January 28, 2008

Looking Forward to February 3, 2008 -- 4th Sunday After Epiphany, Annual Meeting Sunday

This Sunday we will have our Annual Congregational Meeting. Following our worship service we will have a soup & sandwich lunch and the meeting will follow lunch.

The Scripture readings this Sunday are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Micah 6:1-8
  • Psalm 15 (VU p. 736)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

The Hymns for the service are:

  • 401 Worship the Lord
  • MV 1 Let Us Build A House *NEW* (see insert)
  • 579 The Church Is Wherever God’s People
  • 649 Walk With Me

THe Sermon Title is We HAve this Ministry

Early THoughts: What do we have to celebrate? What has the last year brought us? This Sunday we prepare for our Annual meeting by celebrating and reflecting on the ministry we share.

JIm Strathdee writes:

We have this ministry and we are not discouraged;
it is by God’s own power that we may live and serve…
BUt is that true? SOmetimes it seems so easy to get discouraged. SOme times it can seem like we fight and fight merely to stay in one place.

WHat is the cure for discouragement? To take time to celebrate our successes. Talk about the things that go well. Celebrate the things that have happened over the last year, the ways people have shared in the ministry of this congregation. THat reminds us of why we are here. That can give us the incentive to "keep on keeping on".

At the top of the sidebar of this blog is the Mission Statement of this congregation. As a part of our service on Sunday we will share that statemtn to gether. We will take time to name how we lived it out in 2007. WE will also take a chance to name those things that can lead us to feel discouraged. Only by facing our reality can we deal with it.

COme help us celebrate this ministry we have.

January 22, 2008

Looking Ahead to January 27, 2007 -- 3rd Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 9:1-4
  • Psalm 27:1, 4-9 (VU p. 754)
  • From the Letters of the Church: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 4:21-23

THe Hymns this week are:

  • 402 We Are One
  • 602 Blest Be the Tie that Binds
  • 562 Jesus Calls Us
  • 567 Will You Come and Follow Me?

The Sermon title is Moths to a Flame

Early Thoughts: What would make grown men suddenly jump up and leave everything behind?

There is something amazing about the stories of Jesus calling those early disciples. THese poor fishermen suddenly leave their nets and boats by the lakeshore and follow this strange man they have never met.

THe only possible answer to "why?" is that therer is something compelling about Jesus and the summons he gives. THere is something that draws people to JEsus, not just here at the beginning but throughout his life and throughout the Christian story.

Each of us knows what it is that draws us to Jesus. ANd it isn't the same for everyone. For the 4 fishers it seems there must have been a sense of charisma in this man. Did they know that day by the lakeshore that they would one day proclaim him as the MEssiah, the Chosen One of GOd? Did they know that later he would be called God-Made-Flesh? OR did they just know that they needed to be with him?

OF course we can only guess what Peter and his friends were thinking or feeling. BUt we also have to be ready to ask ourselves what draws us. WE have to be ready to share that feeling of being drawn with others, to tell our stories of leaving behind to join the Master.

Last week we heard about people who saw Jesus and then went out saying "come and see". Are we ready to tell our stories?

January 19, 2008

Passion Stories

This is a series of stories (7) for worship on Palm/Passion Sunday a few years ago. Each story was preceded by a verse of Were You There?. The Scripture Passages listed were not read as part of the service but are what the story was based on.

Sing “Were You There when they waved the palms and sang?”

Story #1 – The Parade
Matthew 21:1-11
(Jewish Merchant, has traveled the Empire.)

I was there. I was born here in Jerusalem but it is many years since I have been back for Passover. I am a merchant by trade and my business takes me all around the Eastern part of the Empire. But this year my journeys have brought me back. As I was coming home from Syria I heard stories of this man, this carpenter’s son, who was doing wonderful things and teaching about God’s Word. As I got close to Jerusalem I could hear people shouting and singing. At first I thought this was just excitement about the coming feast but then I saw that there was a man at the center of all this uproar. He was riding on a donkey with cloaks as a saddle. People had spread their cloaks on the ground and pulled branches off the trees to lay on the road as well, making a carpet of sorts.

