we might live as citizens of his realm in the world. How does this influence where we place our priorities, how we relate to one another, how we respond to the issues that our community and world present to us?

It is interesting to note that of all the days and seasons of the church calendar this naming of a Sunday as Reign of Christ Sunday is a relatively new concept in the long history of the church. It was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to the growing secularism at the time. If you can recall your history lessons, you will know that this was the time when people like Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler were beginning to surface. Pope Pius felt the need to remind people that their primary allegiance was not to earthly powers but to Christ.

Yet, as we know, Jesus never identified himself as a king, at least not in the way these secular rulers were purporting. Let’s face it, Jesus never put on a ball cap that read “I want to make this world great again.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge!) No, instead, as we will see later in our readings, the only thing on his head was a crown of thorns, a symbol of suffering and vulnerability. His story is not one of glamour, success and power as we know it in our world. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is characterized by service, love and grace.

So, who is this Jesus and what is his reign all about? What difference does his reign make in how we live our lives? That’s what I invite you to reflect on with me today. Before we get to our scriptures, let’s listen to the parts of our United Church’s Song of Faith that tries to bring meaning to these very questions about Jesus. For those of you who get the emails, it is what I sent to you earlier this week:

We sing of Jesus,

    a Jew,

    born to a woman in poverty

    in a time of social upheaval

    and political oppression.

He knew human joy and sorrow.

So filled with the Holy Spirit was he

that in him people experienced the presence of God among them.

We sing praise to God incarnate.

 

Jesus announced the coming of God’s reign—

    a commonwealth not of domination

    but of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

He healed the sick and fed the hungry.

He forgave sins and freed those held captive

    by all manner of demonic powers.

He crossed barriers of race, class, culture, and gender.

He preached and practised unconditional love—

    love of God, love of neighbour,

    love of friend, love of enemy—

and he commanded his followers to love one another

    as he had loved them.

 

Because his witness to love was threatening,

    those exercising power sought to silence Jesus.

He suffered abandonment and betrayal,

    state-sanctioned torture and execution.

He was crucified.

 

But death was not the last word.

God raised Jesus from death,

    turning sorrow into joy,

    despair into hope.

We sing of Jesus raised from the dead.

We sing hallelujah.

 

By becoming flesh in Jesus,

    God makes all things new.

InJesus’ life, teaching, and self-offering,

    God empowers us to live in love.

In Jesus’ crucifixion,

    God bears the sin, grief, and suffering of the world.

In Jesus’ resurrection,

    God overcomes death.

Nothing separates us from the love of God.

 

In our reading from Colossians, the writer also tries his hand at giving words to who Jesus is and the work that he was about. While somewhat more overwhelming and rather lofty in its images of Jesus, I do like the idea of Jesus as “the one who holds all things together”- the super glue, if you like! Such a great image to remind us that unlike world rulers and secular leaders, Jesus reigns not by thirst for power, not with weapons of mass destruction or by the notion of the survival of the fittest, but through a bond of love and justice.

Colossians 1:11-20

11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, so that you may have all endurance and patience, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And then comes our gospel, a reading that, in many ways, at first sounds more like a reading for Good Friday than the Reign of Christ. Here, we find Jesus as a deeply humiliated and vulnerable figure hanging on a cross and mocked by others as “King of the Jews.” Yet, as you listen to his words, you will notice that he spends his last minutes doing exactly what he had done all his life- forgiving, loving, including and refusing to repay evil with evil, offering his very presence and compassion to another in need. In so acting, as you will see, this beaten Jesus has more power than all those who sit in authority over him. Thankfully, one of the criminals sees this for himself.

Luke 23: 33-43

33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesusthere with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by watching, but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah[c] of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deridinghim and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in] your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Now that’s different, isn’t it? No wonder Jesus’ reign was missed by so many. It was unlike anything they had ever seen or experienced before. It simply didn’t fit the mold. A king who is crucified? A king who forgives the very people who executed him? A king who granted salvation to a criminal next to him rather than further condemning him? Let’s face it- it doesn’t sound like any king or ruler we know either. If we were watching a blockbuster movie, this is where our hero would leap from the cross. But this is not how the story plays out, is it? The only power we see is the power to forgive and the invitation to embrace the hope of life in God’s reign. A power of love like no other.

I came across something a little similar to this in a story told I was reading this week. It is written by Peter Marty in The Christian Century. And it touched me so much I just had to share it with you. Her name was Ruby Bridges. She lived in New Orleans. In 1960, when the story took place, she was 6 years old. Ruby was black and the other students were white. Before her first day at school ended, the other parents had emptied out the school of white children and staged a massive boycott. Ruby learned alone that year- taught by the 1 teacher willing to remain. Daily, huge crowds of protesters shouted slurs and death threats at Ruby. Angry white people waved confederate flags. Some even shoved before Ruby an open child’s casket with a black doll inside. Mob mentality reigned. A psychologist by the name of Robert Coles who was studying children in the time of desegregation took an interest in Ruby and was intrigued by her strength and stoicism and overall cheeriness in the midst of what she faced. He met with her weekly.

Ruby’s teacher told Coles that she noticed Ruby moving her lips as she walked to school. “Who were you talking to?” He asked her.

“I was talking to God and praying for the people on the street.”

“Why are you doing that?”

“Well, because I wanted to pray for them. Don’t you think they need praying for?”

“Where did you learn that?”

“From my mommy and daddy and from the minister at church. I pray every morning and, on the way home from school.”

“But people are so mean to you. You must have some other feelings besides just praying for them and hoping God will be good to them.”

“No, I just say, please, dear God, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Ruby, in her 6-year-old wisdom, knew the truth of a king who reigned in a different way and she modelled what living in that realm looks like. As I read that story, it made me ask myself, do I? Do we? In her, I caught a glimpse of exactly what that second criminal must have seen in Jesus- a king like no other, a new way of living- a way of reconciliation and healing, not revenge, a way that celebrates diversity, a way of service and sacrifice, of forgiveness and blessing, a way of mercy, of simplicity and non violence, an alternative to the way of domination, a way that upends power structures and the status quo, a power made perfect in weakness and vulnerability. A way where the last are first and the first are last, where a wayward son who asks for an inheritance from his father and then squanders it is then welcomed home, a way where a shepherd leaves the 99 to seek the one lost sheep, a way where a rich man’s feast is opened to the poor and lame and where God’s love reaches out to a thief on a cross, welcoming him with grace. A way the world had not seen before. A way that we catch glimpses of in the Ruby’s of this world- if we have eyes to see and hearts that are open. Amen.

 

Minute for Mission

Families want their dads to come back.”

A man holding the hand of his young daughter, who's about 3 years old, walk away from the camera on a forest path.

Credit: Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

 

On November 20, countries around the world celebrate Universal Children’s Day (also called World Children’s Day). The date marks the anniversary of the UN General Assembly adopting both the declaration and the convention on children’s rights. On the same day, Restorative Justice Week kicks off.

It’s a perfect time to raise up the needs of children with incarcerated parents―the all-too-often forgotten, invisible, or ignored victims of the criminal justice system.

No one knows how many children in Canada are affected by the incarceration of a parent. Back in 2007, the guestimate was 357,604. * But advocates think that with the increase in the prison population, the number is much higher.

While every situation is unique, many children with incarcerated parents face trauma, family instability, social isolation, and economic insecurity. On the inside, parents struggle to stay connected to their kids, let go of shame, and deepen parenting skills so they can successfully unite their family when they are released.

That’s why Parkland Restorative Justice―a Mission & Service partner based in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan―runs an eight-week parenting course for male inmates called Dad HERO, (an acronym for “Helping Everyone Realize Opportunities”). Developed in partnership with the Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN), the course is designed to educate dads about parenting, how to communicate with their child, and how to work with a co-parent. Afterward, the dads meet regularly in a group that continues to provide support after their release.

“A lot of people don’t think about men inside prisons as a hero. In fact, when we told the men the name of the program, some of them said, ‘That doesn’t resonate with me, I don’t really feel like a hero to my kids. But I want my children to look up to me, to think that I have value and worth, that I have information to give them, and can be a good parent that is aspiring to be a hero,” says Louise Leonardi, Executive Director of the CFCN. “We all want the same things for these men. We want them to come out of prison, to reoffend less, to be with their families, to start a pro-social and productive life, and to move into society in a well-balanced way. Families want their dads to come back.” **

No one is disposable, and no child should feel forgotten. Thank you for helping to build stronger families and for believing everyone can be a hero.

 

Let us pray:

God of grace and mercy, we give you thanks that in Jesus Christ you reign through love and vulnerability. Through him, you have revealed just how your power is shown to the world- not by brute force, not by tanks and warfare, not by bullying and scare tactics but by compassion and empathy. Thank you for revealing to us that to trust is wisdom, to forgive is the best way to deal with enemies, and to serve is the best way to lead. We pray that, through the grace of your kingdom, 

each beloved creature and citizen will know safety and satisfaction in their homes. We ask that the vision of your peaceable kingdom might take root in our hearts, bringing healing to families and communities, and in every place wounded by violence or destruction.  

We give you thanks for reaching out to those on the margins, like those criminals on the cross, so that each one knew they belonged in your kingdom.  

We pray for those who face discrimination or insecurity in our communities, 

longing for respect and a change to thrive. Lead us by your Spirit to do our part

in your work of mending the brokenness of this world. 

