December 31, 2008

Upcoming Events

THis post will stay on top until the end of the year. Expand it to see the events:

  • September 18 -- Church Board Meets at 6:30
  • September 25-28 -- Cambrian Presbytery Fall Meeting at First United Church in Dryden. Gord will chair the meeting.
  • September 28 -- As Presbytery Chair, Gord will attend Rev. Scott Gale's covenanting service with the Broadway-Pinegrove Pastoral Charge in Thunder Bay (Service to be held at Pinegrove United Church).
  • October 5 -- Worldwide Communion Sunday, Communion will be celebrated.
  • October 5 -- As Presbytery Chair, Gord will attend Rev. Barb Miller's covenanting service at Knox United Church in Fort Frances.
  • October 6 -- UCW Meets
  • October 15-16 -- Gord will represent Cambrian Presbytery at the Conference Executive meeting in Winnipeg
  • October 19 -- in worship this Sunday we will mark the 55th Anniversary of Riverview United Church. We will continue our celebration with a pot-luck lunch after church.
  • October 23 -- Worship at Extended Care Wing at 10:45
  • November 1 -- Indoor Yard Sale at Riverview. For information on renting a table call the church office.
  • November 3 -- UCW Meets
  • November 15 -- UCW Bazaar
  • November 27 -- Worship at Extended Care Wing at 10:45
  • November 30 -- First Sunday of Advent, Communion will be celebrated, Tree-trimming party to follow service.
  • December 1 -- UCW Meets
  • December 14 -- Blue Christmas Service
  • December 14 -- White Gift Sunday and Christmas Pageant
  • December 24 -- Christmas Eve Service at 7:00 pm

December 30, 2008

Looking Forward to January 4, 2009 -- Epiphany Sunday

This Sunday we hear again the Epiphany story-the visit of the Magi. We will also be celebrating communion. Following the service we will "de-decorate" from Christmas.

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 60:1-6
  • Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 (VU p.790 Parts 1 & 2)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
The Hymns for this Sunday are:
  • 91 The First Nowell
  • We Three Kings (insert)
  • 74 What Child is This
  • 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
The Sermon title is Bringing What Gifts?

Early Thoughts: If got caught up in the procession of the Magi what would we have to offer the baby? In the present what gifts do we have to share as part of our call to be agents of God in the world?

As I sit here this morning I have 2 songs running through my head. One tells the tale of a poor boy caught up with some strangers visiting a new-born king. And when he gets there he feels inadequate because "I am a poor boy too...I have no gift to bring...That's fit to give a king...". The other is the final verse of Christina Rosetti's hymn In the Bleak Mid-Winter:
What shall I bring 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
The Epiphany story is one about sharing gifts. It tells of strangers from the East, the Magi, who come bearing precious (and symbolic) gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. It highlights many possible themes and sermon questions (which is good since it comes up every year). Why have these non-Jews come to see the baby? What do we do about Herod's response to "the one who is born the King of the Jews"? And also this year's question, the same one asked by the little drummer boy. What gift do I have?

The word Epiphany means God-Made-Manifest. It calls us to be open to how God is active and visible in our world. And as people of faith we are called to respond to the presence of God. In Matthew's story the response was to offer those strange gifts. Our response should be to offer our gifts. But what gifts?

Over the years I have heard many people claim that they have no gifts to share. Mind you they usually say that while very busy sharing their gifts. It is my firm belief that we all have something to share. And I also believe that what we have to share can (usually does) change over the course of our lives. The challenge is two-fold. One to figure out what those gifts are. The other is to be able to name them as gifts and not "just something I do".

This Sunday we will discuss a bit more about our gifts, about naming them, about sharing them, about discovering them. And maybe then we will join the Drummer Boy in offering what seems a small gift and be met with the smile of God. Pa-rum-pa-pa-pum, rum-pa-pa-pum, rum-pa-pa-pum...

December 15, 2008

The theme for this week is Be Not Afraid Justice Shall be Done

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
  • From the Gospel: Luke 1:47-55 (VU p.898)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 1:68-79 (VU p.900)
The Hymns this week are
  • 1 O Come, O Come Emmanuel (vss 1,3,5,7)
  • 44 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • 899 Song of Mary
  • 46 Gentle Mary Laid Her Child
The sermon title is Songs of Justice

Early Thoughts: There is something revolutionary about Christmas. The coming of the babe in the manger brings a new changed world. Are you ready for God's justice to break into the world? Are you ready for the kingdom to come?

We tend to have a romantic vision of Mary. From the moment of the Annunciation through to the stable she is seen as a meek willing servant of God. And the Christmas story itself is romanticized with sweet smelling hay and gentle animals and a baby who "no crying he makes".

But Christmas has a revolutionary side to it. In a column for the Progress in 2002 I wrote:
...Mary sings a song that is nothing less than revolutionary. In Luke 1:47-55 Mary sings about the promise of God to overturn the tables of the powerful. Mary calls for the world to be reordered, for justice to be done, for the Reign of God to begin. This is the truth of Christmas.

