Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sermon for October 29th 2006

Our service today included a Baptism and the Liturgy of Remembrance for the Saints who have preceded us in death over the past year ... The Children's Story was a reflection on the Mikvah that was common in Jesus day and how the process of bathing, changing one's clothes generally cleansing one's self to stand before God would be incredibly inconvenient if we had to do it every single time we walked into Church ... I mused that perhaps that was Jesus' and John's points when they brought into being the liturgy of Baptism. Maybe they wanted us be "cleaned" once and for all, and to draw into God's presence how we are, worrying more about being before God and less about what we look like ... (there's a place for being clean)

Then I offered the following as my reflection for the day ... some of my thoughts behind it will appear later in The Prairie Preacher Blog ...

For now - Shalom,

October 29th 2006

In the Old Testament – the Hebrew Scriptures there is a particular way of referring to God. There is much controversy around this simple four letter rendering of the name of God.

It is called the tetragrammaton – In the Hebrew texts it is the letters - Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. To the writers of the King James Bible this word became Jehovah. In modern translations it has become Yahweh or The Lord. To those of the Jewish faith it is the one word that is never pronounced – in Temple readings the Rabbi will say something like “Blessed be the name …” or “HaShem” instead.

It is a word that is unutterable - the four consonants of the Name of God in Hebrew Scriptures are regarded as beyond our ability to speak them … So silence is used instead.

I offer this today because this is the context into which our readings from both the Book of Job and the Gospel of Mark arise … We have a dominant culture in which God is regarded as something WHOLLY other – a divine entity that is OUT THERE somewhere. And then we open the book of Job.

The story of Job is familiar. One day God and some of the inhabitants of heaven have a side bet about whether faithful old Job would still be faithful if he lost everything and was rendered poor and destitute. The text continues that even after Job loses everything, even after his wife tells him to simply curse God and die, even after his well intentioned friends come to challenge and question him – JOB stays faithful. But then as the book ends – God – Yahweh – HaShem wades in and confronts Job in person.

How dare you ??? Is the essence of God’s confrontation of Job … “were you there when ??? How dare you question me you little worm??” Thunders God … and Job for his part cowers and says – “oops, I was wrong to question God …”

And Job has his life restored and resurrected …

I’m partial to the last few chapters of the Book of Job. The words attributed to God are words that remind us of the awesome grandeur and splendour of Creation, but more than that, the words attributed to God remind us to look beyond the “woe is” me of the moment.

There can be little doubt that Job suffered. He lost his wealth, his health, his family – he lost everything. There is no way, nor any reason to diminish those losses – but sometimes what we need to do and be about is taking stock of what we STILL have.

It would be easy today to say – “oh great – there’s a winter storm warning for tomorrow …” and work ourselves into a lather about it. OR, we can take stock of our day and put on a pot of tea, get a good book, turn up the heat a notch and simply make the best of it …

At the end of the day, it’s about having the courage to look beyond the moment and re-prioritize and re-value what we have and take stock of what we still have, while not fretting over what we may lack, or that which we may have lost.

Job eventually did that … before the harsh words of God – the unapproachable entity who stepped into the moment – Job took stock of things and said – I know that you are all powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I was the man who misrepresented your intentions
with my ignorant words. You have told me about great works
that I cannot understand,
about marvels which are beyond me, of which I know nothing.
Before, I knew you only by hearsay
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes …

Powerful words … words of one who has struggled with suffering and loss and come to a place of acceptance of life in its fullness … it doesn’t make loss and struggle and suffering acceptable – but it reminds us that such things are part of life, and our call of faith is to not simply ignore such things, but to be there to care for each other when we encounter losses, struggles and suffering …

This theme is picked up in our Gospel reading when Jesus and his disciples are hurrying from one place to another and a blind beggar calls out … “Rabboni !! What about me?” he calls … The crowd was protective of Jesus and told the man to be quiet, and not to disturb the rabbi. But the blind man was persistent. He raised his voice – he called louder and Jesus heard him and stopped and healed him …

I like to regard this story in a metaphorical way. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve watched amazed as prayers for healing have answered. BUT, I’ve also been in places where prayers for healing have seemed to fall on deaf ears and gone unanswered.

I’m uneasy praying to God that someone would be healed, or would recover, or would experience the miraculous. It is setting us up for failure. It is setting us up for disappointment.
My hackles go up when I hear people say – “I’ll pray for you …” If the prayers seem to go unanswered, what does this say to us about our faith …

Instead I feel strongly that we pray that God’s presence and courage and strength be with us and with those we are remembering in prayer. We entrust our concerns into God’s keeping, knowing that miracles DO happen, but a miracle is NOT, and never has been a reward for faith.

