December 27, 2009

Looking Ahead to January 3, 2009 -- Sunday Closest to Epiphany

The Festival of Epiphany is the end of the Christmas Season (which is of course 12 Days long, just as the song suggests). On Epiphany Day (January 6) we tell the story of the visit of the Magi. HOwever, since most United Church congregations are not in the habit of having mid-week worship services, it has become customary to tell this story on the Sunday preceding January 6.

As Epiphany Sunday marks the beginning of a new Liturgical season we will be sharing the sacrament of communion.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 60:1-6
  • Psalm 72 (VU p.790)

The Hymns this week are:
  • 74 What Child is This
  • We Three Kings (insert)
  • MV#162 Christ Within Us Hidden (insert)
  • 468 Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

The Sermon Title is Why Pay Homage?

Early Thoughts: Why bow the knee? Why bring tribute to a foreign king?

Why indeed? To North American ears the idea of paying homage or bowing down before or paying tribute to anyone seems to go against the grain. It speaks of power over, of classism, it goes against the egalitarian ideal on which our democracy is said to be founded (it really isn't founded on such an ideal but that is a whole other topic).

Scholars believe that Matthew wrote his story of the Magi visit with these passages in his head, or even on scrolls in front of his eyes. But they have value apart from that story. What is the message they have for us in 2010?

These are passages of hope. They speak of a wondrous king who will be adored by all of the peoples of the world. They speak of one whose wisdom and jsutice and mercy will lead all people to bow down before his [sic] majesty.

The whole bow down before God's Majesty imagery has fallen into disfavour in the mainline church, mainly for the reasons listed above. But there is something there to recover. We need to recover the MAjesty of God to do what is not posible for us on our own. WE need to recover that sense of awe-some-ness when we encounter God made present in our lives. WE need to recover the vision of what a truly great leader can be.

Epiphany means God-Made-Manifest. Bowing down in homage and wonder seems an appropriate response after all.

December 15, 2009

Looking Ahead to December 20, 2009 -- 4th Sunday of Advent

The theme for this week is Birth Means Future Promises

The Scripture REadings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Micah 5:2-5a
  • Psalm 146 (VU p.868)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 1:39-55

The Hymns this week are:
  • 44 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • 46 Gentle Mary Laid Her Child
  • 899 Song of Mary (tune ???)
  • 76 See Amid the Winter's Snow

Early Thoughts: What keeps us going when the way is hard? What brings joy in the midst of despair? What is our source of hope?

Future promises of course. It is the promise of possibility that allows us to keep trying. It is the promise shared by Dame Julian of Norwich that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things be well which sees us through the darknesses of our world.

People of Jewish and Christian faith are in fact people of promise. Our entire faith story is based on promises both about the present and the future. In my opinion people of faith are also meant to live both in the present and looking toward the promised future.

Some people would say that believing in a promised better future is selling false hope, or that it is is merely a way of distracting from the pain of the future (Marx's "opiate of the masses" line come to mind here). But as a person of faith I see that looking forward has to take into account reality but with a hopeful slant. We can't help but admit that the world is not what it could (or even should) be. And in the face of that admission we can choose to give up or we can choose to believe that things will get better.

It has been suggested that the birth of a baby is a sign that things need to go on. That a baby is God saying the world has a future (obviously that is not a statement of biology but a statement of theology). And so at this time of year when our faith story calls us to talk and think about birth it behooves us to ask what future this birth promises.

SOme hints are found in the song called the MAgnificat. Sung by either Mary or Elizabeth (the tradition says MAry but the Greek text could just as -or more- easily mean Elizabeth) it talks about the time when God's justice will come to pass. Some hints are found in the Psalm we will read, which share the same language and imagery. And of course hints of the promised future Realm of God are found throughout Scripture. And even more relevant, those hints are not only for the future but guides for how we act in the present.

Was Dame Julian right? Or was she being "pollyanna-ish"? Will all manner of things be well? That is the promise of God. ANd it is the the hope of all who parent children. That the future has promise is what keeps us going. And in the end, remember this. As people of hope (and faith) we live in hope. WE trust in the promise -- even if we are sometimes [often??] a little impatient about when it is going to come to pass.

December 08, 2009

A Study REsource

Retired United Church of Canada Minster John Shearman has posted a blog reflecting on and probing into the Christmas stories.  John is the same person who wrote the blog we used here a Riverview as a basis for our Revelation study last year.  John also writes weekly reflections on the lectionary readings and these reflections are one of the resources Gord uses on a regular basis.

You can read The Nativity of JEsus here