Wednesday, May 29, 2013

June Newsletter Piece

How do you feed your Spirit?
A month ago I attended a continuing-education event developing spiritual leadership. One of the points being made was that to provide spiritual leadership one needs to develop and feed one's own spirituality.

Coincidentally, at yesterday's meeting of the Grande Prairie ministerial the devotion was about dealing with or avoiding exhaustion and burn-out. And the proposition was that one reason church leaders end up exhausted is that in the pressure to live out the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves we neglect the commandment to love God with our whole being. And then we fail to take care of the relationship with the One in whom, to quote St. Paul, we live and move and have our being.

So, in the midst of the busy-ness of the world, how do you feed your Spirit?
As I have told many people over the years, it is my firm belief that all people have a spiritual side that needs to be fed. Some people meet that need through yoga, or Tai Chi, or walking along the lake/seashore, or through artistic endeavours, or through participation in a faith community [note that this is a sample list, there are many other possibilities]. Some people (maybe most people) use a combination of things. Some people are not aware of the need at all – until something goes wrong. But my bias is that we all have this need and that if we do not meet it we will pay a price.

So how do you feed your spirit?
What price might we pay if we do not take care of our spiritual side? What happens if life becomes unbalanced in this way?

I suggest we might find our energy and passion failing us. I suggest we might lose sight of what is important in our lives. I suggest that our quality of life feels lower. I suggest that in the end it will start to impact our physical and mental health, that it impacts how able we are to do our daily tasks.

So how do you feed your spirit?
When I have this sort of discussion with couples preparing to get married I make it clear that this is not the “come to church” bit of the process. Because after all, I am talking to adults who can (and will) make their own choices. But I have the discussion because it is my firm belief (and I share my obvious bias that this work is best done in community) that caring for our whole selves makes us healthier individuals, healthier spouses, healthier parents, etc. And so I have an ethical responsibility to bring it up. Now I have a further question for you:

How does/could being part of THIS faith community feed your spirit? How do we support each other in developing as spiritual beings? How might we do it better? Too often, in my experience anyway, United Church folk become too rational, too focused on practical matters. I think we can do far better at helping each other grow spiritually. And I want us to find ways to do that. Starting in the fall. Who's with me?

In the meantime, over the summer, be sure to take time to feed your spirit!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Looking Forward to June 2, 2013--2nd Sunday After Pentecost

This Sunday we will Celebrate the Sacrament of Communion.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 96 (VU p.814)
  • Isaiah 42:9-13
  • Psalm 98 (VU p.816)
  • Colossians 3:16
The Sermon Title is Sing! Sing a Song!

Early Thoughts: Why do we sing?

If you ask many people what their favourite part of church services are they are likely to say "the music". People are far more likely to remember a hymn they really like (or really dislike) than a favourite sermon (despite what ministers might like to believe).

We sing in church because people are inherently musical, all cultures have music. We sing in church because Scripture encourages, nay commands, us to sing. We sing our joys and we sing our laments. We sing our way through the faith story -- in fact more people learn the Christmas story through carols than through reading the Scriptural text. We sing to remind us of God active in our lives, to remind us of God's hopes for the world, to remind us of our obligation to respond to God's call. For many of us music is simply part of our faith life.

Where the question gets clouded is when we ask what do we sing. Do we only sing the old favourites or preference the new songs? How do we choose what is "singable"? Well we sing both old an new (remembering that every old favourite was once a new piece. We look at the words and at the music. Sometimes we let go of an old favourite because the words don't have meaning for us anymore. Sometimes we can change the words a little bit and still sing it. Sometimes new words can be sung to familiar tunes. And of course sometimes we need to stretch ourselves a bit and learn music that is different.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Looking Forward to May 26, 2013 -- 1st After Pentecost

This week we will mark the end of the Sunday School year.  And as part of that there is a lunch (or a "wiener boil" if you remember the announcement in the bulletin) following the service to which all are welcome.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • John 14:15-17, 25-27
  • John 20:19-23
  • Matthew 28:16-20
The Sermon title is Sent Out in Jesus' Name

 Early Thoughts: Easter has happened, Pentecost has come, now what?

