Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Service and Sermon for Nov. 26th



One: Come, praise God, the Almighty One and our solid Rock.
All: Let the faithful shout for joy!
One: Come, praise Jesus the Christ, our voice of truth,
the One who rules our lives with justice and peace.
All: Let the faithful shout for joy!
One: Come, praise God, the Alpha and the Omega,
the One who was and is and shall be forever!
All: Let the faithful shout for joy!

HYMN # 820 Make a Joyful Noise


HYMN # Magic Penny

Chorus: Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

1. It’s just like a magic penny
Hold in tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor. For …. (chorus)
Words and Music: Malvina Reynolds

One: God be with you.
All: And also with you.
One: Lift up your hearts.
All: We lift our hearts in prayer.
One: Let us give thanks to God.
All: It is good to give God thanks and praise.

One: Loving God, Source of all,
we thank and praise you with our lips and with our lives,
that, having created us and all things through your Word,
you welcome our prayer and praise.
For the goodness of creation
and the glory of redemption, we praise you.
For the law of holiness, inviting our obedience,
and the call of prophets, rebuking our disobedience,
we praise you.

Therefore, with all that is, seen and unseen,
and with all the faithful of every time and place,
we join in the hymn of praise and thanksgiving.
All: Holy, holy, holy God, power of life and love!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna through the ages!
Blest is the One who comes to bring your justice to earth!
One: Loving God, Holy one,
we offer you praise and thanksgiving over this bread and cup,
because in Jesus Christ, your only Son,
you have joined yourself forever to us, uniting heaven and earth.

Now, therefore, we gratefully remember:
Jesus’ birth into our humanity,
baptism for our sin, compassion for our suffering,
intimacy with our frailty, rebuke of our pride,
bearing of the cross with its death,
and rising from the tomb by the power of God.

On the night before he died,
it was Jesus who took a loaf of bread,
gave you thanks, broke it, and said,
“Take and eat; whenever you do this, remember me.”
Likewise, after supper, he took the cup, saying,
“This is the new covenant; remember me.”
All: We proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.

One: Loving God, creative Power,
blessing your name, we seek your Spirit.
Come to us and bless these gifts of bread and wine,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ;
the sign and seal of our forgiveness in him,
and our adoption as the children of God.
As we eat and drink together,
make us one with Christ and one in Christ,
a sign of his eternal reign in all the world.

This sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving
we offer you, loving God,
Through Jesus Christ, our Savior,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
All: Amen.

One: Jesus said: “I am the bread of life,
All: whoever comes to me will never be hungry;
whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


One: Eternal and gracious One,
though we live in a world of need,
All: here we have tasted your goodness
and hungered for a world more just.
One: Though afflicted by brokenness and division,
All: here we have heard your call
to be a people of healing community.
One: Though daily we touch our limits,
All: here we have received the fullness of your grace.
One: Send us forth, O God, in faith, in hope, and in love.
All: Amen.

HYMN # 220 Blue Book
1. Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen,
Here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon Thee lean.

Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Here drink with Thee the royal wine of heaven;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.

This is the hour of banquet and of song;
This is the heavenly table spread for me;
Here let me feast, and feasting, still prolong
The brief bright hour of fellowship with Thee.

Too soon we rise; the symbols disappear;
The feast, though not the love, is past and gone;
The bread and wine remove, but Thou art here,
Nearer than ever; still my Shield and Sun.

I have no help but Thine; nor do I need
Another arm save Thine to lean upon;
It is enough, my Lord, enough indeed;
My strength is in Thy might, Thy might alone.

Mine is the sin, but Thine the righteousness;
Mine is the guilt, but Thine the cleansing blood;
Here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace, ---
Thy blood, Thy righteousness, O Lord my God.

Feast after feast thus comes and passes by,
Yet, passing, points to the glad feast above,
Giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy,
The Lamb’s great bridal feast of bliss and love.

One: God of endings and beginnings,
God of timeless circles of forever,
All: We celebrate this day the Reign of Christ:
One: child of David, and of Mary
All: sovereign of eternity,
servant leader, witness of truth,
and governor of our lives.
One: Help us renew our commitment and covenant
to be deciples and leaders.
All: Help us live the example and ministry of the same Christ
in whose name we both worship and pray.

One: Come Holy Spirit, grant us the Gospel of Jubilee,
the Good News of liberation, freedom, and unity;
All: proclaim the release of the prisoners of division;
recover the sight of those blinded
by hatred, jealously, greed, and power;
grant peace and freedom to the poor,
oppressed and lost. Amen.

HYMN # 703 In the Bulb There is a Flower

SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Samuel 23: 1 – 7
Psalm 132 (part one) (# 855 VU)

CHOIR ANTHEM: Hands Shaped Like a Cradle

SCRIPTURE READING: John 18: 33 – 37
Rev 1: 4b – 8

HYMN # 535 For the Music of Creation

Our readings today are words of praise … It is Reign of Christ Sunday, the day in our calendar that we pause and look towards Christmas … next week we begin the journey of Advent – Advent – coming, arrival, anticipation …the expectation of something important about to arrive …

Advent is NOT a season of rushing around and shopping … Advent is NOT about Santa … Advent is a reminder that the reason for the season is truly the birth of the child in Bethlehem … it isn’t about the guy in the big red suit – it’s about a quiet arrival in a back water village in the hills outside of Jerusalem, which was at that time in the farthest corner of a despised Province of the Roman empire …

So, today, before we begin the journey that leads us to the arrival of the Christ, we pause to offer our voices up in praise to God … Our first reading comes from the lips of King David.

