Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reel Theology 2019 - The Green Book

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

This is the first Sunday of our 2019 Reel Theology Sermon series. There were so many intriguing movies nominated for Best Picture for the Golden Globes this year, it was hard to choose just five to discuss here with you folks. This year, instead of picking six Best Picture nominees for the sermon series as we did last year, we decided to include a distinctly award-winning Canadian film, Indian Horse, which we will be showcasing in a couple of weeks. For three of the six movies, we will be showing them here in the sanctuary on the Friday evening before the Sunday they are featured. For more information, just have a look at the poster board near the office or ask me after worship. This week we are looking the movie, The Green Book. I’m thinking that not many of you had a chance to see the movie—has anyone other than Christopher and me? It was released in exactly the wrong timing for this series – a month before Christmas and was on its way out of the theatre by the time it was nominated for the Golden Globes and being included in our list of movies. It should be released to DVD by the end of February. I will give a bit of summary so I apologize in advance for revealing the story but you need to know the outcome of the movie so I can talk about the theological implications of this wonderful tale. 
The movie is based on the true story of when the celebrated black pianist Don Shirley travelled through the southern United States for an eight-week concert tour in 1962, two years before the passing of the Civil Rights Act. He hired a white man to drive for him and, ostensibly, to act as his bodyguard as they got deeper and deeper south, where Jim Crow laws were in effect and his presence would like be problematic. The driver, an Italian named Tony Vallelonga who preferred to be called Tony Lip, had been a bouncer and enforcer for a local nightclub and was out of work while the club was being renovated. The movie begins with Tony waking up at home mid-morning by a hullabaloo happening in his living room. His male family members and friends are excitedly watching a game on TV. He asks them what on earth are they doing in his home and they indicate they are keeping an eye on the workers his wife hired. He turns to see his wife offering glasses of water to two black repairmen. When they are finished drinking, the two men place the glasses in the sink. After they leave, Tony goes into the kitchen, carefully takes the glasses from the sink and puts them into the trash can. After a few days of unemployment, Tony finds himself recommended as a driver to a Dr. Shirley. He is given Dr. Shirley and is surprised to learn that Dr. Shirley lives in a lavish suite atop of Carnegie Hall. And he is not a medical doctor but rather a musician. And he’s black. After some negotiation and a phone call from Dr. Shirley to Mrs. Vallelonga in which an understanding is reached concerning the need for Tony to be home for Christmas, Tony agrees to drive for Don Shirley. Before they leave New York, the management company hands Tony a book, The Negro Motorist Green Book, published by a fellow named Victor Green. Folks just referred to it as The Green Book. As black people 1962 did not have freedom of movement or action in States which the Jim Crow laws were active, the Green Book was a guide to services and places that would permit black people on their premises.
As Don and Tony travel from New York to the south, they get to know each other, and Tony begins to recognize that his preconceived notions of what it means to be black in the United States might not be fully accurate. And Don, a man used to protecting himself and not showing anyone, much less a white person, any vulnerability, finds himself opening up to the white man chauffeuring him mile after mile. Tony embraces his role as bodyguard and Don sees that a white man can be compassionate and caring. So much happens during their travels but I will leave them for you to discover when you get a chance to watch the movie. It’s enough to say the tour ends with Don’s final concert being a bust. Tony has managed, through many a trial and tribulation, to get Don to each of his scheduled concerts. They arrive at a big fancy resort for the culmination of the tour, an hour before the start time and they are hungry. Tony is invited to eat in the dining room, but Don is told that he can eat in the kitchen. One of America’s finest pianists, dressed in tails and who is there for all the white people to hear, is not permitted into the dining room. Well, one thing leads to another and Tony and Don leave. It is blizzarding in New York when they get home on Christmas Day. Tony invites Don up to his apartment for supper. Don declines. Tony arrives to much fanfare and settles down to eat Christmas supper. There’s a knock at the door and in walks Don. Tony’s entire family, who is sitting at the dinner table, fall into a stunned silence. Tony hugs Don and turns to his family and says this is my friend Don Shirley, make some room for him. Everyone at the table erupts in a chorus of welcoming and shuffling as a place is set for Don.
This movie has many themes worth exploring—homophobia, classism, family disfunction, self-determination to name just a few. Racism against black people is, however, the primary theme of this movie. While the story takes place in 1962, I’m thinking the overall sentiments of the movie will feel familiar to many folks living in the States today. With the election of president who leads from a place of fear and scarcity and who often refers to people of colour and immigrants as not deserving the fullness of what it means to be cared for and loved as he would care for and love himself, with this President’s leadership, the people of the United States are finding that the equality that was fought for with the Civil Rights Movement has not yet been fully realized. And it’s not just the States. Before we Canadians get to sitting up too high on our horses, let us not forget that we have our own struggles with racism. Some of our most notable issues centre around relationships with Canada’s indigenous people, our history of blocking Chinese immigration and interning Japanese people in the last century and how, in some places in Canada, refugees and immigrants are viewed with suspicion today. Did you realize that the last school that segregated blacks from whites in Canada was closed in Nova Scotia just in 1983? This is all to say, we are not immune to the social issues in this movie, despite us living north of the 49th parallel.
