Thursday, May 24, 2012

June Newsletter

Seeking the Way
Sometimes it is hard to know which way to go. The maps may be unclear. Or we may not even have a map. Or we may not really be sure where we are trying to get to. But we get to the crossroad and we wonder. How do we get there from here?
This is what it is often like trying to live as the people of God. Amidst all of the voices pounding in our ears, among all the “suggestions” of which way to go, it can be painfully difficult to make out the Word of God. Now sometimes it is easy. Sometimes the path is clear, the choice is obvious. But most of the time it is hard.
There are many ways to seek God’s will. Certainly prayer and silence are important. Trying to discern what is right for the whole Creation (not just ourselves) is important. But I think that the most important thing about trying to hear God is being ready to let go of what we already think.
Have you ever tried to give directions to someone who is sure they know how to get to their destination? I am convinced that God has the same problem. Sometimes we are so sure we know what God wants we ignore all hints to the contrary. This is why we have to look and listen closely. What I have found is that much of the time the harder path, the more unknown path, is where God is calling us.
“Take the hard path,” God says. Take that path which makes you change. Take the path that leads to a world reborn, where all Creation can flourish. And here is the rub. To take that path means giving up. It means giving up on our assumption that what benefits us is always right. It means giving up our comfortable seats.
In many ways the world we live in is broken. The economic system is broken, the environment is breaking, the connections between neighbours are being shattered on a regular basis. What path does God offer out of the chaos?
The irony is that the hard path leads further in. The hard path means rethinking how our economy works (or doesn’t work). The hard path means that we will do less with less. The hard path means that in the short term people will get hurt. But the long-term promise is that a new economy will be born, a new sense of living with (as opposed to on) the Earth will be born, and people will move past individualism and nationalism into a newfound sense of community.
The world is at a crossroad. The world needs to change direction. There is a lot of noise trying to drown out God. There is a lot of noise insisting that variations on the old path will make it work. But cutting through the noise, if we choose to listen, is God calling us on a new path. Which way will we go?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Looking Ahead to May 27, 2012 -- Pentecost Sunday

This week we Celebrate the Sacrament of Communion, and also the Rite of Renewal of Baptismal Faith (aka Confirmation)

The Scripture Readings this week are:

  • Ezekiel 37:1-14
  • Acts 2:1-21
 The Sermon title is Called to be the Church

Early Thoughts:  Whenever we say the United Church Creed we affirm that we are called to be the church.  But what does that mean?  The Creed has some suggestions, but what else might it mean?

Ezekiel was called to speak the word of God to a valley of dry bones.  And new life emerged.

On the day of Pentecost the disciples were changed from people living in fear to evangelists sharing the Good News with all they met.  And something new was born. [Full Disclosure:  In my mind PEntecost is 2nd only to Easter as the most important Festival of the Church year -- surpassing all others by a wide margin]

We are called to be the church.  And we will reflect on that statement as we welcome 2 people making a public faith statement.  And we reflect on that as we hear the story of Ezekiel and the story of Pentecost.

Does being called to be the church mean continuing what has gone before?  Or does it mean celebrating the start of something new?  Something beyond our imagining, something that comes out of nowhere, something completely surprising.  Scripture suggests the second choice.  Pentecost is often referred to as the "birthday of the church".  But it is not because we celebrate something that was born a long time ago on this day.  It is because we celebrate what is being born in the here and now.

We are called to be the church.  We are called to be open as the full meaning of that phrase is revealed to us.  And just when we think moving forward in a new way is impossible -- remember Exekiel and the dry bones, remember the disciple moving from fear to boldness. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thank You List

Here is the list of thank-yous from last Sunday's Sermon:
  • those who worked on the Garage Sale
  • those who made the Beef Dinner happen
  • Worship Committee
  • CD Committee
  • Social Events Committee
  • Finance & Stewardship Committee
  • Property & Maintenance Committee
  • Ministry & Personnel Committee
  • Outreach Committee
  • Healing Touch
  • Labyrinth
  • Volunteer Drivers
  • Prayer Team
  • Council Members
  • Offering Counters
  • Worship Assistants (greeters, readers, after-church coffee)
  • those who come to clean and tidy
  • those who visit others
  • musicians
  • UCW
  • Pancake Supper
  • Financial Supporters
For all that you do to make St. Paul's a vibrant community.  THANK YOU!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Looking Ahead to May 20, 2012 -- 7th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Acts 4:32-5:11
  • Psalm 1(VU p.724)
  • Ecclesiastes 5:8-17

The Sermon title is Money, Money Money

Early Thoughts: "It's a rich man's world" so the song goes.  And in some ways it is hard to argue with it.  Money (actual bills or virtual cash) plays such a key role in our lives.  Some might even say it controls our lives in many ways.

What is your relationship with money?  How do you interact with it?  Do you even think of it as a relationship?

It is my belief that we all have a relationship with money.  That is to say that money is more than just another tool we use in our daily lives.  The key thing (to me anyway) is that if we recognize that we have a relationship with money then we can start to shape the relationship -- because that is how relationships work.

Often when we talk about money we use transactional language.  We talk about purchases and  balance sheets and bank statements and tax returns.  But we also need to talk about how money makes us feel (I have a very clear memory of two people I used to work with talking openly about indulging in "retail therapy").  WE need to use relational language as well as transactional language.

Before the Annual Congregational Meeting I named my belief that the most Spiritual document we would talk about at that meeting was the financial report and budget.  The same holds for our personal relationships with money. Where/how we spend it or don't spend it (or save it or don't save it) (or give it away) says more about our priorities than pretty much anything else in our lives.  And so talking about money is essential for our spiritual health.

This week's sermon is not about convincing people to give to any one specific cause (such as St. Paul's United).  This week I invite us all to enter into a time of looking at our relationship with money.  And ask how that relationship is shaping us -- and/or how we are shaping it.  As I say, it is not a financial question, it is a spiritual question.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Looking Ahead to May 13, 2012 -- 6th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 98 (VU p.818) 
  • John 15:9-17 
The Sermon title is Thank You

Early Thoughts: We sometimes forget to say it.  WE sometimes are better asking for help/money/time than saying thank you for it.  We may remember as individuals but as institutions we are not always good at it.  And I would argue that the church as a body is one of the worst offenders at times)

And yet if we are in fact called to act lovingly towards each other shouldn't thank-you flow automatically?

This week we will not only talk about WHY we say thank you (or why we should).  It is a part of love, a part of recognizing that others have acted out of love, often self-sacrificial love.  We will also take time to actually say it.  In public worship.  On behalf of the congregation.

Time to start building my list.....