Thank you for enduring the pain of the cross and the darkness of the tomb 

to show us there is life beyond death through your resurrecting love. 

We pray for those who are grieving a loss this day, 

the loss of someone beloved,  

the loss of love or hope or trust,  

the loss of opportunity or security or future plans.  

 Be present with all who know the sadness and disruption of a loss, 

and bring each one comfort and courage.  

 Be a healing presence to all who are ill and to all who give care, especially under stressful conditions that our health care institutions are facing.  

We pray for your church at work in the world, 

confronting the challenges and changes of these times, the worries of so many, the struggles to keep up in the midst of rising costs of food, heat and other necessities.   

Unite us in witness and service,  

and encourage us when difficulties arise, 

for we are your people, committed to the unfolding of your reign among us, 

as we pray the words you taught us – Our Father… 

 

 Hymn: 330 VU Jesus Shall Reign 

 

Blessing:

In the places of this world where lives are broken,

where people are forgotten and hurting,

where the powerful lord it over the powerless,

where greed, abuse and violence strip people of their dignity,

where imbalance is the name of the game.

In this same world,

we are called to be the body of Christ.

Friends, through the shared life of this community,

 

may we make Christ’s reign known, this day and everyday. Amen.

***********************

November 13, 2022

Welcome to our worship service at Faith Memorial United.

Hard to believe that next Sunday is the last Sunday of our church year as we celebrate Reign of Christ !

 

Thanks to all who participated in seeing that 117 pounds of food arrived at the Valley Food Bank from our congregation last week!

Don’t forget that you can bring the items in any Sunday. The next load will go after the first week of December. Great to have so many adding to this effort!

 

Session members- don’t forget scheduled meeting next Sunday!

 

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

 

The light of Christ in our world and in our lives gives us the encouragement we need to find our way in the midst of much that feels uncertain. (light candle)

 

Call to Worship:

The God of new beginnings,

begins with us here in these moments and this place.

The God of re-creation,

recreates dead-ends into new living.

The God of dreams,

dreams in us a new world.

The God of wholeness,

brings a new kind of harmony into this world.

The God of vision,

envisions new possibilities in us.

The God of love,

loves our lives and yet makes them new.

Come, let us worship our wondrous God and trust in the promises unfolding.

 

Let us pray:

God, you are creating a new heaven and a new earth,

and calling us to be part of that new re-creation.

So here we gather, ready to hear again your good news

for ourselves and for this world.

Open our eyes to see what you are doing.

Open our ears to hear your words that create this new thing

and open our hearts to the re-creation that begins for us,

here in this community.

May our time together imprint this vision within us

that we may share it beyond this beloved community

so that all your creatures may live in the harmony you intend. Amen

 

Hymn: 154 MV Deep in our Hearts 

Prayer of Confession:

Creator God, sometimes it is so easy to get distracted from your ways.

The chaos and uncertainty in our news and in our lives cause us to despair.

Sometimes we struggle to see ourselves as creatures made in your image.

Sometimes we forget that you made us in love,

and that you call us to love you in return.

Sometimes we remember too clearly the pains and heartaches of the past.

Sometimes we cling to them, and even re-create those painful times.

Sometimes we ignore your promises for our future.

Sometimes we forget to turn to you in prayer, to trust

and to work with you in the new world you are creating.

Help us to be part of that dream and live into it. Amen.

 

Words of Affirmation

God says: I am renewing heaven and Earth

and I shall be with you.

Even now, I forgive.

Even now, I recreate.

Even now, I call you into something new.

Behold, behold, I make all things new,

and I am beginning with you today.

 

Readings and Reflection

 Sometimes, It Helps to Climb a Tree!

Once there was a crew cutting a path through a jungle. The workers up front slashed with axes and knives. Workers behind sharpened the equipment. Others brought food in and served meals. Others provided sleeping tents and kept transporting them to the front of the line. So it was that many people were well employed cutting the path through the jungle. Meanwhile, a few people went to a nearby hill and climbed the tallest trees. After looking around, they shouted to the management, “We’re in the wrong jungle.” To which the managers replied, “Hey, don’t bother us with such nonsense, we’re making good progress.”

That story reminds us how easy it is to slip into the kind of thinking that just because we are occupied and think we are making progress, it may not necessarily be so. Sometimes we don’t stop long enough to climb those trees, to gain some perspective on our work, to examine where we are headed and whether or not we are in the right jungle, so to speak. A ground level view can limit our vision. It inhibits our ability to take in the bigger picture, the landscape if you like. Sometimes, we need that aerial view to show us whether or not we are on right path or even in the right jungle, for that matter.

Prior to the exile, the people of Israel had turned their backs on God and followed their own way. Then came the terror of the Babylonian invasion, the destruction of the temple and the forced dislocation. Returning to the city of Jerusalem and seeing it in ruins had to have been discouraging. I think it must have been like how the Ukrainian people feel after so much destruction in their country. If ever there was a need for a people to “climb a tree” so to speak, it would be these returning exiles. To this people, the prophet Isaiah offers that big picture perspective- words of hope and promise that point them to God’s future. Let’s listen to the vision of transformation and reconciliation Isaiah presents to them:

 Isaiah 65:17-25

17 Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth:
past events won’t be remembered;
they won’t come to mind.
18 Be glad and rejoice forever
in what I’m creating,
because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy
and her people as a source of gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people.
No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.
20 No more will babies live only a few days,
or the old fail to live out their days.
The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person,
and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.
21 They will build houses and live in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They won’t build for others to live in,
nor plant for others to eat.
Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people;
my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.
23 They won’t labor in vain,
nor bear children to a world of horrors,
because they will be people blessed by the Lord,
they along with their descendants.
24 Before they call, I will answer;
while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 Wolf and lamb will graze together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but the snake—its food will be dust.
They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain,
says the Lord.

Imagine what it might have been like for those returning exiles to hear those words! Everything in that passage sounds so hopeful. The promise of a whole new world order, where people and even creatures like wolves and lambs live together peacefully, where no one labours in vain, where the people who plant vineyards and gardens reap the harvest, where people live long and healthy lives, where no one goes hungry, where there is no more fighting, no more killing, no more hurting. Only love, happiness and joy. Imagine that- a world healed of its brokenness, justice for all people, harmony and balance in creation, infinite possibilities, relationships recreated. A new path forward for everyone. An invitation to grasp that bigger picture, the possibility of a new reality.

“Sign us up!” we say. Such a contrast to what we are used to- you know- the dog-eat-dog world we encounter on the ground- the competition, the aggression, the wars, the violence, the suffering, the racial, economic and gender inequalities, the power mongering. This is something totally new. A whole new way- not just the old way patched up or fixed up. A path forward, free from all the distractions. A big picture view. But when will it be here? When will we see it with our own eyes? That’s where the story of the workers in that jungle helps us- when we stop for a bit, to look at the paths we are cutting and to examine how closely they measure up with God’s dream of a recreated world. Or as Isaiah might say, it will be here when we live in God’s way by participating in what God is already doing.

The disciples too are filled with all kinds of questions about the timing of God’s new future. What are the signs they need to be looking for? Jesus warns them about getting caught up in the distractions of the temple’s beautiful stones and ornate architecture. Take a step back. Climb that tree. Get a little perspective.

Luke 21: 5-19

Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”

They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?”

Jesus said, “Watch out that you aren’t deceived. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ and ‘It’s time!’ Don’t follow them. When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.”

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky. 12 But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you because of your faith. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will provide you with an opportunity to testify. 14 Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance. 15 I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you. 17 Everyone will hate you because of my name. 18 Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. 19 By holding fast, you will gain your lives.

We can’t help but feel how timely all this feels to us- nations fighting against each other, food shortages, earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The temple Jesus is speaking about is destroyed about 40 years after his death. The new creation spoken about by both Isaiah and Jesus will not be without some dismantling of current systems of greed and corruption. Jesus had seen that over and over again in the temple- how religious leaders would say long prayers and then devour widows’ houses by becoming legal trustees of widows’ estates and how rich people would give out of their abundance and then look on as poor widows were being exploited by giving their last two cents to the temple treasury. All this would come tumbling down, Jesus says. You will be harassed because of your faith. Today rather than harassment and hostility, I think what most of us experience because of our faith is simply indifference. We live in a world where so many cannot see any connection between the faith we talk about on Sundays and the day to day lives we live the rest of the week. So we are simply dismissed.

Yet, amidst all of the signs and warnings, what does Jesus do? He reassures us. He calls us to climb that tree and see things from that bigger perspective. He calls us to trust, to endure and to be faithful for the long haul, to live in the here and now while at the same time, casting our vision forward beyond our crushed dreams and dashed hopes, beyond our present-day chaos and uncertainties of the war in Ukraine, the rising food costs, the high interest rates, the environmental crisis, the violence and the instability that we so often feel these days. All these sorts of things have happened in every age and generation since the time when Jesus first spoke these words. Many times, people have felt this is the end.

But what does Jesus say? Hang tight. Even such painful endings can lead to new life and to new ways of seeing. No matter how hopeless it may feel, God will make a way out of no way; God is creating new heavens and a new earth, calling us to persevere. Each Sunday as we worship, that is exactly what we are about. We are redeclaring our commitment to get on the right path of discipleship, to work for justice and transformation of this world, one person at a time, one action at a time.