Tony obviously grew up in time that is much different from today. His childhood would have been informed during post-war America. His country was divided on whether or not a particular race of people were fully human and whether those people were worthy of all that their Constitution promised its citizens. Heck, not only were black people not considered equal but neither were women. In fact, the United States is one of only a very few countries which have not ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. (Canada ratified that Convention in 1981.) Which is to say, a person cannot help the environment in which they are raised. They cannot help the beliefs of their parents, their community or their church. When a neighbourhood or school has little diversity, it is hard to learn about people and situations that differ from your own experience. It is easy for children to grow up thinking that the way they experienced life as a child and teenager is how the whole world operates.
Last summer, our 14-year-old daughter had a summer full of revelations that not all people have lived life like hers. We have kept our upright deep freeze in the garage, and we use it primarily for the beef we order directly from a rancher. The beef arrives wrapped in brown butcher’s paper. One day Abby came home asked, ‘do you know…that not everyone has a freezer of beef in their garage? That all meat is not wrapped in brown paper? Other people put their freezers inside the house. They use it to store other food. And then, ping ponging. Do you know that not everyone stores medicines in the hall closet? They keep it in a kitchen cupboard—why do we keep ours in the hall closet? It makes sense to keep it all in the kitchen.’ These were remarkable realizations for her—someone who understands that sexual and gender identities can be fluid and exist on a continuum was shocked that other folks organize their household storage differently than we do.
Our scripture reading today is a familiar one—love is patient, love is kind. The greatest of these love. But what is often missed when this piece from 1st Corinthians is read at weddings, is that middle part. The bit about being a child and speaking, thinking and reasoning like a child and then putting an end to childish things when becoming an adult. It goes onto to say, now I know only in part, then I will know fully. I cannot help but think of a young adult I was visiting with on New Year’s Eve. She mentioned that she was looking forward to the year 2020 when she could keep saying, well, it’s all hindsight now—cause hindsight is 20/20. And, isn’t that the truth? How often have you thought, jeez, if only I knew then what I know now? Life might not have necessarily been easier but maybe it would have lessened the fear that came with the uncertainty.
I believe this is what the Corinthians reading is reminding us of today. That things change. That, over time, situations, beliefs, understandings, experiences change. I feel this is what progress is all about. Decisions and determinations are formed and made at certain periods in our lives. But, as we grow up and as we experience the world outside of our neighbourhoods and schools, as we meet others from walks of life that are not similar to ours, as we learn how others were impacted by the laws and policies of our governments and our society, we begin to understand that not all decisions are good for all people. That what feels comfortable and safe for one group of people, does not feel at all safe or comfortable for another. That loving our neighbour as our self means our neighbour needs access to self-determination, healthcare, education and housing just as we have it ourselves. Progress means to take information that is new to us and we use it to reevaluate what was and how things currently are, we use this information that is new to us to see if adjustments are required in order for the health and care of all of humanity, that the health and care for all of creation is considered, not just one group of people, not just one type of people, not just yourself. And we don’t know the totality of human experience in the world. We can’t know. And so, we must be willing and open to hear from people whose lives are lived differently than our own. Just because they don’t store their beef in the garage freezer doesn’t mean they are wrong.
This is exactly why diversity in all of our social systems is so necessary. Why diversity in business and academia is important. Why diversity in leadership is vital. Diversity of thought, of belief, of gender, of sexual identity, of mobility, of race and colour and of religion. Because, when one is a child, one speaks like a child. One thinks like a child. One reasons as a child. But when one grows up, the childish things must end and what had been seen dimly in a mirror can be seen more clearly, face to face. Tony was taught that black people were so significantly different from him, that they needed to be treated in a different manner than Caucasian people. This belief would have come from the society and family dynamic in which he was raised. As an adult, he had no reason to think otherwise. Until he was confronted with the knowledge that a person he knew, and by extension, a whole group of people, was being held down by forces that were unjust and cruel. At first, he did not seem to be willing to look into the mirror to see more clearly. But, through the love of his wife encouraging him and not shutting him out when his behaviour was less than stellar and with the persistence of Don Shirley to not have his humanity ignored and shuttered away for someone else’s comfort, Tony allowed his heart to open to the wonderful human being sitting in the back seat of his car. And he allowed his ears to be open to hearing about that man’s life—the joys and the struggles of it. And he allowed his eyes to be open to seeing how that man was treated—simply for the colour of his skin—not because of his education, wealth or behaviour.
1st Corinthians says, if I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels and do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Tony’s wife was filled with love. For her husband but not at the cost of the world. Don was filled with love. For himself and for the man driving him, although that man could not initially see too far beyond what he knew as a child. And Tony was filled with love. For a nation that could be better. For community that could be stronger. For a friendship that could be seen more clearly face-to-face. Because he was willing to put away childish ways and know, from the core of his being, that faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. And for this, we give thanks to God. Amen.