Miracles are simply that – miracles.

The lesson in our story of the blind man on the side of the road is that motion of his eyes being opened, and him rising up and following Jesus …

Could the answer to our prayers be the opening of our eyes and our hearts and our souls to the FULL presence of the HOLY (of God) in our lives and our worlds, and to have the courage to receive, accept and live that Grace without fear … ???

Could the answer to our prayers, be the opening our being to the very presence of God in our lives and in creation and trusting God to be with us even in the long dark moments of loss, struggle and suffering??

Job called out to God and was transformed … and in time he rebuilt his life … Bartimaeus, sitting on the side of the road called out to Jesus and was transformed … and in time he rebuilt his life …

Is there a lesson there for us ???

Do we dare to call out to God, not looking for selfish things, but looking for, yearning for, calling for the presence of the Holy that will allow us to be transformed ??

Do we dare even ask ?? Perhaps it is in asking God to be present in our lives that we experience the greatest transformation of all … When we ask, we begin to live the words – “we are NOT alone …”

May it be so – thanks be to God …
Let us pray …

Monday, October 16, 2006

Coming Home ... Sermon for October 15th - From Centennial United Church in Stratford ...

My roots in the United Church of Canada are fairly shallow ... my Home Congregation of Centennial United became a United Church in 1968, and brought into the United Church many of us who are still proud to say we are Evangelical United Brethren (a German Methodist Church) of Canada.

It was a Centennial that I was Baptised, that I went to Sunday School, that I went to Youth Group and at the age of 14 walked away because someone told me that EVERYTHING that happens in life happens because God loves us soooooo much ... "Great," I replied, "God loved me so much he caused the death of my father ..." The ensuing answer drove me out the door for a number of years ...

I wandered ... I searched, then one day I came home and began to pepper our then Minister Rev. Ross Cumming with questions ... I still stayed away, but Ross helped me face the answers to some of my questions and he helped me formulate some of the questions I wasn't even sure about ... Because of him I grew - I matured - and I eventually came back to Centennial ...

In the late 1980's, I began moving through the process of candidacy within the United Church of Canada, and on June 6th 1993, in Windsor Ontario, I was Ordained to the Ministry of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care in the United Church of Canada. Through it all - through my foolish childhood adventures, through my struggles as a youth, right through to the celebration of my Ordination - the folks at Centennial have been there for me in ways they may not even realize.

In recent years, we've grown apart and my contact with them has been at best sporadic, and as I've noted elsewhere I was only asked to preach once since my ordination (Thanks to Rev. Nancy for being SO gracious) ... but Centennial remains my Home Congregation.

A few weeks ago it was announced they would be closing their doors and selling off their building and I wept at the news. On one level it didn't surprise me, but one a deeper level it was the closing of a chapter. Centennial has been my home and my sanctuary - it is the place then when I close my eyes I am a 13 year old boy sitting in the back corner with his buddies, doing what it is that we did regularly ... (and God bless the people of Centennial for their patience, humour and love to let us do it over and over, without losing their temper.)

Yesterday though, I stood before the people who watched me grow and who helped me attain the dream ... Yesterday I was NOT a 13 year old boy messing around in the corner ... Yesterday I was the 38 year old Ordained Minister THEY knew I would one day become - and it was their support, their prayers, their love, and their encouragement that helped make it happen ...

Yesterday I said a small thanks to them by standing before them and offering my reflections on the journey we the people who call Centennial United Church in Stratford Ontario have ahead of us ...

And now - I want to share my musings with the rest of you ...

MY sermon (such as it is):

I recently encountered a quotation that caused me to pause and while reflecting on it say – “Huh?” then with further reflection I said simply – “YES!!!!”

The quotation is simply this: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time …”

Today as a community of faith you are all moving to a place where you will lose sight of the shore. For over a Century, this place – this building has been the shore to those of us who have called it home … And too soon we will lose sight of it – but like the intrepid explorers who some centuries ago set sail into the unknown and discovered the new world that we now call home – you – both together and as individuals, as setting said into the unknown.

But for you – it is a voyage of discipleship … it is on many levels an echoing of our Gospel Reading from Mark, where Jesus is desperately trying to get his disciples, (and us) to fully understands what our call to faith is really all about …

I have to admit that I struggled with what I would and could say this morning … I’m proud that my roots run so deeply here. I’m proud to call this place – and you “my home church.” Even after almost 14 years of ministry, this is still HOME. The lessons you taught me, the bruises you helped soothe, the words of wisdom you’ve imparted to me, and the unconditional love and encouragement that you’ve poured out on me as I grew up here and moved towards Ordained ministry in this United Church of ours has left an indelible mark upon my soul. In many ways, I wanted to preach on – or more accurately – call upon the many friendly ghosts who inhabit this place for me … I could spend hours (and there are times when I do) telling the stories of growing up here and sharing my memories of this place.