As I got closer I could hear that people were crying “Hosanna, to the Son of David!” and “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”. I grabbed the arm of one of the men and asked what was going on. He told me that this was Jesus from Nazareth, the carpenter’s son, who was the promised Messiah. This was the one who would save our people from the Romans.
A chill went through me when I heard this. As a boy I had learned the ancient prophecies of a king like David who would come again. And I shared the hope of every Jew for a new Kingdom of Judah. But as a man I had seen what the Romans did to people who threatened the peace. My heart tells me that this man, Jesus, has not long to live. Rome does not like a challenge.

Sing “Were you there when they all shared bread and wine?”

Story #2 – The Upper Room
Matthew 26:14-30
(Woman who had been at the supper)

I was there. I read that story that Matthew wrote. To hear him talk you would have thought that there were only the 13 of them up there for supper. Far from it. There were many more of us but I guess that Matthew didn’t think we were worth mentioning. But the other women and I had walked with Jesus for many days. HE thought we were important. HE showed us that we were beloved Daughters of Abraham. So we wanted to stay with him as long as we could, to feel the love.

That was a strange, almost frightening, meal. Many times I had eaten with Jesus but those meals had always been joyful occasions. Jesus had taught me, taught all of us, how important it was to eat together, how a shared meal showed us that we were all children of God. But that night there was something different about him. Many people in my life have died and often it seems that they know when death is near. That is how Jesus looked that night. His face was drawn, almost painful. Then, out of nowhere he announced that someone in the group would betray him. Someone who had shared food with him would turn him over? None of us could believe it. All of the men denied that they would do such a thing. Jesus just sat there and listened.

Then at the end of the meal he did something I will never forget. He took some of the bread and broke it and gave it to us. He said “Take, eat; this is my body”. Then he took some of the wine and passed it to us and told us to drink it because it was his blood of the new covenant. He went on to talk about the forgiveness of sins and we all shared in the bread and wine. Then he said that he would not eat or drink again until he was in the Father’s kingdom.

I tell you my own blood ran cold then. I was sure that he was about to die right then and there. But he didn’t. Instead we sang a hymn (one of the Psalms I believe) and went out to the Mount of Olives. I was going to stay and clean up but something told me I needed to stay with Jesus.

Sing “Were you there when he knelt and prayed to God”

Story #3 – The Garden
Matthew 26:31-56
(Bystander who happened to have gone to the Garden for some time alone)

I was there. I am not Jewish so I don’t celebrate Passover. But in the middle of the festival there was little else to do so I went out to the Garden by the Mount of Olives to sit and look at the stars. This is something I like to do and think of my home far away, usually I can do it without being disturbed. Imagine my surprise when Jesus and his band came along. I had heard about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and stories about the amazing things he had done so I have to admit I was curious. I hid in the bushes to watch what would happen.

For a man who just days before had been called “King of the Jews” Jesus looked very un-kingly. He said something to his friends about how they would all desert him, he even predicted that one of them – he seemed to be the chief – would deny knowing him 3 times before the cock crew. Jesus looked tired and like he had given up.

While I was thinking about this, Jesus and three of his friends moved some distance away. Still curious, I quietly moved over to where they were. There Jesus started to pray, after asking the other 3 to stay awake and watch with him. I listened carefully to his prayer, wanting to gain some understanding of the Jewish God. It was a prayer of anguish, asking the Father to change something that was about to happen. At the end though, Jesus agreed to let God’s will be done. Then he saw that his friends were sleeping. Jesus woke them and chastised them for their weakness. This happened three times and then I heard the sounds of people approaching.

A large crowd showed up, people from the Jewish priests and elders. Well not the priests and elders themselves but some of their followers. One from the crowd came forward and greeted Jesus with a kiss. This must have been a sign for immediately the crowd seized Jesus. One of his friends drew a sword and was ready to fight but Jesus stopped him, saying that if God had not wanted this to happen angels would come to fight. Jesus asked why they arrested him here instead of in the open light of day but there was no answer.

As the crowd hustled Jesus away I stayed behind. I work with the governor’s court; I had heard what the priests and elders were planning. Having seen Jesus, and heard his anguish, I did not want to see what would happen next. For all intents and purposes he was already dead. And yet I couldn’t help but think that this was someone special. I wish I had met him before now.

