January 26, 2009

Looking Ahead to February 1, 2009 -- 4th Sunday After Epiphany, Annual Meeting Sunday

Following our worship this Sunday all are invited (and encouraged) to stay for our Annual Congregational Meeting.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 40:21-31
  • Psalm 147:1-11 (VU p.869 Part 1)
  • Mark 1:29-39
The Hymns this week are:
  • 221 Sing Praise to God
  • 579 The Church is Wherever God's People
  • 79 Arise, Your Light is Come
  • 424 May the God of Hope Go with Us
The Sermon Title is Ready for the Eagle’s Wings?

Early Thoughts: Sometimes we all feel faint. Sometimes exhaustion seems right around the bend. We could stand being lifted up on wings as of eagles.

On this Sunday when we celebrate the ministry of our congregation it is worth reminding ourselves where our strength and energy come from. Isaiah reminds us that when we rely on and trust in God we will renew our strength.

As we look forward to a new year of ministering together may we rise up as on wings of eagles. May we run and not grow weary.

January 20, 2009

Looking Ahead to January 25, 2009 -- 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
  • Psalm 62 (VU p. 779)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
The Hymns for this week are:
  • 374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
  • 117 Jesus Christ is Waiting
  • 562 Jesus Calls Us
  • 649 Walk With Me
The Sermon title is Out of Crisis, New Hope

Early Thoughts: What do you do when the world falls apart? When your leader has been taken away? Do you panic or do you look for hope?

You could understand why some of them would be afraid. John, the leader of their movement, the one who had baptised them in the Jordan, had been arrested. That his ministry and life were effectively (if not literally) over was in no doubt. What happens now?

It is into this wondering and possible panic that Jesus comes, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is high. In the midst of a crisis Jesus brings new hope. ANd this, it seems, is often how God acts. In the times of crisis God finds away to bring new hope to those who are ready to see it.

As I write these early thoughts I am listening to the inaugural address of the 44th President of the United States -- Barack Hussein Obama. President Obama is, for many people both in the US and around the world, a eacon of hope and promise. Indeed hope is a common theme in the commentary around the events of this day. ANd part of that is because we find ourselves in crisis. How is God acting in our world today? Where are the signs that the Kingdom is nigh?

To be honest I don't know. I am not really sure that the new president is the sign of hope, a sign maybe but not the sign. But I believe sincerely that in the darkest times GOd is laying out crumbs that will lead us to the kingdom. The reality is that life for some of us may yet get darker, we may go deeper into crisis but in the midst of our crises God sends hope.

President Obama mentioned in his address that the challenges facing us are real. On Sunday he reminded people that these challenges will not be overturned easily or quickly. BUt as long as there is hope there is possibility. In the midst of life's crises we have but one real antidote -- the hope that conquers fear. In the midst of our crisis-riddled, chaotic world GOd brings out a new hope. The Kingdom of GOd is nigh. But how do we find it?

January 15, 2009

Minister's Annual Report

It is Annual report season. Expand the post to see Gord's submission

Here we are again at Annual Report time. As I sit down to write this year I find two words on my mind: sustainability and viability. Often over the past year I have had occasion to wonder what in our world has both of those qualities. It is my opinion that we need to highlight and build on those things we do that are sustainable and let go of the things that are not. We also need to find ways to increase our viability both by encouraging our strengths or opportunities and by counteracting our threats or weaknesses.

As I look at it this congregation has many strengths. We have a committed core group of people who are willing to help us live out our mission in the community. We have a building that allows us to host groups large and small. We have people who are passionate about our life together. A source of pride this year in particular was our hosting of the Community Kids Christmas Party in December. These are things that show our viability.

Then there are things we need to sustain. We provide not only a place but a supportive family with which we can celebrate life’s joys and sorrows. And so we join with our friends and neighbours to say farewell in memorial services, and to celebrate births and marriages. As individuals we provide a supportive presence in the community at large. In 2008 we marked 55 years worshipping and living together as a congregation. 55 years of ministry in Atikokan. This is a great gift.

And what about the future? After all that is really what discussions about sustainability and viability tend to focus on. What will keep us thriving? What can we keep doing and what do we need to give up? These are the hard questions we need to face.