David, now an old man stands on the verge of his death, and begins to look back on a life … a life that, despite his status as the greatest King in Israel’s history – was less than stellar. On Friday at Bible Study when I asked – “what do you think of when you hear King David?” the answer came back – “David and Bathsheba …”

Ah, David and Bathsheba … the king standing on the roof of his palace spies another man’s wife and has her summoned to the palace where he has sex with her, then to cover his sin (and crime) arranges for Uriah’s death …

Yet, there is more to David than just that … David the young shepherd who struck the giant Goliath dead … David the upstart who lead a successful rebellion against King Saul … David who vanquished Israel’s enemies and built a stable and successful empire … David who brought the ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem and who danced with reckless abandon before it … David the wily king who ruled with an iron fist and kept many forces in line …

But when we scratch deeper, there is much about David and his rule that should rightly cause us pause. David was not a nice fellow – without offering an inventory of his sins and shortcomings, it will suffice to say his life had room for improvement. Yet, history holds him up as an exemplary King … even today the modern democracy of Israel used David’s Star on its flag …

Perhaps in David we see the power of the Holy at work … David looked back on a life that had its ups and downs and proclaimed in our reading his trust in God, even in those moments when he was wandering off … God was with him … the Holy presence of God has never abandoned David, or Israel …

This idea is echoed in Revelation where John offers the whisper of eternity wherein God says – “I am the Alpha and the Omega … the first and the last … the beginning and the end …” The God who was, who is and who is yet to come … There is a strong thread that runs through the Bible reminding us, challenging us, TELLING us – that we are never alone – we are never separated from the love of God – we are never away from God’s presence – we are never far from God …

Such is the Kingdom of God … Who do you say that I am? Pilate, the most powerful figure in Jerusalem asks Jesus … In the movie The Last Temptation of Christ, this scene is set in the stable while Pilate tends to his horses. So unimportant is Jesus in Pilate’s eyes, he doesn’t stop grooming his horse as he asks the questions …

Perhaps that’s the point of David’s words of Praise, John’s prophecy and Jesus answers at trial … Our faith is not about political power or wealth and prestige … our faith is simply that – faith …

Prayer … presence … care … compassion …

We’ve learned in the last few months that our faith isn’t even about a building … The building is important because it tells people “here we are” – but a building is at the end of the day – simply a building …

David didn’t look back and say – “look at my kingdom, my children, my wealth, my power ….” He pointed beyond these things to the presence of God in his life, even when he tripped himself up …

Jesus standing before Pilate points beyond the kingdom, the followers, the wealth, the power … Jesus points to the Presence of God even when his life is on the line …

And John standing on the island of Patmos, knowing that Christians where being slaughtered for their faith pointed beyond the present moment and pointed to the Presence of God, that even in the midst of persecution and death is STILL present …

The challenge becomes – the challenge is – how do we live out that faith?? How do we share with, and show the world what our faith is about??

In one of the commentaries about our readings this morning, the observation was made that we place on thrones people of wealth and power – we have made kings and queens out of sport stars, celebrities and wealthy people. We are shocked when their lives don’t meet our expectations, or perhaps we delight in watching them fall when they are revealed as fallible and fragile human beings filled with faults … In the commentary, the suggested was offered that in the Church – among us – we need to forge a course that runs counter to that tendency.

Perhaps rather than idolizing the Tom Cruises’ Angelina Jolie’s and Bill Gates of the world – we need to look to examples of people who quietly live out their values of faith … Mother Theresa who took her faith and didn’t set out to wow the world, but to care for the beggar she found at her feet … One life at a time she started a movement … Little Hannah in Winnipeg who saw a man living on the street and at 5 said – “that’s wrong …” Our next door neighbour who takes baked goodies to other neighbours when there is a crisis … the guy down the street who shovels everyone’s walk … the store clerk who really means it when she asks – “how are you today?”

The examples around us are legion … we ARE the example … our faith – what WE do is where the Reign of Christ is to be found … We are the signposts that say to the world … Here is the Kingdom of God …

The Kingdom of God is all around us … it is here in the pews among us … it is on coffee row … it is in the bleachers of the arena … it is wherever God’s children share their faith …

Children of God … The Children of God who gather here as Minnedosa United Church - The Kingdom of God is found wherever you share your faith …
and one cup of coffee, one loaf of bread, one loonie, one action, one prayer at a time – let’s begin to transform the world by living our faith …

Children of God – you are the kingdom of God … the Reign of Christ has begun … May it be so - Thanks be to God … Let us pray …




HYMN # 686 God of Grace and God of Glory


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sermon for Today (November 19th)

WONDERING about the Emerging Spirit?
Just to start this reflection – a few facts for you to mull over – 84% of Canadians still believe in God, and 75% consider God as an ever present force in their lives. And 70% of Canadians believe that their own personal beliefs are more important than any particular denomination’s teaching. AND, 81% feel that faith gives life more meaning, with 67% believing that faith is very important to day to day life …