Sing “Were you there when his friends all turned and fled?”

Story #4 – Peter’s Denial
Matthew 26:56-58,69-75
(One of the people at the fire with Peter)

I was there. The word had spread like wildfire that Jesus had been arrested. A group of us had gathered in the courtyard to watch what was going to happen. Then, after the crowd passed by, a single man came up alone. For a moment I though he would follow them but he stopped and turned towards us. Some from our group recognized him and asked if he had been with Jesus. Abruptly and with a little bit of fear in his voice the man swore that he did not know Jesus. It was almost as if he was afraid that he would be arrested next. This happened three times and then the cock crowed to welcome the dawn. The stranger looked towards the sound and gave an anguished wail before running out weeping. As he went I heard him say “my Lord how did you know?”

Sing “Were you there when they sentenced him to death??”

Story #5 – The Trial
Matthew 26:59-68; 27:11-31
(A member of the Council)

I was there. For several weeks we had taken time at meetings of the council to talk about the stories we heard about this man Jesus, the one said to be the Messiah. We were troubled by what we heard. Several religious leaders who had met the man said that while he was a powerful speaker he did not seem to feel bound by instructions from the current leadership. Not only that, but he was teaching that the current system was wrong, that it prevented people from being who God wanted them to be. This was an obvious challenge to our authority.

Then there was that dreadful exhibition on the road in from Bethphage. Did those fools forget about the Roman legions? Did they really think that Rome would stand by peacefully and watch a rebellion begin? All this talk about the “King of the Jews”, and “the one who comes in the name of the Lord”. Absolute rubbish I tell you. Certainly we would know when the Messiah had come. We would be the first to welcome him. Then this so-called Messiah disrupts proper commerce in the Temple! Obviously we had to do something so when one of his followers offered to help us arrest him we jumped at the chance.

I don’t know what Judas thought was going to happen but let me tell you, we were determined that this troublemaker needed to die. If people followed his example the Romans might think we had lost control and then where would we be? Dead is my guess. Surely it was better that this nobody from Galilee die instead. So we had a trial and were able, finally, to convict him of blasphemy. This way the crowd was back on our side – or at least the crowd that was there that night.

Unfortunately, we needed the help of Rome so we took Jesus before Pilate. We made many charges against him so that Pilate would agree to an execution but Jesus just stood there and said nothing. Odd that, I expected that he would at least TRY to defend himself. This seemed to impress Pilate somehow.

Pilate offered to release someone from prison because it was Passover. He suggested it be Jesus but we did not want him around to make more trouble. So we worked the crowd. We got them stirred up and had them demand that Pilate release some man named Barrabbas and execute Jesus. Pilate asked several times but we got the crowd to yell louder and louder. Finally Pilate was convinced and made an attempt to put all the blame back on the crowd and us. But believe me, it was to Pilate’s advantage to get rid of Jesus too.

The Roman soldiers had no problem with the decision – in fact they had a great time mocking the “King of the Jews”, beating him and mocking him before taking him away.

Sing “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Story #6 – The Crucifixion
Matthew 27:32-56
(Roman Legionary)

I was there. In my years in the legions I have attended more crucifixions then I can count. They are never pleasant things but they do help keep the peace. It is amazing what the sight of a few troublemakers hanging on a cross will do to make other people think twice. But there was something different about this man. When we got to the place of execution it was our custom to offer the condemned a drink formulated to numb their inevitable pain. This was done partly out of mercy but mainly for our own benefit. A drugged man does not fight nearly as much nor scream as much. Those screams always haunted me after a crucifixion. But this man, the one they called Jesus, he refused to take the drink. Well we put him on the cross and raised him up then we sat down to divide his possessions and wait for him to die. As a warning to others who would dare challenge Roman might we put a sign above his head. The centurion read it to us: This is Jesus, King of the Jews”.

While he was hanging there a large crowd gathered. They taunted the man, challenging him to show the power of God since he was supposedly God’s Son. The man ignored them. Then around midday the sky grew very dark and stayed that way for a long time. And still this “King” had not screamed in pain. I was amazed at his composure and courage. Finally, after three hours of darkness he screamed something in his own language. Later one of my Jewish friends said that Jesus had asked why God had abandoned him. So I guess he did feel the pain after all. With another cry his body went limp. He was dead.

