March 26, 2008

Minsterial Musings (From the upcoming Newsletter)

As I sit down to write this I find myself thinking about Spring, despite the 4 inches of snow that have fallen in the last 48 hours. And with thoughts of Spring come thoughts of Easter and new life and resurrection (not surprising since Easter Sunday was only 3 days ago).

As I look at the world around me this Easter season I find that I am pressed to ask “What does resurrection mean in this place and time?”. In the face of financial struggles, a graying congregation and increasing costs, what does resurrection mean for Riverview? In the face of a dying forestry industry, aging infrastructure, and limited employment what does resurrection mean for Atikokan? In the face of warfare, economic globalization and political uncertainty, what does resurrection mean for the world?

To tell the truth I am not entirely sure what the answer to any of those questions is. Resurrection is hard to predict, both in time and in form. We don't get to choose when and how Easter breaks into our worlds. And this is both challenge and opportunity.

It is a challenge because we like to be in control. We like to believe that we can decide what the future will bring us. But we aren't in control. The challenge of resurrection is both that it comes up unexpectedly, unlooked for, like a thief in the night and that it comes in forms that we don't expect, sometimes can't even predict. Resurrection is not a matter of resuscitating what once was. It is not a return to the same-old way of being. It is a transforming experience, one that moves us

And once we give in to the lack of control we can find the opportunity. The transforming effect of resurrection provides an opportunity for an injection of hope into a world of despair. The opportunity to revision how we see ourselves as a church, a town, a global community lies waiting to be seized. Taking hold of this can be terrifying, it is always more comfortable to bring back what once was. The new is not the familiar.

The challenge I lay before all of us is this. Look for the signs of new life around us. Try to listen for God's call to experiment. Isaiah tells us of a God who says “Behold, I am doing something new”. What is the new thing God is doing here? Are we ready to try being people of abundant Life in ways that may be slightly or even extremely different than how “we have always done it”?

God calls us to resurrection. God doesn't necessarily call us to resuscitation of the old body. May God's transforming power be at work in us, both within the congregation and within Atikokan and within the global community of which we are a part.


March 25, 2008

Looking Ahead to March 30, 2008 -- 2nd Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings for this week are:

  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 2:14a, 22-32
  • Psalm 16 (VU p.738)
  • From the Letters of the Church: 1 Corinthians 15:35-44
  • From the Gospel: John 12:24-26

The Hymns for this week are:

  • 409 Morning Has Broken
  • 296 This is God’s Wondrous World
  • 703 In the Bulb There Is a Flower
  • 424 May the God of Hope Go With Us

The Sermon title for this week is Life From Dead Ground

Early Thoughts: What happens when we plant a seed? How does death and resurrection work in a organic model?

One of the models we use for explaining Easter to children is the idea of a seed or bulb being planted and growing. Of course this is in part because Easter in the Northern Hemisphere falls in the (this year very early) spring. And spring is the time when we look with excitement (if my daughters are any indication)for the emergence of grass from the snow and then the buds swelling on trees and new growth pushing out of the ground.

In this reading from John Jesus points out that a seed falling into the ground dies so that it can grow. (and obviously John is using this as foretelling the Easter story)

What grows from the seed is the same but different, as Paul tells the Corinthians. Resurrection is not the rebirth of what was. We plant seeds and tend the growth which God provides. In our community we are looking for signs of resurrection amidst lots of signs of death. What seeds and bulbs are lying in the fertile soil that is our lives? What new growth is waiting to come bursting from the dead frozen sod?

Come and join us in this Easter season as we talk about what resurrection means in this place and time.

March 23, 2008

Dawn Breaks...

Christ is Risen!!

Christ is Risen Indeed!!!

Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!

Blessed Easter!!

March 18, 2008

Looking Ahead to March 23, 2008 -- Easter Sunday

Our worship this week will include the celebration of Communion.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (VU p. 837 parts 1-3)
  • From the Gospel: John 20:1-18

THe Hymns are:

  • 157 Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • MV #122 This is the Day (insert)
  • 173 Thine is the Glory
  • 186 Now The Green Blade Rises

WE will have two short Meditations this week. One will be a message titled The Promise of Spring from the Right Reverend Dr. David Giuliano, Moderator of the United Church of Canada.

Gord's Meditation will be called This IS God's Day

Early Thoughts: Here we are, the holiest day of the year. THis is the day when we shout triumphantly about the fact that life wins out over death. This is the day of hope. This is the day that God has made.

Easter is a day of triumph It is God's day. On Friday we marked the powers of death and darkness. Today we remember that God's life and light are far stronger than they are.

Easter morning is the time when we can remember the wisdom of Julian of Norwich when she said "All will be well, all will be well, all manner of thing be well". EAster reminds us that though death will have its day, it will not win the war. This IS the day that God has made, we WILL rejoice and be glad! ALLELUIA!

March 17, 2008

Looking Ahead to March 21, 2008 -- Good Friday

The Ecumenical Good Friday walk will take place starting at 11:00am at the Church of the Good Shepherd. The walk will end at Riverview where we will join together for lunch. Our worship will be at 7:00pm.

