Tuesday, August 27, 2013

September Newsletter Piece

At our last Council meeting we responded to a request from Presbytery to host the February meeting. Yes we hosted Presbytery only a couple years ago, so why are we being asked so soon?

Well at my first meeting of this Presbytery I shared a hope that we would have a youth event in conjunction with a Presbytery meeting. Effective ministry requires a “critical mass” of people to gather together, this is particularly true for Youth Ministry. And so in an area of small communities and small congregations sometimes have regional events is one of the best ways to support youth ministry. Over the last couple of years some people have been talking about this idea and have suggested that Presbytery have just such an event. Because St. Paul's is one of the largest churches in the Presbytery (both in terms of building size and in number of people) we were asked to host this meeting and the associated Youth Event.

As it happens, at that same meeting the Joint Needs Assessment Committee presented their report to council. In that report it was noted that the congregation had expressed a strong desire to do more to support ministry with youth and young adults. As we discussed whether St. Paul's could meet the request from Presbytery (more the discussion was about HOW we could meet it, we know we have the capacity) someone made the comment, “We just read the JNAC report that talked about supporting youth. How can we say no to this request?”. So St. Paul's is hosting Northern Lights Presbytery and a bunch of youth the last weekend of February 2014.

In order to do this we will need help. Council is hoping that someone will step up and serve as the co-ordinator for the weekend. We are looking for groups of people to volunteer to look after meals (Friday Supper, Saturday breakfast for the youth, Saturday lunch, Saturday supper [we think that the youth can do cereal/yogurt/fruit for Sunday breakfast]). WE need a person or a couple of people to staff the book table. We need a small group of people to look after coffee break supplies during the day on Saturday. We will need one male and one female chaperone to stay in the church with the youth on Friday night and another pair on Saturday night. And while folk from Presbytery will look after the programming for the Youth, we may need volunteer drivers to get them from place to place.

If you can be part of this opportunity to support the churches of Northern Lights in the ministry we share please let me know!!!!!!!!

Last winter we shared that Council had set a goal of strengthening community within the congregation. One of the comments made at that time is that one of the biggest things about building community is calling each other by name. But we don't always know or remember everybody's name. So I am challenging everyone to grab their name tag each and every Sunday morning and wear them. If you don't have or can't find a name tag then let the greeters know and they can let Carla know that you need one. I look forward to seeing a white patch on everyone's chest as I lead worship!!!

Finally, with the fall comes a start up of programming. While I was at a continuing education event last Spring I worked out an idea for a 6 week study on spiritual practices. Maybe we could call it Teach us to Pray. WE will look at different traditional Christian spiritual practices. Day and time yet to be determined.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Looking Forward to September 1, 2013 -- Labour Day, 15th Sunday After Pentecost

This being the first Sunday of September, we will be celebrating the sacrament of Communion.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 55:1-3, 10-13
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
  • Luke 12:22-32
The Sermon title is For What Do You Labour? 

Early Thoughts: On this Labour Day weekend we pause to think about the meaning of/for/in our Labour (in between watching football games of course).

The Isaiah passage asks us:
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)

Good question isn't it? Why do we labour and labour and seem to have such trouble finding happiness or comfort? Or, as Jesus asks, why do we worry all the time?

Of course we labour, in part, to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. Jesus may speak eloquently about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field but our lived experience tells us that we have to do more than simply trust the what we need will be provided.  And indeed Paul`s letter to the Thessalonians seems to speak against such  an approach.

And we labour at things we love, things we find are important. Remember that not all of our labour is paid, that not all of our labour is work/career. Parenting is labour, serving on community boards is labour, taking time for self (reading, walking -- whatever one does for refreshment) is also labour. It is of course hoped that some of this labour brings re-creation, that some of our labour is re-energizing as well as draining.

But the reality experienced by so many is that labour is labour is tiring. So many of us find ourselves exhausted by the labour we do for sustenance and by the labours of love. Why? Are we in fact going for the things that do not satisfy?

The words of Isaiah tell us of people who have lost their way. They talk of people who have lost (or abandoned) the connection with God. Their choices take them away from the promise and into the land of dry water and unfulfilling purchases. But they also point us to the cure.

The cure is to find the balance of our labour. The cure is to remember that our labour isn't meant as busy work, but that it is to bring us what we need. The cure is to remember that God is part of the labour, that unless we let God work in us (which is hard when we are constantly ont he treadmill of busyness and worry) we will not find that which we truly need. The cure is to trust that God will help us get what we truly need (if not everything we want) When we do that then we too can go forth with joy and celebration -- dancing trees and all.