Ignoring, Extinguishing, Seeking the Light - Epiphany 2019

Matthew 2:1-12

If you attended worship on the Sunday before Christmas, the fourth of Advent and then came for one of the Christmas Eve services, you may have noticed that the cross and the communion table went from being covered in blue to being covered in white. Stephen and I wore white stoles. You’ll see that the white remains even though it’s been nearly two weeks since Christmas. The liturgical colour of white—liturgy or liturgical, by the way, is just a fancy way of referring to religious ceremony or ritual—the colour marking this particular religious service that we find ourselves participating together in today is white. Today, along with hundreds of other churches around the world, we use white to recognize that today marks a significant day in the life of Jesus. We use white marking his birth, baptism, resurrection. And we use white today because it is Epiphany—the day on which the coming of the Messiah was revealed to the Gentiles, to those who were not of the Jewish faith.
Epiphany immediately follows the twelve days of the season of Christmas. For those of us whose world is very much shaped by the secular world, it sometimes is a funny thing to consider that Christmas is more than the day after Christmas Eve. Our faith tradition has it that our high holy day is the evening before the first day of Christmas after which we go home and move into a more secular celebration of the season. You are forgiven if you walked into the sanctuary today and were surprised that the nativity is still up and the decorations have not yet been put away. Because Christmas is over. If you haven’t already been back to work or kicked the kids out the door to school with a sigh of relief at the sudden blessed silence of everyone have been returned to their regularly scheduled programing, you will likely be doing so tomorrow. And yet, here we gather, amongst the decorations of a season gone by. We do so because the tale of the Christ Child’s birth, the nativity story, did not end on Christmas Eve. However we are not a patient people. We don’t want to wait for the story to be doled out, piece by piece. We want the whole story, told altogether. And not all people come week by week to hear the story of Christ Jesus told out in a measured way. They come, all for their own reasons, during the high holy times, and it is vital for them to hear the story from start to finish amongst a group of folks choosing to congregate, to hear together the story of the Word becoming incarnate with all the world. And so, we tell the story, from the revelation to Mary that she is expecting the child she is to name Emmanuel, God With Us, all the way to the revelation of that child, the one to become our Messiah, to the foreign scholars, the strangers from a strange land, arriving on camels.
We tell the story as if each moment happens one immediately after the other. Mary is suddenly pregnant, Joseph does not dismiss her, they travel to Bethlehem, no room at the Inn, birthing and swaddling clothes, the shepherds are visited by a multitude of angels, they travel to Bethlehem, the wise ones interpret the star as a sign, they too travel to Bethlehem. From the very start of this tale, you know the timeline has been compressed. There are very few verses between Mary being told by Gabriel that she is expecting to Gabriel telling the shepherds they are to be the first to welcome the Christ Child who was born in a stable and is now lying in manger. Anyone who has had to wait from the time a loved one has shared the glorious news that there is to be a baby born into the family, for those who have been told they have been matched with a child for adoption, the arrival of new, young family member takes days, weeks, months to happen.
The end of the nativity also seems a bit rushed. The ones we know as the Wise Men, the Magi lived far, far away. They saw the star, knew the Messiah had been born and so they began travelling. By all scholarly accounts, it is thought it would have taken months and months for the Magi to get to Mary and meet Jesus. So, this sacred story of ours that we hear in its totality each Christmas Eve, begins with months and months of waiting for Mary’s pregnancy to come to its fruition and it ends after months and months of traveling by the non-Jewish scholars to which the Messiah’s presence was first revealed. Which is why, liturgically, we do our best to keep out the Christmas decorations celebration the birth of Christ, and we keep keeping on with laying out white in our sanctuaries, we do this because, because the twelve days between the start of the Christmas season to now, the day of Epiphany, marks the passage of time that is not always understood or acknowledged as we tell the tale on Christmas Eve.
