September 29, 2009

Looking Forward to October 4, 2009 -- Worldwide Communion Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 1 Corinthians 11:17-26
  • From the Gospel: Mark 14:22-26

The Hymns this week are:
  • 457 As We Gather at Your Table
  • 468 Let Us Talents and Tongues
  • 480 Let Us Break Bread Together
  • 402 We Are One

This week we will have a report from last weekend's meeting of Cambrian Presbytery. (You can read about the meeting here

The Sermon Title is The Banquet of Hope

Early Thoughts: What is this thing we call communion? Is it a somber solemn event of mourning and remembrance or a joyful banquet of the kingdom of God?

It is both of course. Over the course of Christian history and theology a variety of understandings of Communion/Eucharist have developed.

It is my opinion tht we focus on different aspects of communion at different times. Sometimes it is indeed most appropriate to focus on the meal of memory and sacrifice. Sometimes there is a focus on the salvation found in the cross. Sometimes howver we need to focus on the nature of the meal as a foretaste of the reign of God.

My preferred theology of communion is that last one. When we gather at the table for this meal we are pre-figuring the banquet of hope and celebration when the words "thy kingdom come, thy will be done" have come to be a reality. ANd so this is where I am leaning as we prepare to celebrate Worldwide COmmunion Sunday. THe meal which unites us is the great sign of hope that we shall one day be in fact united.

Besides, we seem to need a reminder of hope these days.

September 18, 2009

Board Meeting Highlights

The monthly meeting of the Church Board happened yesterday. Expand the post to see highlights from the meeting:

  • on September 27 (while Gord and Elvin are at Presbytery) Riverview is pleased to welcome Rev. Lorn Calvert, Principal of St. Andrew's College who is coming to preach.
  • Brian Jackson has completed the Lay Worship LEader training program and the Board was happy to recommend to Cambrian Presbytery that Brian be licensed as a Lay WOrship LEader
  • Church School began last Sunday.  This yer the theme for Church School is Singing with the Psalms
  • a Bible Study on the book of Mark will be held this fall.  A study called What does the United Church Believe? will be held starting in January
  • ADADS cleaned the carpet this summer and has just finished stripping and waxing the floors
  • Gord will be attending a Technology in Worship workshop in Fort FRances on October 17, talk to him if you would be interested in attending
  • Gord will be going to Rainy River to give a funeral leadership workshop and taking a Sunday service November 7-8
  • Our next communion service will be on October 4
  • The Board is still short 2 memebers and at least 2 people have decided that they will not be putting their names forward to continue on the Board when their term comes due in January.  We urge everyone to consider if they are called to this ministry in the church.
  • AS of the end of August we are running a deficit for 2009 of approximately $8 600.  This eliminates our equity/cash cushion.  A letter about the church finances will be sent to the whole congregation in early October. 
  • The next Board meeting is scheduled for October 15 at 6:30

September 15, 2009

Looking Ahead to September 20, 2009 -- 16th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture REadings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
  • Psalm 1 (VU p.724)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 8:27-38

The Hymns this week are:
  • 410 This Day God Gives Me (verses 1,3,4)
  • 585 Jesus Bids Us Shine
  • 580 Faith of Our Fathers
  • 424 May the God of Hope Go With Us

The Sermon title is Who DO We Say We Are?

Early Thoughts: How would we answer Jesus' question? WHat is our faith statement? Are we willing to take the risks of faith?

It really is a faith question JEsus asks. It isn't just "what are they saying about me?". Jesus pushes it to the next level. WHo do YOU say I am? WHat do you believe about me? WHat are you seeing/hearong/learning? ANd that is the question that continues to echo through the ages. Still each of us is asked "Who do you say I am?"

And our answer needs to be meaningful and personal. It is suggested that if PEter was a modern Jesus scholar the exchange might have gone something like this:
Jesus said, "Who do they say that I am." They replied, some say
Elijah, some John the Baptist, others one of the prophets." And he said, but who do YOU say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the ground of our being, the ontological kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationships." And Jesus said, "...What?"
The answer needs to have meaning, not couched in jargon, not just rote recitation of the faith of our fathers. THe answer has to be ours, for our context, for our time. Who is Jesus for us? How is God active in our midst?

As we read on, Jesus then proceeds to talk about the cost of discipleship. Only when we are secure in our faith can we dare to take the path he lays out. It is risky to go out to bear the cross --And let's be clear. Jesus is not talking about "Our cross to bear" as we often do (an illness or a hardship). Jesus is talking about taking the risky path that leads to isolation and being set apart and ridiculed and death.-- with hope and confidence. We need to have a sense that we do it for a purpose.

So what do we believe? What do we say about Jesus and God and the world? How do we express it? HOw do we live it? These are teh questions that this passage raise in my soul this week. They are questions we will not answer in one sermon. But maybe at least we can start the exploring...

September 08, 2009

Looking Ahead to September 13, 2009 -- 15th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Proverbs 1:20-33
  • Psalm 19 (VU p.740)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 7:24-37

The Hymns this week are:
  • 395 Come In, Come In and Sit Down
  • 713 I See a New Heaven
  • 691 Though Ancient Walls
  • 649 Walk With Me

The Sermon title is: We Need to Include Who???

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to describe our selves as inclusive? Are we aware how well we do that?? Of where we fall short??

