May 31, 2010

Looking Forward to June 6, 2010 -- 2nd Sunday After Pentecost

This Sunday we will be celebrating the 85th Anniversary of the United Church of Canada. As part of this Communion will be celebrated using the "Common Loaf" of the National Church.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Gospel: John 17:1-2, 6, 17-23
  • From the Gospel: Luke 10:1-12

The Hymns this week are:
  • 578 As a Fire is Meant for Burning (tune #374)
  • 331 The Church’s One Foundation
  • 601 The Church of Christ in Every Age (tune #20)
  • 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing

The Sermon Title is 85 and Going?????

Early Thoughts: From Hockey Arena in Toronto to the internet wired church. Where do we go from here? Where are we headed?

June 10, 1925. Representatives from the Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalist and Local Union Churches gathered in a Toronto Hockey Arena to mark the formation of a new, distinctly Canadian, denomination. Supported by an Act of Parliament (and various pieces of Provincial legislation), and after many years of negotiation, the United Church of Canada became a reality. At the time there were high hopes that this was but a beginning of becoming United. The hope was that more of the Protestant community would come to join in the Union.

85 years later, where do we find ourselves? Is there still a sense of hope for the future? I there still a sense of who we are as a denomination and what we have to share/offer?

To be honest, I am not really sure. There is a great deal of despair and pessimism in our midst. There are hard numerical realities that people have tried to avoid or ignore for decades that are becoming elephants in our midst. And there have been various responses, both by local congregations and by the national offices, that sometimes seem to be grasping at straws, even if the straws seem to have a good foundation.

The passage from Luke we read this Sunday tells of Jesus sending out the disciples. I think that there is a message for the Church in this. We need to become missional, we need to be more outward-focussed and do less navel gazing. But above all, it is my fear that we have lost our sense of identity and mission. We have lost our focus and raison d'etre. Unless we find that again, any changes (big or small) that we make will merely be shuffling deck chairs.

I do believe there is hope for the United Church. I do believe we have something vital to offer to our world. I also believe that it is time to look to a new way of being, not just re-organizing old ways. Where will we be in 2025 when we celebrate our centennial?

PS> Click here for some information about where General COuncil Executive is steering this ship

May 25, 2010

Looking Forward to May 30, 2010 -- Trinity Sunday (1st After Pentecost)

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Proverbs 8:1-4, 2-31
  • Psalm 8 (VU p.732)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Romans 5:1-5
  • From the Gospel: John 16:12-15

The Hymns this week are:
  • 399 God, Whose Love is Reigning o’er Us
  • 291 All Things Bright and Beautiful (refrain at beginning and end only)
  • 232 Joyful Joyful We Adore You
  • 624 Be Thou My Vision

Gord is off tending to new baby this week. Thanks to Brian for leading worship.

May 18, 2010

Looking Forward to May 23, 2010 -- Pentecost Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 11:1-9
  • Psalm 104:24-35 (VU p.827 Part 2)
  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 2:1-12

The Hymns this week are:
  • 198 Come, O Spirit Dwell Among Us (tune 374)
  • 375 Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness
  • 202 O Breath of Life (tune #437)
  • 427 To Show by Touch and Word

The Sermon Title is What Language

Early Thoughts: The church is born amongst noise and fire and excitement. How do we get to understand what that is all about? What do we hear?

In Genesis we find the story of how the peoples of the world got sundered and divided. They have pretensions of grandeur. And it appears the God feels threatened and so God confuses their language and scatters them.

And then, in the Acts passage the sundering is undone. The languages are brought back together in the name of the One who prayed "that all may be one". The people from "all over the world" (or at least all over the Eastern Mediterranean) are united in hearing the Good News shared.

So what language allows us to be brought together?

The question is misleading. It suggests that there is some spoken languge that accomplishes the task, that is the antidote for the confusion of Babel. But there isn't one spoken language that does that. Think metaphor. The language that brings us together is the language of the Spirit.

What does it mean to speak Spirit-language? In some traditions the practise of ecstatic speech, of speaking in tongues is raised up as SPirit language. So that is one possibility. But could Spirit language be something else? Could it be something more available and accessible to all of us?

