October 28, 2008

The United Church of Canada may have closed its studio. We may no longer have a weekly TV show. But we now have a YouTube channel.

Check it out here!

Looking Ahead to November 2, 2008 -- 25th After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Joshua 3:7-17
  • Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 (VU p. 871 Parts 1 & 4)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12
The Hymns this week are:
  • 625 I Feel the Winds of God Today
  • 288 Great is Thy Faithfulness
  • 651 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
  • 424 May the God of Hope
The Sermon Title is Wade in the Water

Early Thoughts: What do you do when there is a raging torrent between you and the Promise? What holds us back from taking those first tentative steps?

They have been wandering around for 4 decades. Most of the people who crossed the sea at the beginning have died. Even Moses, their great leader, has died. But now, finally, it is time to enter the Promised Land. There is only one small problem. The Jordan is in its annual flood and there is no bridge.

To overcome this the story has a re-enacting of the crossing of the sea. The journey began with a parting of the waters. Now the end of the journey is marked by parting another set of waters. And some of the same issues must of cropped up.

"You want us to do WHAT?" That is the question I hear coming from the people in both water crossings. It makes no sense to step out into a flooded river trusting that you will make it across. IT is an act of great faith to walk forward.

I think there is a truth here. Even when we have been told that something wonderful lies in the future there are so many things that make us hesitant to take that first step forward.

THere is another truth here. How do the people make the crossings? They step forward because they trust that God is with them. When the road ahead of us is flooded with troubles and uncertainty do we trust that GOd is with us? Are we ready to Wade in the Water?

October 22, 2008

Ministerial Musings

The latest newsletter just came out. Expand the post to see the Ministerial Musings:

Do you know why the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years?
Because even then men wouldn't ask for directions.

It is a joke of course, one that makes light of a stereotyped vision of how men and women operate differently. But the joke came to mind recently because sometimes life feels like one journey through the wilderness after another. Sometimes we wonder when, or if, we will reach the Promised Land. Do we know which way we are going?

I suspect that is just what those ancient Israelites felt like from time to time. They had been told that there was something good to come but they just couldn't seem to get there. You have to think that they wondered if this Moses really knew how to get there. Did he have a map and directions?

In his book Reading the Bible Again for the First Time Marcus Borg suggests that the Exodus story is one of the 3 “meta-stories” of Scripture. It is one of the 3 basic stories that builds the foundation of Scriptural faith. And as such it is not something that happened once, it is an experience that echoes throughout the history of the faithful. Those elements of wandering, promise, and liberation continue to make up part of our story.

This October Riverview turns 55. Over those years there have been times of wilderness wandering and times of knowing we were in the Promised Land. Over those years there have been times when we knew where were going, times when we were pretty sure, and times when the road ahead was pretty well lost in the fog. When the road is lost in the fog, what happens?

So where are our wanderings taking us here in 2008? What Promised Land is in our future? I honestly wish I could say I knew. But I can't. I don't know what liberation will bring to Atikokan and Riverview. Mind you, I am not always sure Moses and the people knew what the Promised Land would be either. They just knew it was out there. They lived in hope. They lived in hope that they would get there someday.

So that is our task today. As we join with our neighbours to struggle with an economy that is struggling we live in hope. As we wonder how to keep providing ministry despite rising costs and sometimes dwindling energy we live in hope. As we try to re-vision what it means to be a community of faith in a rapidly changing world we live in hope. We hope for liberation. We hope for the time of abundance. We hope for that time when God's justice and peace are a reality not only here but around the world. We are people of hope.

As we start off into another year where we tell again the story of a child in a manger, a cross on a hill, an empty tomb, and a new community may hope carry us forward. In the face of a world of uncertainty, of a time of wandering in the wilderness, may hope in the Promise keep us walking. And may the God of hope, the God of promise walk with us as support and guide. And let's try to remember to stop and ask God for directions so we can keep a clearer idea of where it is we are supposed to be going.

Because we really don't want to wander around for 40 years do we?

October 21, 2008

Looking Forward to October 26, 2008 -- 24th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
From the Jewish Scriptures: Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
  • Psalm 1 (VU p.724)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46
The Hymns this week are:
  • 399 God, Whose Love Is Reigning O'er Us
  • 593 Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love
  • 372 Though I May Speak
  • 427 To Show by Touch and Word
The Sermon Title is Neighbour as Self??? (All You Need is Love)

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to love God with all our being? What does it mean to love our neighbour as yourself? Was John Lennon right when he sang that "All you need is Love"?

I remember as a child this teaching of Jesus being held up as the basic core of faithful living (admittedly it was usually Luke's version, which includes the Good Samaritan story, being used in those discussions). And there is a reason for that. There is a story of a rabbi being asked if he could explain the whole Torah (Law) while standing on one foot. His answer was "love God, love neighbour -- everything else is commentary".

