December 31, 2007

Upcoming Events

This post will remain on top until the end of the year. Please scroll down to see other posts. Expand it to see the events.

Last Updated: November 19, 2007

  • September 27-30 -- Fall Meeting of Cambrian Presbytery in Fort Frances
  • Sunday September 30 -- UCW Harvest Supper at 5:30

  • Monday October 1 -- UCW Meeting at 7:00 pm
  • Sunday October 7 -- Worldwide Communion and Thanksgiving Service
  • October 9-10 -- Gord at Conference Executive meeting in Winnipeg
  • Mid-October -- UCW Pie Making
  • Saturday October 27 -- Zone-wide visioning meeting in Fort Frances
  • Sunday October 28 -- Congregational Supper and Meeting at 5:00 pm

  • Saturday November 3 -- UCW Bazaar
  • Sunday Noember 4 -- More Voices sing song at 7:00 pm
  • Monday November 5 -- UCW Meeting at 7:00 pm
  • Sunday November 11 -- Weekly worship time changed to 7:00 pm for this week.
  • Sunday November 18 -- Morning Worship will be a "Favourite hymns" service
  • Sunday November 18 -- Bruce and Cheryl Harding in concert at 7:30 pm
  • Thursday November 22 -- Worship at Extended Care Wing at 10:45

  • Sunday December 2 -- First Sunday of Advent, Communion service. Tree-trimming party and soup & sandwich lunch following the service.
  • Monday December 3 -- UCW Meeting at 6:00 pm, supper at White Otter Motel, donations to Christmas Cheer fund instead of gift exchange
  • Sunday December 16 -- Third Sunday of Advent, Christmas Pageant and White Gift Sunday
  • Sunday December 16 -- Blue Christmas Service at 7:00 pm
  • Monday December 24 -- Christmas Eve Worship at 7:00 pm
  • Thursday December 27 -- Worship at Extended Care Wing at 10:45

December 27, 2007

Looking Ahead to December 30, 2007 -- Sunday After Christmas

This Sunday's Scripture readings are:
  • Luke 2:25-38
  • Matthew 2:13-23

The Hmns this Sunday are:

  • 48 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • 71 ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime
  • 44 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • 43 Go Tell it on the Mountain

The Meditation title is The Shadow of Christmas.

Early Thoughts: Why hear these stories at Christmastime? Isn't Christmas happy and merry?

There is a shadow to Christmas. A shadow of death and a shadow of foreboding. MAtthew tells us the somewhat horrific tale of a slaughter of the innocents. And Luke has Simeon warning Mary that a sword will pierce her soul. They do seem like odd readings for the SUnday between Christmas and NEw Year's, a time when people are celebrating teh Holidays

BUt consider teh setting of the stories. THe Christmas story, teh JEsus movement, the Christian Story put out a challenge to those who use their power to rule over and tramp on others. Jesus is born into a world where dissent and opposition are dealt with violently and viciously.

There is in fact a somberness to the Christmas story when you think about it. Despite what some may wish, it is not just sweetness and light. THe Christmas story only makes sense when we remember the riskiness of the venture. CHristmas is about turning the world upside-down after all.

December 24, 2007

In Search of Light

A story/monologue for Christmas Eve.

(Darkened stage, sitting in “living room” singing “Tomorrow Christ is Coming” verse 1)

“the world is full of darkness” What appropriate words to sing in the middle of a power outage.

I hate the dark. Always have. It makes me uneasy when I can’t see clearly. I guess you could even say I am afraid of the dark. Everything sounds strange, everything seems creepy.

And really that is what I dislike about winter. I don’t mind the cold and I love snow, even shovelling it doesn’t really bother me. But those short days and long nights drag me down. I try to plan a trip to sunnier places each year, just to get out of the dark.

SO I really wonder about Christmas. People keep telling me it is a festival of light but then why is it at such a dark time of year? Why not celebrate light when there is a lot of it?

Still, you know, here is something about dark I identify with. Maybe that is part of why I don’t like it so much. I see the darkness of the world all too clearly. Sometimes people call me depressing or pessimistic but I see it as realism. The world is a dark place. (sing verse 2 of TCCiC)

See what I mean. The hymn writer knows. For many people the world is always dark. People are being pushed out of house and home, people live in terrible places, children are born into lives that will be nothing but struggle and hardship. Of course they are “crying out for love”.

You know the other thing unsettling about darkness? In all my favourite books dark means evil or bad. As things get harder and harder Frodo and his friends go into dark places – Moria, Mordor – and they are fighting the Dark Lord. And over and over again Harry and his friends are warned about Dark Wizards and have to learn to fight against the Dark Arts. When Harry is in the most danger he is in dark places. Dark means bad in so many ways in books, in songs.

And I get that. When I say the world is dark it is the bad stuff I think about. It isn’t about light or brightness or even colour. It is the shadows. Shadows of poverty, or of unemployment, or of warfare, or of racism and discrimination. They are dark. And still we have Christmas in the darkest time of year. I just don’t get it. (start singing verse 3 of TCCiC)

Man this is depressing. And yet it is real. That must be why I have always liked this hymn. It just seems so much more real than so many Christmas carols. It takes seriously the problems of the world. But my is it bringing me down. (pause and listen) Hey, I think the power just came on. (turn on lamp) Hey great it has.

Gee that light feels good. Now to bring some light to my spirit. (open Hymn Book) Hey here is a different one. “Kindle a flame, to lighten the dark, and drive all fear away”. I like that idea. Instead of muttering about the darkness and getting depressed we should do something about it. That sure is better than sitting here and getting depressed about it. Still, what about Christmas? Why have a festival of light in the middle of the darkest time of year?

Anyway, now that the lights are back I better start preparing to read Scripture at church for Christmas Eve. (open Bible) Maybe that will help me understand. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” Well that makes some sense. I guess you can’t appreciate the light unless you know what darkness means. Still the darkness seems so much stronger right now. Wouldn’t the darkest time of year make a good time to celebrate Good Friday? But then there is Easter, it doesn’t fit right now either.

What’s next? (flip pages) “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Well there you go! That explains it! We celebrate light in the darkest time of year because the darkness doesn’t win!

Do I believe that? Well I don’t know, the darkness seems so strong sometimes. Both as real darkness and as a metaphor the darkness seems really hard to beat. But I remember that even in the darkest night it takes very little light to be able to see fairly well. SO yeah, light is stronger than the darkness.

And really, even in those books the darkness was beaten. Of course that was the whole point of the plot though. But more to the point, the encounters Frodo and Harry and their friends have with dark forces make them stronger and wiser. Facing the reality of darkness helps them to grow.

In the end, it must be about hope and trust. If we truly believe that the darkness is weaker than the light then we can face it boldly and grow in the experience. If we doubt that light is stronger the darkness will scare and worry us. Christmas is the reminder that God’s light is the light in the darkness. SO yeah, it makes sense to celebrate it in the winter. Any fool can celebrate light when there is lots of it. IT takes faith and trust to celebrate light in the midst of darkness.

But I still prefer the light. I still wish the nights weren’t quite so long. But time for a new song, one that isn’t quite so dark. How about “Good Christian Friends Rejoice”
(exit stage, lights go on for the singing of the carol)

December 23, 2007

Joseph's Story

HEre is the story that was part of this morning's service.

Chaos? I’ll tell you about chaos! For months now my life has been one bit of chaos after another.

First I went to see Joachim to talk about arrangements for a marriage between myself and his daughter Mary. Planning for such a thing is at least disruptive and life-changing. But then, just as the arrangement is announced news starts floating around town that Mary is pregnant. Now that moves us quickly from simple disruption into chaos.

What was I supposed to do? If I cancelled our arrangement Mary and her whole family would be shamed. If I went forward I risked being labelled a cuckold and a fool before the marriage was even finalized. I wanted to do the right thing, but in the middle of all the voices telling me what to do I wasn’t sure what was right and good. It seemed that my life was crumbling around me.

You see I had chosen Mary on purpose. It wasn’t just a good business match between her father and I. It wasn’t that she came from a good family. Over the years I had come to know Mary and I sincerely liked her. We could talk and laugh together. I wanted to spend time with her. I certainly didn’t want to leave her to shame and possible stoning. I also didn’t want to give up on what might have been. My mind was a mess.

Then came the dream. The famous dream where an angel came to me and told me what was happening. So I went forward with the betrothal. Not that this lessened the chaos. I was called a fool and worse by people around the town. Mary and I were well on our way to being outcasts. Only the strength of my family reputation saved us. And Mary, well there was something about her that was different. She has always been a dreamer but after she returned from her cousin Elizabeth’s her dreams were grandiose.

And just as life was settling down it all got turned upside down. The blasted Romans, fools that they are, ordered that all of us return to the town of our forefathers for a census. Just another way to get taxes out of us I say. But no matter how foolish it was, we weren’t about to take on the Legions. So now the whole countryside was thrown into chaos.