There are so many aspects of the Epiphany section of the nativity story that we can consider. Who exactly were the ones that saw the star and why were they thought to be so wise? What was Herod’s deal in being so worried about the birth of a vulnerable baby? And what about the meeting with Herod had the Wise Men so concerned that they defied his orders to return to him after they met the baby who was to become the Light of the world? Today, let us look at what the different characters of this story did when it became apparent to them that God would become manifest as light, hope and love in a time ruled by uncertainty, angst and fear. Let us look at what epiphanies each group of them experienced upon the birth of the Christ Child.
We heard King Herod had called together all the chief’s priests and teachers of the law—it is written as if Herod had called these leaders to him in advance of the Magi arriving in Jerusalem and asking the location of the king of the Jews. The Magi arrived, asked their question and Herod becomes disturbed. Then the reading goes on, giving us a memory of Herod—when he had met with the religious leaders and lawyers, they told him of the prophecy. Past tense. Which leaves the impression that the priests and scholars knew that God would be sending a ruler who would shepherd the people of Israel. And they kept quiet about it. They did not share the prophecy. We know this because if they had shared what they knew, if they shared the information, Herod would not had to ask where the Messiah would be born and the people of Jerusalem would not have been disturbed when the Magi arrived in town, telling of a magnificent star that had risen in the east.
The priests, the leaders of the very people who were held under the thumb of the state, who lived their lives at the whim of cruel and unjust laws, regulations and taxes, the religious leaders of the people did not speak of what could give hope to the masses. They denied the prophecy. They gave no authority or credence to their very scriptures, telling them they were not alone and that God would never forget them. There’s no indication of why the priests and scholars of the law tried to ignore the prophecy, why they did not lift it up. Perhaps they were afraid of the consequences of speaking out.
But we all know that no matter how much we deny certain truths, eventually we must face the very reality we are trying to ignore. I like to think as I get older, I know better than to ignore what needs facing but I think instead of acknowledging that I’m denying something, my brain has become expert at assisting me in my denials. Just this week I had to face the hard, cold truth that no matter how I worked it, there was no way the blocks that I had made just before Christmas for a quilt I’m working on were going to line up with the blocks I made after Christmas. I had made a measurement error with the first set of blocks which I realized while I was sewing them. I assembled those first blocks knowing things were not correct while my brain whispered to me that it was a problem that future Vicki could figure out. I didn’t need to do a course correction, it would work out in the end. However when I went to add the newer blocks, to my dismay, they did not line up. I had tried to ignore the issue earlier on but math is math—math is ALWAYS math—and now I have a problem that I’m quite annoyed with past Vicki for denying there was a problem. The leaders of the Jewish people denied the authority of their scriptures and ignored the truth that was promised to them—that the Light of the World was sure to come.
Which brings us to Herod. You don’t really get a sense of how much he’s freaking out with the arrival of the Wise Men asking where the baby had been born but something was off because the Wise Men did not return to him after meeting the holy child, as he had instructed them to do. This suspicion is affirmed in the next set of readings in which Herod has a melt-down and orders all male children under the age of two to be killed. But in our reading today, it is enough to know the Wise Men do not trust Herod enough to return to him. The fear of the one who was to shepherd the people of Israel must of seeped out of him when he met with the Magi. And being as wise as they were, these men from the east surely understood how threatened Herod would have felt with the possibility of the prophecy of a king greater than he from long past coming true. 
