Sunday, March 25, 2007

Order of Service - March 25th 2007


HYMN # 103 (green book) Morning Has Broken

One: May the God of grace be welcome in our midst.
All: May we receive the power and peace of divine love.
One: Come let us worship with our hearts and minds and bodies.
All: Let us become one seeking justice and compassion.
One: Blessed be God who challenges, heals, and unites us.
All: Blessed be our learning and blessed be our vision.
Blessed be God who inspires all things to be new.
One: Creating God, still Centre of the world you have made,
we come to you in this season of turning and returning,
All: We do not know how to seek you with our whole hearts,
but we know you are our source and our destiny.
One: In the midst of life, we return to you, we turn toward you.
All: We thank you that you receive even the broken heart,
the troubled conscience, the conflicted spirit. Amen.

One: From Bethlehem to Nazareth,
from Jordan to Jericho,
from Bethany to Jerusalem,
from then to now,
All: Come, Lord Jesus.
One: To heal the sick,
to mend the broken-hearted,
to comfort the disturbed,
to disturb the comfortable,
to cleanse the temple,
to liberate faith from convention,
All: Come, Lord Jesus.
One: To carry the cross,
to lead the way,
to shoulder the sin of the world and take it away,
All: Come, Lord Jesus.
One: Today,
to this place,
to us,
All: Come Lord Jesus.

HYMN # 61 (green book) As Comes the Breath of Spring

PRAYER OF CONFESSION: (in unison) see back of Bulletin

HYMN # 82 (green book) Open My Eyes That I May See

SCRIPTURE READING: Isaiah 43: 16 – 21
Psalm 126

HYMN # 44 (green book) Part of the Family


HYMN Jesus Loves Me
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong, in his love we shall be strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

SCRIPTURE READING: Philippians 3: 4b – 14
John 12: 1 – 8

CHOIR ANTHEM: Just a Closer Walk


In the Church, we are a people of stories … Today we have four very distinctive stories that we have shared, and that cause us pause – how do they fit together? What is the common thread that runs through them?

If we begin with the idea of story itself, we start with a powerful understanding of the world. When I served in Bella Coola, I learned the power of story – in the language of the Nuxalkmc the term was Smayusta – the stories, the songs, they mythic tradition not only of the people, but the land and the gods and creatures who share the time and space. The stories of creation were the smayusta entrusted to families and clans to pass on and keep alive. The smayustas influenced and informed ALL aspects of life in Bella Coola. It was the smayusta that gave meaning and sacredness to the land, the people, and the songs and stories … Smayusta was central to the understanding of the world.

To the Jewish faith, story is just as central. Researchers have dubbed this – the axis mundi – literally the axis around which the world revolves and from which all meaning and understanding flows. For the Jewish faith the stories are varied – “a wandering Aramean is my ancestor …”; The whole of the experience of leaving Egypt and journeying to the promised land; the 12 sons of Jacob who become the 12 tribes of Israel; the Macabees and their rebellion – each of these has a meaning beyond simply being a nice story. Each story informs the liturigical and spiritual lives of the people and each contributes to the way in which the people understand the world and their place in it.

Our reading from Isaiah slams head long into this view of the world. Isaiah is speaking in Babylon amongst a people who are far from home and far from everything they know and understand. They’ve been enslaved and in exile – and they are pining for what once was … So strong is their pining for the way things used to be, that they are no longer living fully in the present moment – they are living in a past that very few of them had experienced themselves as adults. Their past is one of stories told by parents and grandparents and retold by these people.

So, in this context Isaiah rises and begins to recall the Passover events and the wonderful things God has done. The people hear him and say – “ah, yes, God has been wonderful to us …” Then Isaiah slams on the brakes. “Do not remember the former things …” he proclaims.

“HUH??!!” the people wonder – “forget about the past? How can we forget the past?” This is an outrage !!

One commentary notes that forgetting about the past for the Jewish people is akin to the modern Chinese just forgetting about the Cultural Revolution, or the Australians forgetting about Galipoli, or the Americans and the French forgetting about their respective revolutions – or we as Canadians being asked to forget about the depression, the two World Wars, battles like Vimy, Dieppe, Cassino, Juno Beach and the Battle of the Atlantic or the way in which the prairies have shaped life for ALL of Canada … It’s a nice idea, but it is a radical shift of thinking and understanding, that we aren’t eager to make.

Yet, here is Isaiah insisting we MUST forget about the past if we are to journey into God’s future …

So, in the Church, what is it that we need to forget, and for that matter, how do we even begin to forget?

Another commentary on the text notes - the tendency of the Church is to baptize our successes and to believe that if we can only duplicate the mechanics the end results will be the same …

There are people who still lament the passing of the tent evangelists, and who believe if only preachers preached like they used to, our churches would be filled. Perhaps this glorification of the past is keeping us from seeing the greater glory God wants to lead us to. Perhaps bigger isn’t better. This time perhaps it could be smaller … the challenge is to dream up a new vision, and to leave the past behind.

Those visions of what COULD be are the power of Isaiah’s metaphor of water pouring forth in abundance in the wilderness … In a dry, dead place – life will abound!! If only we stop looking back over our shoulders and pining for a past that was never as golden as we believe …

Think of our story as a community … what is the past that we must leave behind to embrace the path ahead?

A time when the Sunday School classes were SO big they had to delay the full union of Tilston Street United and Knox United for two years until arrangements to teach such a massive group of kids could be arranged.

Jean’s Junior choirs that filled the community with music, and touched many lives and left many memories …

CGIT groups, overflowing Sunday Schools, huge AOTS and UCW groups, a Choir filling the loft, Worship services that had the church FULL there are many different memories of the golden era of the past that we tell and retell - we all do it. It starts with a simple – “I remember when …” and we recall the moments of meaning from our past as a community of faith.