Imagine half the population wandering the highways. The roads were beyond crowded, families got separated, people were almost trampled. But we had to go. Mary was near her time but still we had to go. So we made the long difficult trip to Bethlehem in the land of my ancestors. This was the time when the chaos was also a help. If the roads hadn’t been so crowded the journey would have been far more dangerous. Still, I was worried about my betrothed, quickly becoming my beloved. As we reached Bethlehem she was sure that the child was about to come.

Then, to make matters worth, there was no housing to be found. No where to stay, no idea where to find a midwife. If I thought things had been chaotic before, they were far worse now. Mary was about to have a baby and the only place I could find for us was a little hole where they kept animals. I felt like a failure.

That was the first time I was at a birth. It was hellish. There was screaming and blood and, well, chaos. I was beginning to wonder when I would know anything but chaos again. But then they called me over. I bent down and picked up this tiny little boy. He would be my son and I would be his father. And as I sat there in the straw beside Mary with this tiny bundle of cloth and flesh in my hands I was hit by a wave of calmness. Even last night in the midst of all that chaos I found a point of calm.

I know that life will not always be easy. I know that being a poor peasant under brutal Imperial occupation will often be disrupted and chaotic. But as long as I remember last night with that baby I will know that calm is possible. That is all I need to know. Calm is possible.

Mary's Story

This is the letter that was part of our service on the second SUnday of Advent, when we talked about MAry and life's changes.

My betrothed Joseph,

You must have so many questions, so many doubts. After all this isn’t how it is meant to happen. Just before our marriage is to be made official word comes out that I am with child. You would be well within your rights to cancel the agreement with my parents and leave me to my fate.

Joseph, you must believe me. I have no idea how this came to pass. It is a mystery to me. I know what the town gossips have been whispering in your ear but it isn’t true. I haven’t been playing the whore. Just out of nowhere I found myself with child. I understand that this is hard to believe, but it is true.

You asked what my feelings around this series of events were. To be truthful, I hardly know. At first I was afraid – afraid of how others would react, afraid for my life. Then I was angry. How dare God do this to me? Did I really have a choice? Would saying “no” have made a difference when the angel came (I did tell you about the angel right)? Then from somewhere, I don’t know where, I found the courage to say yes, although it was with a touch of defiance. Somewhere I had a flash of foresight about this child. Joseph, this child of ours (I trust I can say ours) can change the world. This son, I just know it is a son, will truly be a child of God. He will teach and do wondrous things. But in the end, my heart forebodes, he will die a terrible death. These things I discussed with the angel. No, these things I told the angel, but he had no answer to give.

My visit to my cousin Elizabeth was a blessing. It got me away from the gossiping tongues and accusing eyes. Elizabeth too had a flash of foresight about the greatness of our child. And I had another flash. My heart was moved into prophecy as our people knew of old. I knew somehow that God was doing great things, that God was moving mighty forces to turn the world upside down. And so I sang. Maybe no-one will remember my song but I sang of God who makes the weak mighty and lays the mighty low. Our son will be a revolutionary Joseph, a revolutionary I say.

And now, how do I feel? The first flush of defiance has faded. The fear remains. The eyes and tongues still stab me with accusation. True, your commitment to live out the deal you made with my father has lessened them somewhat but until we are truly married the fear will still haunt me. And I have indeed accepted my lot Joseph. Someday people will either curse or bless me for giving birth to the child I carry, the son I carry. But he will change the world. Thank you for standing by me Joseph. Thank you for taking the chance and being a father to this special child.

I remain your wife-to-be,

December 18, 2007

Looking Ahead to December 24 -- Christmas Eve

Our service this evening will be at 7:00.

We will hear Scripture in a variety of ways. Overall we will hear these readings:
  • Isaiah 9:2-7
  • Luke 2:1-20
  • John 1:1-5
  • Genesis 1:1-4

And of course we will be singing Christmas Carols:

  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • Away in a Manger
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Good Christian Friends Rejoice
  • Joy to the World
  • Silent Night

Our theme for Christmas Eve is Christmas is Light in the Darkness.

Teasers: What are our darknesses this year? What does it mean for light to come into that darkness?

Christmas falls at the time of year when the nights are longest and the days are shortest. Darkness is a reality for us in the Northern hemisphere at Christmas. And so we string lights along our houses and trees. We light candles to brighten our homes and churches. We celebrate light and warmth in a dark cold season.

But of course darkness has a metaphorical meaning as well. As a metaphor darkness refers to all those things that rob us of abundant lives. Metaphorical darkness talks to our fears and our anxieties. Coloured lights and flickering candles aren't enough to deal with these. What cure does Christmas have for metaphorical darkness?

ISaiah writes: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. John writes: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Our story takes light and darkness seriously. Our story reminds us that the light of Chirstmas is expressly for those who walk in the dark.

On Monday evening we will here some stories. We will hear the story of a magical candle and a boy waiting anxiously for his parents to get home in time for Christmas. We will hear from a person sitting through a blackout sharing his fears of the dark and his hopes for light. And in the stories may we hear the promise and hope of the Christmas Light. Hope to see you there.

Loking Ahead to December 23, 2007 -- 4th Sunday of Advent

The Scripture Readings this Sunday are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 7:10-16
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

The hymns this Sunday are:

  • #27 Tomorrow Christ is Coming (tune?)
  • #71 ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime
  • #62 Once In Royal David’s City
  • #76 See amid the Winter’s Snow

This Sunday's theme is Christmas is chaos and calm.

Teasers: Christmas is so busy and noisy. Is there time to experience calm and peacefulness in its midst?

This is the problem those of us who are active in the church have. It gets hard to experience Christmas when we are so busy planning for it. Of course many parents know how that feels. Between special food to cook/bake and presents to buy and wrap and special functions to attend the time just flies away.

But if we take time out to stop and let it happen then we can still find the peacefulness and calm of the season It just means stepping out of the chaos for a moment. And that may be the healthiest thing we can do a lot of the time.

This Sunday we will hear Joseph's thoughts about chaos and calm in the Christmas story. Surely he will have some experience of chaos given the events he goes through. But what will he have to say about the calm? We will pray our way into the transition between chaos and calm. And we will take time to experience both some chaos and some calmness.

Christmas is almost here. In just a few days the Babe will be born. COme and prepare and celebrate with us.

December 17, 2007

Christmas Pageant 2007

Last Sunday was our Pageant and White Gift Service. Expand the post for pictures...

December 14, 2007

Christmas Quiz Answers

So, did you try out the quiz? Want to know how well you did? Expand and check your answers here...

1. d The Bible gives no record of their means of travel
2. c Matthew 1:18
3. b & c Matthew 1:19, Luke 1:39,56
4. d December 25 was selected late in the 4th century as the day to celebrate Christ's birth.
5. c Luke 2:1
6. c
7. c Luke 2:10 ("the angel said to them")
8. d Luke 2:12 (They didn't sing, they said. OK, if you picked c, we'll give you a point!)
9. e Luke 2:7 (We aren't told where Jesus was born, only that after His birth He was laid in a manger.)
10. d The Bible doesn't say anything about animals being present.
11. C
12. b He was fully human as well as fully God.
13. c Luke 2:4
14. e none of the above (Three kings are not mentioned in the Bible, only in songs.)
15. c Luke 2:12
16. e An innkeeper is never mentioned in the Scriptures.
17. The Bible doesn't say how many - only that Magi came bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh (see Matt. 2:12)
18. C astrologers who dabbled in the natural sciences
19. b Matthew 2:11
20. b Check it out!

19-20 correct: Congratulations! You can separate fact from fiction.
18-16 correct: Not Bad! Truth wins over tradition.
15-11 correct: Uh oh! You've been to too many Christmas plays.
10 or below correct: Ouch!

December 11, 2007

Looking Ahead to December 16, 2007 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent

This Sunday is our White Gift Service and Christmas Pageant.

Come join us as we sing and read our way through the Christmas story.

White Gifts will be passed on to the Christmas Cheer Campaign and the Food Bank.

Our Pageant this year was written by a United Church Minister in Saskatchewan.

December 10, 2007

A Christmas Quiz

How well do you know the Christmas story as told in the Bible as opposed to Christmas Pageants and Christmas carols? What are the differences? Expand the post and test your self (answers will be posted later in the season)

1 For the journey to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph
a) walked
b) Joseph walked; Mary rode a donkey
c) rode a bus
d) who knows?

2 When Mary became pregnant, Mary and Joseph were
a) married
b) just friends
c) engaged
d) none of the above

3 When Mary became pregnant,
a) Joseph married her
b) Joseph wanted to dissolve their relationship
c) Mary left Nazareth for a while
d) an angel told them to go to Bethlehem
e) both b & c
f) both b & d

4 Christmas has always been observed
a) on December 25
b) on January 17
c) at Grandma's house
d) none of the above

5 Who directed Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
a) Herod
b) an angel
c) Caesar
d) the IRS

6 Just what is a "heavenly host"
a) an angelic choir
b) the welcoming angel in heaven
c) an army of angels
d) none of the above

7 How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
a) a multitude
b) two - Gabriel and Michael
c) one
d) who knows?