I was reminded of the story of a poor man who grew weary with all the corruption and hatred that he experienced every day. He was tired of the injustice his people faced. His family and friends listened as he spoke passionately of his desire for a city where justice was honoured and peace experienced. Night after night he dreamed of a land free from discord, a city where all things were made new, where heaven touched earth.

One day he announced that he could wait no longer so he packed his bags, said good-bye to his family and set out in search of the magical city of his dreams. After walking all day, he found a place in the forest to sleep. Before he settled in, he placed his shoes in the centre of the path, pointing them in the direction he would continue the next day.

As he slept a sly fellow walked the path and discovered the shoes. Unable to resist playing a practical joke, he turned the shoes around, pointing them in the direction from which the man had come.

Early the next day, the traveller arose, said his prayers, ate his food and started walking in the direction his shoes pointed.

He walked all day and at sunset he saw the heavenly city off in a distance. It wasn’t as large as he had imagined it and it looked strangely familiar. He entered the street that looked much like his own, knocked on a familiar door, greeted the family there and lived happily ever after in the heavenly city of his dreams. So it was that the world he envisioned and dreamt about was right before his eyes all along. It was not in some far-off future but in the present on his doorstep. All he needed was that little bit of perspective, that opportunity to “climb the tree” if you like.

I can’t help but think that is what Jesus was thinking about when he was speaking with the disciples who were all concerned about when this new heaven and this new earth will break through. Simply trust, and testify to that trust by holding fast to your faith in God. Instead of worrying about the future, know who holds that future. In the meantime, practice discipleship by your love for one another in a very unloving and often cruel world. Use your time to speak up against hatred. Come alongside one another and work for justice among those who are cast aside. Do what you can to work at turning the world right side up. Persevere. Stop and climb that proverbial tree to see things differently, to get that bigger picture. And remember- even when all seems lost or hopeless, God will make a way.

I’m going to leave you this day with a little story recounted by Barbara Brown Taylor after a visit with a 97-year-old woman in her congregation. The woman spoke of a story from her childhood when she and several friends hitched up their long skirts and climbed Mount Washington. They went too far and they stayed too long. Soon nightfall came and they had no flashlights because they hadn’t been invented yet. They could not see their hands in front of their faces. However, they agreed to hold hands and not let go of one another. They picked their way down the mountain one step at a time, holding each other’s wrists in one long chain. A few times they argued about what path to take but what none of them did was let go. They all kept together. As the woman said, we found our way out by holding on to one another.

Folks, a new heaven and new earth is unfolding among us even in the chaos and uncertainty that we so often feel. Even when all seems unfamiliar and let’s face it, even downright scary by times, we are called to hold fast, to remain hopeful for the new possibilities yet to be revealed and most of all, to hold on to one another as we seek to find our way. Amen

Minute for Mission:

Your gifts have an impact on Edmontonians facing poverty and houselessness.

A man wearing a black hoodie and baseball cap stands in a hallway holding his drawing of Indigenous people.

Jon is Bissell Centre’s artist in residence.   Credit: Bissell Centre

We recently received a wonderful thank-you letter from Bissell Centre, a Mission & Service partner located in Edmonton. We’d like to share it with you with thanks for your generosity.

Thank you to the wonderful people of The United Church of Canada. It’s with gifts like yours that we’re able to meet people facing poverty and houselessness where they’re at. We look forward to collecting and sharing more stories with you, like this one about Jon:

Jon is one of the community members at Bissell Centre, and has a passion (and talent) for art. In fact, he’s been named Bissell’s artist in residence. His work has been commissioned by Bissell to provide an authentic, community-made element to our event advertising, our annual impact reports, and several donor thank-you gifts.

His pieces often feature powerful imagery drawn from his Indigenous heritage and always in a spirit of celebration. His art was the focal point of the event poster for Bissell’s celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day this year. Inspired by the love and support he has received; Jon wanted a way to give back.

He designed, organized, and now facilitates a weekly art program called “Good Art.” In the workshops he guides people to express themselves in a healthy way through art that means something to them. Folks are encouraged to share about the art they make at the end of each workshop as way to build and strengthen community.

Your support provided a space for this to happen, and your gifts are having a palpable impact in the lives of Edmontonians facing poverty and houselessness.

Thank you very much United Church of Canada.

Shared with gratitude for your gifts through Mission & Service. Thank you for your generosity.

Litany Prayer:

A day is coming when the world will rejoice:

when anger will no longer be a motive,

when fear will no longer be the reason,

but anger and fear will give way

to healing, to comfort, to God.

May this vision be seen more fully in us.

We envision a day when the world will rejoice;

when power will no longer be found in armaments,

when strength will not be found through oppression,

but armaments and oppression will give way

to justice, to freedom, to God.

May this vision be seen more fully in us.

We hope for a day when the world will rejoice;

when people will no longer be suspicious,

when terror will no longer control us,

but suspicion and terror will give way to community, to love, to God.

May this vision be seen more fully in us.

We imagine a day when the world will rejoice:

when creation will no longer cry out from abuse,

when creatures will no longer suffer needlessly,

but abuse and suffering will give way

to care, to harmony, to God.

May this vision be seen more fully in us.

In the meantime, God, we have work to do, people to reach out to and to pray for,

support and encouragement to offer,

stories to share that testify to your love, healing and reconciliation,

infinite possibilities to answer your call.

May this vision be seen more fully in us. We pray in the confidence of Jesus, who accompanies us on our quest for a world made new, saying together… Our Father…

Hymn: 424 VU May the God of Hope Go with Us 

Blessing

Go forth into a world that needs new visions.
Bring the message of hope and love,
of justice and peace, to all you meet.

We have no reason to fear the storms within nor the storms without

for we are bound together in a strong community of love.

And wherever there is love, there is God.

Go forth, knowing that God goes with you.

Live the dream. Make it a reality.

 

Live the new creation. Amen

****************

November 6, 2022

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 the Christ candle today as a symbol of the presence of the One who, like a shepherd, guides us to paths of living water and restores our souls. (light candle)

 

Remembrance Moment

Presentation of Wreath

O Canada 

 

They shall not grow old

as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them

nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

we will remember them.

We will remember them.   

 (from the fourth stanza of “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon, 1914)

The Last Post/ Minute of Silence/ Reveille  

********************************************************************************

May the light of this candle remind us of the One who brought light from chaos and hope from despair.  (light candle)

 

Call to Worship: (adapted from Richard Bott in the Gathering)

 

Peace be with you.

And also with you.

In a world of war…

we search for peace.

In a world of confusion…

we search for calm.

In a world of pain…

we search for healing.

In a world of isolation…

we search for communion.

Communion with each other…

and communion with God.

In all our searching, in our struggles and our doubts,

God can be found.

Let us worship God together!

 

Prayer of Approach:

 

God of the living,

as you have been present in all times past,

as you have promised to be present into our future,

so you are present now in these challenging times in which we find ourselves.

As individuals and as a community you with us.

As we gather in worship, may we sense your presence once again,

calling us, renewing us and inspiring us to action.

May we bask in the fullness of your glory. Amen.

 

Hymn: 527 VU God! As with Silent Hearts we Bring to Mind 

 

Prayer of Confession: (responsive)

 

God, we live in times of uncertainty, and so we are filled with many questions

questions about the meaning and purpose of life,

questions about the future of the world,

questions about the value of faith in the face of warfare and hatred,

heartache and despair,

pandemic and injustice.

We need you.

We get caught up in all these questions and in the busyness of life and we forget to notice:

your presence, the wonders of your Creation, your blessings in our lives.

We become focused on memories of the past and we get distracted

from your presence, from the wonders of your Creation, and your blessings in our lives.

We find ourselves worried and anxious about the future, and we get distracted

from your presence, from the wonders of your Creation and your blessings in our lives.

Forgive us God. Help us to notice your presence. Help us to realize your goodness.

Help us to remember how you guide us.

Help us to trust you with our futures. Amen.

 

Words of Affirmation

Hear and receive this affirmation from God’s words spoken by the prophet Haggai:

“Take courage, all you people of the land… for I am with you. According to the promise that I made when you came out of Egypt, my spirit abides with you. Do not fear.”

 

Readings and Reflection

The Power of Now

A while back, I think it was probably 10 or 15 years ago at least, there was a popular book circulating called The Power of Now. It was written by Eckhart Tolle. The main theme of the book was that the most precious thing we have in the world is this present moment. All the rest falls into memory or anticipation. It is a great thought but in reality, so hard to live out. Most of the time we tend to preoccupy ourselves with longing for the past or wondering about what the future holds. In our scriptures this morning we find examples of both of these extremes.

In the book of Haggai, we find a people returning to Jerusalem after the exile. At first, we might imagine that they would have been excited to be back home. Yet, upon looking around at the ruins, they are soon left feeling defeated and disheartened. The once glorious temple built by Solomon and covered with ivory, gold and silver is no more. Despite initial attempts to rebuild the temple, people had lost interest. They focused more so on their own homes and farms. As far as that temple went, they were stuck. Nothing could compare with the grandeur of the former temple. As often happens in such situations, there was much blaming and lamenting that things weren’t like they use to be in the glory days. We know that human tendency, don’t we, to think of the past as somehow better than the present. How fond we are of reminiscing about the good old days. For some of you, it might be the 1950’s, the post war time years. For others, it might be the 1980’s. We all have those special times when, for some reason or another, everything felt more idyllic and simpler than it is today. In the reminiscing though, we also have the tendency to filter out the bad parts- things like racial tensions, inequalities and injustices. It is to a people in just such a situation that Haggai is called to speak. Let’s listen to what he says:

Haggai 1:15b -2:9  

In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: “Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say: Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land, and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts, and in this place, I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.”