But I remember Bob Gibson telling me once that some of the best sermons come when a few simple words in the text catch your attention and the Spirit says simply – “this is it …”

For me this morning, it is verse 28 in our reading from the Gospel of Mark that is just such a snippet – in the text Peter says to Jesus – “LOOK, we have left everything behind and followed you !!!”
We have left everything behind and followed you …

On February 12th 2006 at 5:58 am, the phone in our home in Minnedosa rang … when the call rings in the middle of the night in our home it is seldom good news – and that night was no exception … But that night, I had had a rough night – My sermon wasn’t prepared and I wasn’t ready for the Baptism Service that day – NOW, to be clear – my sermon not being prepared isn’t a big deal – I often do my sermons in the morning before the service, but this day I hadn’t slept well, and I felt through out the night that something ominous was about to happen …

At 5:58am, something ominous came to pass … the phone rang and I heard the voice of our local newspaper editor saying – “Shawn. It’s Bob. You’re church is on fire … you better get down here …”

I stepped out the door of my house and saw the an enormous plum of thick smoke rising over the downtown of Minnedosa …

I stepped out into the cold and prayed … I prayed that it was just a little fire in the corner somewhere …

I prayed that it was almost out …

I prayed that he was kidding …

I arrived at 6:05am, and by then the Main Floor was engulfed. By 7am the roof of the building was breached. By 8am the steeple crashed through the floor to the basement … and by 10 am only the remnants of the scorched brick walls were left standing …

For 105 years the Sanctuary of Minnedosa United Church had stood on the corner of Main St in Minnedosa and in less then 5 hours it was reduced to nothing more than a smouldering ruin … and all of us were left only with memories …

It was not by our choice – but on the morning of February 12th 2006 we were forced to leave everything behind and follow … The problem was – we simply were NOT prepared – we simply didn’t know where the path was going to lead …

That day we gathered over coffee and tea and we wept. Then in the basement of the Catholic Church, we later broke bread and shared the cup and set out faces to the future.

We replaced what we could, we salvaged what we could and we took stock of our losses and started taking tentative steps one simple step at a time …

One of the things I personally relied upon in that moment as the journey began was the stuff that I carry in my memory basket … When I was given this basket, I was told that it may look empty, but that it was really full - full of love and care and all the memories and moments that I’ve shared with the people who played a part in guiding me to Ordination. The basket came from the people of Odessa and Elginburg just outside of Kingston where I served as a student. But the stuff in the basket came from many places not least of which was good old Centennial United Church …

I dug deeply and repeatedly through this basket, relying on the lessons and learnings and I have accumulated since my days downstairs in Sunday School. You taught me well – the friendly ghosts were speaking to me words of wisdom and inspiration. I found that in those days, such as February 13th when I stood in the basement full of debris and wept over what we had lost that if I closed my eyes in a moment I was sitting back in the corner pew (over there) and once again I found my place of sanctuary and peace … when I needed it I could come back here and find my sanctuary …

In 1993, when I left her for my Ordination and my settlement charge in Bella Coola I left much behind. BUT – I carried much with me.

In the 14 years of ministry since that day – I have held hands with the dying, I have sat with a family waiting for news about a fisherman missing at sea, I have mourned over murders and suicides, I have bid farewell to infants and 100 year old saints, I have been fired and abused, I have been rejected and welcomed, I have shaken the dust from my shoes and tended to my bruises, I have been battered and almost broken, I have seen the best and the worst in the church, I have watched a building be closed, a building be reactivated, and a building demolished, I’ve celebrated new beginnings and overdue endings, and I’ve watched a dear friend reduced to nothing more then ashes and debris …

I’ve laughed and cried … I’ve danced and sung … I’ve raged and prayed in silence … I’ve seen much … and through it all I am proud to tell people that much of who I am and much of what I do is because of the folks back at Centennial United Church in Stratford Ontario – because of you.

Too soon, you will hold one last Service and you will turn off the lights and you will cease to be Centennial United Church.

But your story – OUR story, won’t end there.

We are not Job doubting God’s very existence and presence.

We are a pilgrim people. We are DISCIPLES of God.

Our calling is to boldly and courageously head into the unknown. To set our faces to the journey and be willing to lose sight of the shore – the comfortable shore … For it is when we lose sight of the shore that is behind us that as one of our hymns so eloquently proclaims: “God will be there with just ONE more surprise !!”