That death was an eerie event, and I have seen many men die. The sky, the very earth seemed to shake and roar. We were all very afraid. My centurion muttered something about this really being the Son of God and then I was really afraid. What would this God of the Jews do to US if we had truly killed his Son?

As I fled from that hilltop I saw a small group of women standing off to one side. They just stood there crying and staring at everything that had happened. Even when the hill was bare they still kept a vigil. What great love they must have had for him – to stay when everyone else had fled.

Sing “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?”

Story #7 – The Tomb
Matthew 27:57-66
(One of the women, watching)

I was there, watching. We had never stopped watching. All day the group of us stood there and watched our beloved Jesus die. Watched and wept. Then after he was dead the soldiers took his body off of the cross and gave it to a man named Joseph. HE wrapped the body up and had his servants help him carry Jesus to a tomb in the rock. They laid our friend and teacher to rest and put a large rock in front of the grave. And still we watched. We didn’t talk to each other. Who had any idea what to say? We just sat there. Then, while we watched and wept, one of the priests came with a group of soldiers. We heard the instructions: “Stand here and make sure no-one steals his body!” We were stunned, why would someone steal a body? Then the soldiers make the tomb as tightly sealed as they could. And still we watched and wept.

Eventually the day grew late and we had to leave to celebrate the Sabbath. (As if we wanted to celebrate anything. But Sabbath comes no matter what else happens, life keeps going.) Mary promised all of us that she would come back after Sabbath. She would bring spices and ensure that Jesus, who we loved, was properly taken care of. And so we left.

January 15, 2008

Looking Ahead to January 20, 2008 -- 2nd Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 49:1-7
  • Psalm 40 (VU p 764)
  • From the Gospel: John 1:29-42

The Hymns this week are:

  • 326 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • 82 A Light is Gleaming
  • 87 I Am the Light of the World
  • 679 Let There be Light

During the service we will have a Stewardship moment on "Planned Gifts"

The Meditation will be called A Light to the Nations -- Made to Shine

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to be told we are light to the nations, light to the world? Is that what we are made for?

THey are challenging, these Servant SOngs of Isaiah. Here, in the second of them, the task of the Servant is further explained. Of special note is verse 6 It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Wow! AS if bringing justice and peace and light to our own neighbours wasn't enough we are now being told to bring thme to all the nations, to the entire world. Not only that but the beginning of the passage suggests that this is why we are here! Not to make a comfortable home, not to raise healthy children, not to make a big footprint, we are here to be light to the nations (which admittedly can include a comfortable home, healthy children and making a big mark).

WHat does that mean? How can we do it? COme join us on Sunday and we will try to figure it out together.

January 14, 2008

Minister's Annual Report

For those of you who just can't wait until it is distributed, the Ministerial report is in the expanded post.

A colleague of mine in BC has a blog which he calls Looking Backward…Looking Forward. If I had to name the intent of this report that is what I would call it. Here we look back at the year that 2007 was and we look ahead to what 2008 (and beyond) may be.

And what did 2007 bring us? As with most years, it brought a mixture of joy and sorrow, highs and lows. Among the highs were the chances we had to celebrate new life and new hope with the sacrament of Baptism. We also had many chances to share meals together, always a great way to celebrate community. We continue to live out our mission statement by offering ministry to the community: we worship with the residents of Extended Care, we open our hall to use by a variety of community groups, we provide a place for those with little church connection to gather and grieve the loss of a loved one, our meals are open to the whole community

But there are struggles too. As a part of the larger community of Atikokan we share in the losses of Fibratech going bankrupt, of the lay-off at AFP, and of the deaths that took place over the year (in October and November alone the Progress ran 16 obituaries). Within our own community some felt these losses more than others but as a community of love and faith we know that we share the pain and the struggle. Our congregation, as with most others in town, is aging and just holding our own sometimes seems the best victory we can expect. Money is tight, numbers are not as high as some might like (but are remaining fairly steady), energy is taxed. But still, when something needs doing, a way is found. That is cause for excitement – the energy and time and resources are found to do what needs doing.