The statistics are staggering and sobering simultaneously. We have between 2/3’s and ¾’s of ALL Canadians expressing a belief in, and an interest in things spiritual – yet our Churches are dying … If we honestly look around us, we see lots of space and more than a little gray hair, and very, very few 30 to 45 year olds and their children. (This congregation is unique in that it is lead by an order of ministry person who is smack in the middle of that demographic, but by and large United Churches across Canada are lacking that crucial 30-45 year old demographic – that SAME demographic who express a deep interest in things spiritual …

It is into that fertile ground that the seeds of The United Church run Emerging Spirit campaign have been sown. The United Church – the church we call home, has never been a Church to back down from controversy. In the 1920’s the very thought of merging three different denominations into a single UNITED body was regarded as ludicrous – yet here we are. Then in the 1930’s we lead the world by ordaining Women.

The list of accomplishments compiled by the United Church is long and impressive, and I for one, am proud of the United Church and it’s history. Did you know that we were the first Church to apologize to First Nations people for the wrongs of colonialization? We were among the first to apologize specifically for Residential Schools? We were among the first in the Global community to acknowledge and welcome Gays and Lesbians, and remove sexuality as a barrier to ministry?

Over and over the United Church of Canada has faithfully asked, answered and lived the questions of faith in the world … it has NOT been without its controversy and conflict, and today we dance along the edge of such a moment again. But if the lessons of the 1980’s have taught us nothing else – they have taught us that in the broad arms of this United Church of ours, there must be conversation – honest, open and frank dialogue if we are to remain United as a faith family …

And so, today, I stand before you seeking to acknowledge and continue a discussion about the Church, and how we are to reach out beyond our pews to the people outside, in our OWN community who are hungry for something more.

The Emerging Spirit campaign and the newly launched Wonder Café web site and advertising campaign is just such an act of outreach. It is controvertial,but then so was the New Curriculum Sunday School books. The United Church – we as a church – prides itself as being a place where anyone – regardless of race, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or even educational background can come and join in the conversation, and worship and ministry. We pride our selves as an Inclusive Church, and even though at times we stumble – we try …

Reinhold Niebuhr once said – “Humour is the prelude to faith, laughter is the beginning of prayer …” I believe that. I live that. I have, throughout my ministry grounded my sense of purpose and being in joy – not an idle, pink fuzzy smile joy – but joy that flows from a deep appreciation of life. I once found a quote from Patch Adams that cause me to pause and say – “Amen”. The doctor renowned for wearing a red nose and using laughter as medicine once said - "Philosophically speaking, I'm surprised that anyone is ever SERIOUS. Life is such a miracle and it's so good to be alive that I wonder why anybody ever wastes a minute ...”

And so, my friends – I offer to you the simple reality that the Wonder Café ads are cheeky, tongue in cheek, made you look kind of ads that are designed to catch the attention of those in the 30 to 45 year old demographic – and offer them the invitation to re-think their ideas about the United Church of Canada.

These ads are not without their controversy. I am not expecting everyone to like them. I am not expecting everyone to accept them. But – I would invite everyone to continue the conversation that can arise when people see the ads and say – “Huh? What was that?” and begin to question what This United Church is about, and what we are up to …

And in matters of faith, conversation is never a bad thing. But, to put the conversation on a fair and reasonable ground I would like to take a few moments to share a letter we received from The Rev. Dr. Jim Sinclair, the outgoing Executive Secretary of The General Council of the United Church of Canada. This letter is intended to answer some of your questions, address some of your concerns and to remind us that as members of the United Church of Canada, we are obligated to open the doors of our Church and welcome in the strangers … but sometimes we need to invite them in …

Friday, November 10, 2006

This week's launch of the Emerging Spirit advertising campaign has attracted considerable media attention and public discussion about the first series of ads produced for this three-year campaign.

In addition to the WonderCafe.ca introductory binder that was recently mailed to all pastoral charges, the following key points address some of the questions that have been asked since the campaign was launched on November 7.

A) No money from the Mission and Service Fund or money specifically earmarked for outreach and traditional mission work is being used for the Emerging Spirit campaign.The advertised $10.5 million cost comes from money held in reserves that originated with a number of designated bequests, the largest of which was the Morrison bequest.The Morrison bequest was a specific bequest that was to be used for innovative mission programs in Canada. We think Emerging Spirit fits well with this criterion.

B) Almost half of the total cost of Emerging Spirit is being used for support of local congregations and training of volunteer committees to help the church be a more open, welcoming place for all who visit or seek to join the church. We see this as a positive initiative no matter how many new members are attracted by the Emerging Spirit program.To date, there has been an enthusiastic response by congregations who will be a part of the very popular training events for those seeking to be Welcoming Congregations.

C) The Emerging Spirit initiative received approval from the General Council at its meeting in August in Thunder Bay. The resounding support at that event came from the elected delegates (commissioners) representing all parts of the country. That decision at General Council followed a very full discussion of the campaign and its financial implications.

