Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Looking Forward to July 3, 2011 -- 3rd Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 145 (VU p.866)
  • Romans 7:14-25

The Sermon Title is The Devil Made Me Do It???

Early Thoughts: Sometimes Paul gets it right, hits the target squarely in the gold.  ANd this seems to be one of those times.

HOw many of us have ever said" oh I know I shouldn't but...."?  True often we say it openly for stuff that is relatively meaningless.  But we say it inside for more important things.  Or else we look back with regret and ask "why did I do something so stupid?!"  Paul understands, in fact Paul does the same thing.

This passage brings us to the heart of our understanding of human nature.  Why, when we have been taught a better way to live, do we continue to stray from The Way?  Do we really have the ability to choose not to "sin"? 

Volumes of theological text have been written about this question.  Blood has been spilled over it.  People have debated, people have removed others from the community because of differing views on this question.  And yet it keeps coming up in our lives.  And so it seems we have to discuss it every generation as we seek to understnad who we are as individuals and as creations of God.

So how do you understand yourself?  How much choice do you have in your actions?  Can you choose the right?  More accurately -- do you? 

ANd in the end do we try to escape accountability when we claim we can't help ourselves?  Is it just an excuse to say "The Devil Made Me Do It" or is it a statement about how the world works?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Looking Forward to June 26, 2011 -- 2nd After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Genesis 18:1-8
  • Hebrews 13:1-3
  • Matthew 10:40-42

The Sermon Title is Welcome In...

Early Thoughts: At the core of Christan Life and ministry is hospitality. For when we welcome anyone we welcome God.

But if we are honest, how good a job do we do at welcoming in the church?  I mean really welcoming.  NOt just those who are "like us" or who have a message that we agree with.  But how well do we welcome people who are different or who have a challenging message, or who start telling us how we need to change the way we operate.

The Matthew passage this week comes just after Jesus has commissioned the disciples.  He is sending them out to teach and preach.  The message they carry will not always be well-received.  And so I can't help but think that even as he points out how blessed those who welcome the disciples will be  he is also hinting that this welcome may be an exception rather than the rule

If we are going to grow in faith, we need to ask ourselves these hard questions.  If we are to grow in faith we need to ask ourselves how well we deal with difference.  THat is the side of welcoming we don't talk about as often as we should.  So this week let's talk about it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Looking Forward to June 19, 2011 -- 1st After Pentecost

This Sunday we will celebrate the ministry of Church Camping.

The Scripture Reading for the week is:
Genesis 1:1-2:4a

The Sermon Title is: Camping Ministry, God's Creation

Early Thoughts: This summer thousands of children will attend camps run under the name of the United Church of Canada. Why? Millions of dollars are poured into site maintenance, utilities, staffing, insurance, supplies. Good use?

I suppose I should name my bias up front. I spent a total of 6 summers on staff at church camps (5 in Alberta, 1 in Saskatchewan). There were also 3 summers when I spent most of my days off volunteering out at the lake. Church camping is responsible for my entering the ministry. So I have a fairly strong bias in favour of this ministry.

CAmp ministry is one of the UCCan's greatest outreach ministries.  In my experience many of the children who come to camp are not "church kids".  But at camp they get a chance to experience a different way of living as we tried to model a form of Christian community.  Church camping is also a chance to introduce many urban kids to the outdoors.  Working at Camp Maskepetoon, on Pigeon Lake, we would have some kids who had never been outside at night without streetlights, or had never had a chance to walk through the forest.  And so part of our program was making use of our surroundings.

CHurch camping also provides a chance for people to explore who they are as leaders.  Either as volunteers or as paid staff, many young people heve their first leadership experience in a camp setting.  WE develop the leadership of the next generation by giving them chances to be leaders.

Camp is a life-changing event for many people.  Camp can be a safe place for someone who needs it.  Camp, when done well, can be a place where people of all ages feel free to be themselves (or to explore what it means to be themselves) instead of trying to be what others say they should be.

Camp is a very important part of our presence in this country.  The camp program I worked with in Ontario was created precisely to provide a different theological perspective than any of the other church-based camps in that area (many of whom, including us, rented the same space -- a Kiwanis owned camp site).  Our life as a church would be lessened if we didn't have camps.

FOr the record.  Did you know that there are 70 United Church Camps across the country (well sort of -- some of those are rental only sites and some [like the one I just mentioned] don't appear on that list because they don't have a fixed site).  This is in addition to all the VBS programs run by various churches.  If each camp has an average of 50 campers and they have 7 camps a summer that would be 24 500 campers (plus paid and volunteer staff) touched by the United Church this year.  Oh and of those 70 camps, 112 of them are in Alberta)  You can find out more about United Church Camps on this page

Church camping--a good use of our resources.

And of course there is another way to look at camping in general:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Looking Forward to June 12, 2011 -- Pentecost Sunday

This Sunday we will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion.  The next time we do this will be in September.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
Numbers 11:24-30
Acts 2:1-21

The Sermon Title is Spirit-Filled, Hot and Windy?

Early Thoughts: What is our response to those who claim to speak when moved by the Spirit? Do we honour their words or do we dismiss them as a lot of hot air?

As we know all too well this year, fire and wind are dangerous.   They can be a destructive combination.  ANd yet they are both classic images for God.  They occupy a central place in the Scripture readings on this, the 2nd most important Sunday of the Christian Year.

Still it can be said that even as images of GOd/God's Presence it is important to remember that fire and wind can be dangerous.  Allowing oneself to be moved by the Spirit of God can be dangerous and risky.  IT can lead us to do and say things that others find ridiculous or threatening.  It can lead us to find ourselves on the outside looking in, taking a position contrary to the "norm". 

However we are a people of Pentecost (I'd say Pentecostal but that has a different meaning these days).  This means we are a people who are shaped by the wind and fire of God.  THis means we are called to let God's fire burn in our bellies/souls and God's wind fill our sails, drive us forward.

THe question remains though.  Will we be seen as hot and windy, on fire for the kin-dom? OR will we simply be seen as hot-headed windbags?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Article on St. Paul's

WIthin Alberta Northwest Conference there exists a body whose purpose is to tell the story of the United Church (and our Methodist and Presbyterian forebears) within the area served by the Conference (all of Alberta, the BC Peace, Yukon, Northwest Territories).  Each year they publish a Journal with articles sent in by UCCan folks in the area.  They also have a web-presence in the form of this blog.

Earlier this year the 100th Anniversary Committee had submitted a write up about St. Paul's United (nee McQueen Presbyterian) Church for the 2011 edition of the Journal.  This article was accidentally missed but has been posted on the blog.  You can find it here