The Scripture Readings for Friday are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 26:47-27:56
  • Psalm 22 (VU p.744 Part One)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 26:57-66

The Hymns for Friday are:

  • #144 Were You There
  • #186 Stay With Us Through the Night

The Meditation title is The Powers of Death

Early Thoughts: Why is this day called Good? Why do we celebrate death today?

Good Friday is indeed the one day of the year when we mark the power of death. On this day we tell the story of a man who tried to live unreservedly in the way of God, who met with the immovable object of the powers that be, and paid the price of his life.

Why is it Good? Well it isn't. Really. Unless you know and remember the rest of the story. The story doesn't end where we stop our readings this evening. It ends with the coming dawn of the third day.

But that isn't our focus this evening. WE pause to consider the death and the powers that led to it. We do that because the only way to truly experience resurrection is to name the reality of death. And so, as an Easter people, a people who focus on resurrection, we need to name the realities of death in our world.

There are still powers out there that work against those who try to do what is right. The price isn't always a cross on a hillside. But there is a price. This year on Good Friday let's all pause to name and remember the powers that work against Life, Love, and Light. The darkness is real and needs to be named but it will not win.

March 11, 2008

Looking Ahead to March 16, 2008 -- Palm Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Zechariah 9:9-17
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (VU p.837 Parts 1, 3, 4)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Philippians 2:5-11
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11

The Hymns for this week are:

  • 123 Hosanna Loud Hosanna
  • 357 Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
  • 122 All Glory Laud and Honour
  • 127 Ride On! Ride On in Majesty!

The Sermon Title is A Story of Two Parades

Early Thoughts: Everybody loves a parade. But is this a parade of glory or a parade of humility?

The Palm Sunday story is those stories that we assume "everybody knows", since we tell it (and, to a degree, re-enact it) every year. But do we really? OR do we mis-read it?

In common thought the entry into Jerusalem was a grand triumphant demonstration. WE envision the majority of the population taking part. THe parallel in many minds is a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup Parade.

But it likely was smaller, less grandiose. And instead of shouts of praises the Hosannas were actually people crying out "Save us!" or Help us!". THink protest march rather than triumphal entry.

In their book The Last WeekMarcus Vorg and John Crossan suggest that there was indeed a triumphal entry taking place on the other side of the city. THat was Pilate and his entourage entering the city in a show of force to help keep the peace during Passover. THis parade would have included trumpets and war horses and shining armour. By contrast, our parade has voices, a donkey (or a donkey AND a colt according to Matthew), and rough cloaks. Our parade is not one of glory and triumph. Only in retrospect d we try to make it that.

COme this Sunday as we remember a parade and think about the difference between these two parades on different sides of the city. ANd in the back of ur minds will be a third parade. The one which grows out of the confrontation between the two parades on this day and leads to a hillside topped with an executioners cross.

March 05, 2008

AN Easter Reflection

THis month's edition of the United Church Observer includes an Easter reflection from the Right Reverend Dr. David Giuliano, moderator of the United Church of Canada. You can read it here.

For information on subscribing to the Observer talk to Gord.

March 03, 2008

Looking Ahead to March 9, 2008 -- 5 Sunday of Lent

This Sunday we conclude our worship series The 5 W's of the Church, which accutaully began with our Annual Meeting Sunday look at We Have This Ministry.

The Scripture readings this week are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Joshua 24:14-21
  • Psalm 78:1-7 (VU p792 Part One)
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 6:1-6
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

THe Hymns for this week are:

  • #603 In Loving Partnership We Come
  • #356 Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
  • MV #1 Let Us Build a House (verses 1-5)
  • #646 We Are Marching (sung 4 times)

The Sermon Title is How are we the church?

Early Thoughts: What are we doing right now that makes us part of the church?On the first Sunday of Lent we asked what the church is. THe church is (in part) a social club, a political action center, a support group, a place to feed the Spirit, and a place to mark Rites of Passage.

Then we asked where and when the church is. IS the church merely a special type of building? Is it something that only happens for set periods of time on special days? NO, it is something larger and broader, something that can be anywhere and anytime.

THen we stopped to ask ourselves why we choose to make the church a part of our lives. ANd we heard some stories from friends and neighbours about why it was important to them.

WE asked ourselves who is here, and more importantly, how we can best be welcoming to those who aren't here yet.

And before asking all these questions we celebrated the ministry of this church over the last year. We named why we are here. We named what we had done.

SO now we come to the last question. HAving looked at various things about the church we ask ourselves how we are the church. This question really takes us back most clearly to the first, to the "what".

We are the church as we gather to name whose we are and who we follow Joshua says to the Israelites:

AS for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
We make that statement in choosing to gather here. MAtthew calls his readers to:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This too makes us a church. WE are more than a gathering of friends, we are a community of faith, sharing the Gospel, sharing teh Word of Life, sharing the Hope that we meet in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Much like the early church described in our Acts reading we do this be sharing the work. We find ourselves aking some to preach, some to teach, some to feed, but all to serve.

How are we the church? In many ways. How should we be teh church? THe answer to that question gets revealed anew as the world around us requires. AS we are called, so shall we serve. ANd in the meantime we continue to tell to story of faith. WE continue to love and serve friend and neighbour. We continue to seek God's justice for the world both near and far. LEt us build a house where love is found, and let us say of that house: WE belong to God