Such an easy answer. But without the commentary what does it mean? And what about that "as yourself" part?

Simply put it means wanting people to thrive just as you want yourself to thrive. It means caring for the other like/in the same amount that you care for yourself. IT does not mean liking everyone. It does not mean agreeing. It means loving them as people in their own right.

A song I sang years ago suggested that "if we only had love" then many issues would be solved. John Lennon wrote that "all we need is love" in a song sung during the flower power era. These claims seem hopelessly idealistic and romantic. But in God's vision they are true. The love we talk about here is a verb. It isn't candles and flowers and Hallmark cards. It is work. It is practical. It is a whole way of being.

And if we can do that for ourselves and for those around us, even (or especially) the ones we don't really like, then we will make a big change in our world. Oh and to close on a lighter profundity: Jesus told us to love our neighbours. He also said to love our enemies. Likely because they are the same people.

Hope to see you on Sunday.

October 13, 2008

Looking Ahead to October 19, 2008 -- 23rd Sunday After Pentecost, Anniversary Sunday

This Sunday marks (to the day) Riverview's 55th Anniversary. To celebrate we will have a potluck lunch after church.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Deuteronomy 30:1-5, 11-20
  • Psalm 46 (VU p.770)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22

The Hymns this week are:
  • 315 Holy Holy Holy
  • 579 The Church is Wherever God's People
  • 660 How Firm a Foundation
  • 420 Go To The World

The sermon title is Choose Life…

Early Thoughts: IS it really that easy? Just an either/or choice? Life or death, God or Caesar, hope or despair? What choices do we need to make today for a hope-filled future? After 55 years, where will we be on our 60th Anniversary?

This passage from Deuteronomy is one of my favourite passages of Scripture. It makes it seem so simple. Two choices, which will you make? But it also reminds us that choices matter. Choices make a difference.

But if only our choices were so clear cut. Moses suggests that the options are clear -- follow God's path or the path of the world around us. Jesus suggests it is easy to identify what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar. But we live in a world where we know full well that the grays overwhelm the black and white. The choices are hard to make.

This week we mark 55 years of ministry in Atikokan. And as we mark that event, we need to acknowledge that the way ahead is unclear at best. What choices lead us to life in abundance both as a congregation and as a community? What choices lead to stagnation? What choices lead to death (and is death a failure?)? These are hard questions to answer.

In fact, I am not entirely sure we have the answers to these questions. We need to find them. We need to ask ourselves where God is calling. We need to think seriously about what our priorities are. We need to look closely for the hints that God leaves for us out there. Where is God leading us? And where will we be on our 60th anniversary?

Let's open ourselves to God's calling. Let's open ourselves to hard choices. And may God help us find the choices that lead to life, and that in abundance.

October 09, 2008

Presbytery Report

Cambrian Calls, the summary of our Presbytery meeting at the end of September is now online. You can find it here

October 07, 2008

Looking Ahead to October 12, 2008 -- Thanksgiving Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Deuteronomy 8:7-18
  • Psalm 65 (VU p.782)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
  • From the Gospel: Luke 17:11-19
The Hymns this week are:
  • 236 Now Thank We All Our God
  • 227 For the Fruit of All Creation
  • 226 For the Beauty of the Earth
  • 217 All Creatures of Our God and King
The sermon title is Dayeinu!

Early Thoughts: When is it enough? Do we know? How does that knowledge (or lack thereof) impact our ability/willingness to give thanks?

There is a song sung at Passover that says If our God had simply...Dayeinu Dayeinu means "it would have been enough. The verses of the song go through a list of the various things God has done for God's people and each time says "That would have been enough". But of course God keeps doing more.

I think Dayeinu is a song of thanksgiving. It is a song that reminds the singer of all the things that God has done. And so I ask what verses we would sing. What would we name that God has done and say "that would be enough"?

What does "enough" mean anyway? Does enough mean all our needs are met? Does it mean all our wants are satisfied? In a world where we are deluged with advertising that suggests we always need something else are we even able to recognize "enough" anymore?

Thanksgiving is a time to recognize what "enough" means. Thanksgiving is a time to remember how God has gifted us. When we once again remember what "enough" means, when we can start to believe that "that would have been enough", we are better able to give thanks. Thanksgiving may have begun as a harvest festival but it is about far more than harvest. Thanks giving is an act of faith, a way of life, a different way of seeing the world.

Join us this Sunday as we explore when we could say Dayeinu. And who knows, there may be some singing involved in that exploration...

October 06, 2008

Thanksgiving Music

This Sunday is Thanksiving. Here is an old favourite of a thanksgiving hymn: