April 28, 2009

Looking Ahead to May 3, 2009 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 4:5-12
  • Psalm 23 (VU p.749)
  • From the Gospel: John 10:11-18
The Hymns this week are:
  • #559 Come, O Fount of Every Blessing
  • #747 The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • #271 There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
  • #326 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • The Sermon title is Courage in the Shelter of the Shepherd

    Early Thoughts:What comfort is there in having a shepherd? What does a shepherd offer to us?

    It is a difficult image for many of us to appreciate. What is the appeal of having a shepherd? But it is a classic image of comfort within the Christian witness.

    ANd so we need to unpack the image. We need to look for the hope in beign called sheep in need of a shepherd. Especially since many of us have never seen a herd of sheep or really know what a shepherd does.

    Now then, as we look at the passage from John (including verses 1-10) we see that the shepherd is a fully committed caretaker and protector. In the Psalm we hear that the shepherd provides what is needed for life and health. And so we need to explore this image so that we too can find the courage to rest in the arms and shelter of the shepherd.

April 27, 2009

Sunnycove 2009

The United Church Camp at Sunnycove this year will be July 20-24 (leaders July 19-25).

The theme is Hi God and will be looking at prayer.

Camp forms are now available from Gord or the church office.

Board MEeting Highlights

The Church Board met last Thursday. Here are some highlights from that meeting:

  • the stained glass windows are nearing completion. One is done and the other will be within a week. Help is needed to mount the lightboxes and windows on the chancel wall.
  • we are still looking for 2 Board members
  • remember the Scott Woods Fiddle Concert on May 8th. Tickets are still available.
  • on Mother's Day, May 10, there will be a pancake brunch after church
  • plans are being made to do the June BBQ in a different way. More news will come after the May Board meeting
  • to clear up confusion on the financial statements the Envelope and Non-Envelope lines will be changed to one line called "Givings"
  • as of the end of March we are in a deficit position but we are approximately $3000 better than we were last year at this time.
  • a proposal to request a grant to help pay for needed renovation work in the Manse bathroom is being put together
  • there will be a clean-up of the church grounds on May 19th at 1:00
  • we are planning a worship service and picnic out at Quetico Park for June 28

April 21, 2009

Looking Ahead to April 26, 2009 -- 3rd Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 3:12-19
  • Psalm 4 (VU p.727)
  • From the Gospel: John 20:1-18
The Hymns this week are:
  • #371 Open My Eyes, That I May See
  • In the Garden (insert)
  • #186 Now the Green Blade Rises
  • #624 Give to Us Laughter
The Sermon title is Resurrected, Not Resuscitated – Transformation, Not Life As Usual

Early Thoughts:What is our Easter hope? Is it a revitalization of what went before or something new? What do we want?

As we read the appearance stories in the gospels it is obvious that people seemed to have trouble recognizing the Risen Christ. In this passage from John Mary thinks he is the Gardener. In Luke's story of travelers on the road it is a simple stranger they meet. Only in the saying of a name or the breaking of the bread is Christ revealed. There has to have been something different.

It has been my experience that when we get too heavily involved in "what really happened" discussions around Easter we miss its meaning. Those discussions get bogged down in trying to prove the bodily resurrection and I have found that this focus leads to a vision of resurrection as resuscitating the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth. A holy defibrillator as it were.

But that isn't what Easter is. Easter is a moment of new life, of transformation, of God's YES causing the beginning of something new (this being the same God who speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah saying Behold, I am doing something new). And so being an Easter people means being people who remain open to real resurrection. It means being open to be transformed, to letting go of our need to maintain the familiar and the comfortable.

And of course that is harder. It is so much easier to simply hope for a return to what was before. IT would be nice to say that our hope is for a renewal of all that we find helpful and comfortable. Transformation and change is harder, scarier.

Nevertheless, that is what Easter invites into. So what transformations, what new life are we looking for right now? What does resurrection mean for our economy
(locally and globally)? What does it mean for our churches (as congregations and as denominations)? What deaths are out there paving the way for new life to happen? What do we need to let go of to embrace God's new thing?

WE are an Easter people. Our hope as an Easter people lies in the promise of resurrection. But that promise may take a form unrecognizable to us at first. May God help us to allow our eyes to be opened to see Easter.