Lately the news has been filled with people whose power has been threatened. I can’t help but think of the sweeping #MeToo movement which has had many influential men’s careers to end in disgrace after years and decades of mistreating women. We know, from reporting, that in their attempt to keep their power, the men did their best to extinguish the stories of the women they abused or mistreated. Just last month, it was revealed that the president of the United States worked with a rag magazine to have women’s stories bought and then silenced because the magazine then owned the rights to tell the story, which they never intended to publish. Herod heard the prophecy, he asked the Magi to give him the final detail he was missing and then what? We know. We know the story. Death and destruction. Because the Magi did not tell him specifically which child was the Messiah, he went with mass casualties. When the response to truth telling, to a light shining so that the truth can be known, when that light is a threat to power and control and the response to that light is to do everything possible to extinguish it, you must know there’s something pretty darn special about that Light.
The dark is not inherently a bad place to be but there is no doubt that our instinct is to look for light—any light whatever form it might take when we are uncomfortable, sad or feeling trapped.  Sometimes it’s literal light. When I was in Toronto for a conference in November I came down with the flu. I was alone in my hotel room feeling incredibly sorry for myself. I knew I needed to sleep but everything just felt so awful, I didn’t want to be alone in the dark of my hotel room. So, I turned the lamp onto its lowest setting and turned the TV onto CNN at a very low volume. It was the mid-term elections in the States. The glow of the lamp and the low voices of the TV together created the Light I needed to get through that one night of the worst illness I can ever remember having. The Light, though, can be so much more than a glow in the dark. When a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with a very serious condition a few years ago, it was just about Advent. Once word got out that he was going to have surgery that would require months of recovery, the men of the church choir that he sang with showed up at his home and hung the Christmas lights. Casseroles were prepared and frozen so his wife could tend to his needs. People drove him to and from appointments. Visits were timed so his wife could rest. His physical healing would take a lot of time, but his soul found healing in the love that was shown unconditionally to him. The Light he needed to surround him at his darkest hour was made manifest in the actions of his neighbours, his fellow church members, his colleagues and his family. 
Through the child Jesus, God entered the world—no longer a distant god but now a god of love being lived in and amongst humanity, in and amongst us. The baby grew and became known as the Light of the World. It is a light that God promises to us that will never go out. Jesus, the Light of the World, expressed love and taught lessons throughout his ministry which became known as The Way. When he was at the Sea of Galilee, he met people of all shapes and sizes, types and makes and he said to them, ‘Come and follow me.’ With his disciples in tow, he began walking town to town. To Nazareth, to Bethany, to Jerusalem, to Emmaus. To follow Jesus meant travelling. The priests tried to ignore the Light that was to come. Herod tried to extinguish the Light he knew had arrived. But those that met Jesus, those who met the Light of the World, those people began to follow him, they began to seek him out. And we seek him still today.
Epiphany is the revelation to the non-Jews that the Messiah has come. Epiphany for the priests meant that despite their attempts to ignore the Light that was to come, God sent it anyway. Epiphany for Herod was that despite his attempts to extinguish the Light, courage and love would prevail and the Light would not be put out. Epiphany for the Wise Men was the realization in their seeking, their journey was not finished when they arrived at the Christ Child’s side. They must continue along a path not previously known to them. Epiphany today is a reminder that Jesus came as the Light of the World and, despite humanity’s and our individual attempts to ignore it or, even at times, extinguish it, that light, that love will always overcome. That light will never falter. We are called by God, by Jesus to come and follow. To seek the light and, day by day, be the love that Christ showed us was possible. May it be so. Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Woman! Be Slow to Anger!!