Haggai makes a good point there when he asks who is left among you who really remembers the former temple? After all it had been at least 67 years since that former temple had been destroyed by the Babylonian invaders. For much of the time ever since, they had been relying on the memory and stories told by the generation before them. Haggai, however, does not have much patience with all this nostalgia. He calls on the priest and the governor to shift their gaze from the past to the present. Have courage, he says. The temple’s former glory does not matter. What matters is that God’s Spirit is still with them now and that God promises them hope for the future. While the past may inform the present and we might learn from it, the present does not need to be a duplicate of that past. Haggai calls them to trust God in the now. Begin, he says, by getting to work on rebuilding the temple, not because God needs a place but because you need a centre, a focus for your living. This is Haggai saying, get a grip folks, you need to figure out what it means to be the church here and now and to be faithful witnesses in this time in which you find yourselves.

The power of now. It is a great message for us too, isn’t it in the times in which we find ourselves, especially as the church. Like those returning exiles, it is so easy to get stuck remembering what once was but is no more. Losing what we cherished is hard. But what is even worse is throwing up our hands in despair and saying to ourselves, if it can’t be like it was, there is no point. Living as if our best days are behind us keeps us from committing to the present. We run the danger of thinking that God has somehow abandoned us and is no longer active in our midst today. I think that is what was happening with the returning exiles. It is no wonder Haggai is called to give them this pep talk, to rally the community by calling them back to their number one priority- their relationship with God. The poor state of the rebuilding project with that temple was merely a reflection of their misplaced priorities. Their individualism and concentration on their own properties and self interests had to be overcome by a sense of mutuality and working together in new ways suitable to the present moment. Do not fear, Haggai says. Put God first and stop with all the apathy. Remember the core values of what the temple stands for- the praise and worship of God and the building of a just community. Carve out a present tense mission for yourselves. In other words, be the church today.

As I was reading the gospel this week, it struck me that the Sadducees who came up to Jesus with one of those “gotcha” kind of questions were having trouble living in the now too. But the concern for them was not the past but the future. They were looking to prove just how ludicrous the idea of resurrection was. They did not believe in it because in their understanding, it was only the first 5 books of scripture that held any authority. Because there was no mention of resurrection in them, it must be a ludicrous idea. So they set out to entrap Jesus by proposing a ridiculous question based on the idea of levirate marriage where, in order to assure the continuity of the family line and to protect widows with no safety net, the brother of a deceased man would marry his widow. Watch how Jesus remains calm and uses his best debating skills to address their question;

Luke 20: 27-38

27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, the man] shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman and died childless; 30 then the second31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead but of the living, for to him all of them are alive.”

Notice that Jesus says God is, and not was, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In saying this, Jesus is stating that they are still alive in God, which of course refutes the Sadducees disbelief in the resurrection. However, I think the more important thing for us to note here is that in the afterlife, all is made new and different, beyond our present understanding and experience. It is like the Sadducees are majoring in minors, or as we say they are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good!  Speculating and worrying about the life that is to come and what form it will take, is beyond our ability to imagine, beyond the structures and boundaries of our world as we know it. So, stop using “this life” categories to try to figure it out. Simply know that it will not be the same old same old. So, stop worrying and concerning yourself about what is next. Simply know that God is present. That is enough. Focus on living faithfully in the now and make that your number one priority.

Both of these passages this morning serve as great reminders to us about the power of now. They make a lot of sense to us even if we do find ourselves so often getting bogged down and derailed by thoughts about things in our past or anxieties about things yet to come. We live in neither the past nor the future. All we have is today. And all we know for certain is that God is the God of the living. Living creatively this day, being the church of this day, being faithful people in our day and trusting God to be present with us this day is a great reminder to us. The power of now. Neither obsessing about the so-called glory days as the returning exiles did, nor wondering about an unknown future can get us very far. All we can do is seek to be in touch with where and how God is still speaking to us today, calling us to serve and praise, to work together, to build community, to reach out and be the church in these days and these times in which we find ourselves. Our greatest task is to simply trust that God’s Spirit is with us as we concentrate on living in this time that we call now. Amen.

Minute for Mission

Fully autonomous weapons use artificial intelligence to select and attack targets.

The words No! War are painted three times in yellow and orange on a wall.

Credit: Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

 

Killer robots sound like creepy sci fi. But they are real, and the World Council of Churches―a Mission & Service partner―is taking them seriously. So much so that in 2021 it released a campaign guide for churches on the topic in six different languages.

The free guide(opens in a new tab) introduces churches to “killer robots,” or lethal autonomous weapons systems, and help raise awareness of the need for Christians to advocate for a pre-emptive ban on the future development of such weapons.

Calling the weapons a “unique menace,” the Right Rev. Dr. Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, underscores the urgency to act in the guide’s foreword: “They [lethal autonomous weapons systems] are a futile and sinister attempt to sanitize war…and contravene fundamental principles of international law. They simply make killing easier,” he writes.

Armed drones are nothing new. But unlike existing semi-autonomous weapons like drones, fully autonomous weapons have no human-operated “kill switch” and instead use artificial intelligence to make decisions over life and death. These machines can both select and attack targets.

And they already exist. In an article published last May, Foreign Policy notes that Israel, Russia, South Korea, and Turkey have reportedly deployed weapons with autonomous capabilities, and Australia, Britain, China, and the United States are investing heavily in their development. *

Around the world, churches are joining the call to raise awareness about the risks posed by killer robots and urging their governments to take steps to ban such technology.

Your generosity through Mission & Service supports the work of organizations like the World Council of Churches that are urging governments to put a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons systems and developing awareness tools like the campaign guide.

James 3:18 reads, “[A] harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (ESV). When we sow peace, we reap peace. Thank you for supporting worldwide peace-making efforts through Mission & Service.

Let us pray:

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, we are thankful for your presence with us in this time that we know as now. No matter what struggles or joys we are experiencing, we are assured of your faithful presence to see us through. Help us to be faithful stewards of the gift of time, sharing your love and serving in your name.

We pray for your blessing this day on all those whom we love, on all  whom you love, on all who are troubled in mind, body or spirit, all who are struggling with illnesses, all who are walking the journey of grief, all who are anxious about the paths that loved ones are taking, all who are making choices between heating their homes or eating three meals a day, all who have no place to call home, all who fleeing for safety in the face of abuse, war or natural disaster.

As Remembrance Day approaches, we give thanks for all who paid the ultimate sacrifice in times of war, trusting that others would carry the torch of peace forward into the world. We pray for those who serve today in our Armed Forces and the many who support them. We pray for world leaders and policy makers and ask for your guidance for them so that wise decisions might be made based on justice and respect for all persons.

We pray for all whose lives have been shattered by recent tragedies we have learned about in the news- the collapse of a bridge in India, a Halloween party in South Korea where so many were trampled to death, accidents on our highways. May the victims of such tragedies know the comfort of your Spirit in the presence of all who come to their aid.

God, may we approach each moment of the day, each encounter with another, each opportunity that comes our way with a spirit of love and power, of joy and peace, knowing that you love us and call us your own, promising to be with us this day as you have been with us and all your people in the past. So, in thanksgiving and with confidence, we pray boldly as one, the prayer Jesus taught us saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 581 VU When we are Living 

Blessing:

There is a quote that you have probably heard before that goes like this:

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

Go forth in the confidence that God’s Spirit is at work in all of us,

ready to strengthen and guide us.

Go, knowing that each of us carries with us part of God’s great story of love and compassion on earth.

Share that story and go in the peace of God’s still speaking presence. Amen.

*************** 

 

October 30, 2022

Good afternoon and welcome to our worship service.

 

Reminder for book study folks– we will be discussing Ch 4 The Bible: What is it? Where Did it Come From? and Ch. 5 The Authority of the Bible and Our Interpretation of It. on Wed. at 7pm via zoom.

 

Official Board meets next Sunday, after in person worship.

Also, next Sunday is Food Bank Sunday so please remember to add your items to the box in the foyer. They will be delivered to food bank that week. Pasta, pasta sauce, tuna, peanut butter, soups, canned veggies, canned fruit, etc always needed and appreciated.

 

Thanks to all who contributed to Clergy Appreciation gift I will be dividing the money between the food bank and Gifts with Vision/ Mission and Service. Thanks too for the subscription to the Carleton Victoria Arts Concerts which I enjoy.

 

Cherish this beautiful day!

 

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

We light this one candle to remind us that the light of Christ softens the shadows of our living, calling us to carry forth his love and hope to the world. (light candle)

On this Sunday closest to All Saints Day, we remember saints, past and present, who, in the words of a hymn, “made their life a light, caught from the Christ flame, bursting through the night.” That same light is here for us too. As we remember their legacy of faith, we light a candle as followers of Jesus, seeking guidance as we continue to walk in his way. (Christ candle is lit)

Our creed says it so well- “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.”