I think so.

May 11, 2010

Looking Ahead to May 16, 2010 -- 7th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 97 (VU p.817)
  • From the Gospel: John 17:1-26
The Hymns this week are:
  • #402 We Are One
  • #579 The Church is Wherever God’s People
  • #569 You Call Us Out
  • #420 Go to the World

The Sermon Title is The Prayer of Jesus

Early Thoughts: WHat is your prayer for your friends and community just before you leave?

It is likely that none of this Gospel passage was said by Jesus in this way. But the idea is intriguing.

Just before the PAssion story begins, John puts this prayer into Jesus' mouth and heart. It is a prayer for his friends and followers. It is a prayer that the be strengthened and protected.

It is also a pryre for those who will come later. And so it is a prayer for all who seek to follow The Way. It is a prayer that we be led to the truth. ANd it includes the line that became the motto for the United Church of Canada -- That all may be one.

Where does this prayer lead us in 2010? WHat comfort and challenge do we find in it? And even better, how do we pray for those from whom we are about to be separated?

May 04, 2010

Looking Ahead to May 9, 2010 -- 6th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this weeks are:
  • Psalm 67 (VU p.786)
  • From the Writings of the Church: Revelation 21:1-22:5

The Hymns this week are:
  • #710 Shall We Gather at the River
  • #588 Many are the Lightbeams
  • #713 I See a New Heaven
  • #642 Be Thou My Vision

The Sermon title is The City By the River

Early Thoughts: What do we hope for when the world is changed? What is the vision of the Reign that is to come?

Here in the climax of the book of Revelation we have a vision of the Reign. Interesting that it is a city. After all much Christian imagery focusses on the wilderness and the "pastoral" -- shepherds and gardens and hillsides. But the ministry of Jesus was largely in towns of varying sizes. And the ministry of the early church (as we have it described in Scripture) was almost exclusively in urban settings -- read the book of Acts if you don't believe me.

But this isn't just any city. This is a new Jerusalem, a new Zion. Zion is the home of God on earth within Jewish thought. This is the new beginning.

SO what is our new beginning? When we gather at the river that flows from the throne of God what do we hope to find? And do we see signs of it in the world around us?

Changes Afoot!

The General Council Executive met this past weekend. As a part of their meeting they were discussing some major changes for how we in the UCCan operate as a denomination. Expand for more....

From the news release on the NAtional WEbsite:
After thoughtful and prayerful consideration, the Executive unanimously adopted key directions aimed at encouraging and revitalizing ministries and simplifying processes, including:

* focusing the work of the General Council Office on supporting denominational identity and connection
* clarifying and redefining the roles of the courts of the church and reducing the complexity and size of The Manual
* establishing a Network for Ministry Development to offer training and consultation on congregational and new ministry development, and a New Ministries Fund seeded with $1 million from United Church reserves to support new and innovative ministries
* giving high priority to using new technologies and new media to their full potential, recognizing that accommodations will be necessary due to limited access to these technologies in some parts of Canada

Many of these initiatives will be developed and implemented over the triennium. Other parts of the plan will require further development and, in some cases, the approval of the General Council, which is scheduled to meet next in 2012.

As the Executive’s decision is implemented and the church reorients itself toward the future, budget realities mean a number of less welcome transitions will take place. These include the loss of 15–20 staff positions at the General Council Office over the triennium, and reductions in grants to mission support, global partners, theological schools, and education centres.

The loss of valued colleagues, work, and support for partnerships will be difficult. In its extensive discussion and discernment, the Executive recognized that embracing this plan for the future will bring opportunities, as well as loss.

At the same time as these reductions are being implemented, the new directions and initiatives approved by the Executive will ensure the church continues to be relevant and faithful in a changing context.

For those who like parliamentary language, here is the actual motion that was passed and here are some links to the report, some background, and some responses that were received.

What does this all mean? Only time will tell for sure but the hope is that it streamlines some of the bureaucratic side of church life. Real renewal for the church will not come from this though. Real renewal will come when we discover (or rediscover) a sense of mission, our raison d'etre, our purpose, a sense of who/how/where God is calling us to be.

FOr more discussion on this issue you can read through this thread