They ARE our stories. And the ARE very good stories. They are important stories. But when they prevent us from embracing the reality of the moment and moving in the future, they are stories that have out lived their usefulness. They are stories that become burdens and barriers, and they need to be abandoned and forgotten …

That’s Isaiah’s point in this. The Babylonians are pining for a time in the past – and it wasn’t even their past. It was the past of their parents and grandparents. And Isaiah says – “enough … leave the past behind and let’s be ready to envision a new story where water pours forth in the desert and where life is found in abundance in dry, dust and dead land … “

Isaiah’s is an invitation to see the world in a radical new way, and to live accordingly …

It’s an invitation that fits well with Paul’s message to the Church at Phillipi. Paul gives them his CV – his background: which tribe he fit into, what his qualifications are, what his lineage is and so on – then he says: “none of this matters. In Christ is it all simply rubbish.”

And we know what we do with rubbish? We throw it away.

In the face of – in experiencing and living the resurrection, the past is irrelevant …

And to share a secret with you – we ARE people of the Resurrection. You and I – all of us together are people of the resurrection who live by the transformative power of the resurrection in our lives.

We ARE people of the resurrection, and when we dare to live the resurrection all the stories and tales and memories of the past 105 years become nothing more than rubbish. We are to forget about them and experience NEW ways of being and doing … We are people of the resurrection – all things old have passed away. As people of the resurrection – can we follow Paul’s lead and abandon the past and embrace the reality of THIS moment instead and stop pining for what once was and instead deal with what IS???

Something wondrous is about to happen in our dry barren desert wilderness. Soon abundant waters and a profusion of life will be found where once there was only a dry trackless desert … That’s the core of our faith – the transformative power of the resurrection …

Even the Psalm reading today picks up that theme when it proclaims “those who go our weeping shall come home with shouts of joy.” This is not an idle promise of what MIGHT happen, or what MAY happen. This is a promise of faith. This is the promise of the resurrection.

Our calling – our ministry of faith – is to live out that understanding that through faith – through the resurrection – we will experience that kind of transformation and rivers WILL flow through the dry, dusty and dead places in our lives. That’s the message of the resurrection – it will happen. So not only trust in it – live believing and anticipating it …

That is perhaps why our Gospel reading is so hard to comprehend. We get hung up on the details around the money and the nard that Mary is lavishing on Jesus’ feet. We count the cost and miss the point.

What if Jesus never said – “the poor will always be with you …” but rather said – “I’m only hear for a little while, but the poor will always be with you …” so instead of extravagantly spending so much on me, find ways of spending it on the poor AS WELL.

In the face of God’s abundance, perhaps the lesson is about being generous with the poor TOO. Maybe Jesus wants us to stop fretting over the bottom line and the costs, and to start living lives of abundance because all that we have comes from God who has shared it quite generously, and our calling is to pass on that generosity.

One commentary I read noted – There is no place for misers in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is about pouring out perfume and not counting the cost … The Kingdom of God is about unfettered care and generosity. Yes, the poor will always be with us – that’s why we need to be generous to them … It is only right and just. Stop counting the costs … is the call of faith in this story.

So, today, we stand like the Israelites, far from our home – having been exiled in our lives, facing many challenges … We are poised to write a new story … a story of care, a story of generosity, a story of boundless compassion, a story of limitless love … a story of unconditional grace …

It is a story that will be written only when we stop looking over our shoulders and pining for a past that was never as golden nor as wonderful as we may think. It is a story that will be written when we turn our faces to the future and with a fresh start, begin to journey into the unknown that lies ahead of us … when we begin to journey into the wilderness.

“Forget about the past,” cries Isaiah to the Israelites and to us, “forget about all of it and instead look to the future …”

If we dare, we will soon see waters pour forth in breathtaking abundance where once there was nothing but a dry trackless land … There will be life in abundance …

It may not be – no, it WILL not be what we expect or what we anticipate, or even what we want – and it will not bear any likeness to what once was … but it WILL be what God wants for us …

Our task is to heed the words of Isaiah, and in all things – forget about the past, and embrace the future … We need to let go and let God take over … and when we do, we will be washed away by the abundance of LIFE that God offers …
May it be so, thanks be to God …



HYMN # 36 (green book) Teach Me, God, To Wonder

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil
for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

HYMN # 79 (vs 1 – 5) (green book) God, We Praise You for the Morning


SUNG RESPONSE: Choir – Now Unto Him

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

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Scenes from The Winnipeg Voices United Concert:

Minnedosa United Church Senior Choir being Introduced:
The Senior Choir in the vastness of Westminster United Church:

Canadian Mennonite University Mens' Chorus:

Westworth United Church Choir,

directed by Ruth Wiwchar:

Bisons Mens Chorus:

It was an amazing evening of music with the
Winnipeg Male Chorus
and the
Winnipeg Brass Quintet.
Thanks to all.

More Scenes from the Concert in Winnipeg!!

In the narthex of Westminster United Church:
People beginning to gather:
The place was filling up:

Minnedosa United Church Senior Choir ready to perform:

Checking out the Model and Plans !!

Building Committee Members - Wilf and Barry check out the model
with our architect - Michael.

The folks in Winnipeg were VERY interested in seeing
what our new building will look like:

Barry and Michael continue their conversation!!

The Model !!!

Above is what our new building will look like.
The white bit in the centre is where the "spire" will be.
Our architect Michael wasn't able to have that piece
completed for last night's concert.
NO MATTER, the model and floor plans are STUNNING!!!