So, with intention and compassion, we turn our thoughts to those who have influenced our lives, our communities, and our world through their living, and whose influence lives on, beyond their dying. As we have been blessed by them, so we take time this morning to hear their names spoken again in our midst, to bless them with our gratitude and with our intention to let our light shine in the world in which we live. (Names read and flower placed)

Ralph Shaw brother of Marilyn White

Dorothy Greene mother of Kim Brooks

Gail Greene aunt of Kim Brooks

Shirley Underhill friend of Faith Memorial United Church

John Boland brother of Beverley West

Robert Thomson friend of Beverley West

Bob Wishart husband of Sylvia Wishart

Michael Andrew MacInnis friend of Graydon & Sam Dingee

June Boucher – sister-in-law of Anita Boucher

 

Let us pray: (in unison)

O God, we celebrate the lives of these persons we have named and known

and we add them to the names of those known by you alone;

people who make up your great communion of saints.

Their strengths and their weaknesses are woven with our own.

Help us, as we live and grow in faith and love, in courage and wisdom,

to join in their number; working for justice and peace,

for freedom and human rights,

bringing laughter and a human touch,

healing and wholeness,

acceptance and understanding, into a world in need.

As we worship you this day,

may your Spirit lead us to be faithful saints in our time and place. Amen.

Hymn: 705 VU For All the Saints  

Prayer of Confession:

O God, hear our prayer as we open our hearts to you.

In the story of Zacchaeus and his neighbours

we learn of your openness to all who long to belong.

In the grumbling of these same neighbours

we hear echoes of our own prejudices and fears.

We know how quickly we make unjust judgements of others,

especially those we oppose or despise or who don’t think or act like we do.

Sometimes the only exercise we get is “jumping to conclusions.”

For our impatience with others and with you, we are sorry.

In your mercy, God, forgive us. Amen.

Words of Affirmation:

Rich, poor, young, old, sinner, saint.

It doesn’t matter. We are all God’s children.

God works with us and transforms us, helping us to be the people we are meant to be.

Thanks be to God!

Readings and Reflection:

 Beyond Assumptions

This morning we began our worship by recalling the names of beloved friends and family who have gone before us into God’s eternal rest. We remembered the blessings that their lives brought and continue to bring to our living. We remember the strength and courage of their witness to us, the ways they challenged us to grow and to see life from different perspectives. By their love, encouragement and presence, they helped to make God’s love visible to us.

In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he, too, gives thanks for the strength of the witness of this group of believers who, even in the midst of persecution and suffering, continued to remain steadfast, loving and open to growing in their faith in God and their love for one another. Perhaps, as we listen to it this morning, we might imagine it addressed to our faith community as a word of encouragement and a reminder to keep growing and witnessing to our faith even in the challenging times in which we find ourselves.

2 Thessalonians 1: 1-4, 11-12

  From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy:

To the church of the Thessalonians, which is in God our Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace to all of you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, we must always thank God for you. This is only right because your faithfulness is growing by leaps and bounds, and the love that all of you have for each other is increasing. That’s why we ourselves are bragging about you in God’s churches. We tell about your endurance and faithfulness in all the harassments and trouble that you have put up with.

11 We are constantly praying for you for this: that our God will make you worthy of his calling and accomplish every good desire and faithful work by his power. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored by you, and you will be honored by him, consistent with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our gospel story is the familiar one many of us can remember from Sunday School days, the story of Zacchaeus -you know the “wee, little man, who climbed up into the sycamore tree.” Other than that little ditty song though, what more do we know about the story? Well, here’s something- did you know that the name Zacchaeus means “clean” or “innocent”? I doubt that is how your Sunday School teachers presented him!  After all, you know, he was a tax collector! And we know how despised tax collectors were in Jesus’ day. Let’s listen to the story once again to see what we can find that’s fresh. (For our in- person worship, I will be reading it from a wonderful, imaginative children’s Bible called Read, Wonder, Listen: Stories from the Bible for Young Readers, by Laura Alary and Ann Sheng. Copyright prevents me from printing it out here, but the book is readily available if you are looking for Christmas ideas for young folks. In my opinion, this is one of the best!)

Luke 19: 1-10

 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.

Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”

Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

One morning this week as I was reflecting on this story about Zacchaeus, I tuned into an interview from CBC Fredericton. It concerned the tent cities along Fredericton’s north side, around Barker’s Point. A woman named Dawn Knowlton was sharing her struggle of living on the streets for four years and constantly having to pack her things and leave the tent camps when the police came to move them along. People in the neighbourhoods complain about the trash and the thefts. Yet, in Dawn’s opinion, there is little option. She doesn’t want to go to the shelters because it means giving up what little belongings she does have. She says, “A lot of us don’t want to be this way. We’re just trying to get by. We get unfairly blamed for crimes in the community. People judge us. You can’t even stand anywhere and have a drink of pop or get off your bicycle without someone putting the run to you.” It seems that just because there is a lot of crime within the homeless community, everyone who is homeless gets tarred with the same brush. As I listened to the interview, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between Dawn’s story and the story of Zacchaeus. Both of them suffered from people’s preconceived ideas about them. Both of them were victims and were wounded by other people’s judgements and pushed to the sidelines of their communities. All they wanted was for others to hear their stories, to move beyond the gossip and the innuendos and to see them for who they really were. We see this kind of defamation of character all the time, don’t we? People hear something. People share something on social media. People look at someone and make judgements about a person based on someone else’s opinion. Then the labels get slapped on and the person gets boxed in by another’s perception. They don’t bother to sit down and get to know the person or the situation. As I listened to Dawn’s story, I couldn’t help but think how it said more about us as a society than maybe it even said about her.

I think that is how it was for Zacchaeus too. This is partly because the traditional way of interpreting his story is to see him as a corrupt tax collector who, upon meeting Jesus, repented of his exploitation of the people and was transformed. And indeed, that is how some versions of scripture depict the story. Not to get us too bogged down in the original Greek but the verb used in one spot in this story can be interpreted a couple of ways. Some say that after meeting with Jesus, Zacchaeus says he will give half of his possesses to the poor and will repay 4 times all that he has cheated. That is future tense. However, many commentators are noting that that verb can also be interpreted as present tense. This means that Zacchaeus is saying that he already is giving half of what he possesses to the poor and repaying them. You see the difference? In this second way of interpreting it, Zacchaeus is maintaining his innocence. Much like Dawn in the interview from CBC, he is simply stating his frustration at being tarred with the same brush simply because he is a tax collector.

Obviously, it isn’t that their stories are identical. Unlike Dawn, Zacchaeus wasn’t living on the streets. He had a good job as chief tax collector. Yet, it was a job that brought him absolutely no respect from fellow Jews. It’s because he worked for the Roman government at the expense of his own people. Tax collectors like him would collect the allotted Roman tax and then heap extra fees on the people and pocket the extra amounts for themselves. As one commentator expressed it- think sub- prime mortgage agents on steroids and you will get the picture! To the people of his city, Zacchaeus was lumped in with all the others in his industry and branded as ritually unclean. People avoided him. Like Dawn on the streets of Fredericton, people kept trying to sweep Zacchaeus out of sight. They didn’t want him around. His reputation preceded him. He wanted to belong. He wanted to fit in. He wanted to be liked. He wanted to show them that he wasn’t like all the other tax collectors. But the walls were up. The assumptions they held kept him pegged and branded. They never bothered to see him as anything other than a cheat, a traitor. They never bothered to hear his story, to sit down over a cup of coffee and get to know him better.

It is the same when Jesus came to town. Like the others, Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus, his teachings, his miracles. He had heard how Jesus was ruffling the feathers of those in authority, challenging the accepted way of doing things. He knew that Jesus talked about justice and fairness, and acceptance and belonging. He had heard how Jesus had been known to associate with all kinds of people, even eating with tax collectors much to the shock and dismay of the scribes and the pharisees who were quick to condemn such association with known sinners. Zacchaeus had even heard that there was a former tax collector among Jesus’ most inner group of disciples. Zacchaeus was curious. He just had to meet this Jesus. But that was easier said than done. As our reading shared with us, on the day Jesus came to town, no one would let Zacchaeus into the crowd so he could catch a glimpse. But somehow, he managed to climb that tree. That’s when Jesus noticed him. “Hey, you’re Zacchaeus, aren’t you? I’ve heard about you.” We can imagine Zacchaeus fearing the worst, feeling certain that Jesus was going to scold him right there and then in front of all those people. Zacchaeus had the speech all rehearsed in his mind- “Look, before you lecture me, Jesus, I am not who they say I am. I have always charged less commission than the other tax collectors. I have given half of my earnings to the poor and if I have happened to cheat anyone, I have paid them back four times over. I am doing just what John the Baptist told us to do when he preached repentance. When we tax collectors came to him and asked what should we do, he told us to not to collect any more than required.  Yet, they have lumped me in with all the rest and branded me a cheat. And I am sure you’re going to do the same.” But just when he started to put all that into words, Jesus smiles and interrupts him- I know you are kind, Zacchaeus. You don’t have to do all this explaining. I know you are not who they say you are. As for your reputation, in my books, you are a child of Abraham. Why don’t we do lunch and talk this over some more?

 Now the tongues in that crowd were wagging to beat the band. No way! Can you imagine? Why is he going to that sinner’s home? Why is he wasting his time with the likes of him?

As for Zacchaeus, we can only imagine how that day changed his self image. Perhaps for the first time in his life, he finally felt like he belonged. He now knew that God accepted him as he was, warts and all. And who knows, maybe he even went forth from that day to convince other tax collectors to do their work without ripping people off.