D) The Emerging Spirit ads are designed to attract attention, elicit conversation, and point people toward the WonderCafe website*. Their intent is not to make fun of personal religious belief or diminish basic religious understanding. Jesus probably looked for a similar reaction when he declared: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

E) The Emerging Spirit ad campaign is designed to communicate to a generation of primarily 30- to 45-year-olds who have very little or no knowledge of organized religion and the contemporary church. The ads are not intended to reach out to people who are already members and adherents of The United Church of Canada. These ads have been thoroughly tested with people in the age group they are intended for. We are confident the ads will attract the attention of 30- to 45-year-olds who don't go to church, and provoke discussion among them about faith and religion issues.

F) The Emerging Spirit ad campaign is not attempting to define what the United Church is all about. Rather, it is meant to raise questions about faith, religion, and other important questions of life, and invite discussion. It hopes to reach out to the millions of Canadians who feel that organized religion isn't relevant to their lifestyle and their lives. As a result, the ads must not feel "churchy" or be what many people would expect from The United Church of Canada. We are trying to get people to consider church in a different way. We believe these ads will do that.There are six print ads and a Web-based video. Not every ad will appeal to every person; we expect that. That's why there are several, so we can be sure to appeal to the maximum number of people possible.

G) We recognize that the ads, and the boldness with which we have unveiled the campaign publicly, generated both praise and ridicule of The United Church of Canada. The latter response is particularly painful for long-standing faithful members of the United Church. Despite this, however, our confident hope is that as the Emerging Spirit campaign unfolds, these feelings of embarrassment will soon be replaced by a sense of renewed energy and commitment to the mission and ministry of The United Church of Canada.

The Rev. Dr. Jim Sinclair General Secretary, General Council The United Church of Canada

We may not be at a crisis point in the United Church of Canada yet – but we can see it from here … our population is dwindling, our congregations are aging, we are closing more churches every year … we are a Church in decline … it is hard to find anything to laugh about under such circumstances … but today, across the land many people in the 30 to 45 year old age bracket are doing just that – laughing at the cheeky ads that include a bobble-headed Jesus, Jesus sitting on Santa’s throne and a baby that tells us to be prepared to rethink our assumptions … they are not designed for everyone – but they are designed to attract the attention of people that we want and need here among us … People who want more than easy answers …

Today here in this place are CENTURIES of life experience that offer those searching young people a conversation about life and life experience … the challenge is TO GET THEM IN THE DOOR … an if a bobble headed Jesus works … well, what do we have to lose ??

May we have the courage, the boldness and the faith – to reach out to those who are hungry, and offer them the Bread that we have in such abundance amongst us …

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sermon for Today - November 12th 2006

November 12th 2006

I would like to begin today with an apocryphal story from a small prairie town. Other versions posit this story in larger centre, and change the grain elevator manager to a bank manager … Which ever way we take it – let us listen for the lesson within it:

A church in a small prairie town was in need of a new treasurer. They had been looking and asking for a long, long while. Finally the manager of the local grain elevator, a new man in town, stepped forward. He volunteered for the position on the conditions that 1) no financial report be prepared or given for the first year and 2) that no questions about the finances be asked during that time.

The people were surprised, but they knew him and did business with him and felt he could be trusted. So the agreed to his conditions and he went to work.

At the end of the year the treasurer stood and delivered his report on the year – the church mortgage that has been in excess of 100 000 dollars had been paid off,(I like this one) the minister’s salary had been increased by over 10%, the congregation’s pledge to the Mission and Service fund had been met and doubled for the year, there were no outstanding bills everything had been paid, and there was a cash balance in the bank of over 15 000 dollars.

The congregation was shocked – “how did you do this?” They asked – they had been struggling for YEARS and YEARS, and had never made headway on the debts and costs and yet, here this year they were in a surplus with all of their debts paid – “how did you do this?” they wanted to know – “where did all this money come from?”

The man smiled and answered quietly, “Well, most of you are farmers and do business at my elevator,” everyone nodded in agreement, “throughout the year I simply held back 10% on your behalf and gave it to the church in your name” – he handed out tax receipts as he said this – “and you never even missed it …”

Everytime I read this, I think – what a great story – but in today’s world, I’m pretty sure someone would be doing some jail time before this was over …

It is a story that speaks to us of transformation … a story that challenges us to change our views and our perspectives, and to be more open to God’s Holy presence in our world … A theme that runs through our readings today…

As we approach the story of Ruth there are a number of routes we can chose to follow. The first is that of the role of the foreigner in the life of the Jewish nation. Ruth is a foreigner, and outsider – in Judaism, the foreigner was to be feared and rejected yet, here we have Ruth – the great grandmother of a guy named King David … The story perhaps came into being as a way of justifying and even celebrating the role of the foreigner in ancient Israel. Moreover, on a deeper level the story of Ruth is a not so subtle reminder for the listener to look beyond his or her biases. The colour of one’s skin, the ethnic background or the things that make us human are not reason enough to shun, dislike or hate someone else … It’s a universal and long standing lesson for humanity … it still rings true …

The second route we could take to approach the book of Ruth is that of the role of women in our spiritual journey. Many books have been written highlighting the role of Ruth and the few other women mentioned by name in the Hebrew Scriptures, and that even though they are small in number they are huge in influence. Names like Sarah, Rebekkah, Deborah, and Ruth are known to us and their stories challenge us to new understandings of our own faith journey and our traditions. The Bible is not just the story of men and what they did and were about – women were there too as active and vital participants.