8 What song did the angels sing?
a) "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
b) "Joy to the World"
c) "Glory to God in the Highest"
d) none of the above

9 The baby Jesus was born in a
a) cave
b) manger
c) hurry
d) barn
e) who knows?

10 What animals were present at Jesus' birth?
a) cows, sheep, and camels
b) cows, sheep, and donkeys
c) lions and tigers and bears
d) none of the above

11 What is a manger anyway?
a) a barn
b) a place for hay
c) a feeding trough
d) a Greek term for the church nursery

12 When did baby Jesus cry?
a) when He opened the wise men's gifts
b) whenever babies usually cried
c) when the cattle started lowing
d) "no crying He makes"

13 Joseph's family was from
a) Jerusalem
b) Nazareth
c) Bethlehem
d) none of the above

14 Who saw the star over Bethlehem
a) Mary and Joseph
b) shepherds
c) the three kings
d) both b & c
e) none of the above

15 What sign were the shepherds to look for?
a) a star over the stable
b) a barn outlined with Christmas lights
c) a baby in a manger
d) both a & c
e) none of the above

16 What did the innkeeper say to Mary and Joseph?
a) "I have a stable out back."
b) "Come back after the holidays."
c) "There is no room in the inn."
d) both a & c
e) none of the above

17 How many wise men came to see Jesus?
______ (write in the correct number)

18 What in the world are Magi?
a) Eastern kings
b) magicians
c) astrologers
d) wise enough to follow the star
e) none of the above

19 When the wise men brought the gifts to Jesus, they found Him in
a) a manger
b) a house
c) Vacation Bible School
d) none of the above

20 In what books of the Bible will you find these fascinating facts?
a) Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
b) Matthew and Luke
c) Mark and Matthew
d) Matthew, Mark, and Luke

December 04, 2007

Advent Candle Liturgy 2007

This year we have a home-brewed set of Advent Candle liturgies. Expand the post to read them (all 5 are in the post so it will be long)

1st Sunday December 2Christmas is waiting and hope

Reader 1: Isn’t it Christmas yet? I’ve been waiting SO LONG
Reader 2: Not yet. Today is only the first Sunday of Advent. That means there are three more Sundays before Christmas.
Reader 1: 3 more weeks! Oh Christmas will never get here! I can hardly wait until it comes. I just get so excited when I think about what presents I will get.
Reader 2: Don’t worry, it will come soon enough. Besides, sometimes waiting for something before you get it makes it more special and exciting.
Reader 1: But I want it to be Christmas NOW!
Reader 2: You’ll just have to wait. Have you thought about what you want for Christmas?
Reader 1: Oh yeah. I want…
Reader 2: (interrupting) Wait, don’t tell me. I have another idea.
Reader 1: What?
Reader 2: Well it is time to light the first Advent Candle. What do you do when you blow out your birthday candles?
Reader 1: I make a wish
Reader 2: Well how bout, while we light the first Advent candle we all take a moment of quiet to think about what we hope happens this Christmas? Not just presents but all the things we hope for.
Reader 1: OK
Reader 2: (lights a purple candle then both readers return to their seats in silence)

2nd Sunday December 9Christmas is life-changing

Reader 1: You know there’s something about Christmas that I always find unsettling.
Reader 2: What do you mean?
Reader 1: I don’t really know. I just keep getting the sense that something big is about to happen, something that will change everything.
Reader 2: I don’t get it. Christmas is just Christmas. What could be about to happen?
Reader 1: Well I guess I think about when I became a parent. Everything was different from then on. I keep thinking about Mary and how this story changed her life.
Reader 2: But why would that mean your life would change?
Reader 1: It just reminds me of the possibilities. That’s it I guess. I think about Mary and her baby and I remember the possibilities of life. So many things are possible.
Reader 2: So the changes you think about could be a good thing?
Reader 1: Of course, but when changes happen then things are different. And well that is always a little unsettling. It can be good changes but different is different.
Reader 2: So what changes do you think will be coming this Christmas?
Reader 1: I don’t know, we never really know until they happen.
Reader 2: I wonder what next year will bring…
Reader 1: Well let’s think about what might happen and what we want to happen while we light the Advent candles. (readers light 2 purple candles then sit down in silence)

3rd Sunday December 16Christmas is carols and children

Reader 1: Do you know what my favourite part of Christmas is?
Reader 2: The chocolate?
Reader 1: No, watching all the kids get excited. I remember being so excited about what I was going to get and playing in the snow and unwrapping presents. You know I miss that a little bit.
Reader 2: Why do you miss it? Don’t you get excited anymore?
Reader 1: Well it isn’t the same as when I was young
Reader 2: Oh great, here we go again with the “Back when I was your age…”
Reader 1: That isn’t what I mean. I mean that there is something about Christmas that just goes with childhood. Now it isn’t as exciting as I remember it.
Reader 2: Well my favourite part about Christmas is…um…
Reader 1: the chocolate?
Reader 2: Well sort of, you know all the treats I get to eat. But really I like the music. I mean when else do we sing about red-nosed animals and talking snowmen and fat men on your roof?
Reader 1: And stars and angels and shepherds and a baby in a stable too right?
Reader 2: Well yeah, if you want to get all religious about it. But there are so many songs to sing right now. And I love to sing. We don’t sing very much any other time of the year.
Reader 1: You know, you’re right. I like the singing too. But I prefer to sing the Christmas carols from church, so yeah I will get religious about it.
Reader 2: I think we’re supposed to light some candles now.
Reader 1: Yep. Say what do you think those people out there like the most about Christmas?
Reader 2: Maybe they could think about that while we light the candles? (readers light 2 purple candles and the pink candle then return to their seats in silence)

4th Sunday December 23Christmas is chaos and calm

Reader 1: (carries a calendar) Let’s see, Monday is the recital, Wednesday afternoon is the school Christmas concert, Tuesday night is choir practice, Friday is the office party…(phone rings) Hello?
Reader 2: (standing opposite, holding a phone) Hi _____ I was wondering if you wanted to come carolling next Saturday?
Reader 1: No way. I just can’t do one more thing. I don’t know if I am coming or going as it is. I am not even sure what day it is. And I have to finish my shopping, and wrap the gifts and do some more baking
Reader 2: Relax. You know you really are doing too much. You need to take it a bit easier. How can you enjoy Christmas like that?
Reader 1: Relax? How can you be so calm? Life is just too busy. Maybe I will be caught up in time to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas.
Reader 2: Well I just got tired of running around like crazy throughout December. So I decided to do less baking, less shopping, and less “stuff”. Christmas still gets chaotic with all the kids and all the excitement but I make myself find the calm times as well
Reader 1: I should try that. Thanks.
Reader 2: I have an idea. Light some candles. And while they are being lit take deep breaths to help you relax. Then just sit for a moment in quiet.
Reader 1: I’ll try that. Talk to you later. (both “hang up” and then Reader 1 lights all 4 candles of the wreath, then both readers return to their seats in silence)

Christmas EveChristmas is light in the darkness

Reader 1: I hate this time of year!
Reader 2: What, you mean Christmas?
Reader 1: No, I love Christmas I hate the end of December. The sun goes down so early and comes up so late.
Reader 2: Well sure, but all that darkness means we can see the Christmas lights so much better. And did you see the full moon last night? That was awesome.
Reader 1: I guess so. It’s just that all the darkness makes me feel kind of depressed. And then with all the bad news we get these days it just makes it worse. Dark all around. I guess it makes it harder for me to feel joyful.
Reader 2: OK, but do you know what my favourite part about Christmas is?
Reader 1: The presents
Reader 2: Well after the presents. It is those lights people put out. Even the candles we light. All those ways we find to fill up the darkness.
Reader 1: But it is still dark. It is dark when we get up, dark when we have supper. It is dark most of the time.
Reader 2: So? Haven’t you ever noticed that it is easiest to see lights when it is dark? Even these little candle flames (lights the 4 candles of the Advent wreath) give off a lot of light when everything around them is dark.
Reader 1: You’re right. And look how they dance, like they are happy to be shining.
Reader 2: I think Christmas is that thing that reminds us that there is always light, even on these long cold nights.
Reader 1: Maybe. Anyway, while we light that middle candle why don’t we stop and think about the ways we can fight the darkness we hear about all the time. (light middle candle, return to seats in silence)

Looking Ahead to December 9, 2007 -- 2nd Sunday of Advent

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • Luke 1:26-46
  • Luke 1:47-55 (VU p. 898)

The Hymns this week are:

  • O What a Wonderful Gift (insert)
  • #16 Mary, Woman of the Promise (tune #2)
  • #46 Gentle Mary Laid Her Child
  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (insert)

This week's Theme is Christmas is life-changing.

Teasers: What does it feel like to have your life changed? What might Mary have felt through the Christmas story?