Main St is the Left - The Credit Union is to the bottom

The Cenotaph and Tank to the top - the back alley to the right.

Same View - different angle.

In the centre you can see the opening between the Hall and Sanctuary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Order of Service for March 18th 2007


HYMN # 60 (Songs For a Gospel People) I Come With Joy

One: O Lord, we’ve heard the old, old story
and we confess our sin of indifference.
All: God, jolt our lives to turn and look at You once more.
One: Give us the ears to hear your amazing story
that God would become one of us, living among us, teaching us, sitting down at table with us, breaking bread and drinking wine with us, and then dying among us, for us. Amazing grace!
All: O Lord, we ask for your presence this day. Brush against us when we least expect it. Touch us with your Spirit. Take us by the shoulders and shake us awake to your incredible truth.
One: We are your people and you are our God. Forgive our faithlessness, O faithful God! And see beyond our apathy, our thoughtlessness, our self-centredness, our wrong choices.
See into our heart, for you are our Treasure.
All: We pledge once more to give to those who need us, that this world might be more human. We pledge to do away with indifference. We pledge to tell the old, old story in new
life-changing ways! For Jesus’ sake. Amen

# 44 (SFGP) Part of the Family

One: Loving God, we have squandered many of the gifts that you have lavished on us:
All: Gifts of creation, gifts of friendship, gifts of trust, gifts of family
One: Loving God, we have cut ourselves off from your love and security.
All: We have followed our own self-interest, lived for the moment, forgotten our roots.
One: But, Loving God, we have realized our own failures, we have turned for our faithful home.
All: We are amazed that you still embrace us, dumbfounded that you will forgive us.
One: Loving God, we will join in the family celebration you provide for us.
All: Rejoicing in your generosity, determined to make a fresh start.
One: O Holy God ….
(continues on the back page of the bulletin)

HYMN # 8 (SFGP) Help Us Accept Each Other

SCRIPTURE READING: Joshua 5: 9 – 12 & Psalm 32

Jesus Loves Me
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong, in his love we shall be strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

SCRIPTURE READING: 2Corinthians 5:16-21 & Luke 15: 1 – 32

CHOIR ANTHEM: Trust in the Lord


Our readings for this week are reminders of the transformative power of a new beginning and a warm welcome ... The Old Testament reading has Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land. The old generation has passed away, Moses has died and the people are beginning to enter the land long promised to them ... Paul is writing to the Church at Corinth and reminding them that God's ways are not our ways, and that in faith we are to start over by leaving the past behind and starting fresh ... The Psalmist, even in the midst of abandonment an distress trusts in God and God's presence to see him through ...

Then we turn to the Gospel readings of Luke for today come from the “Lost chapter” of Luke … the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost and prodigal son … the transformative experience of being lost and found ...

It’s a powerful chapter with profound and powerful examples for the listener … The primary lesson of the chapter is – don’t give up … keep looking – you will find it …

Then the secondary lesson is one directed at the lost one. That lesson is – don’t give up – you will be found and you will be welcomed home … and there will be great rejoicing and celebrating when that moment comes …

And the third lesson is a reminder that when all seems lost – God has not given up on you, and God will not leave you abandoned nor forgotten.

The experience of being lost, or of losing something we value is a universal one. All of us have at some point in our lives, been in that place where the story Jesus shared with his disciples is not only understandable, but very personal. Most of us know that moment of celebration when the lost are once again found. Whether it is something we have lost, or when we ourselves have felt lost.

But beyond that – the story of the prodigal son is a story about the transformation that comes when we seriously live the moment where we experience the fullness of Grace that Jesus is so clearly speaking of when the father welcomes back his lost child. It is a moment of boundless, limitless grace. Grace that arises from a love that is so profound and generous it is simply breathtaking.

It is also a very uncomfortable place to be seeing and hearing about that abundant grace if we are NOT the prodigal who is welcomed home … It’s uncomfortable to be the eldest brother … the loyal one who stayed home and worked hard and feels very much jilted by his father’s action.

On Friday morning as we were discussing the story of the Prodigal son and contemplating what it would be like to be each of the characters in the story I had a sudden realization that much of the Prodigal story is found in the cartoon movie – “The Lion King.”

The movie the Lion King opens with the birth of the new lion cub Simba who will in time become the King of the Pride lands when his father Mufasa dies. Simba is anointed by the shaman mandrill ape Rafiki. The problem is the jealous younger brother of Mufasa, Scar – Scar is not handling the birth of his nephew well, nor is he handling his moving down to second in place for the crown …

The first spoken words in the movie are Scar’s, when he captures a mouse and says – “Life isn’t fair …” Life isn’t fair – a harsh lesson to teach our children in the opening of a cartoon – but in the cartoon universe, it will NOT be Scar and his evil minions who prevail at the end of the day. Life may not be fair – but in the movie, it IS just.

As the movie progresses, Scar attempts to trick Simba into situations that would hopefully result in the death of the young cub. When these attempts fails, he then orchestrates a stampede of the vast herd of zebras and wildebeests, and watches as Simba is caught out in the middle of the stampede. Mufasa, the true king races to rescue his son …
Mufassa is successful in rescuing Simba, but as he clings to the side of the ravine begging Scar to help him – Scar slams his claws down on his brother’s paws and sending him sprawling into the stampeding herd …

The next scene has Simba approaching the battered body of his father … Scar steps out of the gloom and accuses his nephew of killing Mufasa … Simba, trusting his uncle believes that he killed his own father and flees the pride … the pride lands and everything he knows …

Scar becomes king and tells the pride that Simba and Mufasa have both died … and Scar holds that horrible secret that it was he who caused the death of the king and who drove the tiny cub away from his home.