It is when we lose sight of the shore that is behind us that we discover ahead of us a new shore – a new land – a place of new possibilities.

The Gospel – The Good News – Our faith – calls us forward.

Where will we go? None of us know for certain. But we know that no matter where we go, God will be with us …

What will our future look like? None of us know for certain – But we all celebrate that God is with us …

There is a Jewish story of a man – a successful business man, a proud and arrogant man who searched out a humble baker who was greatly renowned for his wisdom. The business man traveled a long way to find the baker and was unimpressed by what he found …

“Jacob,” the business man said looking down his nose at the baker, and being extra careful not to get flour on his expensive suit, “I want my life to leave an impression on others. I want my life to make a difference to other people …”

“Every life is an impression,” answered Jacob still tending his dough.

“What do you mean?” asked the man.

Jacob didn’t look up when he answered, he kept kneading his dough as he spoke “Every life is an impression, because WE ARE GOD’S FINGER PRINTS.”

WE – you – me – all of us together are God’s finger prints.

No matter what the future holds – WE are God’s finger prints.

Even as we lose sight of the shore – WE are God’s finger prints.

As disciples – as people of faith – as the Kingdom of God present and real within out world – WE are God’s fingerprints.

So the challenge we face is to set off into the unknown – to tell our stories – to share our memories – to shed our tears – to honour our past, and to say farewell to what once was – it will not be easy – it is never easy to lose a building you love – that much I know from the last few months … but our challenge is to gather up what we need for the journey ahead.

By necessity we WILL have to travel light. We WILL carry in us ALL that we need – carry your memories, you care, your kindness, and your love. Speaking as one who as journeyed from this place and in some ways has left it behind – those things (these things) those memories, caring, kindness, and love – have served me well … I have, and I will continue to live the promise of blessings that comes from our faith. A faith and a journey that began here … in this place among you …

Never lose the memory of who WE are, even when we lose sight of the shore. For in that moment as the shore behind us slips from view – God is truly with us …

Journey in Peace knowing that this place – this people – you and I – are God’s fingerprints … And THAT simple fact will never change …

God is with us … May it be so … Thanks be to God …

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sermon for Sunday October 8th 2006

On Wednesday night, I was honoured to lead the reflection at the AOTS Mens’ club prior to the presentation by the youth from the Covenant Church who came to share reflections on their recent mission trip to Guatemala. I read from a resource by the Canadian Food Grains Bank that said:

The main theme in the Bible concerning Hunger is God’s promise of abundance in the context of human faithfulness. The story of God’s generosity starts in Genesis with an exuberant liturgy of abundance – “it is Good” – continues throughout the Psalms with a high-spirited expression of praise and carries through the stories of humanity’s often turbulent and troubled relationship with God.

Even with over six billion people on the planet, hunger is no more inevitable than it is justifiable. There is more then enough food grown today for everyone to have enough. Yet chronic hunger persists in the lives of over 800 million people … God’s economy is defined by the promise of abundance in the context of faithfulness. From a Christian faith perspective, scarcity is a human construct, and part of the human horizon of action.

Abundance or Scarcity? God’s way or ours? It is seems up to us to decide …

The issue of scarcity and abundance … faithfulness and gratitude are themes that run through the readings today … They are themes that run through our lives as well … And to begin the task of reflecting on these ideas on the eve of Thanksgiving a good place to start is with the mythic figure of Job.

Admittedly, Job is an unusual character to consider at Thanksgiving time … but there is something quite appropriate in considering him too - Here he is, sitting minding his own business. He’s a father, a business man, a faithful man – and one afternoon in heaven, God and H’Satan (the obstructer – the tempter – the trickster) start in … God asks H’Satan what he has been up to lately … and H’Satan (Let’s be very clear in this – we are NOT dealing with Satan as we know him with horns and a tail and so forth. This is H’Satan – a fairly benign and almost neutral character in the Old Testament. H’Satan, to do a bit of a digression, is NOT an evil entity – he is simply the one who asks God the questions like – “Do you think that person would still be faithful is you took everything away from him??”)