James 1:19-25

Alright, I’m about to say something controversial here. Gird your loins. Are you ready? Ok, here it is. The Bible was written, every single word of it was written by human beings. It was not written word for literal word by God in Hebrew and Greek and then translated into a bazillion different languages. Men wrote the Bible. (And I’m not being gender neutral here cause the fact of the matter is that it was very likely all men who put the actual words to paper.) In this context, here at Symons Valley United Church, that information—not that men wrote the Books of the Bible—but the fact that God’s self did not write the Bible probably does not really shock you. And, if it does, I’m sorry. Come see me after worship and we can chat. Anyway, I wanted to put out in front of us that people, real life people who were birthed into the world, who were loved and cared for by family friends, who experienced loss and pain in the course of their living, people who knew the joy and celebration and the hurt and dismay of living in a world controlled by men who were not their people, by men whose greed and fear motivated ongoing violence and oppression of their fellow men and women, these real life people wrote the entirety of the Bible. The Bible was written by people who were very much like you and me. By people who were living the best they could with the brokenness of that surrounded them—the brokenness of their neighbours and the brokenness of themselves. The Bible is the very real outpouring of folks who were seeking a better way of living and a better way of being.

And because the Bible was composed by everyday sort of people, that means the construction of the Bible was not a flawless process. The remembering and the collating of stories to be included in the canon was dependent upon the sensibilities of many different people, over a long-time frame. And so, there repetitions here and there, there are continuity issues—you know when you are watching a tv show and a character is wearing something in a scene but when the camera angle changes and we see them from a different perspective, they are not wearing it? The Bible has moments like that. We notice it when we align the common stories from each Gospel side-by-side. Who exactly discovered the tomb empty? Was it Mary alone or was it a group of women? Was the woman who poured oil over the feet of Jesus Mary from Bethany or was it an unnamed woman? These discrepancies exist and, because of that, biblical scholars through the ages have bickered over which version is correct and tried to determine if the differences matter. Some of the bigger discrepancies in the Bible concern seemingly contradictory lessons or pieces of wisdom. Today’s reading is central to a big argument that took place in the time of Martin Luther and carries on with us today. You see, when Paul wrote his letters to the emerging Christian communities of faith, he often argued against legalism. Doing precisely this or doing precisely that did not make up the instruction manual for getting good with God. To be a faithful Jew means following a lot of rules concerning one’s behaviour—rituals, eating only permitted food and not eating other foods like seafood, refraining from certain actions. To honour God, one had back in ancient times and still do this day, a daily list of what and what not to do. Paul essentially threw the rule book away and said, the laws don’t matter, only your faith matters. Just believe and have faith and you’re good with God.

But then, along came James. James the Just. James, the brother of Jesus. James who likely witnessed the Risen Christ. Paul argued again legalism, James argued against antinomianism - which is a twenty-five-dollar word meaning to be freed by grace from the necessity of obeying the Mosaic Law. More or less, God loves me so I don’t have to worry about avoiding the steak and lobster special when I go out for supper. James recognized that by giving up the rituals and the laws of Moses—the ones Paul said people did not have to worry about—James noticed folks around him were not really concerned with the world around them. They believed. They were good. God had their back. There was no needed to fret about the state of the world. James said, no, no, no. You can believe all you want but your faith only adds up to a hill of beans if there is no action. This is what we heard today. Have faith and then work towards righteousness. It’s not the make-work rules and legalism that you have to work at, but you need to work at being decent to those around you. It would seem, at this point, the Bible is not clear—is it by faith alone or through works that one finds themselves on the right-hand side of God? Biblical scholars say that while each position seems counter to the other, they, in fact, are undergirded by the same God. As such, to believe in and to have faith in a merciful and compassionate God that loves without end is to be someone who works for the wholeness of the world, not just the wholeness of ones-self. So, two weeks ago you heard loudly and clearly from Stephen that God loves you and will never forsake you and today you will hear, God loves you without end and what now are you going to do about it?