Simba becomes the prodigal son – heading out in to the wilderness – homeless, unloved, and feeling utterly rejected … He leaves the pride lands to his uncle Scar who installs himself as King, and then proceeds to pillage and destroy the pride lands and the food supply.
Simba is many miles away having been rescued by a merekat and a wart hog who take him in and befriend him. Simba lives with that deep dark secret – the knowledge that he killed his father and he had failed his family – his pride.

Then one day his childhood friend, searching for food finds Simba and asks him why he can’t come back and be the True King … Simba struggles with the news from home and the knowledge that his family is suffering by his absence. One night as Simba is trying to decide what to do the Shaman returns … Rafiki challenges Simba … the climactic scene finds Rafiki standing on the savannah where Simba says: “Looks like the winds are changing …”
Rafiki replies: “Change is Good …”
Simba, then says – “But it’s not easy. I know what I have to do, but … going back means having to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long …”
Suddenly Rafiki cranks Simba in the head with his shaman staff …
“Ow, what was that for?” asks Simba.
“It doesn’t matter … It’s in the past” replied Rafiki with a laugh.
Simba: “Yeah but it still hurts …”
“Yes,” says Rafiki, “the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”
Rafiki then takes another swing with his staff at Simba, and this time, Simba ducks, he grabs the stick, tosses it aside and begins to run for home ...

Simba heads home … He has to face his family – his pride, and he must fight and defeat his uncle, but with his life in the balance, Scar confesses to Simba that it was he – Scar – who caused Mufasa’s death … and in that moment Simba summons the strength he needs to vanquish his uncle and to become King …

In the case of the Lion King, the Prodigal Son forms his own welcome by defeating his Uncle and reclaiming his place in the Pride Lands … but the leaving behind of the past is key to both the Biblical Prodigal and the Disney Prodigal.

In the scriptures, the Prodigal son had gone as low as one can go in the Jewish faith. He was a Jew feeding pigs, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he was even contemplating eating the discarded food that he was charged with feeding TO the pigs … You really can’t get much lower than that in the Jewish faith.

Simba got as low as you could get – he believed he had killed his own father. He was disgraced and an outcast. He was the victim of manipulation and lies … he had been cast out and rejected … but by learning from his past, as Rafiki said, he is able to return and reclaim his place … Simba not only confronted the past – he set the record straight – both within himself, and also within the pride. Simba not only learned from the past, he rose above it and expelled from the pride lands those who did not have the best interests of the pride at heart. Simba was welcomed in because his motives were pure and just and right …

But that could only happen because the pride – his family – rejected Scar and his lies, and embraced Simba in spite of his absence and heralded him as their leader …

In the Lion King there is no older brother to stand in the way … but in Jesus’ story the older brother stands outside the story fuming and resenting the warm welcome received by his brother … The older brother knows, or he think he knows what his brother has done with his share of the estate. Meanwhile, as the brother stayed home and worked hard and was the “good” son, his brother frittered away his money on wine, women and song – so too speak … The oldest brother got nothing, and the youngest brother is welcomed like a conquering hero …
The oldest brother never was given a kid to roast with his friends, yet his ne’er do well brother is given the fatted calf and welcomed by a party …

The lesson – if we dare to hear it – is, as Paul says - that God’ ways are truly not our ways, and what may seem unfair to us is an expression of grace by God and God’s limitless care and compassion …

It is easy to be the Prodigal, and to be welcomed in … it is easy to be the older brother and to stand outside and grumble and snip … but it is harder to be the father and to welcome home the prodigal without slighting the eldest son … The father knows that there is more than enough for everyone – the challenge for him is to open the eyes and heart of the grumbling eldest son to the simple FACT that there is MORE than enough for everyone … The estate is there to be shared – the abundance is there to be given … The older brother WILL get his share … and the younger brother will work to earn his way back … it will work out …

The challenge for us is to recognize when we are the Prodigal … when we are the eldest son … and when we are the Father …Then we strive to to balance our care, and to also have the vision and the daring to value, appreciate, welcome and celebrate those we may simply take for granted …

Simba went home and set the record straight and laid to rest the lies and stories and falsehoods about him … The Prodigal in Jesus’ story came home and owed up to his missteps and mistakes … The unknown in this story is the eldest son. Our story stops and so we don’t know what happened to him. Perhaps he came in and joined in the party … perhaps the father in his care and generosity threw a party for him … perhaps he just walked away with his share of the estate …
We simply do not know …

What we do however know is this: There is a place at the banquet for both sons … The lost was found and will be rejoiced over … but the remnant who has been there needs to be celebrated too … and that may be the hardest lesson for the father to face …

The past is what it is … we can’t change it … we can’t relive it … we can learn from it, or we can be burdened under it forever … the choice is in our hands … As people of faith, our job – our task – our calling – is to embrace the lessons from the past with truth, and understanding and to create a new reality …

In that moment, when we move forward – we’re creating a resurrection … we’re living a resurrection … we ARE a resurrection …
And when we live that Resurrection – we are truly Home …

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


HYMN # 49 (SFGP) Amazing Grace

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil
for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

HYMN # 102 In Loving Partnership



Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patty's Day from the UCW ...

For those who joined in our UCW St Patricks Day Tea and Bake Sale,
these are a reminder of the afternoon ...
For those silly people who didn't make,
these are scenes of what you missed:

Happy St. Patty's from the UCW ... (part 2)

Smiling Faces and Warm Fellowship around the tables ...

Some of the men picked up meat pies for a supper treat !!

The Bake Table was Full to OVERFLOWING ...
A Good time was had by all ...
Thanks to the UCW for hosting another successful Tea & Bake Sale.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Latest Church Plans ...