This week we look at Mary. We hear her tell her story of the angel's visit. We hear how her life was changed. Because let's face it Christmas changes MAry's life completely.

Then we will take time amongst ourselves to talk about what is life changing in our lives and how we approach change. After all, change is the one constant in our lives.

A common team-building activity is to divide into pairs and study each other. THen one partner turns away and the other changes something about his/her appearance. The challenge then is to see if the partner can identify the change. Interestingly, if the change involves removing something people tend to notice sooner than if the change is adding something or moving something.

We tend to think about change in terms of what we lose. But change can also be an opportunity. What are the lif-changing events in your life? What did you lose and/or gain in those times?

December 02, 2007

PArade Float

Yes the Parade was a week ago but the pictures just got taken off the camera. Expand to see them

November 27, 2007

Looking Ahead to December 2, 2007 -- 1st Sunday of Advent

The Scripture readings for this week all come from the book of Isaiah:
  • Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Isaiah 11:1-10

The hymns for this week are:

  • Advent Hope (insert)
  • #2 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
  • #9 People Look East
  • #481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
The theme for this week is Christmas is waiting and hope.

Early thoughts/teasers: What are we waiting for? Is our waiting marked by hope? Anxiety? Fear?

Waiting seems to fill a large portion of our lives. We wait for Dr appointments, we wait for our children, we wait for holidays. We wait and wait and wait.

But in Advent we talk about a different type of waiting. In Advent we wait for the world to be changed. Just read those Isaiah passages, they are certainly talking about a changed world.

So what are the changes we look for? Peace instead of war/violence. Justice, a just society (to use Trudeau's term), where all have what they need. And certainly here in Northwestern Ontario we are waiting for good economic news.

But how do we wait? When we desperately want, nay need, the world to change how do we wait? IS it passive, letting things come to us? Is it actively trying to make a difference? Is it a waiting with overtones of "it will never come" or is it expectant "any day now"?

Advent calls us to wait with hope instead of despair. Faith calls us to trust in the promise expressed best by Julian of Norwich 600 years ago: "All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things be well". We wait for the changing of the world in ways big and small. We wait for peace, for justice, for good news, for the announcement of liberation and salvation for all people.

The challenge is to be hope-filled and non-anxious while we wait.

November 19, 2007

Looking Ahead to November 25, 2007 -- Reign of Christ Sunday

This week we mark the end of the liturgical year. Next Sunday we start again with the first Sunday of Advent.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Jeremiah 23:1-6
  • Responsive Reading: Luke 1:68-79 (VU p. 900)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 23:33-43

The hymns this week are:

  • 378 Spirit of God
  • MV #162 Christ Within Us Hidden (insert)
  • 213 Rejoice the Lord is King
  • 1 O Come, O Come Emmanuel (verses 1-7)

The Sermon title is Gathering God's Sheep

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to talk about the Reign of God? What sort of leadership model is that? WHat are the expectations of leaders?

Probably the best place to start thie week is Ralph Milton's reflections from his weekly e-mail newsletter Rumours (to subscribe send a blank e-mail here):

Jeremiah 23:1-6 - It's helpful to know that the prophet Jeremiah was writing about his own people in his own time. It's about Israel's scattered flock and the hope that they'd be all gathered together and would live in peace under another king like the great David.
It's interesting that Jeremiah accused the politicians of his day of being responsible for the mess they were in. And of course we now do the same thing.

One of the favorite little games us old fogies enjoy is called, "Ain't It Awful?" The winner of this game if never announced but it is always understood. It's the person who can attribute the most heinous action to the highest level politician. Or church leader. Or organizational leader. Whatever.

The game of "Ain't It Awful" is usually followed by a round or two of the game called, "If Only." This is when we prescribe the solutions to the world's problems - solutions that never fail because they are never tried. If only those folks in high office would ask me, I could tell them exactly how to deal with this mess.

What is never mentioned, or at least would be hotly denied, is that we get exactly the kind of leaders we deserve.
So here, now, in 2007, as we live in the now and the not yet of the reign of God what does this passage say to us? Where is the good news here?

The good news is in that promise in verse 4"I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord". Jeremiah reminds the people that there will be a new king, a new shepherd for the people. This shpeherd will be a good protector, a good guide He will not lead the people astray, unlike the former shepherds (kings) of Judah.

Those of us who live in the faith of Easter see in this a reference to the coming of the Messiah. Christ, we believe, is the Good Shepherd. Christ is the branch of David who will bring safety and peace to the people of God.

THis weekend as we prepare to end one year and start a new we mark the Reign of Christ, that time which is now as we live in the light/shadow of Easter and is also yet to come as we know that we do not live in that time of peace and justice that which is promised. We also start to prepare for ADvent, for teh coming of the baby in the manger and for the coming again of God into our world and our lives. We continue to live in the hope for the Good Shpeherd who will come to guide and lead and protect. WE also live in the knowledge that we have a responsibility to be that shepherd's servants and helpers.

How does that live out? Come on Sunday and we will explore it a bit more.

HArding Concert

Last night Riverview played host to An Evening of Singing with Bruce and Cheryl Harding. Expand the post for some pictures.

November 15, 2007

Advent Worship

In just a few weeks (two in fact) it will be ADvent. Advent is the season when we prepare for Christmas and is celebrated on the 4 Sundays prior to Christmas Day. THis is what our worship themes will be this year:

Advent 2007
Christmas is…

1st Sunday December 2 – Christmas is waiting and hope
Character (story or monologue) Isaiah & Unemployed person
-Isaiah 2:1-5
-Isaiah 35:1-10
-Isaiah 11:1-10

2nd Sunday December 9 – Christmas is life-changing
Character (story or monologue) Mary & modern Mary
-Luke 1:47-55
-Luke 1:26-46

3rd Sunday December 16 – Christmas is carols and children
Pageant Sunday, White Gifts

4th Sunday December 23 – Christmas is chaos and calm
Character (story or monologue) Joseph & modern parent
-Isaiah 7:10-16
-Matthew 1:18-25
-Genesis 1: 1-2, 31-2:3

Christmas Eve – Christmas is light in the darkness
Character (story or monologue) yet to be determined
-Isaiah 9:2-7
-Luke 2:1-14
-Luke 2:15-20
-John 1:1-4
-Genesis 1:1-4

November 13, 2007

Looking Ahead to November 18, 2007 -- 25th Sunday After Pentecost

This Sunday will be our "Favourite Hymns" Service

The Scripture Passages this week are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Exodus 15:19-21
  • Psalm 96 (VU p.816)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Colossians 3:12-17

THere are lots of hymns this week. Look for the list in the expanded post.

The Meditation is called Sing to the Lord, Sing out New Song.

Early Thoughts:Why do we sing? Why do we sing what we sing?

If you ask many people what their favourite part of church services are they are likely to say "the music". People are far morelikely to remember a hymn they really like (or really dislike) than a favourite sermon (despite what ministers might like to believe).

We sing in church because people are inherently musical, all cultures have music. We sing in church because Scripture encourages, nay commands, us to sing. WE sing our joys and we sing our laments. WE sing our way through the faith story -- in fact more people learn the Christmas story through carols than through reading the Scriptural text. WE sing to remind us of God active in our lives, to remind us of God's hopes for the world, to remind us of our obligation to respond to God's call. For many of us music is simply part of our faith life.

Where the question gets clouded is when we ask what do we sing. Do we only sing the old favourites or preference the new songs? How do we choose what is "singable"? Well we sing both old an new (remembering that every old favourite was once a new piece. We look at the words and at the music. Sometimes we let go of an old favourite because the words don't have meaning for us anymore. Sometimes we can change the words a little bit and still sing it. Sometimes new words can be sung to familiar tunes. And of course wometimes we need to stretch ourselves a bit and learn music that is different.

This Sunday we will sing some old favourites and listen to some new ones. We will also think about what it means to hear the call to sing, sing a song.

ANd now here is what we will sing:

  • 315 Holy Holy Holy
  • MV #2 Uyai Mose (a new favourite, sung 4x a cappella)
  • 365 Jesus Loves Me
  • This Little Light of Mine (see insert)
  • 380 She Flies On (chorus at beginning, after verses 2, 4, & 5)
  • Old Rugged Cross (see insert)
  • In the Garden (see insert)
  • 703 In the Bulb There Is a Flower
  • There Is Power in the Blood (see insert)
  • 670 Precious Lord, Take My Hand
  • 675 Will Your Anchor Hold

And we will listen to these new favourites from More Voices

  • #8 And On This Path
  • #3 River
  • #223 Sizohamba Naye


November 11, 2007

A Dialogue SErmon For Nov 11

This was offered this morning at the Legion service.