Some of the other highlights over the year for me have been: the worship and picnic out at French Lake in June, the viewing of An Inconvenient Truth for Earth Day in April, the chance to host An Evening of Singing with Bruce and Cheryl Harding in November, and this year I offered a funeral seminar twice, once in Thunder Bay and once with some folks from Knox United in Fort Frances as they live without paid ministry at this time (I think I have that seminar pretty much down pat by now).

So what about the future? What lies in store for us? Who knows really? The trouble with predicting the future is that it is always in motion, the choices yet unknown will lead us down different paths. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”, which path we take shapes the future in ways yet to be seen. The challenge is to live in comfort with the uncertainty.

What will happen in the local economy? When will things rebound? Will the churches in town die off? Will the town itself die off? These questions continue to bounce back to our consciousness. And in the end they are questions without answers.

On a more concrete level, the future brings my term as Chair of Cambrian Presbytery (May 2008-May 2009). One of the goals I bring to that position is to get Presbytery to ask itself and to ask congregations how it can best offer support to the Pastoral charges and congregation in Northwestern Ontario. Being chair of Presbytery also puts me on the Conference Executive and I may get a chance to raise that same question there. As a church we have to always push ourselves to remember that the local congregation is the central, and most important, piece in the puzzle.

Locally, I see a challenge in our future. It feels like Riverview has been largely in “maintenance mode” for a long time (20 years perhaps). This really isn’t surprising since the town as a whole has been in survival mode for longer than that. But my hope both for the congregation and for the town is to move out of those places. When we are focussed on maintenance or survival it makes growth very difficult. My hope is that we find the vision to leap forward in faith. My hope is that we open ourselves to find out what God is calling us to do and be in this place and time and to live out that calling – even if the answer we get is very different from what we have been doing and/or how we see ourselves. Doing that can be terrifying and a little risky. But I found a quote from Martin Luther King this morning which says: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase.” And we are called to be people of faith.

Amidst all the uncertainties, the hopes and the fears of the future, the joys and the sorrows of the present and the past, I do know one thing for certain. God is with us in this place. God is with us in this time. God will be with us in whatever lies ahead. And, armed with the knowledge that God is with us we can indeed take the first step, even if we can’t see where the next one will be.

In closing I offer this prayer as we move forward, embracing the changes and challenges, the joys and the sorrows, the highs and the lows that the future holds:
Spirit God: be our breath, be our song.
Blow through us, bringing strength to move on.
Through change, through challenge, we’ll greet the new dawn…
Spirit God, be our song.

(verse 4 of “Spirit God, Be Our Breath”, #150 in More Voices. ©1997 Bruce Harding Used with permission under license #C6531 LicenSing – Copyright cleared music for churches)

Peace be with you,
Rev. Gord Waldie

January 08, 2008

Looking Ahead to January 13, 2007 -- 1st Sunday After Epiphany, Baptism of Christ Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 42:1-9
  • Psalm 29 (VU p. 756)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17

The Hymns for this week are:

  • 79 Arise, Your Light is Come
  • 449 Crashing Waters at Creation (tune #2)
  • Epiphany Hymn (see insert)
  • 442 Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters (Alternate words)

The sermon title is The Servant's Task.

Early Thoughts: We talk about being servants of God, about being sent out to do something. What is that something?

In this week's passage from Isaiah we have one of the so-called Servant Songs. In it God speaks through Isaiah to name what the Servant will do. The list includes words about freeing the prisoners, establish justice, open the eye of the blind.

Traditionally Christianity has tended to believe that the Servant of Isaiah's songs is a reference to the Messiah, to Christ. This is why we have this passage of commissioning read in tandem with the story of Jesus being baptized, and why one of the Servant Songs is traditionally read on Good Friday. What or who Isaiah himself meant is not clear. Some suggest the servant was in fact the nation, the people of Israel. Given the repeated commandments on Jewish law for the nation to establish justice for all and this description of the servant's task this would seem to be a good link.

So if the Servant is in fact the people of God then the servant's task is our task. This means we are responsible for working to establish justice, for helping to bring freedom to those in captivity. This passage is our commission, or rather one of our commissions, since it is a repeated refrain in Scripture.