Sermon for March 11th 2007

– Lent 3 –

After church, if you head over to the coffee shop and pick up a take out coffee you will read on the lid the warning – “Caution contents are Hot …” There have been law suits over the lack of such labels, and many of us scoff at the thought that you need a label at all to tell you, “when you order a take out coffee – that is will be hot …” I’d be more likely to sue if my coffee was served cold … Coffee and Hot kind of roll together …

If we go into most public buildings at this time of year we will pass little yellow signs that warn us – “caution, slippery when wet” … I’ve seen playground equipment that warn parents and children that they could get hurt if they fall … if we took some time we could probably come up with quite the list of warning labels and signs that are out around us … What continually strikes me is that so many of those signs are just simple common sense … Coffee is hot … wet floors are slippery … steep stairs are potentially dangerous … and playground equipment poses a risk BECAUSE it is fun …

The question that arises for me is – How do we live our lives in a way that we are not defined by the warnings??

So much of our world is hemmed in by the warnings – the “don’t do this …” and the “thou shalt not’s …” that we’ve lost our perspective on the possibilities and potentials of other signs that lay along the way – the signs that encourage us … If we are guided only by the negative warnings signs, what kind of faith journey will we have?

So from time to time it is worth pausing consider what story do we chose to use as we define our world?? What signs mark our journey?

Is our story one of “thou shalt not …” and “don’t” and “oh be careful …” and the limitations that that embodies – or is the story of our lives and faith to be one of opening up possibilities and potential?? And being open in the fullest sense, to the living presence of God in our world??

The Gospel reading has Jesus being asked a question about the demise of an unknown number of Galileans at the hands of Pilate … The underlying question being lobbed at Jesus is – did they deserve to die?? Jesus then points to the ruins of the Tower of Siloam and asks if the 18 who died when it fell were worthy of death, and deserved to die?

Now, there is an interesting twist in this story … We can from the texts posit the story in an actual place in the ancient city of Jerusalem … The foundations of the ruined tower of Siloam have been found and scholars are able to surmise that Jesus was likely standing very near to the site when he uttered the words …

The tower was just south of the Temple mount where a few short weeks or months earlier Pilate had ordered the deaths of hundreds of Galilean nations who had gathered on the temple mount …

Jewish historian Josephus reports that the Galileans came to protest the Roman occupation and heavy taxation and to demand from Pilate some relief and possibly independence. Pilate ordered the crowds to be dealt with – the soldiers marched on the protests with swords drawn, having been ordered to start swinging. Instead of running away in fear and panic – the expected course of action, the Galileans instead sat down on the pavement and exposed their necks to the Roman soldiers swords and DARED them to slaughter them … There are no accurate numbers of casualties, but Josephus reports that the heart nosed Pilate had relented and set the majority of captives free …

So, Jesus is speaking in a very specific context addressing a politically loaded question – “did these people deserve to die?”

It would be akin to human rights groups standing in Afghanistan or Iraq and asking – “did these civilians deserve to die??”

Or voices like Romeo Dallaire asking – “did these Rwandans deserve to die?”

It’s akin to assuming by our complacency that the poor among us simply deserve to be poor, or our farmers deserve to be struggling, or our workers are not entitled to appreciation and appropriate wages …

Jesus’ comments have HUGE political implications. He is standing in the shadow of the Temple, challenging the authorities and saying with great courage that it’s about living a faith-filled life … Even the question about the Galileans is a loaded question – the person asking is no doubt wanting to know if Jesus’ heart lies with those rabble rousers who had come from the North and tried to rock the boat – or did his heart lie with the status quo?

Instead of directly answering THAT question and revealing that his heart may well lie with the sentiments of his fellow Galileans, Jesus tells the story about the fig tree … In the story, the man, the land owner is impatient and unknowledgable, he is concerned about the fruit – he wants it in his hand RIGHT NOW, he’s not willing to wait for the fruit in due season, he’s not willing to do the work necessary for the fruit to be produced, and he’s not willing to trust the tree and nature …

Time, patience and fertilizer … and there should be fruit … but even then there are no guarantees. The gist of the parable of the fig tree is – the need for us to trust in God and God’s time frame … the need for us to be open – not to what our ego believes is right – but what God offers to us as a gift …

This week I was reminded of a funeral I presided at some years ago for a woman who died in her late 50’s.

I gathered with the family – her parents, her brother and sister in law, and her grown nieces. I began as I usually begin by asking them to tell me about their daughter, sister, and auntie …

There was something different happening – I couldn’t get my finger on it … then the brother admitted that his sister had Down’s Syndrome and was unable to function …

She had never learned to talk, and was like a child … So, I changed my tact and asked them to tell me what she liked to do … Then it came …

She liked chocolate … she liked presents … she liked Christmas and Birthdays … She liked balloons … she liked flowers – OH, my gawd said the mother, it took hours to go through flower gardens, and it would take all day to get through the formal gardens in Stanley Park because she HAD to smell EVER SINGLE flower … and the nieces said – “she liked colouring …”

She really liked colouring … her now 20-something year old nieces began to laugh and cry as they recalled having to sit at the kitchen table with Auntie and colour … “you had to stay inside the lines …” observed one … “and you had to share the crayon with her …” said the other … and they laughed at the recollection of how many hours they had spent colouring with their auntie …

When I presided at the funeral a few days later I ended the meditation asking the question – “couldn’t the world be a better, kinder, gentler place if we ALL took more time like she did?? What would the world be like if we gave more presents, spent more time smelling flowers and enjoying balloons? What could the world be like if we enjoyed more chocolate and cake? And how different would the world be if we each took time to sit and colour more often, even if we didn’t stay inside the lines?”