Why Celebrate War?
A Dialogue Sermon for Remembrance Day
Royal Canadian Legion Branch #145
Atikokan ON

Gord: Greg! Greg! Time to go to the Remembrance Day service! Why aren’t you ready yet?
Greg: Because I’m not going.
Gord: Not going? But you always said you liked the Remembrance Day service?
Greg: Well I just don’t get it. Why do we make such a fuss?
Gord: I don’t understand. You know what Remembrance Day is right?
Greg: Yeah, we get together at the same time on the same day that World War 1 ended to remember the war and the people who fought in it.
Gord: That’s right.
Greg: But most of those people are dead now. I mean they aren’t there anymore, why can’t we just all sleep in?
Gord: Well do we only gather for their benefit? Or do we do it for us too?
Greg: I don’t get it.
Gord: IF we only had ceremonies on Remembrance Day to say thanks to those people who went to war, or to let them remember their friends then yeah, we would stop doing them soon. But I think we celebrate Remembrance Day for other reasons too. What do you think those might be?
Greg: I don’t know, to celebrate heroes?
Gord: That is one thing. But more than that, we celebrate Remembrance Day to remind us of the reality and the possibility of war.
Greg: What do you mean?
Gord: Well a long time ago a man named George Santayana said that people who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. We pause to remember war in the hopes that we can avoid it happening again.
Greg: Doesn’t look like that is working very well. You sure that Santayana guy wasn’t a teacher reminding kids to study?
Gord: Well your right, we do seem to have trouble avoiding wars. You know, they called World War 1 the “war to end all wars”, that’s how disturbing they found it. But unfortunately the name didn’t come true. Still we pray that one of the wars will be the last one. You ready to go to the service yet?
Greg: Not quite, I still have a few questions. Like why do we talk about celebrating this day? I mean you hear all sorts of stories about heroes and great things people did during the wars, doesn’t it make it seem like we are celebrating the war? I thought we were supposed to work for peace?
Gord: That is a good question, or set of questions. Firstly, talking about celebrating the day means more that we find some way to make it special. IT doesn’t mean a celebration like a birthday or Christmas.
Greg: If you say so. But I know there are usually donuts.
Gord: Your question about celebrating the war is harder. I have heard a lot of people ask that over the years. And you are right, we are supposed to pray for peace. In fact in church we often talk about how God’s plan is for all people to live together peacefully.
Greg: Oh, like that story about the wolf and the lamb and the little baby with the snake den.
Gord: Well really it is a prophecy not a story but yes that’s right. So one of the things I always do on Remembrance Day is pray for peace. Sometimes I use a lot of words but sometimes just two simple words the Legion has used in some of the videos they have produced over the years – Never Again.
Greg: OH, so we remember the people who went to war, we say thank-you to them, but we also remember that war is a terrible thing and promise to work for peace?
Gord: You got it! Ready to go?
Greg: Not quite. There are just 2 more things I don’t understand.
Gord: OK, what?
Greg: Well I had always thought that only the “other guys” did really bad things during the war but last year I heard people talking about Canadians doing some not so good things. How do we remember those sorts of things?
Gord: Well that is part of being honest with ourselves about what war means. Have you ever heard the saying “the winners write history”? (Greg nods) Well if we are serious about working for peace we need to write that history carefully. The fact is that by many standards all countries do things they wish they hadn’t or at least wish they hadn’t had to do during a war. Along the same line, I have always believed that Remembrance Day was for remembering all the people who died in a war, not just our own soldiers. We have to remember soldiers on both sides and also those people who just got caught living in the wrong place, and those people who were left at home. WE have to remember the whole story, and that might help us remember how important it is to avoid war again.
Greg: That makes sense. But I still don’t think I want to go to the service.
Gord: Why now?
Greg: Well I keep thinking about what is happening now in Afghanistan. Doesn’t it seem strange to worry about people fighting almost 100 years ago while Canadians are fighting right now?
Gord: Well sort of. But of course we remember them too, and the ones who have been killed in Afghanistan. And even though some of us question whether they should even be there we still need to find ways to remember them, to thank them for being willing, and to pray that they get home safely. All of those things can be part of Remembrance Day too. You see, over the years we focus on different things as the world changes. In the first few years it was a time for people to remember friends and relatives who had died in the war. Then it was a little bit farther away. And now for a lot of us it is a chance to remember our history and to remember the troubles of the present and to hope for the future.
Greg: I think I understand now. And I guess I can go to the service.
Gord: Good to hear. We need young people to keep remembering when the older folks are gone. We should never forget the pledge to be people of peace. Remembering what happens when we go to war is an important part of that.

November 06, 2007

Looking Ahead to November 11, 2007 -- 24th Sunday After Pentecost, Remembrance Day

This Sunday our worship service will be at 7:00 pm not 10:30 am as usual. This is to allow people to attend the Legion service in the morning.

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-9
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Romans 12:18-21
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 5:9, 43-47

The Hymns for this Sunday are:

  • Evening is Here Now (see insert)
  • 443 God, We Pray at this Beginning
  • Let There be Peace on Earth (see insert)
  • 433 Day is Done

This Sunday we also celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.

The meditation is titled United for Peace

Early Thoughts: As we remember the war where do we see ourselves going? What does it mean to be called to be peacemakers?

This Sunday is Remembrance Day. On this day we pause to remember those who died in the many wars of the 20th century and the first few years of the 21st century. But what do we do with that? Scripture makes it plain that we look forward to a time when all will live in peace. It is also clear that we have a role in making that happen.

At the last couple meetings of General Council the United Church was challenged on the issue of investing in Israel and Palestine. What role do our investment choices have in promoting peace or continuing the causes of conflict? Partly out of those discussions the United Church is launching a two year campaign called United for Peace. If you follow the link you can learn more about this campaign.

This Sunday we will lift up some of the issues around being peacemakers and peace-bringers. This is something we do in big and small ways. On this Sunday as we welcome a child into God's family it seems appropriate to talk about making the world a more peaceful place for our children to grow up in.

November 05, 2007

UCW Bazaar

The Annual UCW Bazaar took place last weekend. Expand for some pictures.

Tables all set up

MMMM, Baking

Busy Busy

November 04, 2007

Covenant or Contract?

A few years ago I was asked to do a dialogue sermon for our Conference Annual meeting. As I was going through files today I found it and thought it was worth sharing.

Covenant or Contract?
A Dialogue Sermon for Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Conference Celebration of Ministry Service: May 29, 2005
Written by: Rev. Gord Waldie
May 2005

Scripture Passages:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
1 Corinthians 12:4-13
John 15:9-16

Base Concept:
Person in Paid Accountable Ministry meeting with new chair of Ministry and Personnel Committee to discuss M&P issues. The conversation is side-tracked when the M&P chair, who works in HR professionally, asks about the employment contract and conditions of the P.A.M. They then discuss how the church envisions the relationship between the “minister” and the congregation in terms of shared responsibility and ministry.

(Note: G = ministry person (Gord) and E = M&P Chair (Elvin).

Scene opens with G sitting at a desk working. There is a knock on the door.
G: (looks up) Hello? Oh Elvin, nice to see you. Is it 10:30 already?? Come in, come in.

E: (enters carrying a file folder) I think I might be a little bit early. I can wait a moment if you are busy.

G: Oh no problem, I was just reading through the workbook for the Conference AGM, nothing that can’t wait. Actually, just between you and me, it seems that it might be best to save for bedtime reading.

E: I know what you mean. I have seen many things like that for meetings.

G: Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about the M&P committee and to thank you for taking on the chair. As you know, Personnel stuff is vitally important work, but it is also very confusing at times. Did you get a chance to read through the M&P Handbook I gave you?

E: Yes I did, and the M&P files from the office. They were very helpful in letting me figure out what exactly this committee does. But there are a few things that I am confused about.

G: I thought there might be. M&P work isn’t exactly like Human Resources work but it is close. So what are your questions?

E: Well the first is this line from the beginning of the Handbook. It talks about “being in ministry together”. I thought you were the Minister. What does it mean?

G: (shuffling papers) Well, now, maybe this will help. See, here on the bulletin each week where it says “Ministers: The Congregation, Enabling Minister: Rev Gord Waldie”? Well that is because we recognize that the work of the church isn’t just done by one person. All of us work together to make the church grow. All of us are part of a relationship, we call it a covenant, where we promise to work together.

E: “Enabling Minister” If you are our enabler doesn’t that make us co-dependent?

G: (chuckles) Not really, but it does mean that we are interdependent. Churches need many
things to run smoothly. They need people who are good with money and numbers, people who are good with children, people who paint the windowsills and all sorts of other things. Even if I was good at all those things, which I’m not, there is no way that I could do it all. Part of my role here is to help people discover what they can do as a part of the church and encourage or help them as best as I can. Maybe Empowering is a better word than enabling.

E: Hey, is that what you meant last week when you were talking about how we are all part of one body? I thought it was about spiritual gifts.

G: Well Paul does talk about spiritual gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues on but later he goes on to talk about the church as a body. He suggests that if all of us were an eye we wouldn’t get very far in life. So yeah, that is why we talk about being in ministry together. So that we all do a bit of the work, eyes, ears, feet, hands. And while my title might be The Minister, really I am one of many.