So, in heaven you’ve got God and H’Satan sitting around and H’Satan asks that VERY question … God says – “have you considered my servant Job and how faithful he is?”
“Sure,” says H’Satan, “he’s wealthy, he’s successful, he’s got a great family, he’s got the respect of his community, he wants for nothing – of course he’s faithful … take all of THAT away from him and see what happens … see if he stays faithful when he has NOTHING left …”

What follows is disturbing – not because Job loses everything – these things happen – but it is disturbing because the text clearly tells us that these things happen because God WANTS it to happen …It is God at H’Satan’s urging who stretches his hand out and touches Job, not just once but several times … Job loses his family (except for his wife), his flocks, his wealth, his status, and then finally he loses his health and is a complete and utter outcast … living on a dirt piles outside the city gates …

Job’s wife then tells him – “Give it up Job. Curse God and DIE …” it would be better then living … BUT, Job refuses … Job is steadfast and faithful – he will NOT curse God. He will not abandon his faith. He stands his ground and continues to believe …

Job is a good figure for Thanksgiving … In a season of plenty – a season of overeating … a season of giving thanks for the abundance around us, it’s easy to forget that much of our thankfulness is built on enjoying and savouring what we have … We don’t want to ask the question – “would we still be so thankful if we lost EVERYTHING??”

Could we sing songs of praise if our hearts were breaking?

Would we dare to say “thanks” when we feel utterly bereft?

These are tough questions – but they are at the heart of Job’s story. We have before us a man who had the courage to live Thankfully; even in the face of profound and devastating losses … I was struck this week when I read the accounts of the school shooting in Nickel Mines Pennsylvania that claimed the lives of 5 innocent little girls. I have to confess that that simply boggled my mind … The word WHY?? Simply didn’t suffice … Yet, in this story are profound echoes of Job …

As the week drew to an end, and the people of the Amish community in Nickel Mines began to bury its children … people from all over the world were sending donations to help THEM – the elders of the Amish community were asking that a trust fund be set up for the widow and the children of the shooter …

For the widow and the children of the man who took the lives of no less then five innocent girls … and instead of expressing anger and outrage – this community reached out in love and care … They didn’t say it – they lived it – “Look after the children,” not just our children – but the children of the deeply disturbed person who caused such unimaginable suffering …

The Amish community in the midst of their grief is showing the rest of us – particularly those of us who sit week after week in pews all over the world – HOW we are to live out our faith … - HOW to live out the words of Jesus in Mark when he took a child in his arms and said: “to such as these belong the Kingdom of God …”

Today in our world – if we dare to listen, we have a stirring of what The Kingdom of God is supposed to be … It would be easy and understandable for the Amish community to stretch out their hands in ANGER and OUTRAGE and to lash out at the world and at the family of the man who killed their children … But they are in the fullest sense followers of Christ. They take this (BIBLE) and the words within it seriously … These are not just words on a page for them – they are principles by which we – all of us – them AND us - are to live our lives … and today they are.

The pain of that community is unimaginable … yet, they want to ensure that family of the shooter are not forgotten … and in that moment they live the very principles of welcoming, loving and celebrating children … principles of living our Faith.

So, this Thanksgiving as those of us who are fortunate enough to gather around tables with family are about to tuck into the meals we’ve prepared, we MUST – as citizens of the first world – we have a moral obligation to be truly thankful for all the many blessings that we simply take for granted … It’s easy to thank God when life is GOOD … it’s harder to thank God when life isn’t …

But if we were honest and took stock of what we have around us, we would be able to be MORE then a little thankful:

Housing … more then enough food … our medical care … drinking water … each other … Ann Weems puts it very well when she says:

The stead fast love of the Lord never ceases;
God’s mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning.
The Lord God gave the people of the earth a garden,
And the people said, “That’s very nice God, but that’s not
enough. We’d like a little knowledge, please.”
The Lord God gave them knowledge.
And the people said: “Now that we have knowledge,
we’d like things.”
The Lord God gave the people things,
But they always said: “that’s not enough.”
So the Lord God gave them gifts unequalled:
The sun,
Lightning and thunder
Rain and flowers
Animals and birds and the moon
God gave them the Rainbow
God parted the Red Sea and gave them Manna
God gave them prophets
And children
And each other,
But still the people said, “That’s not quite enough.”
God loved the people…

It’s far too easy to say “That’s not quite enough …”

I was struck this past week at AOTS Mens’ Club hearing the young people from the Covenant Church share their experiences from their trip to Guatemala … but what struck me most was hearing them say – “the people were so poor, they had almost nothing, but they were so happy …”
Like wealth and happiness are synonymous.

The lesson for them, and for us – if we have the courage to hear it, to listen to it, and to live it - is simply this – the stuff of life will never give us happiness and it will never take us to a place of happiness and joy. The stuff of life MIGHT make us comfortable and allow us to enjoy life a bit more (not a bad thing) - but with THAT stuff, we seem to still say “That’s not quite enough …” – Instead our joy, our gratitude, our thanks arises out of the other “STUFF” of life – the people, the relationships, the intangibles that we simply can not buy and sell, but are truly gifts from God … The Gifts of God are about ThanksLiving …

The question we must ask ourselves this Thanksgiving weekend is whether or not we have the courage to practice ThanksLiving, and be appreciative and thankful for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us??