Seen this way, the story seems to have more relevance for us in our world today. We are left to wonder if the example of Jesus seeing through all the labels that people had slapped on Zacchaeus and treating him as a human being rather than a category had any affect on the crowds of scoffers. Were they able to see beyond their assumptions when confronted with the truth of Zacchaeus’ sincere efforts to act justly toward others?  What about us? Are we able to get to know the individual and to hear their stories or do we just fall into the camp that says oh, they are from such and such place, or such and such family, so they must be like… you fill in the blank. Who do we grumble at today because of who they appear to be? Is it the Dawns of the tent cities? Where do we make blanket statements about others based on their political persuasions, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their marital status, their economic background, their race or what have you without finding out the whole story, without getting to know the person on a deeper level? How can we, like Jesus, find ways of seeing through to the hearts of others?   How might we see Zacchaeus’ story as less about the wee little man in the tree and more so as a challenge to us, the people in the crowds to see as Jesus sees and to love as God loves, beyond the labels, beyond the categories and beyond our preconceived assumptions?

It seems to me that now, maybe more than ever, what with the insults, slurs and quick judgements being made on social media and in many public forums, our world could use a little more of this way of seeing and respecting one another. It sure can’t hurt. Amen

Minute for Mission

How can we be good soil for the love of Earth?

A small seedling sprouts from the earth.

An awakening. That’s how Sarah Arthurs describes what she experienced just before she came up with the idea for “Green Exodus”—gatherings of people who find themselves falling deeply in love with Earth and want to help it flourish.

“Back in 2008, partly due to the influence of former Moderator the Very Reverend Bill Phipps, my family and I moved into Prairie Sky Cohousing Cooperative to maintain a smaller footprint on the earth,” explains Arthurs. She figured that with that, she had done her part.

“With the move, it was as if I said to the Earth, ‘Don’t call me—I’ll call you,’” she says. Then, in 2019, she read articles in The Tyee magazine by William Rees, originator of the carbon footprint model. “He described how technology was not going to save us from the destruction of climate change, and it was as if the Earth came calling! I was left with new awareness and big questions,” she says.

Those questions evolved into the idea for Green Exodus gatherings.

With help from an Embracing the Spirit grant supported through your Mission & Service gifts, the support of EDGE Network, and an advisory team, * Green Exodus meetings were born.

Throughout the pandemic, the group met online to explore the spiritual questions raised by climate change and the theologies and spiritual practices that were emerging as a result.

“We used various practices to realign our relationship with Earth. Things like meditation, poetry, contemplative photography, deep time walk, community conversations and hospitality,” she says, adding, “Tony Snow guided us in attention to land acknowledgment and the four elements (Fire, Air, Water, and Earth) as a way to ground ourselves in the Earth.”

Some of the practices used are highlighted on the website GreenExodus.ca(opens in a new tab). A key probing question runs through all of them: How can we be good soil for the love of Earth?

“You can only see as sacred what you love. You can only save what you love. We need to practise falling in love with Earth again,” says Arthurs.

Your gifts through Mission & Service support unique, transformative ministries like Green Exodus. Thank you for your generosity.

Let us pray:

O God, as we remember all those who have gone before us and paved the way of faith, remind us that we stand in that same line of witnesses to your love today. We give you thanks for this church and for communities of people who seek to grow in your ways, especially in these challenging times in which we find ourselves. Thank you for those who help us to see things in new ways, to experience life and faith with new perspectives that call us forward, showing us new ways of belonging, of being and becoming people of your realm here on earth.

Give us courage and strength to serve you in all we do. Remind us again and again that you are not looking for perfection, but faithfulness, and that you take our rough edges and work with them helping them to made smooth. Help us to welcome others in the way Jesus welcomed Zacchaeus, naming him as one of your children, beloved and unique. Teach us to see beyond the labels, to notice those who are hidden or pushed aside by society, all who are made to feel unloved, unimportant or unwanted, lost in the crowd, outside the circle looking in, longing to belong and to be valued for who they are.

We lift before you this day all who are struggling for acceptance, for food, for stability, for safe and adequate housing. We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and all areas of the world where people are fleeing for their safety and longing for peace. We pray for caregivers, nurses, doctors and all medical staff who are trying to do their work under increasingly stressful situations and amidst staff shortages that are challenging their core values of care and compassion for all patients. We pray for patients caught up in the midst of discouraging wait times for treatment and care. We ask that you might grant wisdom to those in power to listen to those on the front lines and to work for sustainable solutions.

We pray for people we know who this day need your strength, your love and your mercy as they face situations and struggles, illnesses and upheaval in their lives… and in the silence of our hearts we take a moment to bring their needs before you…

Hear these and all our prayers that we bring to you, O God, in all sincerity and hope, as we offer them in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray saying… Our Father…  

Hymn: 145 Mv   Draw the Circle Wide   

Blessing:

No matter where you go or what you do this week ahead,

remember that you are a beloved child of God,

called to experience the hospitality of Christ

and to travel in the way of the Spirit’s justice.

May we live as people who have encountered the love of God

 

and may God’s light shine through us. Amen.

******************

 

 

Worship Service – October 23, 2022

Announcements

Greeting

The United Church has new vision and purpose statements. These are key elements of a strategic plan designed to shape the next three years. The Vision reads:

Called by God, as disciples of Jesus, The United Church of Canada seeks to be a bold, connected, evolving church of diverse, courageous, hope-filled communities united in deep spirituality, inspiring worship, and daring justice.

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

In celebration and thanksgiving for Jesus, the source of our blessings and the inspiration for our giving, we light this candle.

As we come to worship, we light a candle to remind us that Christ is the light of the world, bringing strength as we journey and light for our way.

 

Call to Worship

Why? That is the question.
Why are we here?
Is it convention, a loyalty to the traditions of our parents?

Our parents were guides but being here is our choice.

Is it habit, the practice of a lifetime?

Habits we perform without thinking but being here is our choice.

Is it friendship, the tie to others?

These ties bind us but being here is our choice.
We choose to come

for our lives to be transformed

for the transformation of the world.
Let us come and worship God!

 

Opening Prayer

We come today, we are grateful for your presence in our church.
We lift up the legacy of those who have gone before us.
We humbly pray for your guidance in the new paths you are forging ahead for us

We now pause to recognizing our failing
We have not been as you have called us to be

We say United
Yet we are broken in so many places

We say diversity is welcome
Yet those who are difference struggle to find their place

We say forgive us
Yet we seem to find it hard to forgive.

Quietly speak to our hearts Divine One
You are the potter in whose hands we now yield
Break us and mold us into what you want us to be
Fill us with your spirit and give us new utterings
May we profess with joy in seeking to:
Collaborate to mend our Church and our world
Invigorate our leadership in steering us to bold discipleship
Embrace equity and sustainability in our resources
Live out our climate commitments
Be humble and confident in sharing our Faith
And work towards the strengthening of the Indigenous church initiatives.
This we pray in the name of the One who guides our path.
 Amen

 — A prayer by the Rev. Karlene Brown-Palmer, St. Paul’s United Church, Tillsonburg, Ontario.

Hymn

“Will You Come and Follow Me” (Voices United 567) 

Exploring the New Purpose Statement

The new purpose statement of the United Church involves three key phrases:

Deep spirituality
Bold discipleship
Daring justice

Today, let us explore each line and the insights it offers for our personal faith experience and our witness as Christ’s church. Each of the following reflections has been submitted by a faith leader in the United Church. Turning to the first line, Deep Spirituality.

Reflection: Deep Spirituality

Bill’s response shocked me. We were completing an exercise in confirmation class. The program involved a monthly session with youth in Grade 9 and their mentors. Each young person was partnered with an adult in the congregation. They attended the monthly session together and then had a second meeting with just the two of them, following an outline that explored the subject of the class further. This session was on prayer.

All class activities were undertaken by both youth and mentors. Early in the lesson, I invited them to take their place along a line. At one end of the line were those who never prayed outside of worship and at the other were those who prayed daily. It was my experience, bearing in mind this was 20 years ago, that even the youth often fell in the middle. Many of them had been taught bedtime childhood prayers that they sometimes still recited. What I was not prepared for was one of the adults to land at never, but that was what Bill did.

Bill was a retired educator that I recruited as a mentor because he was skilled at drawing out young people who were there because their parents had forced them to be. I often paired him with the young person I expected to engage least. Bill would connect with them and they would attend and participate. Bill was a trustee and a member of the church council. He had words of wisdom and insight in each of these settings. I valued his input. Most Sundays, he attended worship. Bill also had a grandchild who needed a heart transplant before their first birthday, so his experience with stress was first-hand. But here he was sharing that he never prayed.

To be fair to Bill, I suspect he was more typical than atypical of the men of his generation. Many years earlier, one of my predecessors had held a monthly men’s lunch where the men in the congregation shared a meal and discussed a topic. But that had long ended. Unless they attended a study group, there was no opportunity for men to gather to pray beyond worship compared to the opportunity UCW provided women for spiritual growth. Once the shock passed, dismay took its place. How had the church so failed Bill that we had not given him the tools to draw close to God?

That is what spirituality is: drawing close to God. In worship, we do that corporately—as a congregation. But what tools do we have to do it privately? Prayer is certainly one. Prayer is opening our lives to God. It can be with words or through music or using many other forms. For some people, it is solitude in nature. For others, it is quieting and settling themselves with tools like meditation or mandalas, the original adult colouring activity. For me, it is writing in a journal.

For Bill it was worship, and that experience formed him into a man dedicated to serving his church. I only wonder how much more personal that experience may have been for him if he had had other tools, like one of these forms of prayer or a group with whom to study, to deepen his intimacy with God.