E: But aren’t you in charge?

G: (laughing) I Wish! Actually the congregation and the Board are “in charge” if anyone is. We try to understand what path God has laid out for us and follow it but it is tempting to find a path we like better sometimes. You know, Jesus told his followers that he didn’t see them as servants but as friends. I think that is helpful to remember when we try to run the church. No one person is in charge and no one is the servant. We are all friends trying to work together. (pauses) Actually I don’t think that any of us is really “in charge”. The congregation, the Presbytery and I are all part of a covenant. The congregation appoints a committee, the M&P committee, to work with me and help set goals, talk about how things are going and so on. But I don’t really work FOR them. Part of the time I work FOR Presbytery, not only at meetings but in helping to represent the wider church to the congregation. My best guess is that I work for the church as a whole but most of that work is focussed in working with this congregation.

E: OK, I think I am starting to see what you mean. We pay your salary but you really work with us, not for us. You enable us to be a part of the church.

G: Well I think that God is a part of it too. A big part of being the church is trying to understand what God is saying to us. In fact God is a part of that covenant I just talked about. But basically that is what I mean. What else were you wondering about?

E: Well I found a signed contract for the secretary, and for the organist, and for the cleaning service. But I couldn’t find one for you? Don’t you have a contract?

G: Can I see that file? (shuffles through it, pulls out a page) Here, this is what is called a call form. It lists things like salary, vacation and study time, housing allowance. It is pretty much a contract. And somewhere in there should be a copy of the Joint Needs Assessment report. It included a position description.

E: Yeah I saw both of those but they don’t aren’t as clear as I think a contract should be. But I guess there are lots of ways people get hired.

G: Yes, the church sometimes isn’t as clear as we would like. But there is another point to raise. Although we agreed to those terms of employment when I was called (actually a lot of them are minimums set by National Church Policy) I don’t really work just under that contract. We work together in a covenant relationship.

E: You keep using that word, covenant. What do you mean?

G: A covenant is, well it is sort of hard to describe. A covenant is a way of working together. It is sort of like a marriage in some ways. Each party to the covenant makes promises about how they will behave and what they will (or won’t) do, just like the vows at a marriage ceremony. Actually it is a term that is used a lot in the Bible. God makes a covenant with Noah, and with Abraham, and with Moses. Jesus spoke of his followers as being part of a new covenant. Actually, I think Jesus was thinking about the prophet Jeremiah when he said that. Jeremiah talked about a covenant that wouldn’t be written on stone tablets or on scrolls but would be written on people’s hearts.

E: What do all these stories have to do with how we run the church though? I mean I understand why it is important to tell them and why it is important to talk about God’s promises and our promises to God. But when it comes to employment wouldn’t you rather have a hard and fast contract instead of this loose covenant thing? At least a contract would hold up in court.

G: In some ways you are certainly right. When things go sour it would be nice to have things a little bit more cut and dried. But unfortunately that doesn’t always work in the church. When we talk about the arrangement between a congregation and a minister we are really talking about a relationship. In fact when the time comes a minister doesn’t quit or get fired, but either the minister or the congregations asks Presbytery for a “change in Pastoral Relationship”. The best way I have found to describe it is like a marriage. And another thing, in any marriage things change as the relationship develops. The same thing happens in this covenant. Over time the position description will develop and evolve as the needs of the congregation change. That is easier to do when things are not cast in stone.

E: That sounds like a bizarre way to talk about someone’s job. How are conflicts worked out?

G: That really depends on the people involved. But for me, that is where that idea of a marriage helps. A covenant is a set of promises we make to each other. When a couple comes into problems we hope that those promises will support them, the same thing happens in a church. We remember that we promised to work together through our difficulties. When that happens a contract can be helpful in reminding us of what our legal and moral obligations are (what my salary and position description are for example) but the love and promises of the covenant are what help us to keep trying. At least that is the ideal.

E: Is that what you mean about the covenant being written on our hearts? I know that is how I feel about my wedding vows. They are a part of who I am now. They are part of how I run my life.

G: Exactly!

E: You know, as you talk about this I can see how this covenant ties in with that idea of us all being in ministry together.

G: I think it does, actually I think it is integral. But how do you see it?

E: Well, if we hired you and signed a contract it would be really easy to look at your job description and say that you do the ministry and we don’t. But when we make these promises to each other then we all have a stake in making sure they get lived out. The promises push us to take a bigger part in helping the church thrive, or even survive.

G: I agree. And don’t forget that these promises are made in a worship service. So God is part of our covenant. The book of Ecclesiastes talks about a threefold cord that is not easily broken. If the covenant promises had to rely on all of us as people then it would be easy to see how they would never work. But with God as the third strand in the cord we add strength and stability. I use that passage a lot in weddings.

E: So let’s see if I have this straight. We pay you but the ministry is done by all of us. We have agreed to some conditions of employment, like a contract, but really your work with us is guided by a set of promises we make to each other. And we include God in those promises to help when we don’t feel that we can live up to them by ourselves.

G: That just about covers it. It may seem confusing but I am sure that with time you will see both the strengths and weaknesses of the way we do things.

E: I sure hope there are some strengths. It seems like an awfully silly way to have people’s employment handled to me. But then I guess that the church doesn’t always have to do things the way everyone else does them.

G: And that is a good thing. Amen.

Bill Remembers -- A Story/Sermon

This is a story I have used on a few Remembrance Days...

Bill Remembers
First written for Remembrance Day 1999

Remembrance Day was always very important to Bill. He always made it into a week long event by visiting with schools, Cub packs, Brownie groups, Sunday School classes and so on. But that is the end of the story. To understand why Bill did this we need to go back to the beginning, in this case the beginning is in 1941 when Bill was only 10 or 11.

Bill was the youngest of 8 children. His idol and best friend was his oldest brother Sam. Sam was twelve years older than Bill. In 1941 he was starting out on his own with a job and had just gotten engaged to be married. But, Canada was at war and Bill and Sam came from a family which put a high importance on serving one’s country. So Sam decided that he would join the army. Sam went off to basic training. After his training Sam came back home to be married. It was a time of great excitement. Sam got on the train for Halifax shortly after his wedding; from there he was going to get on a ship that would take him to England. Sam and Bill were both excited, Sam promised that he would bring back souvenirs and tell Bill all about the places he got to see. Bill was jealous but he was still too young to join the army.

For the first few months Bill got lots of letters from Sam who was training and drilling in England. There were a lot of rumours going around town that there was going to be an invasion of France soon but nobody knew for sure. Sam was also telling Bill all about the sights of England, he was able to visit the town where their grandfather had been born and meet with cousins who were still in England. Then the summer came and the letters didn’t come as often. Sam was busy but he couldn’t tell Bill what he was doing. One day in late August Bill was outside working in the garden when some men came over to visit. Bill didn’t recognize them but he just waved and kept on working. But as he worked he was suddenly hit with the sense that something was wrong. Bill walked towards the house and as he got closer he could hear his mother crying so he started to run. When Bill got inside his mom and dad were in the front room with the visitors.

"Bill, come here for a moment" his father called. Bill went in and saw his mom crying and everyone looked very serious, his dad looked like he was crying too. Bill sat down. "Bill," said his dad, "These men have come to give us news about Sam." Bill looked at the men and suddenly felt very sick. "They have?" he asked. "Yes," his dad said taking a deep breath, "Bill, Sam’s unit was part of a force that was sent to invade a French port town named Dieppe. Unfortunately Sam’s unit ran into a German convoy in the English Channel. Sam’s boat was sunk before they got to shore. Bill, Sam is dead." Bill couldn’t believe this. Sam was supposed to go, have great adventures, collect some souvenirs, and come back. He wasn’t supposed to die. Bill couldn’t handle any more. He ran out of the house and hid in the garden shed for the rest of the day.

Time went by and the war came to an end. The men who had gone off to fight started to come home. As they returned, Bill would go and visit with them. Some of them came back missing an arm or a leg or blind. Some of them had been wounded but had healed with only the scars to show. Some of them had never been hit but certainly weren’t the same people on the inside. Bill would ask each of them about what had happened. Many of them had trouble talking about it but from the people who could talk about it Bill learned far more than he ever wanted to know. He heard of the horrors of an artillery bombardment, of the terror of running ashore at the landings in Normandy or Sicily, of the sickening stench of mud and blood and decaying flesh. Finally Bill stopped asking.

Some years later, Canada was again at war. This time it was in a place that Bill had never heard of, a place called Korea. Bill wanted to honour his brother’s memory so he enlisted and went over to fight. Bill actually did not see a lot of fighting but what he saw changed him forever. When he got back Bill dedicated himself to making sure that people did not forget the lessons he and so many others had learned.

He organized the local Remembrance Day celebrations; he made sure that the schools had people come to visit, he told his story whenever he could. As time went by this became more important to him. He could see that the younger children had a hard time understanding Remembrance Day because the war wasn’t real to them. Their experience of war was something in movies and games played on the playground. Bill did all he could to tell them what war really was. But there was something missing, something he knew he needed to do.

