Monday, 11 December 2017

Well, it's Monday morning and two weeks from today will be Christmas.  Yesterday we continued our look at characters from the Christmas story.  The lesser known  character of Zechariah was chosen because in hearing good news he was struck "mute".  The idea of being made "mute" resonated with me when I considered all the grief, worries and hardships that seem to get pushed under the rug at Christmas time.  Christmas is a time for hope and joy to be sure, but something about the modern Christmas seems to mitigate against people acknowledging their struggles.  Our service was deeply enriched by the words of Dianne Young, a local writer and a member of our church, who spoke about learning the language of grief after her husband's death.  It was a very important message and it is contained in the video from Sunday and elsewhere on the website.  Together we acknowledged that the God of love is different than the idea that God intervenes with good and bad in our lives.  Recognizing God as the Source of Love allows us to see God incarnated amidst our joys and griefs as a gentle tear, a good memory or the hug of a friend.  With these resources we are able to live in the midst of both the celebrations and struggles of the season.  What supports you in the more difficult moments of Christmas?  How do you understand God's presence in those times?  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Yesterday was the second Sunday in which we examined characters from the Christmas story.  It seemed early in the season to be speaking about Mary, but since the focus was on hectic lives Mary stood out as one whose life must have surely been hectic.  Her strong commitment to align herself with God's way gave some insight for our own hectic lives. First was her attitude, which was to see the blessing amidst the busyness.  Attitude can certainly shape life's experience.  It is interesting to note that the Buddha observed that one source of suffering was an endless longing for things to be different.  If we can accept reality but shape our attitude to bring hope out of chaos than we will have transformed the chaos.  The other perspective I discerned was the need to have purpose in life.  Too often we drift through life.  Even the busiest of people can simply be caught up in the flow without being intentional about their choices and activities.  Being clear about one's purpose may be another way to bring order to hectic lives.  I suggested that Jesus had defined a broad purpose - namely to love God, neighbour and self.  While I think this maxim is foundational for Christians, we still have to discern how to implement it in our specific life situations.  I am curious to know if you find life hectic ... and more so at this time of year.  What are your strategies for surviving?  How do you shape your attitude?  Do you have a clear sense of purpose in your life that guides you?  I'd love to hear your response.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Last Sunday's sermon reflection was challenging.  The staff determined that during Advent we would look at some of the characters of the Christmas story and see what they might have to say to us about the lives we live.  We are going to be aided each week by insights from some folks within the church.  This week we looked at the little known character of Simeon, an old man, who was wandering around the Jewish temple hoping God would send a saviour to Israel.  When Mary brings her new babe to the temple Simeon believes that his hope has been realized in the baby Jesus.  So I got musing about hope - Dayle's comments about supporting refugees also spoke about the need for hope.  What I found challenging is that although Simeon's long experience of waiting was realized, our hopes don't always result in what we hoped for.  Lots of couples long for a baby but it does not come.  Lots of refugees long for a new life in Canada but remain in refugee camps.  It is not an easy "one, two step" from hope to realization.  So what is the gospel message for us?  My conclusion is that "holding on to hope" is the vocation of Christians.  Sometimes all we have to offer someone in despair is the willingness to hope with them.  Does this make sense to you?  Have you had hopes that were realized?  Have you had hopes that were not realized?  Do you help to carry hope for some people?  I look forward to any insights you might share.

Monday, 13 November 2017

In yesterday's sermon I explored the often uneasy relationship between science and faith.  The Governor-General's recent remarks on this topic left me sad because she seemed to suggest that science and faith can't co-exist.  It was important to acknowledge the culpability of religious institutions in dismissing science -mostly in bygone centuries, but sadly in certain segments of Christianity to this day.  Only a person with their head in the sand can't see the important impact of science on human life; however; I am convinced that spiritual pursuits also had, and continue to have, important contributions to animating human life.  We need to recognize the metaphorical nature of ancient texts even while allowing that there may be embedded mysteries we don't understand - what we must not do, in my opinion, is dismiss them as irrelevant or outdated.  In the sermon I argue against a dualistic and oppositional view of science and spirituality and suggest a mutual respect in so much as they bless and enhance our lives and the life of the planet.

What are your thoughts about the relationship between science and faith?  I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Vision and Investment

Even though I believe that no one in the church should apologize for speaking about money (after all every dimension of our lives involves saving, managing and spending money), the Annual Stewardship Sermon always seems a little uncomfortable for the preacher.  This year it occurred to me that money and vision are inextricably tied together.  If we have a vision for our community of faith it will invariably involve money whether that's to welcome a refugee, heat the building or employ the custodian.  Yet, giving money without a vision is not very exciting.  I invite you to use this blog to name some of the visions/hopes you have for our community of faith.  In what should St. Martin's being investing itself?  Where does the gospel story, our personal passions and the interests of the culture intersect?  That is where our focus should be.  I look forward to your ideas.  

PS - in a recent workshop I was introduced to the idea of saying "thanks" for one's financial commitment.  As one of the most public figures for our congregation I decided to express personal appreciation to everyone who exited the church today for their financial commitments.  It was fun and felt good to say thanks ...  if you weren't in church on Sunday then, "Thank you for every way in which you support St. Martin's United Church!"  

Monday, 30 October 2017

How do you show compassion to yourself?

Good morning and welcome to this week.  Yesterday's scripture is a passage that is core to the Christian life.  It invites us to love God and to love neighbour and implies that there is an inseparable link between these two actions.  Yet, I have always been intrigued by the end of the passage which reads, "Love your neighbour as yourself."  My life experience suggests that most of us carry around negative messages that hinder us from truly loving and valuing ourselves.  The Gospel of Christ is filled with stories of liberation - liberation from oppression, liberation from injustice and liberation from those negative self-messages.  In the context of the sermon (found at:  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCPprVUGjDc&feature=youtu.be ) I attempted to apply Jesus' message of personal liberation to individual lives.  I'm wondering what you think about God's encouragement to forgive and accept yourself.  What have you learned about self-compassion in your own life?  I'm be glad to hear from you.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Well the blanket exercise went well in worship last week and we all got a small taste of the experiences Indigenous people have faced in the last 150 years.  We recognize that becoming educated about Indigenous experience is a step in reconciliation but action needs to be a second step.  I imagine that such action involves at least three steps: a survey of our own attitudes; an attempt to meet and genuinely know Indigenous persons; and participation in institutional change wherever possible.  I received an email from Bonnie in which she was connect concern with needed action and I am posting it below (with her permission) for your information.

When Crown land is sold we extinguish Indigenous rights. Put in the context of the Blanket Exercise our provincial government continues to yank away blankets. How can we voice our opposition? A resolution to Presbytery? Letter writing campaign?
Copied below is a link to Trevor Herriot’s blogspot:

see Oct 16,2017 grass notes

I have also copied below the final paragraphs. Please feel free to share and consider a response to this bewildering situation.


Thanks, Bonnie

Our Crown lands—already so scarce in the south because 85% of the land has been privatized—are the last shadows of the prairies we were entrusted to share and protect together under treaty,
 the closest thing we have to land held in common for the benefit of all treaty people. 

If we stand by and let this government sell them off, we will be abandoning any possible renewal of the spirit in which the treaties were signed, and inviting a new form of colonization 

taking us even further from any legitimate social contract with the land and its first peoples.