It’s not a question we can answer with our lips … it’s a question we can answer with our lives …
May we in the coming days have the courage to live out our answer to the question of ThanksLiving … and may we do it boldly, courageously and faithfully.

Abundance or Scarcity? God’s way or ours? It is seems up to us to decide …

ThanksLiving offers us an answer – if we dare …
May it be so – Thanks be to God - Let us pray …

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bulletin for October 1st 2006



One: God, the promise of life in little bodies and tiny seed,.
All: We seek eyes that wonder at the mystery of the earth.
One: God, the promise of life in the fragile wings of a butterfly,
All: We seek to know our part in the intricate pattern of being.
One: God, the promise of life in a child’s trusting hands,
All: We seek to make the way of wholeness and peace.
One: God, the promise of life in friendship and companionship,
All: We seek to understand the miracle of every shared meal.

HYMN # 477 I Come With Joy

One: Come.
Let us celebrate the supper of the Lord.
Let us make a huge loaf of bread
and let us bring abundant wine
like at the wedding at Cana.
All: Let the women not forget the salt.
Let the men bring along the yeast.
Let many guests come,
the lame, the blind, the crippled, the poor.
One: Come quickly.
Let us follow the recipe of the Lord.
All of us, let us knead the dough together with our hands.
Let us see with joy how the bread grows.
All: Because today we celebrate the meeting with the Lord.
Today we renew our commitment to the Kingdom.
Nobody will stay hungry.

One: Eternal God, maker of the skies above,
Lowly Christ, born amisdst the growing earth.
All: Spirit of life, wind over the flowing waters,
In earth, sea and sky,
You are there.
One: O hidden mystery,
sun behind all suns,
soul behind all souls,
in everything we touch,
in everyone we meet,
your presence is around us,
and we give you thanks.
All: But when we have not touched
but trampled you in creation,
when we have not met
but missed you in one another,
when we have not received
but rejected you in the poor,
forgive us,
and hear now our plea for mercy.
One: Hear now the words of Jesus
for all who are truly sorry
and seek to renew their lives:
Your sins are forgiven,
Go in peace;
Come and follow me.
Lead us now, O God,
All: to acknowledge your costly generosity
by living as forgiven people,
until heaven and earth rejoice
and the whole earth cries Glory!
through Christ our Lord.

HYMN # 642 Be Thou My Vision (vs 1, 2, 5)


HYMN Jesus Loves the Little Children
Vs 1: Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world.
Shades of brown and black and white we are precious in his sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Vs 2: God has made us all a rainbow. Colours dancing ‘round and ‘round.
In our hair and skin and eyes big and little every size
God has made us all a rainbow dancing ‘round.
Banquet Earth Grace
Chapathi! Chapathi! Puri and rice!
Burrito, Taquita, Spaghetti and Spice!
Dim sum, Egg Foo Yung,
Two all-beef patties, special sauce on a bun!
Hands across the table, Hands across the sea,
Sharing in the Banquet of the Earth! Thanks!

One: God be with you
All: And also with you.
One: Lift up your hearts!
All: We lift them up to God.
One: Let us give thanks to almighty God.
All: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
One: We praise and thank you, God, because you are loving and just.
You treat all people with fairness. You challenge us to do the same
even those who feel unfit, unloved, or unlovable.
All: When we feel that we – or others –
Do not deserve even your leftovers,
You invite us all to the feast.
One: On this day we especially celebrate
our sisters and brothers all around the world
who have shared in this sacred meal this day,
as if we are gathered at one table.
All: You send us your child Jesus to be our friend,
To heal the hurting and bring new life to the hopeless.
One: He taught us to love one another,
challenging us to be open to new ways of seeing, hearing,
and living your love. And so with your faithful people
in all times and places, we sing this song of praise:
All: Holy, holy, holy God,
loving and giving creator
blessed Saviour, eternal presence –
glory to you in the highest!
One: Even when the world rejected Jesus –
on the very night he was bertayed –
he continued to feed others.
he sat with his friends, took bread, blessed it, broke it,
and gave it to them saying,
“This is my body, given to you.”
All: Open us, and feed us, O God.
One: After supper, he took a cup of wine, offered you thanks,
and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my blood of the new covenant,
poured out for the forgiveness of sin. Whenever you share this cup, remember me.”
All: Open us, and feed us, O God. And so, gracious God,
your church in all times and places continues to share this meal,
remembering how much you love us.
One: Send you Holy Spirit upon this meal, and upon us,
that we may be fed by your love and your word,
and go from this place refreshed and renewed by your spirit.
All: Amen.