The third route, the one I would like to explore this morning is that of transformation from the most unlikely of places … The story of Ruth and Naomi begins with both Naomi and Ruth being widowed. Naomi sends her daughter in laws Orpah and Ruth back to their people. But Ruth refuses. Ruth proclaims that she will stay with Naomi no matter what – “where you go I shall go, where you stay, I will stay, your people shall be my people, your God shall be my god …”

So Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem and are forced to survive by gleaning the remnants of grain left behind after the harvest in the fields of a distant relative of Naomi’s. Boaz is touched by the plight of the two women, and by Ruth – so he instructs his workers to be generous with the edges of the field and to ensure they leave lots for the two women to harvest and use for their survival.

In time Boaz allows Ruth to come to his tent, and with perhaps the best indirect language in the entire Bible, the two of them sleep together and Ruth becomes his wife and bears him a child, and becomes the mother of the lineage that in time gives rise to King David and later to Jesus of Nazareth.

Ruth was in a place where she couldn’t go much lower – she was a widowed woman – a foreigner no less, living with her widowed mother in law and forced to survive on the gleanings of the harvest fields … Ruth was the quintessential no body … she was simply a woman with out value or with out a place in the society in which she lived … But big things were about to happen for her …

Ruth’s life would undergo a transformation. Her devotion to Naomi, her dedication to caring for her aging mother in law. Her steadfast attitude caught Boaz’s eye, and he played no small role in transforming Ruth’s life … This is a powerful story. Even today, it remains a powerful story. An outcast is not only welcomed in – but she becomes a central figure in the story and in the life of the nation. The foreigner is transformed from an outcast to a hero – a paragon of faith.

Such is the power of the Holy in our lives …

If we step forward to the Gospel Reading of Jesus and his disciples sitting in the temple – we are confronted with a widow offering two tiny coins – her might – in the treasury of the temple. The widow comes quietly and drops her two pennies in the box and moves on – she has, as Jesus noted given from what she needs to survive. Whereas the rich and luxuriously robed scribes have given from their surplus – this woman quietly gives from what she has to live on …

Who is more giving and generous? Asks Jesus. Are the scribes and the wealthy who give from their surplus, or is the widow who gave all she had to God’s service?

The answer is obvious, albeit painful to consider … as we answer the question we are forced to consider which person in this story we are ... from where does our giving arise?

I found this week a comment on the widow’s might. It reads:

What is the widow’s might? It is their commitment, and their willingness to give all they have to God. And it is here that the widows’ might might well serve as an example for all of us …
The widows’ might may be an example of God’s love for us.
The widows’ might may express Jesus’ own sacrificial death.
The widows’ might may teach us about TOTAL commitment.
The widows’ might may teach us how to respond to the bountiful gifts of God.
The widows’ might may teach us how to give everything (willingly & joyfully)
The widows’ might may show us all how God provides unceasingly for all our needs in life …

The widows’ might is an uncomfortable story – not because of what it says – but because of what it says to us about our values, our priorities, our faith, our giving (or lack thereof). It’s a story that casts an uncomfortable glow, because very few of us EVER give as deeply as this woman did – and here is Jesus himself saying – “Ah, here is the example we should all try to emulate …”

Collectively we ALL say – “oh oh …” because we are wanting in this … we are lacking … we are more like the richly robed scribes, then like the shabbily dressed widow … “Drat …” we say and we plunge our hands more deeply into our pockets and turn away …

Yet, it is in this moment – this moment when we feel uncomfortable that we are most open and most vulnerable to that gift of transformation …

When I served in Bella Coola the Native congregations wanted to buy the then new Voices United Hymn books. The collection of old blue and red and green books were getting rather tattered, and needed to be replaced. BUT – there was very little money in the native community to make it happen. But one night over tea following church we hit on an idea … in BC all cans and bottles have a deposit … and all over town there were dozens upon dozens of them lying about … So the elders decided we would collect pop cans for our new hymn books …

I volunteered our garage as the drop off point, and said when we had a pick up truck load we would take them back and cash them in … What struck me most was going to the basket ball games and seeing the elders and the members of the church plastic shopping bag in hand, gathering pop cans when the game ended. They scolded (in a nice way) their grandchildren and nieces and nephews who were scurrying to collect the cans for themselves. I laughed when I heard one of the ladies say – “you don’t need any more candy – the church needs these …” and a little boy meekly handed over his bag with a smile.

Week after week bags and bags and bags of cans were dropped off in front of our garage. Even the town troopers, the men who trooped around gathering cans and bottles to cash in to buy a bottle from the liquor store, got in on the act and donated some of their hard earned finds … It took a matter of weeks to gather enough money to buy a congregational set of hymn books – literally one can at a time …

What seemed insurmountable not only happened – we had an abundance … and were able to buy extra books, and send money on to other places like First United in Vancouver … literally one pop can at a time …

Two coins in a giving box – a gift that didn’t come from her surplus, but from what she needed to live on … the transformation began …

A widowed foreign born woman gleaning grain from the edges of a harvested field – an act of basic survival … the transformation began …

An old native woman with a bag of pop cans – an act of generousity for one who could have used the few coins themselves … the transformation began …

An apocryphal story about a grain elevator manager or a bank manager and an over looked 10% … the transformation began …

The promise of transformation is sound … the challenge for us is to open our eyes to it and to be willing to live it …

We can apply this gleaning to our upcoming building project … or to our ongoing weekly budget … or to another special project that may come our way … The challenge we face as a Church today is to allow the wave of transformation to wash over us and to recreate us into the Body of Christ, alive and active and moving into the world, sharing the Good News in its fullness … It is a story that begins with the simplest of actions … and an openness to God’s gift of transformation …

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Reflection on Remembrance Day ...