And let us be totally honest. They are questions which easily could leave us wanting. As mentioned in a letter from the Board earlier this year our financial sustainability is highly questionable. From a strict financial perspective we are simply either spending too much or not taking in enough. At the same time a ministry perspective makes me wonder if we are spending enough. Would one of the signs of a viable, sustainable congregation be that our spending actually increased? (I have a dream that someday we would be doing so well that we as a congregation could offer half our Christmas Eve offering to another charity in town as our Christmas gift to the town.)

But that lies solely in our future. Right now the only quick fix to our financial situation would be if your clergy person decided to work for free (and no that is not an offer). And so we have to seriously search what our options are both in terms of money and in terms of how we do ministry.

The other question about our sustainability/viability lies in our people. Many of us are tired. As wonderful as our volunteers are it seems that we recycle the same ones all the time. If we are to be viable in the long term we need to infect other people with a passion for the work of the church. (As it happens that same infection would help with our financial viability too.)

A new year is beginning. With a new year comes new possibilities. As we move forward we celebrate the past and wonder about the future. What choices will we make to highlight our strengths and build on our opportunities? How will we counter our weaknesses and threats?

January 12, 2009

Looking Ahead to January 18, 2008 -- 2nd Sunday After Epiphany, Year B

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Gospel: John 1:43-51
  • Psalm 139 (VU p.861)
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: 1 Samuel 3:1-20
The Hymns this week are:
  • 410 This Day God Gives Me
  • 299 Teach Me God to Wonder
  • 509 I, the Lord of Sea and Sky
  • 567 Will You Come and Follow Me
The Sermon Title is You Want ME to Say WHAT?

Early Thoughts: It can be hard enough to hear God's call. But sometimes that little voice seems to make really outrageous requests. What do we do then?

I love the story of Samuel's call. There is the almost comic picture of young Samuel running back and forth waking up Eli (as a parent may I suggest that Eli was being exceptionally patient at this disruptions). Then there is the light bulb moment when old Eli clues in. Then the soft voice of a child saying "speak, your servant is listening". As the story continues Samuel becomes the last great judge of Israel. He anoints 2 kings (Saul and David) and watches over the transition to a monarchical society (while warning what will happen as a result of that change). And it all starts with a young child hearing a voice in the night.

Normally we read this story and stop at verse 10. It is used as a story about the difficulty of recognizing when God is calling. But it gets even more interesting if we read the next 10 verses. Read the first message that Samuel is given. He is told that he has to tell Eli (his mentor, his caretaker, his surrogate parent) that Eli's house is doomed. Sometimes we hear the call and really wish we hadn't heard so clearly.

So what do we do when the message seems unpleasant? What do we do when we feel called to do and/or say things that we know will bring sorrow or worse?

The first thing to do is to check out with someone. Denominations have processes so that someone who feels called to ministry is examined, talked to, worked with. This is to test the sense of call. It is also to weed out the disasters in waiting. When we feel called to do things that might cause upset it is good to have trusted friends/mentors/counselors with whom we can talk about the call, to test out what we think we are to do.

The next thing to do is to determine how best to do it. It is one thing to see yourself as a prophet. It is simply mean-spirited to share your message in a way that seeks to hurt others or is not seeking to find a way forward.

Church people the world over are faced with the Samuel choice these days. Many of us feel the need --the compulsion even-- to challenge common wisdom, to name that the current situation is untenable. What we have to do is determine how to share that prophetic voice. And believe me there are days when we can only ask "I am going to say WHAT now?" (and maybe wonder if our resume is up to date-just in case it doesn't go well)

January 06, 2009

Looking Forward to January 11, 2009 -- Baptism of Jesus Sunday

Gord has had to go out of town this week. Thanks to Elvin for stepping in at short notice to provide worship leadership.

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 1:1-5
  • Psalm 29 (VU p. 756)
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 19:1-7
  • From the Gospel: Mark 1:4-11

The Hymns for this week are:
  • 87 I Am the Light of the World
  • 442 Wash Us, God, Our Sons and Daughters (adult baptism words)
  • 449 Crashing Waters at Creation (tune #2)
  • 79 Arise Your Light is Come

January 03, 2009

Advance Notice for Annual Meeting

The Annual Congregational meeting this year will be on February 1.

One of the items of business will be a proposed congregational structure document. There are copies of this available at the church for review beforehand. If you can't find one please talk to Gord.