October 27, 2009

Looking Ahead to November 1, 2009 -- All Saints Day, 22nd Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Hebrew Scriptures: Ruth 1:1-18
  • Psalm 146 (VU p.868)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

The Hymns this week are:
  • #316 Praise Our Maker
  • #707 For the Faithful Who Have Answered
  • #602 Blest Be the Tie That Binds
  • #675 Will Your Anchor Hold

The Sermon title is Family: Ancestors and Descendants

Early Thoughts: What responsibility we have to our ancestors? To our descendants? What do we inherit and what do we pass on?

Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried.
What a wonderful statement of fidelity, of loyalty, of committment. Ruth has no reason to stay with Naomi, there appears to be no future there. But she lays her cards on the table and goes to a new place.

It is often suspected that the Book of Ruth is included in the Canon of Scripture in part because her story is part of David's story. It is the story of the family. And really, the story of the family is what we are all about. Each of us is a small part of a larger story. Where do we fit? What do we do with the legacy we have received? WHat do we choose to pass on?

November 1st is All Saints/All Souls Day. It is a day to celebrate the community (or communion) of all who have gone before us. It is a day to give thanks for the legacy that has been passed on to us. We are a people with a history, a history we don't want to forget or to reject.

OCtober 31st marks the anniversary of the day Martin Luther pasted his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg, the event that is said to have launched the Reformation. WE are part of a church that is reformed and always reforming. In that light, how do we change or alter the tradition that has been passed on to us?

As we see ourselves going forward what is our vision? Are we ready to make the same pledge that Ruth makes? OR are we afraid to step into a new land? How do we balance teh past and the future? How do we honour the ancestors of our faith family and what do we pass on to our descendants?

October 19, 2009

Looking Ahead to October 25, 2009 -- 21st Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Hebrew Scriptures: Job 42:1-6, 10-17
  • Psalm 34 (VU p.761)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 10:46-52

The Hymns this week are:
  • #371 Open My Eyes That I May See
  • #299 Teach Me, God, to Wonder
  • #242 Let All Things Now Living
  • #427 To Show by Touch and Word

The Sermon title is Giveth, Taketh, Giveth Again

Early Thoughts: What do we make of the story of Job? What does it have to tell us about possessions?

Job is, to say the least, a troubling book. It is a difficult story to follow--at least in part because it seems to be two stories glued together. There is a little folk tale that bookends the larger story made up of a series of speeches about why Job is in the state he finds himself. The larger story has a lot to do with issues of punishment and why bad things happen to people. The bookends appear to try and give context and explanation to the middle (and possibly let God off the hook for the bad things that happen to Job).

This week we are going to focus on the bookends. TO put it simply, Job has a lot. God allows ha-Satan (the Accuser/Adversary) take it away to test Job's faith. Job gets it all back and more. In the theology that is presented: God has given, God allows to be taken, God gives again.

THere are two things I find instructive about this in terms of our possessions. The first is to see all we have as a gift from GOd. The second is to wonder if we can remain faithful when it all gets taken away. There is a danger as well--the story can be taken in terms of the so-called "prosperity gospel"--the belief that if we are really "good" then God will bless us with lots of stuff.

So how does that all shake out as am message of hope and good news? Come on Sunday and find out.

October 12, 2009

Looking Forward to October 18, 2009 -- 20th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Hebrew Scriptures: Job 38:1-17, 34-41
  • Psalm 104 (VU p.826)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 10:35-45

The Hymns this week are:
  • #603 In Loving Partnership We Come
  • #593 Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love
  • #372 Though I May Speak
  • #567 Will You Come and Follow Me

The Sermon title is Me First!!!!

Early Thoughts: Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. Sometimes we think we have a privileged spot. Sometimes we get told otherwise.

James and John forgot which rules were in play. Either that or they were power hungry.

THey were working as if the rules of the world around them were in effect in the Kingdom of GOd. ANd under those rules you got preferential treatment if, like them, you had been with the powerful from the beginning. They were playing the status game that has been played, and still is played, in power structures around the world.

But of course Jesus is playing by a different set of rules. Jesus is playig by rules where saying "Me first!" put you at the end of the line. Jesus is playing by rules which call us to put the other person first, where status just doesn't count the same way.

Deciding which rules we are playing by is, in the end, a stewardship decision. When we decide to play by the rules of the world our stewardship decisions get based on asking "what's in it for me?". But when we play by the rules of the kingdom our stewardship decisions are based on the question "what's in it for them?".

How then shall we live? WHose rules about status and rank and privilege are in effect?

October 06, 2009

Pastor's PEn #2

Deficits. We seem to hear that word a lot these days. Governing parties debate with the opposition how much of a financial deficit is acceptable in the midst of an economic downturn. Politicians muse about a democratic deficit in our Parliamentary processes. Analysts have been talking for years about an infrastructure deficit as our streets and bridges and sewer/water systems age beyond their expected lifespan. Economists constantly watch trade numbers and talk about trade deficits. But with all this talk about deficits is it possible we have missed the biggest deficit of all?