But I am still dubious about living like birds and flowers. That level of trust seems a little bit beyond my capability.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Looking Forward to AUgust 18, 2013 -- 13th After Pentecost, Proper 15C

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 5:1-7
  • Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19
The Sermon title is Renewing the Vineyard 

Early Thoughts: What shape is your garden in? 

The image of the vineyard as a metaphor for the land of God is fairly common.  And of course the Scripture story both begins and ends in a garden.  Which makes us wonder who is caring for the vineyard?  ANd if the vineyard starts to fail how do we renew it?

What shape is the vineyard in?

As the church has developed over the centuries there has been a misguided understanding that the church is the vineyard (it isn't, it is a part of the vineyard--the vineyard is the Kingdom of God, or in this passage it is the kingdom of Judah).  Some churches have even called themselves Vineyard churches.  ANd while the church is not the whole vineyard, it is a part.  And we each have a responsibility to tend that part of the vineyard where we dwell.
So what shape is our part of the vineyard in?

And more to the point, if we sense the vineyard is falling into a state of disarray, how do we renew it?

Isaiah suggests that the vineyard falls into disarray when the caretakers don't follow the instructions, when they go their own way, when things are allowed to go wild.  So to renew the vineyard we have to stop and listen.  We have to pull ourselves back to the path.  ANd if we can't renew it maybe it will go back to the wilder part of the greater garden.

We renew the vineyard by trusting in the Gardener.  We bring life back by listening to the Voice of the One who has a vision.  It may be a different vineyard than what was there before.  It may be wilder, less controlled.  The protective fence may be gone, and that may be a good thing.  We need to catch the vision, so that life will come back to the vineyard.

How can we tend the part of the vineyard where we live????
How will we????

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Looking Forward to August 11 (using a reading from the Lectionary for August 25)

The Scripture Reading for this Sunday is Hebrews 11:29-12:2

 The Sermon title is Faith That Endures

Early Thoughts:  What is faith?  What worth is faith?  Can we run the race and persevere?

And where does the cloud (or crowd) of witnesses come from?  Where do they fit in to our life now?

We are inheritors from those who have gone before us.  They are the cloud of witnesses.  They are the ones who have laid the road.  It is up to us to do the same for those who will come after us.

Faith is commonly equated (when used in a religious sense) with believing.  BUt it is far more than that.  Faith is one of the words Marcus Borg talks about in his book Speaking Christian.  In that volume Borg challenges the reader to recover earlier understandings of a variety of words and concepts.  Faith comes from the same Latin root as Fiduciary, being faithful is a matter of love and trust and commitment, not about believing (Borg also suggests that modern Christians use the word believe wrongly by the way).

So what is this faith that the writer of Hebrews is talking about?  Is it believing in a set of doctrines/statements/ideas or is it trusting in God, relying on God, floating in God as in a deep pool of water?  I suggest the passage only makes sense if it is the latter.  Trusting in God, floating in God (in whom, according to the book of Acts, we live and move and have our being) has empowered people to change the world despite hardships big and small.   Do we have the faith and trust to run the race that is before us and persevere?

We run our race in the presence of the great cloud of witnesses.  Near the end of Deathly Hallows, when Harry goes out to face death at the hands of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named he uses the fabled Resurrection Stone--a stone that can bring the dead back to life.  And so he marches off to his death with the support and comfort of those he loves who have died.  Yes, as he approaches the Death Eater camp he drops the stone and so the figures of those he loves disappear but Harry knows that he is not alone.  This is the great cloud of witnesses.  Those who have gone before us, with their own successes and failures, those who have run their race and continue to support the rest of us in the running.

The secret to faith that endure, to living faithfully within the cloud of witnesses is in remembering that we are supported by the cloud but not directed by it.  We are inheritors of those who have gone before, but not imprisoned by them.  If we are to live as faithful people we have to trust in the God who may call us in a whole new direction.  I read a quote on Facebook this week:
There are those of us who prefer a dead Christ in his place to a living one outside of our control.
There is truth in that.  The church is guilty of wanting to confine or contain God: Creator Christ and Spirit all 3.  But being faithful means trusting in the Living God, the Risen Christ, who shatters all boxes and preconceptions.  Can we embrace that God and run the race and persevere?

Only with faith and trust.  Add some dust and we can fly.

Shall we fly together?