I quoted from French author Morris West who called Down’s Syndrome children – “les petite bouffonnes du bon Dieu” – Little clowns of God when he writes of their place in the world where in one of his novels, a small group of people have gathered as the Third World War is about to begin, and the one they’ve FINALLY recognized as Christ sits among them and offers them communion as the meal they’ve just shared ends:

Jesus lifts a mentally handicapped child out of her high chair, kisses her and sits her on his knee. He dips a crust of bread in wine and feeds it to her, morsel by morsel. As he does so, Jesus says:“I know what you are thinking. You need a sign. What better one could I give than to make this little one whole and new? I could do it; but I will not. I am the Lord and not a conjuror. I gave this mite a gift I denied all of you—eternal innocence. To you she looks imperfect—but to me she is flawless. She will never offend me, as all of you have done. She will never pervert or destroy the work of [my] hands. She is necessary to you.She will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. Her infirmity will prompt you to gratitude for your own good fortune, and more! She will remind you that every day that I am who I am, that my ways are not your ways, and that the smallest dust mote whirled in the darkest space does not fall out of my hand . . . I have chosen you. You have not chosen me. This little one is my sign to you. Treasure her!”

God will and does – work on God’s time … God will break through where we least expect it … and God will provide us with more than we need and much more than we deserve, if we are open to those possibilities …

Isaiah knew this when we spoke with such JOY of what God offers … Jesus knew this when he stood in the shadow of the temple and taunted the authorities … and Paul knew this when he warned the Corinthians to learn from their history …

Today is a new day spiritually … the day spreads before us … our challenge is to enter into the day knowing that God is with us, and that the vision Isaiah laid out is there – if we can only open our eyes and our hearts and our souls to the fullness of it …

God’s way is not about warnings and labels and limitations … God’s way is about openness, potential, care, compassion and possibility …
Do we dare to live our lives that way ??

When we do – God will show us a bold new way of living our lives and sharing our faith … all it requires of us is openness, patience, time and caring …
May it be so … thanks be to God …

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Order of Service for March 4th 2007

# 580 Faith of Our Fathers
One: Everything that happens on earth
happens at the time God chooses.
Women: God sets the time for birth and the time for death,
Men: the time for sorrow and the time for joy.
Women: the time for tearing and the time for mending,
Men: the time for scattering and the time for gathering,
Women: the time for seeking and the time for losing,
Men: the time for keeping silence and the time for speaking.
One: Everything that happens on earth
All: happens at the time God chooses.
One: Friends in Christ,
Lent is a time to prepare and to renew our life.
We mark this holy season
All: by acknowledging our need for repentance,
and for the mercy and forgiveness
proclaimed in the gospel.
One: We are invited, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent
All: by self-examination and penitence,
by prayer and fasting, by works of love,
and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.
One: Now comes the march of flint across the countryside of stone.
All: Now comes the night, deep within the valley of dark shadow
One: Now comes the shriek of violence, the ghostly echo of betrayal.
All: Now, the crackle of a coal fire and the crowing of a cock.
One: Soon, the sounds of nails, piercing and friends weeping.
Soon, only the silence of a world pressed against its mortal fate.
This is your journey, O God. It is taken in your love.
All: This is our journey too.
Following your call,
may the sounds and sights of Lent, painful and real,
be our teacher, until the new dawn breaks. Amen

HYMN # 681 Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
One: Before you, Jesus Christ, we admit how and where we have underestimated our influence, letting our words or silences hurt, abusing trust, betraying confidences.
Lord, have mercy;
All: Christ, have mercy.
One: We admit how and where we have made show of our religion, attracting more attention to us, and less to you.
Lord, have mercy.
All: Christ, have mercy.
One: We admit to where in our lives a vague interest has become a dangerous passion, and we are not sure what to do or whether we are still in control.
Lord, have mercy.
All: Christ, have mercy.
One: Lord Jesus Christ, if we have looked or longed for an easier gospel, a lighter cross, a less demanding saviour, then turn our eyes and avert our longing from what we want to choose to the one who has chosen us.
Forgive our unfaithfulness, and, for our better living, give us not the remedy we desire tomorrow, but the grace you offer today.
We ask this for your love’s sake.
All: Amen.
SCRIPTURE READING: Genesis 15: 1 – 12, 17 – 18
Psalm 27 (VU 754)
HYMN # 410 This Day God Gives Me
THE STORY STOOL: When a Stranger comes for a visit (Flat Stanley stops by)
HYMN # 365 Jesus Loves Me

SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 13: 31 – 35 & Luke 9: 28 – 36
Introduction for The Reading from Luke 13:31-35:
Walter Brueggemann writes: "A society that cannot be generous in public ways will not be blessed, but will be consumed in its chosen amnesia ..."
Jesus was never one to pull a punch. In the Gospel of Matthew, he said of the Pharisees - "you hypocrites, you are like white washed tombs. On the outside you are beautiful, but inside you are full of dead bones, rotting flesh and filth ..."
He directed this statement at individuals, but it could also be directed at the Temple and the cultic worship there. In Jerusalem, in Jesus' day stood the beautiful Herodian Temple. With is gold covered white marble, it was a extrordinary place of worship. King Herod had spent the equivilent of BILLIONS of modern day dollars constructing it.
It was a building to be proud of, but inside there was too much that took away from faithful worship of God.
Our Gospel reading this morning finds Jesus standing on the East side of Jerusalem, looking across the Kirdon Valley, a valley full of elaborate white washed tombs ... across the valley stand the glorious temple built by King Herod. Jesus can see the wealth and the oppulance, He can no doubt smell the burning sacrifice and hear the hub-bub of the worship ... and he weeps ...
He weeps ... O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem ... How I have longed to gather you in as a hen gathers her brood ...
Jesus stood and understood that day what was at the heart of the temple ... what was at the heart of their worship ... what was at the heart of the people ... "The core tradition of the Bible sees dislocation as a time in which to regroup and reorder public policy for the sake of ALL members of the society, not just some. The motivation is the memory of earlier times when one's own disadvantage was experienced, and this propels us when we have commanding authority. That is - the laws of public life would be very different if all of us could remember the times of our own vulnerability. Dislocation is a time when amnesia is a powerful temptation ... it is however, a temptation that must be powerfully and intentionally resisted ..."
Jesus words are words of liberation ...
Liberation if we dare to listen and follow!!!

