Monday, May 16, 2016

June Newsletter

What ministry are you doing right now, this week, each day?

That is the question asked by Already Missional: Congregations as Community Partners by United Church minister Rev. Dr. Brad Morrison.

A few months ago I attended a webinar Brad led as he was working on this book and found his thesis intriguing. And then once the book came out a group of clergy on Facebook decided to have a study of it together. So while I was going to wait and read it on my Sabbatical I started it earlier than planned.

I finished it this morning and am quite impressed with what I found. I am thinking that it would be a great book for Council to read and talk about or maybe for a book study in the fall involving folk not currently on Council (or possibly both?).

The book is a new take on how we as a congregation live out God's mission in the world. Normally when that discussion comes up it focuses on the congregation creating some new (or revitalizing an old) program to help us get out there and become active in the community. Which is a great idea – on the surface. But in the end many of those programs just don't happen, for a variety of reasons.

At the same time people of faith are living their lives and doing what they do. Hopefully those lives are impacted and informed by their faith, rooted in how they have come to understand God and God's hope for the world. Where in those lives are they doing ministry? Where in those activities are they participating in God's mission?

In short, rather than create new opportunities for mission, can we celebrate and support the ways we are already missional?

And so I ask again, what ministry are you doing right now? Or maybe that should say what ministries.

Maybe it is parenting. Maybe it is helping people run errands. Maybe delivering meals for Meals-On-Wheels. Maybe you are helping connect people around a common cause to create a better community. The options of how we can be, and are, already participating in God's mission in the world are Legion.

Then comes the next key question.

Assuming that people are already participating in God's mission in ways big and small in their daily lives, how can the church support you in that?

It is my experience that many United Church people are VERY active in their local community. Sometimes we recognize this as ministry, often we don't. What might it mean if we started to see these things as ministry? How might it change our attitude to what we do? How might it change our understanding of how we, the congregation of St. Paul's United, are a part of the community of Grande Prairie? How might it change how we see ourselves as the church?

I look forward to continuing this discussion in the fall.

Blessed Summer!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Looking Forward to May 15, 2016 -- Pentecost Sunday

This Sunday for Children's Time we will hear the beginning of the story of Pentecost, often called the "birth of the church".  You can read it here.

The other Scripture Reading for this week is 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 

The Sermon title is Spirit-Gifted

Early Thoughts: What gift has the Spirit of God stirred in you?  When the breath of God stirs the embers of the fire in your belly what do you feel driven to do?

Maybe your gift is found in the list that Paul lays out.  Maybe it is different (I doubt that Paul was claiming this is an exhaustive list of gifts, more like these are some of the gifts that the folks in Corinth are claiming and/or fighting about).

On Pentecost Sunday we remember that the Church is made alive when God's Spirit blows through our communities. The same wind that, in the beginning of our faith story, blew life into the lungs of Adam and Eve blows life into our faith, into our churches.

It is my belief that with that wind comes gifts.  We all have gifts that we offer for the growth and benefit of the whole community (both inside and outside the church walls).

And so the question remains: With what gifts/talents/strengths has God gifted you? As the fire of the Spirit burns in your soul what do you feel called to do?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Looking Forward to May 8, 2016 -- Easter 7, Paul Teaches About Resurrection

This Sunday we will celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.

The Scripture passage for this week is 1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 51-57

The Sermon title is L'Chaim

Early Thoughts: 6 weeks ago we began the Easter Season with the story of women visiting the tomb, finding it empty, being told of Resurrection and then fleeing in terror.  Now, on the last Sunday of the Easter Season we listen to Paul tell the Corinthians what Resurrection means.

Part of me would like to read the whole 58 verses of chapter 15.  I think we miss out on the full strength of Paul's argument when we skip those central verses (we miss the spiritual body and the physical body as well as the seed imagery-- although that does tend to lead into a dualistic approach to body and soul/spirit).  But then there would be even more options to choose from as a sermon hook. As it is there are plenty to choose from. In fact I suspect one could use 1 Corinthians 15 as your primary text for the whole Easter season...lots of sermons in that chapter.

One of the themes in this chapter is the idea of victory. Conquering the last enemy. This idea of victory is an ancient understanding of Easter. In opening the tomb and raising Christ God shatters the power of death. I suggest that we still live in a culture where death and dying are sources of terror. Maybe we are afraid of the death of our loved ones or ourselves. Maybe we fear for the death of our church, or our service club, or some other organization. But theoretically as people of Easter faith we should no longer be afraid of death because we know that life wins. In the end life still wins. How do our lives show that we believe that death no longer has the victory, that death has lost its sting?

Not to mention that this is the passage where we find "The last enemy to be destroyed is death", which is inscribed on the tombstone of James and Lily Potter. When they find this Harry and Hermione have a discussion about what it means, about how death is destroyed.

The sermon title is a Hebrew toast, literally meaning to life. As we stand in the Easter season, as we proclaim that God has conquered death, what other statement of faith could we share but l'chaim?