A few verses after what Debra read, James states, loving your neighbour fulfills the law. Two millennia later, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German minister and theologian who was imprisoned and executed because of his association with an assassination plot of Hitler, wrote “What is nearest to God is precisely the need of one’s neighbour”. Just as Jesus did not name names when asked who exactly is one’s neighbour but rather described what being a neighbour looked like, James explains what types of actions makes one a good neighbour. He says we are to be quick to listen and slow to speak and be slow to anger. Now I have to admit that when I read the reading this week, I chuckled and then phoned the love of my life, the one who knows me like no other and read it to him. He laughed out loud and said he needed to make into a sign—I think he means to have it somewhere near him at all times so that when my personality dips its toe into the lake of volatility that I seem to live right next to at all times and I start ranting about this or that, particularly when he’s been awake for only a few minutes and I’ve been up for a whole hour already listening to the news or reading about the latest insanity that is politics these days, he can just put up the sign and go about his business of getting a cup of coffee. But I digress.

Be quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to anger. Be doers of the word. Don’t only hear but do. Don’t be like someone who looks into the mirror and immediately forgets their collar is askew or their hair is all mussed up. Look into the mirror and see what needs doing and work to get it done. The United Methodist theologian and author Donald Messer who is known for his work to combat world hunger and HIV/AIDS, has written, ‘Faith without works is dead. Hoping without helping is sinful.” I have this quote and Bonhoeffer’s pinned up right up beside my computer monitor in my office. I have learned, not perfectly, but I have learned that listening is as important, if not more so, than speaking. I am still learning what it means to be slow to speak. And I think being slow to anger will always be somewhat of an elusive virtue for me. However hard it is to imagine implementing what James says being a good neighbour is all about, it is important and necessary to keep those encouragements before us as we move through life. Because loving your neighbour is not about assuming you know what their struggles are or what needs they have. You learn their struggles and know their needs by first listening—active listening in which you hear what is said then respond thoughtfully instead of sitting there with something lined up to say, just waiting for the other to be done speaking. Have a comment ready to go, regardless of what their concerns are. Listen and then do. Do with purpose, do with respect, do with intention.

Being quick to listen and slow to speak are actions but they also give us a sense of timing. Listening takes time. Being slow to speak take more time still. And slowing down the burn of anger takes even more time. Last week Simon and I witnessed a terrible car crash and it easy to know how to be a good neighbour in the instant of that moment but often figuring out what it means to be faithful, compassionate, loving doers of the word, figuring out what would Jesus do, what would God have us do in a difficult scenario, takes time. Helping without hurting, being an ally and not taking over, takes time and leads to having to get organized. Finding a plan that might work. Putting said plan in motion. I have used this example before, but it holds up. Four years ago, just before Christmas, I received a call from someone desperate for help. Her family had experienced a perfect storm of unfortunate incidences and they could not pay their mortgage. Food was hard to come by. Could the church help. Long story short, with one email to the congregation, I had $2500 in 24 hours. And I realized I had put the church in a tough spot. Only then did I slow down. It was way more money than the situation called for. There were legitimate questions around appropriate levels of fundraising outside of our policies. So, we had some conversations. Some praying happened. I reached out for advice. And a plan developed that allowed for the family to receive the money over time that was in line with how we wanted to offer justice and love to all who walk through our doors. It was good. And now we have a plan going forward. My point here is that planning is good. Sure, we can get so caught up in the planning that we can’t see the forest for the trees however a plan means we have structure to work within. And we’ll be aware when we are moving outside that structure which then might cause us to take pause and take the time to make an informed decision as to whether we want to make an exception to the rule. Flying by the seat of your pants can be fun but it doesn’t allow for sustainability. Winging it works now and then but it gets tiring not knowing what’s coming next.

