November 24, 2008

Looking Ahead to November 30, 2008 -- 1st of Advent

The theme for this week is Be Not Afraid, a new world is coming

As it is the first Sunday of Advent we will be celebrating the sacrament of communion.

The Scripture Readings are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 65:17-23
  • From the Writings of the Early Church: Revelation 21:1-4
  • From the Gospel: Mark 13:24-37
The Hymns this week are:
  • Advent Hope (insert)
  • 9 People Look East
  • 2 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
  • 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
The meditation title is There's a new world somewhere...

Early Thoughts: Advent means waiting, but what are we waiting for? Is it just a baby born long ago or is there something else?

It seems a little bit strange. As the rest of the world ramps up into a frenzy of gift buying (although maybe not so much this year) and baking and decorating the church starts its season of preparation with a discussion of the end-times. No wonder people sometimes wonder if the church is in step with the world. (Of course a strong argument can be made that the church should not be in step with the world but that is a whole other area for discussion.)

In order to explain why we have this happen we need to ask a whole set of questions. What are we getting ready for? Is Christmas just about the story in Luke's gospel? What hope for the present and future does Christmas offer?

In terms of faith Advent and Christmas are not only about the story of a child in the manger. The power of Christmas is that it speaks of a birth here and now. When we celebrate the birth of Christ we are celebrating God breaking into our world again. The incarnation is not a once and for all event, God becomes incarnate in every human birth (to quote a favorite Advent hymn).

The Scripture passages talk about the coming of a new world, a new time. The new world is coming. The Promised Land is in sight. Every year at Advent we prepare for God to break into our world again, we prepare for the world to be changed.

Because let's be honest, if God being active in the world means anything it means that we will be changed. The world right now may seem chaotic and troubled. There may be many reasons to be afraid. But Advent and Christmas remind us to Be Not Afraid, a new world is coming

November 19, 2008

Help Wanted

As we quickly approach the Advent season we have some opportunities for involvement:
  1. Do you want to light the Advent candles one week or on Christmas Eve? Check out the liturgies here and let Gord know.
  2. We need an adult woman to be our narrator for our Christmas Pageant Mary Remembers on December 14
  3. Also for our pageant we need some props: a wooden chest, a cowbell, some wool (not yarn), and a piece of incense
  4. For Christmas Eve Gord is looking for some teens: one girl to talk about Mary's fear and a boy to talk about the Shepherd's fear. Each of these could be a dialogue or a monologue and either done live in the open, done live as a hidden voice, or pre-recorded. Talk to Gord for more information.
  5. For the Community -- Coming Together for Kids at Christmas party we need people to help in the kitchen preparing and serving hot dogs and beverages. Also we may be looking for help with a clean-up crew that afternoon.

November 18, 2008

Looking Ahead to November 23, 2008 -- Reign of Christ Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
  • Psalm 100 (VU p.824)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
The Hymns this week are:
  • 822 All People That on Earth Do Dwell
  • 713 I See a New Heaven
  • 598 When Pain of the World Surrounds Us
  • 604 In Loving Partnership We Come
The Sermon Title is How Then Shall We Live?

Early Thoughts: We have all heard sermons about how we should live. But how will we live? Are we sheep or goats? How are we to know?

In her song How Then Shall I Live Linnea Good sings:
Took a walk outside of my walking
Stepped inside another’s shoes
Walked the dusty borders between us
Paths I’d never chosen to choose.
How then shall I live?
How then shall I live?
How then shall I live, O God?
How then shall I live?

Saw the world outside of my looking
Gazed upon the eyes of its soul
Felt the hopes and fears of tomorrow
Found the pieces making a whole.
How then…
Took a step outside of my walking
Found within a beat that we share
Walked with the you the length of a lifetime
And made a life of living prayer
How then…
How then …
Matthew tells a parable about how the nations (not just individuals but whole nations) will be judged. And the criterion of note is that of how we treat the "least of these". So how shall we live? How do we know how we are doing?

It is easy to say that feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and visiting the lonely and imprisoned are good things to do. It is even easier to facilitate having someone do those things on our behalf. What is harder is to ask seriously how well it is happening. If the nations of the world were to be judged by that standard today how would we all fare?

In the end, I think we have to look beyond ourselves. I think the only way we can live up to the standard of caring for he least of these is to try and see the world from their eyes. We have to look at the bigger picture, to see the world outside of our looking, to find the alternatives to what we honestly and truly believe is the right and/or only way to do things. When we open ourselves to that we may well find a new beat, a new rhythm to live by. We look to walk and live in God's rhythm.

Oh and on that sheep/goat question? In all likelihood we are sheats (or should that be goep?). A little of both. And that is OK, we just have to be aware of when we are one or the other.