Yesterday I was honoured to once again be asked to deliver the reflection at the Service of Remembrance held at Minnedosa Collegiate Institute (the high school). I am always humbled, and more than a little bit nervous to deliver Remembrance Day addresses - I wonder what I can offer when in the crowd are the very men and women who lived through the wars we come to remember.

But this year, I took a deep breathe and I offered the following reflection in honour of Remembance Day. So with my thanks to the members of the staff at MCI who entrust me with this honour, and the Legion who have, over the last 6 years expressed their appreciation of my musings about Remembrance Day - I invite you to pause today and consider what it is that we remember at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ...

Remembrance Day – MCI – November 10th 2006

Students and staff of MCI, Comrades of the General Hugh Dyer Branch 138 of the Royal Canadian Legion, Members of the Legion Auxilary, I thank you for the opportunity to stand before you today and offer the reflection on what it is we do here and more importantly, to reflect on the importance of why we do this.

It is easy to pin on a poppy, or to stand in silence periodically to remember. But in moments like this, we challenge one another to remember what it is we are to remember each November 11th. As we stand amongst our aging veterans and remember not only the fallen, but the full effect of war upon them, upon us, our nation, and upon our world.

I wonder how many of you play video or computer games that involve fighting and battles and combat?

How many of you watch tv shows and movies that involve re-enacting battles and combat?

The other night I was channel surfing and I came across a tv show about the war in Iraq and I was struck my the imagery that crossed my tv screen. It was impressive and awesome. The explosions and the bombings and all of it was kind of cool … from a technical point of view it was breath taking …

But as I watched I couldn’t help but think that is was (thankfully) fake. The soldiers blown up in that night’s episode would live to star in another show somewhere on cable another day. Even with the impressive imagery of a truck being blown to smithereens, no one was wounded or hurt that day … the blood shed was make up and make believe …

As I watched I realized that one of the challenges we all face today as a nation that is at war in a far off land, is how to balance our enjoyment and desire for peace, and our backing of our soldiers who are doing what is asked of them with our utter rejection of war and what it represents.

Old Soldiers will sometimes quip – “war is hell …” And they know of what they speak. If you took time today to ask those men and women here who have living memories of combat in places like Juno, Cassino, Kapyong and who have served in our army, our navy and our air force over the years – to share their memories they may tell you about the good times – the moments of laughter shared with comrades – but deep within them, in the hidden corners of their souls, they hold memories of what war really is. Memories that some of them have spent a life time trying to forget … Memories that we desperately need to honour if we are to honour what Remembrance Day is about …

This morning as I was preparing and finalizing what I would say to you this morning I read a disturbing article on a Canadian News site on the internet. It was the reporting of a study done this fall asking Canadians questions about our Military history. There were a number of questions asking the participants to identify the leader of the Canadian Forces In World War One, identify the Canadian War Hero and identify other moments in Canadian History related to our involvement as a nation in wars.

What was most disturbing was the simple fact that only 42 percent of the participants had even a passing knowledge of Canadian Military History … If it was a test in a class in this place 58 per cent of the participants would fail and have to repeat …

We are losing our history. We are forgetting why we are to pause each November 11th and Remember …

More and more in our nation today people are approaching Remembrance Day asking the question – Remember what ??

One on level it is understandable. Between 1914 and 1918, over 600 000 Canadian soldiers went over to the mud and trenches of European battle fields. And today 90 years later, from that number there are only 3 veterans left and the youngest is 105 … over the passing of 90 years places like Yrpes, The Somme and Vimy become words on a page – quaint names associated with long ago battles by people who have long since passed on … Even World War Two and Korea are far away in our modern world – it’s been over 50 years since Canadian troops fought in Korea – that’s a long time ago if you’re 16 …

But on another, deeper level that is what is the very problem … We are forgetting our history … we are forgetting the very reason we have set aside one day a year to Remember. Not to remember the just the valour of those who have served, not just the glories of battle, and not to glorify war as something it is not – but we also need to remember the horrors, the hell of battle, the suffering and death of soliders and civilians, the senselessness of it all …

When I was a kid we used to spend Sunday afternoon at my Grandparents’ home in Waterloo Ontario. We would stay for supper, and while the dishes were being done, one of the habits I developed was to perch on the arm of the couch beside his chair and start peppering him with questions about his service in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1939 to 1946, when he was finally sent home to small town Ontario.

I asked him the names of his ships, and the places he went. I asked him about the parrot Polly that he bought in South America and who lived on this ship for months until it was finally sent back to the small town where my mom and her brothers lived … If you went to Chesley Ontario today and asked some of the old timers if they remembered the Elliot’s parrot, they would still smile and laugh and tell you tales of the little green parrot that could swear like a sailor (literally) in a town where the worst swear was “Oh darn …” Polly cut a wide swath after her time on a vessel of the Royal Canada Navy having truly learned the language of the sailors at sea …

I asked Grandpa about his service on the convoys that carried supply across the Atlantic to places like Londonderry and Murminsk. He told me of watching ships exploding and sinking as the other ships in the convoy raced on their crews hoping and praying that the next torpedoe from the German submarines wouldn’t hit them …

I asked Grandpa about his shore leave in Halifax, Londonderry and even a trip he took to our ancestoral home in Scotland …

I asked him what it was like to be on a tiny corvette in the huge winter storms that cross the Atlantic …

Over and over I heard the stories – they were cool. They were kind of fun, and they were a neat way to spend time with my aging Grandfather.

I’ve always valued the stories of our veterans. In my life time I have been honoured and I would dare to say blessed to hear the stories of veterans who have served in many many places, and in every branch of the Armed forces. I have listened to their stories and their memories, and I continue to cherish them.

The importance of moments like this is retelling and sharing those stories. My Grandfather served in the North Atlantic for the better part of 6 years. He never forgot the cries for help from soldiers and sailors that were left behind in the icy cold Atlantic because the other ships in convoys couldn’t stop to pluck survivors from the sea. To stop would have left the convoy vulnerable to the lurking submarines … Even forty years later he told me that he was haunted by the cries and screams that floated across the water as his ship charged forward to Europe. I remember him telling me once – “that could have been me at any moment …”

War is not cool. War is not awesome. War is not something that is exciting and fun. People get hurt. We know that in Minnedosa first hand. Today in our community a young man is recovering from injuries he received in Afghanistan. He is fortunate – he has come home. Four of his comrades died that day … War has an enormous cost … people get hurt … lives are shattered … and People die. There are memorials all over the world to the victims of war – both soldiers and civilians. When a bomb explodes it honours no uniform – it doesn’t stop because you’re a good guy, and it only claims the bad guy – it simply spreads its destruction upon who ever and whatever is near by …

War IS hell … let’s never forget that. If you doubt that even for a moment, talk to someone who has been there …

And this season of Remembrance as we wear our Poppy in these last hours before the Remembrance of the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month … let us have the courage to remember that War is a brutal way to solve our problems. Some times it is necessary – but it is never glorious or cool. It is never something to be embraced an celebrated.

This year – today – in this place, we honour and celebrate those who carry within them memories of distant battle fields and fallen comrades, and who come home to remind us of how incredibly precious the gift of peace and freedom truly is.

I would like to end today with a poem I found recently that was written some years ago by a young woman who understood the importance of remembering, and also gave thanks that many of us have been fortunate enough to never have to remember some things in life:

I don’t remember the sound of guns ringing in my ears,
I don’t remember soldiers buried in the mud.
I don’t remember the tears running down so many sorrowful faces.
I don’t remember how it feels to be attacked by thousands of soldiers, or not knowing if my husband or children will be gone forever.
I don’t know how it feels to kill someone with a bullet that I shot.
I don’t know how it feels to have lost a limb or a friend.
I don’t remember a time without freedom, peace, or loved ones nearby.

I remember peace and freedom.
I remember the joyful chirping of little birds, flying in the breeze.
I remember the warm feeling of having friends and family greet me when I come home at the end of the day.
I remember the joyful laughter of family and friends.
I remember the feeling of knowing the next day I will wake up to another cheerful morning.
I remember peace and freedom and love.

As long as I live, I will never forget the people who gave me this freedom.
Brave young soldiers giving all they’ve got to fight for their country
until the last drop of blood has fallen from their brave hearts of gold.
They were soldiers to the end, and I am thankful for all they gave
so that I could lead a happy carefree life of peace and freedom.
To all that helped me get this freedom and peace,
Whether they live in fields of poppies, or they live today – Thank You.
Thank you for the love, the peace, and the freedom
That you risked life and lime to give to me …
(Cara Gregory)

In the coming days, as our tv screens continue to fill with images of war – both real and make-believe. Let us remember that the ultimate cost of war is real lives … civilians and soldiers suffer in battles …

Today as we remember – let’s not forget the stories of battles that may seem long ago, but that remain vivid and real to those who were there.

We could dismiss World War One as having happened along time ago – and no longer relevant, nor important. But today there are still 3 men who carry in them memories of what that war was like. They were there, and even if they are 105 – those memories of life as a teenager remain undimmed …

Each year we lose a few more of those who served. Our job is to hear their stories and retell them so that we never forget the cost of war, and the very reason we pause once a year to Remember.

Tomorrow, let’s not say – “Remember What?” but let’s look into the eyes of our veterans, both those who are not much older then you are … and those who are much older and know that the memories they carry of battle fields far from us are what we are called to remember …

Remembrance Day.

They grow not old
as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not worry them
nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.
We will remember them.

Today at the 11th Hour
of the 11th Day
of the 11th Month ...
We pause to remember ...

Lest We Forget.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Quotation for The US Election Day:

I found this quotation in Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States 1492 - Present":

The cry of the poor
is not always just,
but if you don't listen to it,
you will never know what
justice is !!

Kinda makes you say - Hmmm ...
Doesn't it ??

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We Remember - Sermon for Today's Service

November 6th 2006

Today, and in coming days we come to remember … but it is worth asking ourselves what it is we remember, and how we live out those memories.