April 14, 2009

Looking Forward to April 19, 2009 -- 2nd Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings the week are:
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 4:32-35
  • Psalm 126 (VU p.850)
  • From the Gospel: John 20:19-31
The Hymns this week are:
  • #402 We Are One
  • #352 I Danced in the Morning
  • MV #162 Christ Within Us Hidden (insert)
  • #312 Praise with Joy the World’s Creator
The Sermon Title is: Resurrected But Still Wounded

Early Thoughts: Why focus on the wounds? Why isn't a resurrected Christ freed from the wounds of crucifixion?

When many people look ahead to a new life, to the victory of resurrection over whatever is is in their lives that is death-dealing, they tend to have a utopian view. There is a hope tht when the new life comes the struggles and pains and woundedness of this world will be left behind.

But that isn't what our story says. In both Luke and John there is reference to the Risen Christ showing people the wounds in his hands and feet. And for much of Christian history we have had mystics who claim to bear the marks of the cross, the stigmata as a result of a mystical encounter with Christ. What's up tith this focus on the wounds?

Part of the focus in Christian thought has been that the wounds of Christ are tied to the salvation event. But I think that is only part. Part of the importance of the wounds in the appearance stories is to show that the Risen Christ is also the crucified JEsus. For those who read the GOspel story as a fact-based history it is also proof of a bodily resurrection. But again I find there is more to it.

No matter what happens we carry our wounds forward with us. THere are scars that never fully fade. THe choice is what we do with them. Do we huddle over our wounds and scars, nursing them and not getting over their causes? OR do we accept that they have happened and move forward into a new life? Do we learn from our wounds or do we allow our wounds to shape our whole being?

Resurrection is an event tht happens over and over in our lives if we let it. TO let resurrection happen we need to have a healthy approach to our wounds and sccars. Yes we learn from them. YEs they become a part of us. But if we truly embrace resurrection then we become more than we were. We are not our wounds. WE are not what we once were. THat is the challenge of being an Easter-people. We have to move beyond nursing our wounds, beyond wanting to have themm made all better and into the new place where we have a new relationship with those wounds.

SO everybody bring your wonds to the church and let us, as a community of wounded people, figure out how to live as resurrected people.

April 12, 2009

Death has been defeated!!!
God has said YES where the world said NO!!!
The stone has been rolled away!
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed!!!

April 07, 2009

Looking Forward to April 12, 2009 -- Easter Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 25:6-9
  • Psalm 118:1-4, 19-24 (VU p.837 Parts 1 & 3)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 16:1-8
The Hymns this week are:
  • 155 Jesus Christ is Risen Today
  • MV 122 This is the Day that God has Made (insert)
  • 173 Thine is the Glory
  • 468 Let us Talents and Tongues Enjoy
After the Meditation we will hear and see an Easter Message from the Right Reverend David Giuliano, Moderator of the United Church of Canada

The title of the Meditation is Resurrection – Feel the Fear, Believe Anyway

Early Thoughts: There is something terrifying about the resurrection stories, at least if you read them from the point of view of the women going to the tomb. The truth of resurrection in the Gospels has to deal with that fear.

Mark is the earliest Gospel we have. The writer is the first person to attempt a description of Easter morning (while Paul writes earlier and confesses an Easter faith he never talks about what we call Easter morning). And in the earliest from it ends with the women running away in fear, telling nobody anything.

Obviously the story doesn't stop there. Obviously Mark's community knows that there is more to the story (and in fact there were verses added to the ending later that included an appearance by the Risen Christ). But this is where we get left. Not with joy and celebration but with fear and wondering.

And I think that is a good entry into being an Easter people. Too often we pass over that aspect of the story because we know how it ends. But as I look at it one of the miracles of the Easter event is that a group of terrified people found the faith to believe anyway. Easter isn't about debating what "really" happened. Easter is about finding the way to move beyond the fear of death into new life.

There is a lot of fear in the world right now. What will push us to feel the fear and believe anyway? What draws us into resurrection?

Looking ahead to April 10, 2009 -- Good Friday

The Scripture Passages are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
  • From the Gospel: Mark 14:1-15:41
  • Psalm 22 (VU p.744 Part One)
The Hymns are:
  • 144 Were You There
  • 182 Stay With Us Through the Night
The Meditation The Powers of Death will focus on naming those powers. Good Friday is the day they appear to win. What does the cross mean? Is it only seen as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice? Or is it a naming of the reality of the world of empire and oppression? Is it a theological statement or a political statement?