November 17, 2008

Advent/Christmas Theme 2008

Soon it will be Advent. Expand the post to see what the themes are this year:

Nov 30 -- Be Not Afraid, a new world is coming
  • Isaiah 65:17-23
  • Revelation 21:1-4 (Responsive Reading)
  • Mark 13:24-37
Dec 7 -- Be Not Afraid, Prophetic Peace be with you
  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Psalm 72 (VU p.790)
  • Luke 3:7-18
Dec 14 -- Be Not Afraid, sing for joy
  • Pageant Sunday
Dec 21 -- Be Not Afraid Justice shall be done
  • Luke 1:47-55 (VU p.898)
  • Luke 1:68-79 (VU p.900)
  • Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Dec 24 -- Be Not Afraid, the Baby means change
  • Isaiah 9:2-7
  • Luke 1:26-38
  • Luke 2:1-14

November 11, 2008

Looking Ahead to November 16, 2008 -- 27th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
  • Psalm 90:1-12 (VU p.805 Parts 1 & 2)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Thessalonians 5:1-11
The Hymns for this week are:
  • 412 This is the Day
  • 806 O God Our Help in Ages Past
  • 688 O Day of God Draw Nigh
  • 686 God of Grace and God of Glory
The Sermon title is When Daylight comes...

Early Thoughts: What does Scripture mean by "the Day of the Lord"? Is it a Good News story? Is it a warning? How will we know when daylight comes?

As we draw to the close of the Church Year (which starts on the 1st Sunday of Advent and ends on Reign of Christ Sunday) we usually find ourselves dealing with texts that talk about the end-times. This Sunday is a prime example.

Here we talk about the "Day of the Lord". And as with many writings about the end-times there is precious little comfort in Zephaniah's description of that. There is a little more comfort and support in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, but still an undercurrent of fear and warning.

In Scripture the Day of the Lord is often seen as a day of judgement. We in the liberal center of the theological spectrum tend to be uncomfortable talking about God's judgement (the extreme fundamental conservatives and the extreme radical left have much less difficulty -- although those two positions focus their judgement/wrath talk somewhat differently). But really it is part of our story. And it is part of life. Judgement means choosing, it means weighing alternatives and evidence, it means shrewdly making a decision. It needn't be something we fear -- especially because, as Paul reminds us, God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

How will we know when the day of the Lord has come? Will it be with fireworks? Will it be with mass destruction and despair? Will it be with wrath and harshness? Or is the day of the Lord already partially here? When we read the Gospels we find that Jesus proclaims a realm of God that is both here and yet to come (often called the Now and the Not Yet). So what are the signs that dawn is breaking? And how will we know that dawn has truly come?

Lest We Forget

November 04, 2008

THis Needs to Be Read

A Colleague in the US has posted some reflections on the questions that were not asked during the US election campaign. Nor were many of them asked in the Canadian campaign a month ago.

You can read it here.

Looking Forward to November 9, 2008 -- 26th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
  • Psalm 78:1-7 (VU p.792 Part 1)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13
The Hymns this week are:
  • 410 This Day God Gives Me
  • Let There Be Peace on Earth (see insert)
  • 356 Seek Ye First
  • 421 Lead On O God of Presence
The Sermon Title is Split Loyalties

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to proclaim loyalty to someone or something? Are our loyalties that cut and dried? Or are they split apart in different directions?

In regards to this passage from Joshua John Shearman writes:
The conquest and settlement of Canaan completed, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to the holy place at Shechem to renew their covenant Yahweh had initially made with Abraham. He issued a compelling challenge that they should choose to serve the Yahweh as he and his family had chosen to do. They promised to do so too although Joshua warned them of how difficult it would be and the penalty if falling away from their commitment to worship the gods of their foreign neighbours.
At the end of Deuteronomy Moses exhorted the people to choose life by following the commandments the God has provided. Now, at the end of the story of conquest (although the final conquest of the land really isn't complete until the time of David) Joshua asks the people where their loyalty lies. Will they choose the God who has done all these things for them? Or will they follow the other gods they find around them?

The interesting thing is that Joshua doesn't appear to believe the people can keep their commitment. They cry out that they would never forsake God and Joshua is dubious (the history that follows sort of suggests that Joshua was right).

If we were all gathered together and given the Joshua challenge what would we say? What would the other gods be in our setting? Where do our loyalties get split apart? If someone from outer space were to come and study our cities what would they assume to be the focus of our religion?

In the end it is actions that count in the face of the Joshua challenge. Words can be empty, they need actions to back them up. So if we want to join the people at Shechem in proclaiming that we would never forsake God, we need to act in ways that show it. Join us on Sunday as we explore how best to respond to the Joshua challenge.