February 26, 2009

The Moderator Speaks on the Economy as a Pyramid Scheme

The Right Reverend David Giuliano, Moderator of the United Church has written letters. THis one is to the church (reprinted in full in the expanded post). This one is to the country as a whole. COverage of this has hit the national papers as shown by this article from Calgary.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Greetings in the name of Jesus, who came that all might have life abundant, and in the name of the Creator, whose breathtaking abundance has filled the earth with good things.

This month it was announced in the small town where I live that the mill is closing down. Everyone here—builders to bakers, teachers to preachers—works directly or indirectly for the mill or the already vanishing mines. A spirit of dread and anxiety is settling among us. It feels like a microcosm of what is happening to the economy across the country and around the world.

I have written an open letter about the economy to all Canadians. I won’t repeat those ideas here. I am now writing to you as family—brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. I am writing to you more personally because of this profound bond we share. The current economic challenge is calling us to be church in riskier ways than we are used to. I want to encourage you to trust your faith and to take those risks.

We are called to risk compassion

We follow the one who said that to serve him we need look no further than those who are hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, lonely, or in prison. We will find Jesus among the many physically and spiritually homeless and hungry. Caring in practical ways for those wounded by this volatile economy is our first call. I am praying that we will respond with creativity, radical hospitality, and expansive generosity.

We are called to risk a new Way

We are called to proclaim in word and action God’s dream for the world. Jesus called it the “kingdom of God.” All around the earth, people are beginning to question the logic of an economic system that values the rights of shareholders above the needs of human beings. We are awakening to the insatiable consumption that is destroying God’s creation. We are God’s witnesses for an alternative vision of a world where the needs of all prevail over the greed of a few. Times of great turmoil are also times of great opportunity for transformation. This is a time for prophetic and creative leadership.

We are called to risk as the body of Christ

Most of you are in some way already engaged in the ministry of Christ in the world. As communities of faith, we embody the Spirit and love of God. Our particular context and resources will shape our responses at this time. Maybe you will gather neighbours for a meal and talk together about local needs. Or host weekly “common table” meals. Add some storytelling or music to lift one another’s spirits. Provide office, personal, and job search support for those who are looking for work.

Food banks, shelters, and global partners need your help. Demands on our Mission and Service Fund are growing. Maybe you will visit or write a note of encouragement to someone working for change.

Congregations with property or trust funds may consider how they can best serve at this time. Make space for a think tank on the environment and economy, or invest in a green enterprise. Wealthier congregations could fund work in hard hit areas. Listen, dream, and act.

I will also ask the Executive of the General Council at its March meeting to consider how we can best help congregations and community ministries like yours reach out imaginatively and compassionately to Canadians hurt by the economic crisis.

We are not alone

When I first heard the news about our mill, my heart sank. As just one person against such powerful forces, it seems overwhelming. But we are not alone. We are connected to our brothers and sisters in our local congregation. We are part of a network of United Church communities across the country. As church, we can do more for our neighbours together. We are surrounded by countless others of faith and goodwill. God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

The peace of Christ be with us and through us,
The Right Rev. David Giuliano
The United Church of Canada

February 24, 2009

Looking Ahead to March 1, 2009 -- 1st Sunday of Lent

This Sunday marks the beginning of our Lenten sermon series The C's of Stewardship. Also, as it is the beginning of a new liturgical season we will celebrate the sacrament of Communion. We will also hear a report from last weekend's meeting of Cambrian Presbytery.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 1:26-31
  • Psalm 148 (VU p.871)
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 9:8-17
The Hymns this week are:
  • 111 As the Sun with Longer Journey
  • 303 For Beauty of Prairies
  • 307 Touch the Earth Lightly (tune #409)
  • 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
The Sermon title is Creation – Care and Choices

Early Thoughts: What is the best way to deal with the gift of the earth? How do we balance the needs of our society with the limits of the environment around us? Is growth always a bad thing? Does being "green" have to mean limiting the economy?

It is a hard thing to do. Trying to figure out how best we can live with respect in Creation. Because in the end it is a balancing act after all.

In the Creation story God gives the care of the earth into the male and female that were Created in God's image. Some have seen in that story a license to shape the earth to meet the needs and wants of humanity no matter what the cost. Some have seen in as an act of trust (a trust that has often been broken in many minds). As an issue of stewardship this distinction is of great importance.

There is a Native American saying that we do not own the land, but rather we hold in in trust for our grandchildren. If we see our care of the earth in this way how does that shape our decisions? DO we strive to pass on a great inheritance of wealth and prosperity even if it leaves a natural world in tatters? OR do we bankrupt our economy to ensure we pass on a pristine world? Or is there a third option???

We need to find the third option. we need to find the balance between human wants/needs in the present, what we need to leave for the future, and the needs of the rest of Creation. The covenant of the rainbow is with all of Creation. We need to find the way that we can help all of Creation thrive in order to keep the covenant.

And yes it will come at a cost. Moving from flawed stewardship to healthy stewardship always has a cost. So we will need to talk about the cost of change, and the cost of refusing to acknowledge the need to change. And maybe we need to talk about what the real costs of both are - as well as the real benefits.

Anyway, come on Sunday and join in the discussion.