One: The body of Christ.
All: Thanks be to God for the bread of life.
One: The blood of Christ.
All: Thanks be to God for the cup of blessing.

HYMN # 467 (during communion) One Bread One Body

One: God, who nourishes us for the journey:
it is strengthening to know that,
All: as we gather at your table today,
your people throughout the world
are offering praise and thanksgiving
as bread and wine are shared.
One: May the mystery of your presence,
experienced in our worship,
bind us together into one worldwide community. Amen.

HYMN # 468 Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

SCRIPTURE READING: James 5: 13 – 20 / Psalm 124 (# 848 VU)

CHOIR ANTHEM: Oh Living Bread From Heaven

SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 9: 38 – 50

SERMON: Gifts of Faith




HYMN # 427 To Show By Touch and Word

One: May the everlasting God shield you,
east and west and wherever you go.
And the blessing of God be upon you.
All: The blessing of the God of Life.
One: The blessing of Christ be upon you,
All: The blessing of the Christ of Love.
One: The blessing of the Spirit be upon you,
All: The blessing of the Spirit of Grace.
One: The blessing of the Trinity be upon you.
Now and for evermore.
All: Amen.

SUNG RESPONSE: # 299 Teach Me, God, to Wonder
Vs 1: Teach me, God, to wonder, teach me, God, to see;
Let your world of beauty capture me.
Praise to you be given, love for you be lived,
Life be celebrated, joy you give.

Vs 4: Teach me , God, to know you, hear you when you speak,
see you in my neighbour when we meet.
Praise to you be given, love for you be lived,
Life be celebrated, joy you give.

The worship has ended…
…the work of God’s people has just begun.
Go in peace.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Words of Wisdom ...

Gandhi once said:
The true soldier is he who spins to clothe the naked, and tills the soil to grow more food to meet the threatening food crisis ...

And a long time ago a guy named Micah said:
... and He will judge between many peoples, and will decide concerning strong nations afar off. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more. But they will sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and no one will make them afraid: For the mouth of Yahweh has spoken ...

Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said:

"Blessed are the Peace makers ..."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Post #100 - Prayers for Victims of Violence ...

I had plans for the 100th Post here to be something fun and funky ... but over the last 24 hours my heart has grown heavy at the news of YET another shooting in a school ...

The news of any school shooting disturbs me - schools are to be places of learning, discovery and safety for our children (I may be too idealistic), not places of violent senseless actions - BUT, the shooting in Nickel Mines Pennsylvania disturbs me deeply ... So, today rather than dwelling on the details of the shootings that have robbed an Amish community of five little girls ... instead of revisiting the horrors inflicted on the rural community and its people, I instead simply want to pray for victims of violence ...

Whether they are in Nickel Mines, or Montreal, or Colorado, or Afghanistan, or in a hospital bed in Winnipeg ... the victims of violence are LEGION ... we as a human race have become very adept at inflicting violence and suffering on each other ... and it MUST stop.

Whether it is mad gun men stepping into schools and gunning people down, or domestic partners inflicting harm on their "loved" ones, or suicide bombers blowing themselves and others up, or faceless bureacrats tossing around statisitics like they are ONLY numbers ... the madness has to stop ... too many lives are broken and shattered and snuffed out by senseless violence ...

So, today my 100th Posting here is a prayer - a prayer for peace ... a call for peace ... a cry for peace ...

and may it come soon ...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sermon for October 1st ...

(the bulletin will follow ... for now - just the sermon)

October 1st 2006 –

One of my favourite jokes is about a man who one day finds himself in a house surrounded by rising flood water. He is a very pious man, a religious man even – he prays to God to rescue him from the flood waters, to spare him and his house – “O God,” he ends his petition – “save me …”

In a little while a four wheel drive pulls up at his house – “hey buddy,” the driver yells, “we’ll take you to safety. Hop in …”

“No, that’s okay,” calls the man, “I’m waiting for God to rescue me.”

“Whatever,” the driver yells as he pulls away to rescue someone else.

The man continues to pray – “dear God please spare me … O God save me.”

In a few minutes as the water continues to rise around his house, coming in the front door, he flees to the upstairs and utters the same prayer – then a canoe pulls up with some teenagers –
“Hey mister, climb in, we’ll rescue you …”

“No thanks,” the man says, “I’m waiting for God to rescue me.”

"Good luck with that ..." the teenagers say as they paddle away.