As General Council met in Kelowna this past summer the members of the Arctic Commission had this motion on their list of work (it came from Saskatchewan Conference):
That the 40th General Council 2009 adopt a policy that the Session (or Church Board or Church Council), in the exercising its duty of oversight of the order of public worship under 5.10.1 of the Basis of Union, may not discriminate against any group of persons on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disability or status as divorced persons to the fullest extent, subject only to the laws of Canada, its provinces and territories as may exist from time to time, especially those which protect the vulnerable; and authorize a remit to test the will of the church with respect to this policy.
(There was also a list of "whereas" clauses-- arguments explaining why the proposal was made. You can read them on pages 10 & 11 of this {.pdf} document) So what does it mean?

If passed this proposal would have authorized a poll of the church asking if we wanted to change our constitution to say that all congregations were required to ensure they were open and welcoming to all people, specifically that discrimination (intentional or accidental) was not allowed based on that list of criteria. In some ways this seems common sense -- certainly the church should be as open and welcoming as possible right? In some ways it would be a hard fight -- who is some office somewhere else to tell us how we should operate? ANd certainly it was a major change in how congregations operate. This proposal would require that all church buildings were barrier-free, that people of any race were openly welcomed, that economic status wouldn't be an issue (this is one of the hidden forms of discrimination in many areas of our country), that your marital status (single, married, divorced, living together) would never be an issue, that newcomers were as important as lifelong residents, and that sexual orientation would not bar anyone from any part of church life--including marriage. It was actually suggesting that a great deal of congregational decision-making be taken away. Why would they make such a suggestion? To hear someone from Saskatchewan speak to that question check out this YouTube video.

One of the cherished self-definitions within the United Church of Canada is that we are an "inclusive" church. We like to claim that as some sort of banner or rallying cry. Personally I am not always sure we know what we mean by it. Certinly I think that in many places we do a relatively poor job of living it out. Because of course, it is hard being inclusive. Our old patterns of believing what is appropriate get in the way. The prejudices and biases that we absorb unconsciously get in the way. And in some cses the percieved costs of being truly inclusive scare us away (think of churches trying to become barrier-free for financial issues, or the social stigma suffered by many within the UCCan due to our stand on issues on sexual orientation over the last 20 years). But we are in good company. Even Jesus is not always inclusive.

I encourage you to read the Mark passage for this week carefully. Pay particular attention to what Jesus says to the foreign woman. Does he really say that she is a dog? DOes he really claim that God only sent him to the Chosen people? Why yes he does. JEsus in this story is certainly racist, some have also suggested that he is playing our the chauvinism or misogyny of his time. It really isn't a positive picture we see of JEsus, not all-loving GOd but a frail, biased, discriminatory human, limited by his context and his background.

But of course the story does not end there. The woman stands up for herself and her daughter. And she wins! JEsus recognizes that God's mercy is wider than he thought. Jesus recognizes the GOd is calling hi to a wider field of view. ANd Jesus, to his credit, chages in the light of God's revelation.

Maybe the proposal from Saskatchewan Conference is calling the people of the United Church to seriously consider how wide their field of view is. Maybe we are being urged to ask ourselves what we really mean when we claim to be an inclusive church. Maybe we are being challenged to find ways to ensure that all are welcome, truly welcome, in this place.

It is hard. I know of some congregations that delude themselves. I know that many places truly aren't aware how they exclude some people. I know that some have decided that the costs of change are too big. But we have to take the questions seriously. As it stands, every Pastoral Charge in this conference is now required to answer this question when they produce their Joint Needs Assessment Report when beginning the search for ministry personnel:
THe United church believes that God calls people of all races, ethnicities, abilities and orientations to ministry. Are there any theological or physical factors that would prevent you from welcoming any such persons to your Ministry site? Please specify and include your rationale.
THis is a harder question than it seems. How would you answer it about the church you now attend? About other churches you have attended? How would you like to answer it? Inclsivity, to be meaningful, has to be shown in how we live and not just in words that we say. And yes, it is a hard thing to do at times.

Oh and what happened with the proposal? Well you will have to come on Sunday to find out.

September 01, 2009

Looking Ahead to September 6, 2009 -- 14th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
  • Psalm 125 (VU p.849)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 1 Corinthians 1:17-28
  • From the Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
The Hymns this week are:
  • 371 Open My Eyes That I May See
  • 624 Give to us Laughter
  • 686 God of Grace and God of Glory (tune 651 verses 1, 2, 4)
  • 427 To Show by Touch and Word
The Sermon title is You Call This Wisdom??

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to be wise? What place of honour do we have for the wise among us? Is wisdom really just common sense?

As he ascends to the throne of his father Solomon is given a chance to ask for whatever he wants. Instead of wealth or power Solomon asks for wisdom. And so is born the legend of Solomon as a man of great wisdom (the Book of Proverbs is often seen as a collection of his wise sayings -- they aren't all his by any means, they weren't even compiled during his life but that is another issue). But what is wisdom?

Wisdom, Paul suggests, can also be foolishness. It all depends on one's point of view. The wisdom of God is foolishness to the rest of the world. A prime example is in the words of Jesus.
"Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcome
To be first you must be last? That doesn't sound like wisdom! What is wisdom anyway?

Some people define wisdom as being, in part, common sense. So-called "folk wisdom" would fall into this category (as would many of the passages in Proverbs). Some see wisdom as something that comes with age and experience (although we have all known people who were wise "beyond their years" and older people who were foolish). Certainly being wise is different from being smart (how many honour students have you met who were seemingly devoid of common sense). Wisdom is not knowledge. For people of faith the more important question to ask is: "what is Godly wisdom and how is it different from the wisdom of the world?". What do we do when common sense leads us off of The Way?

Join us on Sunday as we ask what wisdom is and try to understand why Godly wisdom is really wise when it sometimes sounds so foolish.