CHOIR ANTHEM: High Upon a Mountain
SERMON:“Jerusalem, Jerusalem …”

This week I’ve been reading two books that have altered my thinking as we’ve entered into the season of Lent. The first is the most recent book is The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong. The second is Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope by Walter Brueggemann. One is an examination of Biblical texts, the other is a book about that period of time when in human history, suddenly all over the world a new religious consciousness arose and people began to envision and see and experience the world in bold and wonderful new ways … They seem disconnected, until one steps back and realizes that we, both as a community of faith, and as a society are in a place of profound dislocation and exile … and it was in just such a time that this Great awakening and transformation first stirred in human history …

Armstrong contends in her text that all major world religions owe their existence to that period of time when the world was suddenly, and simultaneously understood in radical new ways … The unfortunate thing is that since that time some 16 Centuries ago, we have forgotten what it is that was being taught. We’ve moved from the radical experiential flavour of spirituality that the Old Testament Prophets, Confucius, The Buddha and others of that era not only proclaimed, but themselves embodied. We’ve moved from a place where we understand our place in the cosmos as deeply connected to others, to a place where we are looking out only for ourselves … This is the heart of the experience of exile and dislocation. We are living it as a congregation, we are living it as a community in decline, we are living it as a rural area that is depopulating and being transformed by forces beyond ourselves, and we are experiencing it as a culture … We are a dislocated people who are in exile from all that we’ve understood and believed and held to …

And it is in this moment, when we identify the dislocation we’re experiencing, that Brueggemann’s voice breaks through and says – “all is NOT lost …” There is not only hope … there is faith …
In Lent, our journey this year began with the words – “a Wandering Aramean is our ancestor …” It is from our story – our history – our past, that we will draw our direction for the future …
Bruggemann maintains that in a place of dislocation and exile, there are four speeches that need to be offered by to the people to guide them through the trauma and pain …
The first speech is that of sadness, anger, rage and loss. It is the point where we name the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves. The story of Abraham leaving everything he knew, every thing he was comfortable with is such an example. He names the reality of his journey – he has left his home to wander to a place that God will show him, and there he will become a great nation … His is a journey of apprehension. His is a journey of uncertainty. His is a journey of fear …

Then we move to the second speech – that of order and holiness. Like breaking bread downstairs the morning of our fire and saying in that gesture – “we are NOT alone” the speech of order and holiness is about remembering, naming and owning the priestly functions. God is with us, even in the exile. God has not abandoned nor forgotten us … Even in this …
Unfortunately, in dislocation and exile, too often people journey to this point – where they stand in the presence of the order and holiness that comes from God and journey no further. It’s safe here. God is here. Everything is alright and okay – and it’s far enough. The boat isn’t being rocked any more – there isn’t any apprehension. We can just close our eyes and know that God is with us – and that’s enough …
But that’s NOT enough … we’re only half way there …

The next speech is that of Transformation – imagining a transformation, not that is selfish and our own, but a transformation that is about justice and caring and compassion, not just for the select few – not just for the people we like and who agree with us – but for EVERYONE.
The prophets of old, stood before a people who were rebuilding from their exile and warned them about building a new temple and a new religious precinct and filling it with the same old way of doing things, where there were those who were “in” and there were those who were “out”. It is a time to regroup and reform as a people and to consciously NOT take advantage of others. Brueggemann points out that it is a time and a place to address issues of poverty, hunger and injustice. It is the time and place to look at how we deal with others and to treat them better …
A friend of mine observed this recently when she shared with me the experiences of visits she occassionally makes to a Buddhist meditation centre down her block. She said that she finds the “worship” component of the time there refreshing. The lessons and meditation are about being mindful of our place in the world, detaching ourselves from our petty concerns and connecting with the cosmos … Then when the time of meditation ends there is food and she is shocked by the way in which others push and shove to get to the food table first … The lessons brought through meditation are lost as the selfishness of our modern era returns … and the teachings of Buddha are lost as they seek to gain advantage over another …
She also had an similar experience a few weeks ago at a Jewish Temple, where she and her daughter went to worship along with one of her daughter’s best friends. The service was filled with chanting and singing, and was wonderful. In the midst of the service she glanced up to see her daughter and her best friends with their nine year old arms wrapped around each other smiling, while they were bathed in the light of the setting sun that was pouring through the stained glass windows of the balcony. As a mom she was struck by the beauty and the holiness of the scene, so she pulled out her camera to snap a picture of the two girls and a moment she described rightly as holy … only to have one of those who was worshipping, and a moment before had been ecstatically happy, snarl at her – “no pictures …” From the joy of the worship experience – to seeing and in a tangible way experiencing the holy … to anger, bitterness and hostility, all in a blink of an eye …