It is easy to pin on a Red Poppy and walk around and say – “We remember …” Yet when we pick up the newspaper or turn on the news we are flooded with news of wars across the globe, and in recent months we in Minnedosa, to say nothing of Canada have been reminded in a vivid way that this is not just a peacekeeping mission far away. Our nation is at war – it is not on a scale like World War One or Two, nor is it like the combat our troops faced in Korea – but we are at war.

This year, that reality came to Minnedosa when we tied yellow ribbons around town and began to pray and hope for our soliders to come home safely. The risk of war came home with Scott Collen who continues his long recovery at home with his family.

We are at war. We may not like it. We may not believe we should be there. But we can not wave a magic wand and simply make the situation in Afghanistan disappear and have everything peaceful and violence free.

We remember. Today we remember the cost of freedom. Today we remember the fallen, both those in uniform and those euphemistically called collateral damages … Today we remember the cost of war and the true value of peace.

We pin on our red poppies – we speak our poetry – we recall our stories (both our own and those passed down through our friends and family) and we REMEMBER.

But it is the HOW of remembrance that should concern us. The very act of Remembrance must be more than two minutes each fall … it must be more than a week or so of wearing a poppy.

The very act of Remembrance must move beyond the narrow confines of a day set aside to honour those who have known the horrors of war.

As we struggle to Remember we have before us two powerful quotations … from scriptures that remind us of devotion, dedication and compassion – the very heart of Remembrance.

We begin with the Biblical figure of Ruth saying to her mother-in-law Naomi, “where you go, I shall go. Where you live I shall live. Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God …”

Then we turn to the Gospel story and we hear Jesus telling his disciples, and us – “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength, and the second is this – ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself …’”

On this Sunday of Remembrance, both statements are powerful reminders to the tasks that we have before us as we remember …

Ruth is the paragon of devotion. She abandons her old ways – her family, her god, her traditions to stand with Naomi, her widowed mother in law. Ruth sets her face and her life, and she chooses to follow Naomi and the God named Yahweh … ad God who in time spoke through a wandering Rabbi from a little village called Nazareth, who was a descendent of Ruth’s and who would tell his followers that there are only two Commandments that truly matter.
Jesus challenged his followers to live out the commandment that “WE shall love the Lord your God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind and with all our strength, and the second is this – ‘we shall love our neighbour as ourself …’”

Every time I read or hear those words I am struck at the profound truth they contain. They are words that are common to every human faith tradition. The Muslims, the Taoists, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Jews, The Christians and every faith tradition teaches and echoes that teaching – “look beyond our selves to our God, our creator, our higher power, and treat others with the same love, care and respect that we would want …”

Those are great words. They are easy words to proclaim and say – “this is how we should live our lives … these are the values that we should expound … this is what we HAVE to do …”

Then we encounter a Hitler … or a Hussein … or a Bin Laden … or any number of leaders or people who consciously chose to ignore this Universal human teaching …

What do we do in that moment? What do we do when acts of horrific violence are enacted upon us? Do we stand by our words, and leave the rest in God’s hands? Or do we work – do we commit ourselves to live out those words?

Today we remember the cost of those words … There is a better way than ceaseless combat and violence. The words of Jesus and the others who remind and challenge us to look up and see that better way are powerful reminders of what could be …

There was a comedian named Bill Hicks who ended his routines by telling his listeners that WE can heaven on earth right now, we can have peace on earth right now – all it takes is the courage to change our perspective. He rightly said that in our world today we see things through the eyes of fear – eyes of fear that pour trillions of dollars into weapons and security – eyes of fear who see threat in every stranger – eyes of fear that demonize those who are different from us. Hicks challenges his listeners to change our perspective – and to begin to see the world through eyes of LOVE.

Eyes of Love that put aside the fear. Eyes of love that see the world as it is, not as our talking heads and political leaders claim it to be. Eyes of love that have the courage to live the words of people like Jesus and Gandhi and Hillel who have told us that we need only treat others as we WANT and deserve to be treated … It’s THAT simple …

Today we remember the profound cost of war … Today we remember the fallen. We remember the veterans. We remember those who stand on the front lines. And we remember the wounded and the battered who continue their recovery.

Today we remember the high cost of war and we simply say – that cost is too high to let it continue unfettered … Too many young lives have been snuffed out on foreign soil, or lost in cold distant waters … too many lives have been shattered … we know the stories – we need to share the stories … but as we remember the cost, and as we thank those who have paid that bill. We must begin to listen to that whisper that says – “see the world in a new way – see the world through eyes of love … and let’s find a better way than war and conflict …”

Wasn’t that the message that John McCrae offered from the battle fields of Europe 90 years ago when he wrote the words of Flanders Fields … he looked at the horrors around him and said quietly … never again …

Maybe one day we will Remember THAT … and we will learn … and our world will change … and the sacrifices and the losses and the memories of our Veterans will be fully valued for what they are …

Maybe one day it will be so … until then we keep Remembering, we keep hoping and we keep working for a better way … May it be so – thanks be to God … Let us pray …

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Do WE Dare to Imagine ??

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

With ears to listen ...

"If a man does not keep pace
with his companions,
perhaps it is because
he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music
which he hears ..."
- Thoreau