And so it is indeed a good tie in to our baptism story. In the Gospels, Jesus' baptism marks the beginning of his ministry. It is the point where it all begins. So it is with our baptism. Our baptism, either as a child or as a teen or as an adult, sets us toward a life of service and growth. Our baptism calls us to work towards the coming Reign of God. In our baptism liturgy we talk about being called, claimed, and commissioned. It is time to live as those who have been claimed by Christ, called the children of God, and commissioned into ministry. May God be with us as we take up the servant's task.

January 06, 2008

Installing Love

This was a part of Ralph Milton's e-zine Rumors this morning. (To subscribe to Rumors send a blank e-mail here). Ralph writes about it:

This from Chris Duxbury in Australia. It's been bopping around the internet for years, and Chris is simply the last person to send it to me. I'm not sure why I've resisted putting it here in Rumors. But I will trust your powers of discernment because it's interesting and quite possibly useful to you.

Tech Support: Yes? How can I help you?
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?
TS: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?
Cus: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do first?
TS: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?
Cus: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are Running?
TS: What programs are running?
Cus: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.
TS: No problem. Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?
Cus: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?
TS: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.
Cus: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?
TS: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.
Cus: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error - Program not run on external components." What should I do?
TS: Don't worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.
Cus: So, what should I do?
TS: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.
Cus: Okay, done.
TS: Now, copy them to the "My Heart" directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.
Cus: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?
TS: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.
Cus: Thank you, God.

January 02, 2008

FAith Study Groups Starting Soon:

As the New Year starts so will 2 new Faith Study Groups:

1. Island Journeys: From Newfoundland to the Philppines This is a 6 session study written by The Very Rev. Marion Pardy when she was Moderator and has been provided through the United Church Observer. It will be on Thursday afternoons at 1:00 and starts on January 24.

2. Honouring Our Neighbour's Faith This is a study looking at different faith traditions, both of differing Christian denominations and of non-Christian faiths. We will use the book of the same name and one called How to Be a Perfect Stranger: Volume 1: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies as our starting points and references. This study will be on Wednesday evenings at 7:oo and starts on January 23.

Both will meet in Boyle Lounge at the Church. For more information give Gord a call.

January 01, 2008

Looking Ahead to January 6, 2008 -- Epiphany Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 60:1-6
  • Psalm 72 (VU p. 790)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

The Hymns this week are:

  • 55 In the Bleak Midwinter
  • We Three Kings (insert)
  • 74 What Child is This
  • 96 Will You Come and See the Light

This week we will celebrate the sacrament of Communion

The Sermon title is Gifts for God.

Early Thoughts: We hear this story of the visit of the Magi visit every year. WHat new thing, new message, could we possibly find in it?

There are a variety of things one can focus on in this story. You could talk about the idea of the Gentile nations coming to worship this JEwish baby (likely one of the reasons Matthew tells teh story). You could talk about the whole idea of seeking the prexence of the Holy. Epiphany itself is about the Incarnation, about God-MAde-Manifest. In fact the early church celebrated the Incarnation at Epiphany far more than at Christmas. ANd these are valid parts of the story, but there is a third sides as well.

What many of us remember most abotu the visit of the Magi is that it is about gifts. It is about people recognizing that GOd is present here and seeking to find a gift that is appropriate.

Scholars will tell us that this story never really happened. OR at least there is no sound historical basis to assume it happened. THe gifts that Matthew lists give us our idea of 3 visitors (the text never gives a number of visitors) and are highy symbolic -- Gold for a king, Frankincense for the DIvine, Myrrh to foreshadow his death and burial. But whether it happened or not the story tells a truth. Encountering God-MAde-MAnifest, meeting Immanuel, God-With-Us, calls us to respond. But amidst the glory of the story many of us may feel like the narrator in the final verse of In the Bleak Midwinter:

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart

What can we give? What do we have to lay before the manger? What can we do to help the Birth, Life, Death, and Resurrection of the Baby in the manger have an impact on the lives of ouselves, our loved ones, our world? THat is what we will explore this SUnday. But some hints may be found in songs #4 and 5 at this link