Several years after coming back from Korea Bill started going to church again. He had stopped after Sam was killed because it didn’t seem to matter. And then as he grew older he found that the church was important. As he went to church and read the Bible Bill began to get a picture of how God wanted the world to look. God’s plan wasn’t for people to fight; God wanted people to live together in peace. This struck home to Bill and he realized what he had been forgetting in his work around Remembrance Day. He had been forgetting to stress the importance that this never happened again.

So he began to teach this to the children he met. He began to work for peace in his community, to lead protests against nuclear weapons, to call for more peaceful solutions to conflicts within his town, his country and across the world. So it was with sadness that he read of battles being fought in Cyprus, in Israel and Egypt, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, and so on. With each new crisis he strengthened his call for other alternatives. This, he realized, was what Remembrance Day was for. Not only to remember but also to prevent. "Never Again", he said, "Never again can we allow the price of human life to be worth so little as to send young men off to fight and die."

So now, each year Bill still helps to organize the Remembrance Day service, he still goes into the schools and churches and youth groups. He tells them about Sam, about the neighbours who came back from the war, about Korea, and he tells them that they have the power and the responsibility to change the world. And each year, in the afternoon of November 11 Bill returns to the cenotaph. Everyone else has gone home, all that remains of the service are the poppies and wreaths placed around the memorial. And Bill walks up to the cenotaph and reads the names carved into its face. He reaches out a wrinkled old hand and rubs his fingers across the bumps that spell out Sam’s name. With tears filling his eyes Bill drops to his knees and begins to pray for peace and for the loss of his brother and friends.

THe Dreams -- A Remembrance Story/Sermon

When I preach at the LEgion on November 11 I usually use a story. Here is one from 2005

The Dreams
Remembrance Day 2005

“Stop IT! Stop IT! For God’s Sake STOP!” screamed Marilyn as she sat bolt upright out of a sound sleep. Instinctively she reached out, searching for her helmet. Instead she found her husband, rolling over to comfort her.

“It was just a dream, just a dream. You’re home now” he said, stroking her hair softly.

“Mama, mama, what’s wrong?” came a small voice as young Joel ran into the room.

“Mommy had another bad dream” Marilyn said, breathing deeply.

“Time to get ready to go to the service anyway, why don’t you and daddy go down and start breakfast.” she suggested.

“And make sure great-grandpa is awake too”. After they had left Marilyn sat still for a moment.

When would the dreams stop? It had been a year since she had returned from her Peacekeeping mission but still she kept hearing gunfire and seeing angry people in her head. Even worse were the visions of blood and mangled bodies from a bombing, or a mine explosion. When would it all stop?

When Marilyn got down to the kitchen everybody else was already eating. She looked over at her grandfather, resplendent in his Legion blazer and bar of medals on his chest. She knew how important this day was for him every year. “Did the dreams come again dear?” he asked gently.

“Yes” Marilyn said sadly. “Grandpa, when do they stop? When do I get to sleep again”

“I don’t know”, he said thoughtfully. “I still get them once in a while. I wake up convinced I am back in Italy with the guns blazing. But they don’t come as often, a little less often each year.”

Young Joel couldn’t contain himself. “Why do you cry so much mommy? Aren’t you happy to be back?” Marilyn tried to answer but the words just weren’t there. Instead she reached out and wrapped Joel in her arms, tears streaming down her face.

It was Great-Grandpa Joel who answered. “Your mommy is very happy to be home Joel. But sometimes there are things that happen that we can’t leave behind us very easily.”

“You mean like when you were in the war” asked Joel, fighting to free himself from his mother’s arms.

“Yes,” said the older Joel. “Even though I came home 60 years ago I still cry when I think about those days and remember the friends I made, and the friends who never came back.”

“Is that why we are going to the cenotaph today?” asked the child. “My teacher says that today is a special day when we remember everyone who fought in the wars.”

“That’s right”, said the older man. “Each year I stand there and remember all those things. It hurts, it hurts a lot sometimes.”

“But if it hurts why do you do it?” young Joel asked.

“Because I have to. Because if we don’t remember then we don’t learn.” came the reply.

Young Joel thought about that for a moment. “Learn what?” he asked.

“That war is a terrible thing.” his great-grandpa replied.

“Did you kill people in the war” the young boy asked.

JOEL!” his father said, trying to shush him.

“No, it’s okay,” the veteran replied. “Yes Joel, I am sure that I did. But I don’t like to think about that. I saw a lot of people get killed and hurt too.”

“Is that what you see when your have the dreams?”

“Yes, that is a part of it.”

“But my mom didn’t go to war. She promised she wasn’t going to war. Why does she have such bad dreams?” This time Joel’s eyes were filling with tears. “I don’t like it when she cries, or screams at night.

Marilyn tried to answer but couldn’t, her voice suddenly disappeared, so the old veteran spoke again. “Your mom did something very hard Joel. She went to a place where people were fighting and stood in between them. WE call that being a peacemaker. Canadians have done a lot of it over the years, in fact it was a Canadian that came up with the idea.”

Young Joel tried to understand, “so they go to make people stop fighting?” he asked.

“Well, sort of.” Great-grandpa replied. “But sometimes the people are so mad that they still try to hurt each other. Then people like your mom and her friends get caught in the middle.”

“Oh” said Joel, “that was very brave mama.”

Marilyn smiled. “Thank you sweetheart. But I was just doing my job.”

Suddenly young Joel looked very confused, “Last Sunday my Sunday School teacher told me that war is a bad thing. Why did so many people do a bad thing?” he asked. For a moment nobody said anything as all the adults tried to come up with an answer. Then Old Joel sighed heavily.

“Your teacher was right Joel. War is a very very very bad thing. But sometimes we have to do bad things because to not do them would be worse.”

Now Joel was really confused. “That doesn’t make sense”, he said. “Either you do the right thing or the wrong thing.”

“Well,” his great grandfather said, “that is usually right. But sometimes we have to choose what is less wrong. People call that choosing between two evils. Have you ever heard a story about wolves lying down with lambs?” The boy nodded. “Well that comes from the Bible, it is talking about how God would like us to live, how God wants even old enemies to learn how to be together without fighting. Until we learn how to do that there will still be times when people like your mom and I have to go and see terrible things.”

Young Joel thought about this for a moment. Then he looked deep into the old man’s eyes and asked, “Great-grandpa, are you sorry you went to war?”

The old man’s face paled for a moment. “No, I don’t think I am sorry I went.” he said slowly. “I am just sorry that I had to go.”

Joel looked at his mom. “And are you sorry you went away mama?”

“I think I would say the same as grandpa dear. I went because I had to; I just wish nobody ever had to.”

Joel looked at his mom, and then at his great-grandfather, then back at his mom. “I think you are both really brave” he said, “and I think it is good you did what you had to do. And I really hope we can get a pet wolf and a pet lamb to live together sometime really soon. I hope people will stop killing each other and maybe then mama’s dreams will go away.”

“I hope so too honey,” said Marilyn, “I hope so too.” “Come on, it’s almost time to leave for the service.”

'Tis the Season for Remembrance

Remembrance Day is quickly approaching. And so we bring you this video...

The story behind the song, links to audio only versions (and links to the video) as well as the lyrics and melody can be found here

October 30, 2007

Looking Ahead to November 4, 2007 -- 23rd Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
  • Psalm 119:137-144 (VU p.841 Part 6)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

The Hymns for this Sunday are:

  • 371 Open My Eyes, That I May See
  • 583 Jesus Came, A Child Like Me
  • 578 As a Fire is Meant for Burning (Tune #374)
  • 593 Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love

The sermon title is The Price of Sight

Early Thoughts: What happens when we are caught up in the presence of Christ? WHat happens when we let our hearts and minds be changed? Is there a price to be paid?

The story of Zaccheus is one many of us remember from SUnday School. Poor Zacchesu was caught up in the excitement of Jesus' approach but was too short to see over the crowd. SO he climbs a tree, only to have Jesus come over and say "Come down, I am going to eat with you today"

The kicker comes in what happens over dinner. Zaccheus pledges to give away his income. Tax collecting in many emireswas a brutal business. It was expected that the tax collector could make money by extorting more tax money from his clients. Zaccheus pledges to give that amount away, four fold. There is a price in meeting Jesus.

Now some scholars debate the story we all know. The Greek text is unclear about whether Zaccheus was too short to see over the crowd or Jesus was the short one. The text is unclear if Zaccheus is making a pledge or describing his current practice (although the last couple of sentences clearly suggest that this was a new behaviour). But the point remains. If Zaccheus was not already doing this he has been moved to do so. If he was, he is pledging to continue. THe cost of meeting Jesus was willingly taken on.

The other point worth mentioning is that Jesus invited himself to dinner. Doubtless there were many in the crowd who would have willingly said "come to my place" but Jesus chose Zaccheus (to the horror of those who were watching). When the Christ invites himself to our homes and hearts what do we do? WHat happens if we are as moved as Zaccheus?