The Gospels are fairly clear about the answer to that question.  You go out into the world.  What you do out there has been the subject of a great deal of theological debate and controversy over the centuries.  But you simply have to go out into the world and live as though Resurrection means something, as though the Spirit blowing through your lungs makes a difference.

We go out into the world to baptize.  We go out into the world to share truth (or is that Truth?).  We go out into the world to be people of peace.

Last week we heard the story of Pentecost as the writer of Luke-Acts tells it.  This week we hear the way Matthew and John cover some of the same territory.  Maybe not quite as spectacular as Acts tells it.  But the point is the same.  We are sent out in Jesus' name.  Our hands are ready now.  To make the World a place in which the kingdom comes.

The real question is how will we do that?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Looking Forward to May 19, 2013 -- Pentecost Sunday

This Sunday we will Celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Genesis 11:1-9
  • Acts 2:1-21
The Sermon Title is Babel Babble Baffled 

Early Thoughts: Near the beginning of our faith story people are separated, driven apart by their different languages.  Near the end of the Scripture story those self same divisions are broken down as people lose themselves in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is often called the "birthday of the church".  As the writer of Luke-Acts tells the story it is only at Pentecost that the early followers of Jesus gained the confidence/courage/certainty that they needed to move out from amongst themselves and build a broader community.  Without Easter there would be no faith community.  Without Pentecost it may never have become more than a small local movement.  Such is the power of the Spirit to move within and through people.

AS people of faith we are called to allow the Spirit to feel our bodies, we are called to let the Spirit blow us where it will (which may or may not be the direction we intended to go).  This can be a threatening challenge.  But Pentecost reminds us that what seems impossible is in fact possible.

The tower of Babel story is about people being divided.  Life in the Spirit is about people being united (remembering of course that unity is not uniformity -- the people in Jerusalem that day each heard their own language, they did not all hear the same language).  How is the Spirit at work in our communities?  What walls of division are being broken down?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Looking Forward to May 12, 2013 -- 7th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Revelation 22:12-21
  • John 17:20-26
The Sermon title is: Ut Omnes Unum Sint, Akwe Nia’Tetew√°:neren

Early Thoughts:  What do those words mean?  The Latin is "That All May be One".  The Mohawk is "All My Relations".  They are included on the crest of the United Church of Canada and come from the Gospel reading for this week.  Jesus prayer for his followers, prayed just before his arrest, trial, and execution, is that:
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.(verses 22-23)

Back in time, this sentiment was included on the crest because there was a dream that the events of 1925 were a precursor to a series of unions that would created one united Protestant church in Canada.  A wonderful dream.  Not all that likely to become a fact sometimes it seems that rather than May Be One we should be saying Maybe One?...

So what do those words mean for us today?  When the Mohawk was added to the crest last year (Mohawk was chosen because the Mohawk were the nation that the first Methodist missionaries worked with) it was noted that although the English translation was different, the 'sense' of "All My Relations" was the same as the 'sense' of "That All May Be One".  So how do we tie that 'sense' to our lives as people of faith?

As usual with such things, I am sure there is more than one "right" answer.  But at the same time the answers are related.  It is my firm belief that the "right" answers all have to do (as does so much of living as a person of Christian faith) with how we treat each other.  They have to do with respect, with caring, with seeing them not as the other but as one of us, with the importance of focusing on what links us instead of what keeps us apart.  How does it change our attitudes and behaviour to take these phrases to heart?  How does it effect the choices we make towards the people who sleep on our doorsteps, the ones who cut us off in traffic, the ones who teach our children, the ones we elect to government?

How do we live lives that show how we care for "all our relations"?  Do we share Jesus'' prayer that "all may be one"?