What our new mission statement says is that this experience of intimacy with God is the starting point for each of us. It is grounded in worship and prayer, study and scripture. Deep spirituality is the joy of those who know they are loved and held by God and who long to run into God’s embrace. Deep spirituality is the cornerstone of our identity, not just as a church but also as individuals.

Hymn

“Take Time to Be Holy” (VU 672)  

Reflection: Bold Discipleship

One of the movies in which Laurence Fishburne acts is Akeelah and the Bee. Fishburne is the teacher who commits to work with 11-year-old Akeelah to prepare her to compete at the National Spelling Bee.

Akeelah is keen to pursue this, but partway through the preparation she loses focus. Fishburne has set her the task of memorizing boxes of words, and she is rather bored with the enterprise. Her approach leads him into a discussion of discipline that forever changed my understanding of discipleship.

Fishburne explains that discipline is what gives life to learning. The word discipline, like the word disciple, comes from the Latin discipulus, meaning pupil. Like discipline, discipleship is the act of giving life to learning.

If spirituality is intimacy with God, then discipleship is how that intimacy shapes us. Discipleship is where our understanding of God connects with our lives. We are now in the Season after Epiphany in the church year, the period after Jesus’ birth and baptism, in which we remember Jesus’ public ministry and those who followed him. Stories of those closest to him, of his disciples, dominate the scripture readings for this period. It is a time focused on call.

In today’s reading from John, we witness the moment that Jesus was called to leave his private life to take up his public ministry. He has been in the community as the son of Joseph. He has cared for his mother and his younger siblings, who at this point appear to have been raised. He attends a wedding, and when the wine runs out his mother nudges him. Has she been watching from the sidelines wondering when he would take up the calling she believed he had? Has she been worried that his sense of family obligation is standing in the way of his future? Has she sensed a restlessness in him? Jesus is none too happy with her prodding. He appears to be willing to continue as is, with a quiet life not much different from that of his neighbours. But whether it is his mother’s prompting or his own yearning, the moment has come when Jesus needs his life to reflect his identity, and he changes the water into wine. It’s a turning point in his life, or as the writer of John calls it, it’s the first of his miracles.

This is often how we speak about call, as though it is a dramatic moment where life changes completely. Consequently, we often only discuss call for people like myself, people whose lives are obviously shaped by a decision born of faith. But we do a disservice when we do that. We miss seeing how our personal stories are connected to God’s holy story.

Take my mother for example. My mom was a woman of deep faith, but I suspect if you asked her what her calling was she would have fumbled for an answer. Yet to me, from the outside it was obvious. My mom fed people. She was forced to leave school early to care for her younger sisters due to her own mother’s illness. When she left home, it was to work as a domestic. Then she served in the navy as an officers’ cook. After the war she was responsible for the cashiers in a Toronto-based chain of supermarkets. When she quit working to have a family, apart from caring for us and entertaining others she was always the person in charge of meals at the church: fundraising meals, celebratory meals, and so forth. In fact, when friends of ours described the church as God’s house, their three-year-old daughter asked if Grace, my mom, cooked God’s meals! Long before the practice was widespread, my mom was part of initiatives to make sure struggling families had the supplies they needed for a Christmas feast. In every experience in her life she was devoted to helping people have the nourishment they needed. Surely that is just as sacred a calling as mine to serve as an ordained minister!

Discipleship is seeing how our lives are a sacred calling and, out of our faith, connecting our gifts with the world’s needs. Discipleship is how our lives become avenues of God’s love and presence in the world. Let us not be hesitant in understanding or embracing this but rather bold in claiming every moment of every day and every activity as an expression of how God is caring for the world through us.

John 2:1‒11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Reflection: Daring Justice

In the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, two words are often paired: righteousness and justice. Righteousness is to be in right relationship with God. Righteousness is the experience of deep spirituality and bold discipleship; it is the bond between God and us that shapes our lives. Justice is the bond between God and God’s people that shapes the world. Justice is what moves faith from the individual experience of “me in my small corner” to all of us as the church together in the world. If discipleship is what shapes our lives, justice is what shapes our world.

1 Corinthians 12:1‒11

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

 

Justice is when each of us brings our different gifts together as one. Justice is living as the body of Christ is described in 1 Corinthians 12. Although today’s reading ends with this list of gifts, what follows is the famous passage where Paul likens the church to a body, noting that a body needs many parts just as the body of Christ needs many gifts. Justice is when the gifts of God’s people come together to seek the transformation of the world. Justice is when United Church people and United Church congregations work together to sponsor refugees in response to the Syrian crisis. Justice is when United Church people and congregations support the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to be able to provide food in emergency situations and to promote long-term food security around the globe. Justice is when United Church people and congregations admit our painful role in residential schools and commit to reconciliation. While Canadians may have been both shocked and surprised by unmarked graves, I think many United Church folk only had their worst fears confirmed. We already knew how destructive residential schools had been and what a painful chapter our participation in them is in our life as a church. Justice is when United Church people and congregations march in Pride parades and speak out against the violence suffered by the Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ community. Justice is when our response is collective and transformative. Justice is bringing our different gifts together to move the world closer to God’s intention for fullness of life for all.

Daring justice is when we respond to the world in faith, not out of fear. Many congregations are mired in fear because the future of communities of faith in general and of the community they love in particular are uncertain. Their decisions become guided by what involves the least risk: the least risk of upsetting someone, the least risk to their financial sustainability, the least risk on many different fronts. Daring justice is the call to be found together in faith and to respond together in faith—not fear. So, let us be daring as we glimpse God’s vision for a world transformed, trusting that the God we know so well, whose ways we seek to follow, will not forsake or forget us but will dare us to leave our fears behind to be in the world as people of deep spirituality, bold discipleship, and daring justice.

Minute for Mission

Update: Your Generosity at Work in Ukraine

A man standing in a truck hands stacks of boxed food to a woman on the ground.

Your gifts provide life-saving support in Ukraine.

Credit: Simon Chambers/ACT Alliance

 

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, Mission & Service partners have been responding to the needs of those impacted by the war. Here’s an update about some of the ways your generosity is helping to provide life-saving support through our global partnerships:

  • With the freezing cold of winter looming, ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) is working hard to ensure that those affected by the conflict have safe, warm, and dignified accommodation. As schools are being used to shelter refugees and internally displaced people, ACT is making certain children can continue to access education.
  • In the earliest days of the crisis, one of our partners—Hungarian Interchurch Aid—opened welcome points at borders for those driving and walking across the border and transitioned to support those arriving by train. They have now opened a centralized refugee hub.
  • In Poland, our partner the Lutheran World Federation is hosting cash support centres, providing refugee families with money to meet their basic needs.
  • Throughout affected regions, Mission & Service partners are helping people access essentials like food, water, and hygiene.

Church leaders are also on the ground providing spiritual comfort. Father Eugen Omu is a Romanian Orthodox priest who is staffing a refugee welcome centre in Sculeni, Romania. “It is important to have priests here,” he says. “When someone sees a priest, it reminds them of God and gives them courage to face what is to come.”

Our church partners are at the forefront of the emergency response in Ukraine with help from faithful supporters like you.

Your generosity serves as a reminder of the loving spirit of God, providing care and encouragement when and where it is most needed.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

 

Prayers of the People

That light is God’s love, and you are so held.

Feel that love holding you as we pray together:

 

Loving God,

sometimes we forget your presence.

Sometimes we think everything depends upon us,

and we know our inadequacy.

Thank you for being present and for loving us.

Thank you for being present everywhere

and loving all people.

 

Help us to see with new eyes

and love with new hearts

and serve you with joy and light.

We pray for a hurting world,

that people can experience, in difficulty and pain,

your arms around them,

your eyes seeing them,

your everlasting presence, their home.

Help us to share this good news

and to do it in ways that the messenger of love

is congruent with the message of love as we pray

boldly as one, saying… Our Father….

Hymn

“I Feel the Winds of God Today” (VU 625)   

Blessing

Let us go forth and live as the call to the church invites us to do, as people
whose deep spirituality draws them ever closer to God, the eternal,
whose bold discipleship reflects their life as followers of Jesus Christ, and whose commitment to daring justice is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power of transformation.

Amen.

Materials for this service © 2022 The United Church of Canada/L’Église Unie du Canada. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ca.

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October 16, 2022

Good afternoon, everyone. Hope you are enjoying this beautiful fall day.

 

Today is World Food Day and our worship service centres on issues of food equity for all, both locally and globally.


As you join in worship, I invite you to think about some action that you can take to help bring that vision closer.

 

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

 

There is much in our world that disheartens us- turmoil, war, hunger and injustice to name but a few. As we come to worship, we light a candle to remind us that Christ is the light of the world, bringing strength as we journey and light for our way.

Call to Worship:

Our Creator has designed a beautiful world,
a world where each one can have what is needed to live fully.

As we partner with God in making this a reality,

God promises us justice,

and teaches us persistence.

God promises to be with us

and teaches us to tend to each other.

We worship this God who both comforts and challenges us

to renew our commitment to be a blessing as we praise and serve in hope.

Prayer of Approach

O beloved Creator, we open our hearts to your wisdom:
to the thoughts that calm us,

the ideas that provoke us,
the teachings that expand us,

the insights that challenge us,

the ideas that inspire us.

Work in us as we worship today.