On Christmas day we celebrate the birth of the child that sparked Mary 's song. As an adult this child would proclaim his ministry with words that echoed his mother's cry for justice (Luke 4:18-19). If we follow the path he followed, then we need to join in the struggle to fill the hungry with good things, to lift up the lowly, and to free those who are oppressed. On Christmas we mark the beginning of the revolution that will bring on the age of peace, the age where lion lies down with lamb and all have that which they need to live.

Christian faith is not mainly about individuals feeling good about themselves. It is not mainly about life beyond this one. Christian faith is mainly about how we live together in this life, it is about community. The path laid out by the Christ child is one of justice in this world. At Christmas we are flooded with requests for charity. But to truly celebrate Christmas we need to do more than write the cheques and donate the food.

The true Christmas gift is to make changes in society so that people don't need our donations to make it through the cold winter. What will our gift be this year?

This year, as we prepare once again to sing about angels and shepherds, I urge us once more to hear Mary's song of revolution. This year let us join in the revolution of faith - a faith that calls for a world renewed, a people restored, and a hope fulfilled.
This Sunday we will read one of the most revolutionary texts in all of Scripture. In fact reading it is rumoured to have been banned at times (I'll check into that and let you know on Sunday). Mary's song is a song of God's Justice. It is a song that calls for the world order to be turned on its head. So too is Zechariah's song, albeit a little less forcefully.

At Christmas we talk about light breaking through the darkness of oppression and inequity. We talk about God choosing to come to earth as a member of the underclass. We talk about the God who brings freedom to the captive, who dethrones the mighty, who sends messengers to lead us in The Way.

As the Christmas revolution takes hold, which side will we find ourselves on? How will we join in the songs of justice?

December 13, 2008

SO the Church Geeks amongst us can enjoy!

OR at least that would be my guess.

The General COuncil Office now has a link to a variety of Church Documents. This includes minutes of GCE and letters from the MOderator and other stuff (with more to be added I assume.

You can find it here

December 11, 2008

Christmas Messages from the Moderator

AS Christmas draws near the National Church has published a number of messages from the Right Reverend David Giuliano, Moderator of the United Church of Canada.

David has written a prayer for peace in Bethlehem. Read some background about this here

Or you could read the Observer piece Our Place in the Pageant

ANd then there is David's video message from the United Church YouTube channel Watch it below:

December 02, 2008

Looking Ahead to December 7, 2008 -- 2nd of Advent

The theme this week is Be not afraid prophetic peace be with you

This week we will be celebrating the sacrament of baptism with two children being baptised.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Psalm 72 (VU p.790)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 3:7-18
The Hymns this week are:
  • O What a Wonderful Gift (insert)
  • 644 I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry
  • 18 There’s a Voice in the Wilderness
  • 27 Tomorrow Christ is Coming
The sermon title is Peace for Our Children

Early Thoughts: What is this peace for which we pray? Prophetic passages often seem wrathful and angry, not peaceful. But is there peace to be found there?

Every parent wonders about it at one time or another. What sort of world will my children grow up in? Will it be better or will it fall apart? Will my children and their friends know peace or conflict, prosperity or poverty, contentment or anxiety, hope or despair?

The Scripture promise is that of a world of peace. But this peace is a differenrt vision than the peace of empire (be it Davidic/Judean, or Babylonian, or Roman or American). Imperial peace is based on crushing the opposition. Imperial peace is based not the iron fist keeping the "rabble" in their place. The books we call Scripture were largely written as a protest against domination and Imperial peace. SCripture's vision of peace is based in justice and abundance for all.

The peace we wish for our children is that broader vision. The peace we are promised is what Isaiah describes often, including the passage we read this week. But how do we get there? How do we prepare the way for the reign of peace?

Biblical prophecy is an interesting animal. It really is not (as many assume) about predicting the future. More it is about truth-telling, calling people to account, naming the consequences of behaviour. Andso a lot of prophetic language appears wrathful and mean. John the Baptist is an excellent example. Apparently John is unfamiliar with diplomatic niceties and gentle language. Instead he calls the powerful in his world a brood of vipers and talks about an axe that will cut them down. Little wonder that John's career came to an untimely and bloody end.

But if we are serious about working towards the peace promised by scripture we need to pay heed to the role of the prophet. Only when we listen to the voices that name our reality for what it is can we see what might need to be changed. Only when we are willing to have our own culpability in the world's disfunction brought to light are we able to move forward. The prophets have a key role in preparing the way for God's work to happen.

What needs to happen to pass on true peace to our children? What preparations do we need to make? In three weeks we celebrate the birth of one who was called the Prince of Peace. At Christmas we remind ourselves that God breaks into the world to try and create the world God envisions. As we prepare for that in-breaking, how do we prepare for the vision?