I think we have. I think at almost all levels of our lives together we have a more important deficit to worry about. And in fact, to a degree, dealing with this deficit will help us find a way to deal with all the rest. This is the deficit of vision.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible comes from the book of Proverbs. In the King James Version it is translated Where there is no vision, the people perish. This verse is in fact inscribed over the West window of the Peace Tower in Ottawa. Vision is vital for us to survive and thrive as a society and as a community.

So what is our vision as a faith community? Why are we here in this place at this time? This is a vital question for Riverview to answer as we move forward. Only when we have a vision, a sense of mission can we remain passionate and excited about our future. And without that passion and excitement we will always be worrying about meeting the budget and paying the bills.

The time has come to ask ourselves hard questions about the future of Riverview. We need to determine what path lies to a thriving life as a faith community. We simply can’t continue as we have been, the money just won’t allow it. We need to develop a sense of who God is calling us to be. That is what a vision is for a church. It is my fear that we have gotten so used to the survival game that we have lost a clear vision of who God wants us to be.

Next year at the annual meeting we hope to really start the discussion of who we are and where we are going. All are welcome to help us erase any deficit of vision we may have. And the hope is that once we erase that deficit the financial deficit will disappear as well.

Looking Forward to October 11, 2009 -- Thanksgiving Weekend

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Hebrew Scriptures: Joel 2:21-27
  • Psalm 126 (VU p.850)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 6:25-33

The Hymns this week are:
  • #236 Now Thank We All Our God
  • #226 For the Beauty of the Earth
  • From the Silence That Has Bound Us (insert)
  • #326 O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

The Sermon title is What? ME Worry?

Early Thoughts: IS Jesus kidding us? Just trust in God to provide and stop worrying???????!!!!!! In the midst of an economic downturn is this a realistic passage to read?

I think this is in fact the best time to read this passage. When people are really worried, and have something to worry about, is a great time to talk about worrying. WHen we are comfortable and sure of our income this passage becomes much more an intellectual exercise. But when we are struggling and wondering who will go under next there is a real resonance.

And of course that is where the original audience was. Jesus is speaking to people who regularly have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Jesus is speaking to people who have less than nothing for the most part. I am sure that more than a couple of them thought he was all wet too.

Most of us have trouble believing that God will just provide what we need. We don't just sit back and rake it all in after all. But I am not sure that is the point of the passage. Or at least that may not be where the story intersects with our lives.

One of the dangers we have in our society is that we too often fall into the trap of believing that what we have we have as a reward for hard work or as an entitlement. These passages remind us that what we have is a gift that is graciously and freely given. One of the dangers of modern society is that we are taught to worry, we are taught that what we need is scarce and we have to ensure we "get our share". These passages remind us that what we have is he result of abundant gifts. These passages call us to reflect on the difference between worrying over the world's scarcity and rejoicing on God's abundance.

And what better message is there on Thanksgiving weekend? If we stop worrying so much we may see the world differently. When we see abundance instead of scarciy it enables us to see what we have to share with the world. It enables us to practice better stewardship. In the end worry is a subset of fear, and fear is the opposite of love. LEt us put aside worry so that we can live in love.

PS: For a message from Mardi Tindal, the new moderator of the United Church of Canada click here

October 01, 2009

Pastor's PEn

Pastor’s Pen:

The leaves are starting to change colour and float along the street. There was a whiteness to the grass the last couple of mornings (Sarah and Devyn were very excited because it had “snowed”). Mid-week groups have started to meet. It must be the beginning of the busy season.

There are a variety of things that we call the beginning of the New Year. The calendar tells us it is in January. Provincially funded organizations like the Hospital or FACS may claim it is April 1 when the new year starts. The Church calendar says the new year starts with the 1st Sunday of Advent (which happens to be November 27 this year). But to all intents and purposes the new year starts at the beginning of September when school starts again along with so many other things. And so I wish you all a (slightly belated) Happy New Year!

As we look ahead to the year that is just starting I have to wonder what is coming. What new things does God have in store for us this year? What surprises are around the corner? Where will next June find us?

I have no idea. The task is not to try and predict where we will go. Our job is to sign up for the ride and hold on! Life’s rollercoaster takes us up and down and all around, sometimes even throws us upside down. But even if it is scary at times it can be fun if we let ourselves relax and trust the ride.

And while we are talking about rides, another image comes to my mind. This summer we took the girls on a Carousel, with Patty standing beside the horse to make sure Miriam didn’t fall off. Remember that we aren’t on the ride alone, that there is someone standing beside us through the slow parts and the fast, the ups and the downs and the upside downs.

So, please join me as we walk through the year and the story of birth and life and death and new life. And let’s enjoy the ride!