We are open and ready for your wisdom’s unfolding. Amen.

Hymn: 603 VU In Loving Partnership We Come  https://youtu.be/9ewRIuFWd3I

Introduction to World Food Day

World Food Day was created by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on Oct. 16, 1945. The goal is to free humanity from hunger and malnutrition, and to effectively manage the global food system. It is recognized today in 150 countries.

One of the ways that we as United Church of Canada folks help this effort is through our support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.  In emergency situations, the Foodgrains Bank gives dry food rations to people who are in crisis and who, without food, will get very sick.

Each food ration contains about 2¼ cups of cereal (flour, rice, etc.), ¼ cup of pulses (beans, lentils, etc.), ½ cup of oil, and 1 teaspoon of iodized salt per person per day. What might you make with this ration?

Rations support people who are in crisis, and that’s important. But it’s also important to try to prevent people from needing rations in the first place. World Food Day calls us to persist in asking those bigger questions about world hunger and the efforts we are making in working toward food security for all.

For instance, why it is that that the world produces enough food for every single person to have more than enough to eat, all 7 billion of us, yet 800 million do not get enough food to lead healthy lives?

 Why is it that some have too much and some do not have enough?

Why is it that one person is dying of hunger in this world every 4 seconds?

The solutions to these questions are immense. Answers do not come overnight. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of staggering statistics. We wonder how can we, in our little community, make a difference. What is God calling us to do?

Hymn: 701 VU What Does the Lord Require of You? 

Readings and Reflection:

We turn to our scriptures to give us some help and hope with this question about seeking food security for all people of the earth. Our first reading is set just prior to the time when the exiles return and reclaim the homeland of their ancestors.  

 Isaiah 55:1‒13

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your earnings for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Now you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle, and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

   James 2:14‒17

What good is it, my siblings, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Surely that faith cannot save, can it? If a sibling is naked and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

 Sometimes, it is easy to feel that we cannot make a difference in the face of powers that be that control food for profit. Think of the war in Ukraine and the wheat shortages that are happening because of that. Or the food crisis caused by climate change. Or the food wastage that happens in our grocery stores and restaurants. Such statistics can leave us feeling overwhelmed, even wondering why do we bother in the face of staggering inequities in the world? It is easy to feel disheartened.

In our gospel lesson, we hear the story of a widow who, in spite of injustices she faced, refused to lose heart. Perhaps it can serve as a reminder to us, on this World Food Sunday, to persist in our efforts for food justice and security, even when it can often feel like an uphill battle. It calls us to remember that prayer involves both our voices and our feet. Let’s listen to how this widow refuses to back down.

Luke 18: 1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my accuser.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you; he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

In light of these scriptures on this World Food Day, I invite you to hear this reflection I have adapted for us from resources prepared for this day by the United Church of Canada:

“Buy without Price”

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

How do you buy without price? How do you eat without price?

In Canada, food prices are rising, pushing more and more people to the brink. In a report released by Food Banks Canada, one in five Canadians (7 million people) reported going hungry at least once between March 2020 and March 2022. According to Food Banks Canada’s CEO, Kirstin Beardsley, 61 percent of Canadians now believe that rising housing costs are the biggest barrier that is preventing Canadians from being able to afford food, a sentiment that has doubled in the past year alone.

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

These verses in Isaiah 55 were addressed to displaced people, Israelites who had been forcibly deported to Babylon when Jerusalem was destroyed. They were not well fed. In fact, everything about their lives had been turned upside down.

And here God is offering water, wine, bread, milkall the essential “goods” of the promised land—free.

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

Imagine receiving that invitation! All free! Wouldn’t you be overjoyed?

Instead of telling people living in poverty to go away, in the Isaiah passage, God issues an open invitation to “come.” “Come to the waters.” “Come buy and eat.” And there are other imperative verbs in these short verses like “Listen,” “Call upon him,” and “Seek the Lord.” These aren’t harsh orders. They are more like persistent invitations extended to everyone regardless of financial means.

Some commentators interpret Isaiah 55 in a symbolic way. They believe the food referred to in the passage is spiritual rather than material. Yet, it’s very difficult to know where one ends and the other begins, as the Bible is concerned with both physical and spiritual hunger.

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

I think Isaiah 55 is profoundly economically subversive.

Let’s consider the line “Buy without price.”

Isn’t it annoying when you go to a store and get to the cash only to find that there is no price-tag on the items you intend to purchase? You know how it goes. A salesperson is called to go searching while everyone in line behind you mutters under their breath and glares holes in your back.

Wouldn’t it be a shock if the cashier told you the food you were about to purchase didn’t have a price because it’s free, and wouldn’t everyone else in line change their tune if they found out their purchases were free, too?

Wouldn’t you think “What is going on here?”

What’s the point of specifying “buying” and then adding “without price”?

Isaiah was imagining an entirely new system. A system where all of the essentials are available equally for everyone.

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

Food security has always been an issue, but the pandemic as well as wheat shortages resulting from the war in Ukraine have forced us to the brink of a massive hunger crisis.

Right now, more than 50 million people are facing starvation―almost double the number in 2019.

We have never needed to hear Isaiah’s words more:

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

In our community, we help by bringing non-perishable food for the food bank on a monthly basis. Thanks to those who remember to do this and thanks to those who sign their names on the sign-up sheets and physically take it there in your vehicles. We support efforts in our local schools to provide breakfasts and lunches for students and to assist with the We’ve Got Your Back program that helps students over the weekends to have food in their stomachs.

Isaiah’s vision lifts up hope for a renewed world. His is a vision guided by deep spirituality, bold discipleship, and daring justice. This vision has not been realized, but it does shine before us, a kind of holy beacon, drawing us toward love.

Through Mission & Service, we meet immediate needs by providing emergency food hampers in times of crisis, stocking shelves at food banks, and serving good, healthy meals through various outreach agencies. We also help provide longer-term change by supporting education opportunities, seeding community garden initiatives, and helping neighbourhoods set up systems to cope with the impact of conflict and climate change on their food systems.

Women for Change, Zambia, is one of over 100 partners supported through our Mission & Service. Since its inception in 1992, the organization has mobilized communities to share ideas and best practices, including on the topic of food sustainability. Today, 1,500 community groups are meeting regularly, each one gathering 25‒40 people. Groups discuss how they can save and share seeds, what they can plant with longer or shorter rains, and if there are traditional methods that can increase food production. Altogether, 37,000 people have learned together and supported each other to address food insecurity. What an incredible impact!

But what is really touching is how Lumba Siyanga, the Executive Director of Women for Change, describes our relationship:

The United Church has been supporting us since 1995 and has been there for us through really challenging times. What sets the United Church apart is that you don’t just give us money; you want to get to know us. It’s a different approach. We really have a relationship. It’s a true partnership.

When you give through Mission & Service, you are not only providing financial support but also your generosity unfolds within a mutually caring relationship. It’s the difference between dropping food on a doorstep and sitting down for a meal. By getting to know our partners, we not only take our lead from them about how best to provide tangible support but we also give and receive spiritual care through relationship building.

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

These are just a few of examples of how we are making a difference and persisting in our efforts to “keep on keeping on” much like the widow in our gospel. This year’s Gifts with Vision catalogue offers ideas of gift giving for friends and family that will issue in helping programs to create food sustainability in communities across our country and around the world. Be sure to check it out!

We share Isaiah’s vision, where there is enough to go around and an open invitation to the table.

Let’s not be daunted by the enormity of the vision, but let us be committed to doing our part to make it a reality.

Hear, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!…buy without price.

Together we can build a better world. Amen!

Please join me in this affirmation called We Dare to Dream:

We dare to dream of a world

in which hunger is unknown:

where scarcity is an illusion,

and everyone has a place at the table.

 

We dare to dream of a world

in which generosity is the norm:

where greed finds no foothold,

and there is more than enough for all.

 

We dare to dream of a world

in which love rules:

where compassion is the first response,

and there is no place for bigotry.

 

We dare to dream.

We dare to pray.

We dare to believe.

 

~ from Hunger for Justice: World Food Day 2016, posted on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website.

As we begin to pray, I invite you to take some deep breaths and be open to God’s wisdom and grace.

In the silence of your hearts, give God thanks for one food you enjoy. (silence)
Give thanks for someone you love breaking bread with. (silence)
Give thanks for a food producer or farmer you know. (silence)
Give thanks for a group addressing food insecurity. (silence)
Give thanks for Mission & Service partners who are supporting people who are facing food insecurity. (silence)

Creator,
conspire with us
to create a world where all have access to nutritious and sustainable food sources,
and none live with scarcity or food insecurity.
Redeemer,
save us from oppressive and unjust systems.
Mobilize us to be a part of a world response
that works in partnership with those of good will
to foster equitable resource sharing.
Sustainer,
cultivate our resilience and expand our imaginations
so that we might continually find new ways
to answer the call to end hunger—
until all may flourish.
(Lord’s Prayer)
Amen.

—A prayer for World Food Day by Alydia Smith

Hymn: 171 MV Christ Has No Body now but Yours  

Blessing

Based on Ephesians 3:14‒21

May God strengthen our inner being with power through God’s Spirit, that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, rooted and grounded in love. May we know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge such that we are filled with the fullness of God.

 And may God who, by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, be and abide with us now and forevermore. Amen.

 

 

(Materials for this service adapted from copyright 2022 The United Church of Canada/L’Eglise Unie du Canada. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ca)

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