The waters rise, the man flees higher in the house, now leaning out the attic window, and a motor boat pulls up to the house and offers to rescue him … again he says “No,” he is waiting for God to rescue him …

Then finally as he is standing on the roof of his house with water lapping around his feet a helicopter swoops down from the sky and offers to rescue him. AND yet, again he refuses, citing God as his rescuer … As the helicopter thumps out of sight the man and his house are washed away by the flood waters and he perishes …

Some time later, not much – because he is still dripping wet, he stand before St. Peter – “I would like to speak with God,” he says outside the pearly gates. “Absolutely,” answers Peter and he is ushered into a small cottage on the edge of a lake, at a table sits God … “Why didn’t you answer my prayers?” the man shouts.

“My dear foolish chilld,” answers God laughing, “what more could I do for you? I sent you a fire man in a truck, some teens in a canoe, some men in a power boat AND a helicopter, and you refused them all …”

Prayer is sometimes like that. As one commentator said in response to the reading from James we shared a moment ago – “prayer and faith are NOT tools to manipulate God into doing what I would like. They are something that I offer to God so that THEY can be used as God likes … perhaps they give God a picture of how little or how much can be done with me …”

Often when we pray – we are selfish. The example of the man in my story is extreme, but what lies in his heart in that moment may not be THAT extreme … We may simply never open our eyes to the actions of faith that are happening all around us. Too often we get too caught up in wanting the big stuff to happen, but we fail to lend our shoulders to the wheel to help make it happen – whatever that IT might be …

In faith we have this deep desire to bring meaningful change in to the world. In the Jewish faith there is a word – Mitzvah, which means literally commandment, but in practice means – an act of selfless kindness.

A mitzvah is something you do in faith to live out your faith – sometimes, in less healthy settings a mitzvah is done to show everyone else how faithful you are … This is the tension James is writing in. In the Jewish Christian community there are people doing mitzvahs because they want to share their faith, and there are those who are doing them because they want to SHOW OFF how faithful they really are …

James is stressing over and over and over, the importance of having your words, your heart and your actions in synch. Words without faith are dead and actions without faith are meaningless …
So too is it with how we approach prayer and actions. We want to change the world – but if we aren’t doing it with a living, vital faith – WHAT’S THE POINT ??

The man on the roof of his house rebuffing the helicopter had faith – it was misguided – but it was faith. His problem was he couldn’t see past his own selfishness. He want GOD to rescue him. God sent ordinary people to rescue him …

We want God to change the world … God sent ordinary people like you and I to change the world … Can we see the obligation of Mitzvah in that moment and do what is asked of me? And you? And all of us together?

Take a moment to consider the towering Cathedrals of Europe. They were started by one generation and often completed by a generation 200 or more years later … Each generation faithfully laid their stones and carved their woodwork knowing they themselves would likely never see the completion of the project, but they trusted that their tiny contribution would be meaningful and important to that moment generations away, when the building was finally completed to the Glory of God …

Sometimes, what is required of us, is looking beyond the moment – looking beyond the prestige – looking beyond the big achievements and realizing that it is the infinite little accomplishments added together that may well change the world.

In our own area last week the Brandon Sun had an article about a young man who at the age of 6 has figured this out … Mind you, he has some really good teachers – but this young man began by collecting the tabs from pop cans and recycling them in an attempt to help others. Now he collects the whole can –having realized that you can get more aluminum to recycle from a WHOLE can rather then in the tiny little tabs. One pop can at a time, Austin Hall is making a difference …

All around us are glimmering moments of Mitzvah – acts of loving kindness that make a difference … they may seem insignificant, but if enough people do them – if tens of thousands of people do them together … if hundreds of thousands of people do them together … the tide begins to change … the world is slowly altered …

Fair Trade coffee and chocolate and food stuffs … each purchase makes a difference … when hundreds of purchases are made entire communities can be transformed …

School kits … each kit makes a difference to a child somewhere … when hundreds and thousands of school kits are donated entire villages can be transformed …

The list goes on and on … each tiny action can and WILL make a difference … because like drops of water in the sea – if we start to add them together we will in find ourselves overwhelmed …

And maybe, just maybe that’s the point – it’s when we work together that we can and will and DO accomplish great and wondrous thing … each of us – one drop – one cup – one purchase – one mitzvah at a time can begin to make a difference because when EACH of us do something we begin to add those drops, and cups and purchases and mitzvahs together and … well … the world begins to change …

Our job – our challenge is to open our eyes to those moments in time when our actions and our faith are in synch … those moments when we can make a difference – one small action at a time …

May it be so – thanks be to God … Let us pray …