At the end of the day, it is how we treat each other in the small things that will determine what is at the core of our faith … If we, in this third speech are seeking to better ourselves at the expense of others, or if we want to put someone in their place – we are not living the holy … Or, if we are generous of spirit, caring of heart and kind of soul – the holy is not only within us, it is breaking through everywhere. Brueggemann points out that when the chips are down it is NOT the time for us to triumph over another, but it is a time to regroup and live those values of connectedness and holy that are so central to our spiritual lives.
It was in this context that we hear Jesus weeping over Jerusalem … The people have lost their way. They have a beautiful temple, they have an attentive God, they have everything – but they no longer hear the voices from that time of awakening who tell them to care for the widows and orphans, to welcome the alien, to put the welfare of others ahead of themselves … He weeps over Jerusalem because he’s come to see the futility of his mission and ministry. Nothing will change … the people will continue to enact their meaningless worship with hardened and embittered hearts … but he trusts in the fourth speech of dislocation – the envisioning and embodiment of New Possibility – of transformation brought by God …

The story of Hillel the rabbi who tells the young man that the WHOLE of the Torah is “that which is hurtful to another, you do not do – ever …” Jesus realized and proclaimed and died for the simplicity of that statement … That was and remains central to his teachings. The problem is that we are not living our lives open to what that means. We are not allowing that transformation to come …
And so we journey into Lent … We know the stories – but we fail to live them. We hear the word – but we fail to heed them. We experience the holy – but then we jostle and push for position …

Lent is the season when we hear the whisper – “a wandering Aramean was my ancestor …” and we hear again – for the first time, the journey of Abraham and Sarah and the struggles they experienced as they followed God through a time and place of dislocation and uncertainty.
We live in a era, that not only as a community here in Minnedosa, but as a culture – as a global society, we would do well to heed those lessons and open ourselves to the wondrous potential that God alone offers …

There is one lectionary reading we didn’t share as part of our readings this morning. It is a passage from Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi. They are words that remind us – in this place and time of dislocation, there is only one thing in which we can stand firm. There is only one place where we can stand faithfully … Paul writes to the Church at Philippi: (Philippians 3:17-4:2)

Lent is traditionally a season and a time of repentance as we prepare for the experience of Easter.
Lent is the time of year when we are to be open to the potential of God’s place and presence in our lives.
Lent is the time of year when we MUST allow the respect, the honesty, the kindness, the care and the compassion that is our faith to not only break through in our worship, but every moment of every day …
Lent is when we are invited to live our faith courageously and to live our lives faithfully … The challenge is to set aside our old ways of doing and being, and to be open to the transformative experience that is God’s presence and holiness …
We are people in dislocation and exile – we needn’t remain there … the choice is ours …
May we chose wisely and faithfully …
May it be so – thanks be to God – let us pray …

# 327 All Praise to Thee
HYMN # 352 I Danced in the Morning (vs 1-3)
: Choir – Now Unto Him

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


is called for Monday, March 5, at 7 p.m. at the Adult Learning Centre.

WORLD DAY OF PRAYER has been rescheduled for Friday, March 9, at 2 at St. Alphonsus, and hosted by the Catholic Ladies. We reflect on the theme, “United Under God’s Tent”, that in Christ we are one body within God’s sheltering tent, covered by God’s protective cloak. This year the service was written and prepared by the women of Paraguay. Everyone welcome!

ST. PATRICK’S DAY TEA & BAKE SALE, hosted by the UCW will be held Saturday, March 17 between 2:00 – 3:30 at the Ukrainian Hall. Donations to the bake table are gratefully accepted. Please join the UCW for tea.

A FUNDRAISING CONCERT is being planned for Friday, March 23 at 7:30 at Westminster United Church in Winnipeg. Participating in the concert will be Minnedosa United Church Choir, Westworth United Church Choir, Winnipeg Male Chorus, Bison Mens Chorus, Canadian Mennonite University Mens Chorus and Winnipeg Brass (Brass Quintet). A free-will offering will be collected with proceeds being donated to the Building Fund.

REMINDER that the Fundraising Committee will host a location in the Town Wide Garage Sale during May long weekend. As you gather items to donate to this project, please price the items. Further details will be available shortly.

EMERGING SPIRIT - Emerging Spirit is more than just controversial magazine ads ... on Friday April 20th to Saturday April 21st, There will be a Living the Welcome" Training event for Congregations held at Roblin United Church. Living the Welcome offers congregations tips, tools and programmes for launching welcoming ministries in your context; ways to connect with the media campaign, and explorations of leadership and ministry in times of change. The weekend will consist of a series of workshops for Congregational leaders who wish to explore ways to enhance, engage and lead the ministries we have. Previous workshops have been well attended and well received. The cost is $100/person (travel and accommodations not included). The workshops are open to anyone interested in exploring ways in which the Church can reach out to a changing world. If you are interested in attending on behalf of this congregation, speak to Shawn, or call the office ...
If you're not sure, check out the pamphlets at the back of the Church ...

ANNUAL REPORT BOOKLETS are still available from the Church Office. If you would like a copy, contact Elaine at 867-2674.

ROTARY CLUB USED BOOK SALE will be held (Fri & Sat) March 9 & 10 and March 16 & 17 at the former 2nd Century Furniture Building. If you wish to donate items to this sale, please contact John Neabel - 867-2972 or Neil Cameron - 867-2194 for pick up, or leave books at Heritage Coop Food Centre of the Library.

BIBLE STUDY GROUP meets Friday’s at 10:00 am in the Church office. All are welcome to participate.

CHOIR PRACTICE is Thursday at 7:30 pm here at St. Alphonsus Church. New members and anyone interested in directing would be most welcome!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow Day ...

We are people of the Resurrection ...
... The Resurrection of Spring, can't come soon enough !!