October 23, 2007

Pie Making Time

Every year the UCW and helpers make some 500 pies (mainly apple, some raisin) as a fundraiser and a fun-raiser. Expand the post for some pictures of the process.

Peeling and slicing

Rolling and Filling

October 22, 2007

Looking Ahead to October 28 -- 22nd Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Joel 2:18-27
  • Psalm 65 (see back of bulletin)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

The Hymns this week are:

  • 222 Come, Let Us Sing
  • 227 For the Fruit of All Creation
  • 299 Teach Me, God, to Wonder
  • 312 Praise with Joy the World’s Creator

The sermon title is A World of Abundance

Early Thoughts: How do you see the world? When you look around do you notice the things you lack or the things you have in abundance? How does what you see affect how you act?

Each of us has a choice. We can look at the world through a lens set to see abundance or through a lens set to see scarcity. And those lenses really do change what we see. It is sort of like the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. The optimist sees a pile of manure and gets excited--there just must be a horse around. A pessimist looks at the same pile and only sees a lot of messy, smelly, tiring work.

Some days it is very hard to see the abundance. Sometimes our lives seem to be nothing but scarcity. Certainly the advertising industry would like us to believe that. "If you only have ______ you will be happy" they say. The ads we see every day continually tell us that we are lacking something.

And of course sometimes life throws us a curve that makes it really easy to become convinced not only of scarcity now but ongoing times of scarcity. Say, for example, the closing of a major employer.

The people Joel was speaking to understood this. They were dealing with a famine. WHen you have no food life is hard. But all of a sudden Joel promises that they will know a time of great abundance. I wonder how easy it was for them to believe it?

Our faith story promises us life, and that in abundance. The challenge is to see what we have in abundance each and every day. The Global Rich List tells us that we are all recipients of more abundance than we know ($28 000 annual income puts one in the top 10%). We can, if we choose,look at the world and see great abundance. We can, look past the scarcity messages (and realities). And we benfeit when we do that.

How we view the world affects how we interact with the world. When we look around and see that things are scarce our common reaction is to hold tightly to what we have and to fight strongly to get more. But when we look around and see great abundance we atuomatically feel more inclined to share the wealth. WE end up being happier, more at ease, more relaxed. Living life in a scarcity mode is tense and worrisome. Living in an abundance mode makes it easier to deal with what life throws at us.

We will nto always have everything we want. Sometimes we won't always have what we need. But we still can choose to focus on what we lack or on what we have in abundance. What choice will you make?

October 16, 2007

Looking Ahead to October 21, 2007 -- 21st Sunday After Pentecost

This week we will be visited on behalf of Presbytery. There will be a meeting with the visitors following the service. All are encouraged to share your views on how Riverview is doing.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Jeremiah 31:27-34
  • Psalm 119:97-104 (VU p. 840 Part 4)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 18:1-8

The hymns for the week are:

  • 260 God Who Gives to Life Its Goodness
  • 684 Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
  • 688 O Day of God Draw Nigh
  • 506 Take My Life and Let It Be

The Sermon title is Persistent, Hearty Justice

Early thoughts: Who is asking so persistently? What response is needed? How is this a stewardship story?

Traditionally people have said that this parable is about prayer. It sees that Jesus is essentially saying "if even this lout of a judge will eventually grant justice then how much more so will God, who actually loves people and cares about justice, do the same?". But there is another way to look at it. Is it possible to see God in the role of the widow? It is a bit of a skewing of the text but what if God is the one who knocks and knocks and knocks?

If God is doing the knocking then it is God's people who must respond. And at that point it becomes a story about stewardship.

Stewardship is a word we in the church often use as code for "now it is time to talk about money". And it is. If we are to respond to God's unceasing cries for justice then money HAS to be a part of the discussion. There are of course other parts of that discussion. Stewardship is about all our choices, about how we live our lives and use our resources. The challenge is to do so in ways that further the call to justice.

We have the option to ignore the knocking at the doors and windows of our lives. We also have the option of opening the door in resignation and defeat. OR we can throw the door wide open and welcome the knocker with open-armed enthusiasm. Which choice we make will drastically affect how we respond to the questions and pleas we get. It changes how we see our role as stewards. It is all about stewardship, all about our role in God's world.

October 15, 2007

PResbytery Oversight Visit

Next Sunday we will have our triennial (every 3 years) visit from Presbytery representatives. This is part of how Presbytery keeps aware of what is happening in the various churches.

The visitors will be meeting with congregation members following the worship service. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

October 09, 2007

Looking Forward to October 14, 2007 -- 20th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this Sunday are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Exodus 3: 1-7;10-12
  • Psalm 28 (see insert)
  • From the Gospel: (see insert)

The Hymns the Sunday are:

  • 374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
  • Kum Ba Yah (insert)
  • 664 What a Friend We Have in Jesus
  • 424 May the God of Hope Go With Us

This Sunday we are doing something different. Instead of a Sermon there will be some Silent Reflection.

One of the things that has happened within Western culture is a loss of silence. This has happened in our worship as well. And yet, if we are never silent and still how can we ever listen? How can we quiet the anxiety that comes from always "doing"?

In this service, designed by Peter Fergus-Moore in ThunderBay, we will take time to be silent, interspersed with the lines of the Lord's Prayer. It will be a new thing. It may push our limits given that in many worship services any silence feels too long. But we will give it a try. Come and share the experience with us.

October 05, 2007

Board Meeting Notes

Last night we had a Board Meeting. Expand the post to see what happened.

  • We discussed finding volunteers to attend a visioning meeting in Fort Frances later this month
  • We planned for the Congregational Supper on October 28th. An invitation letter will be mailed out next week.
  • We completed the Pre-Visit Questionaire for our upcomming Oversight visit by representatives of Presbytery.
  • We decided that since November 11 is a Sunday this year we will have our weekly worship at 7:00pm to allow everyone to attend the Legion service at 10:30.
  • We decided that Riverview will sponsor the Harding concert in November to increase the earnings for the artists.
  • We discussed some upcoming events (see post at top of the blog)

The next Board Meeting will be on October 25.

October 02, 2007

Looking Forward to October 7, 2007--19th Sunday After Pentecost, Worldwide Communion and Thanksgiving Sunday

This Sunday we join with our brothers and sisters around the globe in celebrating the sacrament of communion.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
  • Psalm 137
  • From the Gospel: John 6:25-35

The Hymns are:

  • 820 Make a Joyful Noise
  • 227 For the Fruit of All Creation
  • MV #162 Christ Within Us Hidden (insert)
  • 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing

The Sermon title is Singing & Feasting in a Strange Land

Early Thoughts: We are commanded to be thankful for and share from our abundance. But in a world that is changing so fast, in a world that doesn't always feel like a familiar home, how do we sing songs of thankfulness and praise?

Of course we are not the first people to face this question. The Psalm reading for this week comes from the time of the Babylonian exile. It asks the question "How can we sing the songs of God in a strange land?" -- if you remember the Boney M hit By the Rivers of Babylon or Don McLEan's Babylon (this is also found on page 858 in Voices United as a suggested accompaniment to the Psalm) then you have heard this Psalm of lament turned into pop music.

How indeed? How is it that after the world has been shaken on its foundations, after the unimaginable has happened, people could find the heart and voice to sing the old songs? The fall of Jerusalem was not just another defeat in battle, it was the ultimate defeat. And yet, even in exile, away from Zion, the supposed dwelling of God, the people eventually found their voice. Yes that voice was tempered by songs of lament, richened by the hoarseness of tears, but still they found that God was with them and that was reason for hope.

The Deuteronomy reading for Thanksgiving has the wonderful line "a wandering Aramean was my ancestor" followed by a brief recap of the move into and exodus from Egypt. Here we find the beginning of that hope. Even in slavery the people found cause for hope--which then led to freedom. As people in exile they re-found that hope.

Of course hope doesn't take away sorrow. The story of faith reminds us that lament is a part of life. We lament many things over the course of life's journey. But the lament never takes away the need to give thanks. There is a story about a group of Jewish men in Auschwitz putting God on trial. God was found guilty of mistreating God's people. Then, as the trial closed the rabbi looked up and said "now it is time to worship God".

In our world today we find many signs that life is (to be somewhat euphemistic) not what we wish it would be. This very week (leading up to Canadian Thanksgiving) may see the closure (final or short term yet to be determined) of one of our town's main employers. Across Northwestern Ontario mills are closing, people are unemployed, people are leaving for greener pastures. Surely this is a time for lament. What does it mean to celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of this time of trouble?

It means we look deeper. It means we ask ourselves truly how are we blessed? It means we push ourselves to look beyond the scarcity and find abundance. Yes we lament. Yes life is not what we wish it was. But still we find the song to sing, we find that GOd is with us and that we are blessed.

A Blessed Thanksgiving to all!