February 12, 2009

2009 Lenten Sermon Series

(since we had to cancel worship on MArch 1st the readings and themes have been juggled slightly. this list is now updated)

This year during Lent we willl have a Sermon series called The C's of Stewardship. If you expand this post you'll see the sermon titles and Scripture passages we'll be using

Lent 2 – March 8, 2009
Sermon: Creation – Care, and Choices
  • Genesis 1:26-31
  • Genesis 9:8-17
  • Psalm 148
Lent 3 – March 15, 2009
Sermon: Consumption – Cultural Contagion
  • 2 Samuel 12:2-6
  • Luke 12:22-34
  • Exodus 16:14-20
Lent 4 – March 22, 2009
Sermon: Cash or Credit??? -- Tool, Scorecard or Goal??
  • 1 Timothy 6:1-12
  • Luke 12:13-21, 34
  • Psalm 146
Lent 5 – March 29, 2009
Sermon: Charity or Community – What's It All About
  • Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 15:7-11
  • Psalm 41 (VU p.765)
  • Acts 4:32-37
  • Matthew 19:16-26

BIble Study Group

Have you ever wondered what to do with the book of REvelation?

THe last book of the Bible is a plan for the future to some, frightening to others, and confusing to many. Here at Riverview we will be gathering to talk about the book. The study will meet Thursdays at 1:00 in Boyle Lounge starting February 26. We will be using a study created by a retired United Church minister as our resource.

For more information give Gord a call.

February 09, 2009

Looking Ahead to February 15, 2009 -- 6th Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • 2 Kings 5:1-14
  • Psalm 30 (VU p.757)
  • Mark 1:40-45
The Hymns this week are:
  • #222 Come, Let Us Sing
  • #365 Jesus Loves Me
  • #266 Amazing Grace
  • #245 Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet
The Sermon title is: Make Me Clean!

Early Thoughts:How do we bring people back into the fold? What does healing mean? How do we make each other clean?

These are stories about people being allowed back into the community. In the Scriptural world leprosy meant you were unclean and unsafe. It really doesn't matter what the skin disorder was (Scriptural leprosy covers a great deal more than Hansen's Disease or "true leprosy"). If you were declared a leper you were no longer allowed to be part of the community. Ostracism in the name of preventing contagion.

To be healed in such a circumstance was far more than a physical act. To be cured would mean that the skin was clear. But healing meant that people accepted you back in. It is suggested that Naaman was stridently trying to avoid being discovered to have leprosy so as to avoid being ostracised. The leper who meets Jesus is so overjoyed at his healing that he can not keep silent. Ostracism, well it sucks, after all.

In Jewish Law the world is divided into clean/pure/acceptable and unclean/impure/unacceptable. Most of the commandments are focussed on keeping oneself clean and acceptable, or returning to a clean state when uncleanness is unavoided (or unavoidable). But as the Christian tradition developed something strange happened. People started to believe that God really didn't care so much about these divisions. Maybe the divisions themselves were human creations rather than divine ones?

Now let us jump to the present. Who are the lepers among us? When do we ostracise in the name of protection? ANd how do we heal the "unclean" we meet? The challenge of faith is to bring healing into a fractured world. The challenge of faith is to put aside the fears of contagion. What do we need to wash away? How do we show the outsiders that they are welcomed in?

February 03, 2009

Looking Ahead to February 8, 2009 -- 5th Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Deuteronomy 18:15-20
  • Psalm 111 (VU p.833)
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
  • Mark 1:21-28
The hymns this week are:
  • #264 Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
  • #605 Jesus, Teacher, Brave and Bold
  • #326 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • #427 To Show by Touch and Word
The Sermon title is Authority and Example

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to be a role model or example? Why do some people have authority while others only have (or crave) power?

Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and the people are amazed. They say he teaches like one with authority (in an apparent contrast to other teaching). Moses teaches about true prophets with a warning to listen to them for they have God's authority. Paul teaches about being an example to others, to be careful not to lead others astray through your actions. This too is a question of authority.

So what does it mean to have authority? Does it mean being powerful? Perhaps. Power is the ability to get things done. Authority means you have been authorized to use your power. (Idiosyncratically some people have lots of power but no formal authority and some have lots of authority and no actual power.) Jesus, we are told, has both power and authority. Moses had lots of authority. Paul had lots of authority. And the interesting thing about authority is that it has to be given (and accepted) it can't be grabbed. Power, on the other hand, can be both given and grabbed/stolen. Most often authority is given by the gathered community. In the church we formalize this giving of authority by electing leaders in our groups, by covenanting with them in agreements of mutual accountability, and by designating some to roles.

To have authority or to have power means that our actions serve as an example. This is what Paul is talking about with meat. Certainly he could be clearer (he seems to come down on both sides of the "should I eat meat" discussion). But what he is wrestling with is what the "weaker in faith" may find as a path to error. Paul knows that those who are seen to be strong in faith are used, rightly or wrongly, as exemplars by others. And so Paul is counselling us to use our authority and power wisely or carefully.

Who has authority in our world? How and why do we give them that authority? Who has power over our decisions? Who are our exemplars? These are the sorts of questions we will explore on Sunday. Come and join us won't you?