Planning for what’s coming next is what stewardship is all about. You can’t harvest a field without seeding it and tending the crop in the months leading to getting the combine out, you can’t feed the homeless without assembling and preparing the food. You can’t give a quilt to someone recently diagnosed with ALS without cutting the fabric and quilting it once you’ve sewn all the pieces together. You can’t offer space to community programs, to AA, to Girl Guides, to a Muslim prayer group without clearing the snow from the parking lot, without paying the heating bill, without making sure that no one else will be in the space they need. You can’t have a visit over coffee and baking without first making it and putting it out for when the service is over, you can’t serve breakfast at the Drop-In Centre without asking for volunteers, you can’t have Livestream without technology and you can’t make change the lightbulbs in the parking lot or the foyer without hiring a lift to get you up there. Just as you can’t do all these things without planning, we cannot be a blessing to the world, to our community, to ourselves without doing first some planning. Planning takes time. Planning takes into account vision. Planning takes into account hopes and dreams. Planning takes into account what God would have us do. Planning takes into account the Good News that was given to us by Jesus, the man who walked the earth and the Risen Christ who emerged from the tomb. And planning takes into account available resources—the gifts, skills and time of human power and the resource of financial power.

How the Treasurer sleeps
when the mortgage is paid.
A few weeks ago the Outreach Committee showcased the many different opportunities they provide for folks to get involved in issues around hunger, homelessness and caring for those with HIV. Our building hosts community programs and offers a safe and warm alternate for outdoor programs on rainy days through the summer. Our parking lot is used for bottle drives and, if you can believe it, a base for local police operations. We welcome people of the Islamic faith to worship here, in this very space, praying to the same God of our hearts. We offer a loving, affirming and compassionate welcome to all who walk through our doors. We do that. Not just Stephen and, but all of us. We can do this because we have worked together and planned with intention and with love how to do that and how to be that. And part of that planning is knowing the budget we have to work with. We generally work within our budget but between this, that and the other, we found ourselves a bit cash poor before the summer. Michelle, our long-suffering treasurer, put out a call for funds to cover the cash shortage. $35,000 was raised for the faith component. Which is awesome. But can you imagine if the income needed, the general giving’s AND the faith component was given in full through planned monthly donations? No shortage would happen. Mortgage would be paid. Treasurer would sleep nice, peaceful, sleeps. The math is this. Certainly not all of us can give that amount. But lots of us can. And a few of us can give more. I say this only to encourage you to faithfully consider this month how you can help this congregation plan. How you can help this congregation do its best to be a blessing for the world, for our community, for each and every one of us. To be doers of the word. This day and forever more. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Scooby Doo and the Avatar Were the Worst!

Luke 10:25-37

This Sunday was Thanksgiving Sunday AND World Communion. The church calendar is intersecting in a fabulous way with the secular calendar this year. If you're church geeky such as me, it might interest you that the following dates/days have been or will be connected:
  • Christmas Eve 2017 - was a Sunday (we had our usual Sunday morning service and then two evening Christmas Eve services)
  • Ash Wednesday - was Valentines Day in 2018
  • Easter Sunday - was April 1st. I was tempted to set up a tomb-like structure and have a Jesus character jump out and yell 'April Fools!!' at the start of the service. But I didn't. Cause I'm a grown up.
  • Pentecost Sunday - was Victoria Day long weekend. So many people leave town that weekend to get their first weekend of camping in. Various combinations of the staff also try to take that weekend off. Not in 2018. We. Were. All. Here.
  • Canada Day was a Sunday.
  • Thanksgiving Sunday was the same Sunday as World Communion. Giving thanks as we have communion with Christians around the world. Cool.
  • Remembrance Day is a Sunday.
  • Epiphany 2019 falls on a Sunday. Super cool. We'll have to food involved with that service. Have an actual Feast of Epiphany
Anyway - none of this is what the message was about Sunday. I got myself a little distracted. Here's the somewhat organized chaos of what happened...

With some help, I told this story:
A man was going down from Calgary to Okotoks, when he fell into the hands of two pediatric cardiovascular surgeons. They stripped him of all of his vast amount of money, stoned him, and scurried away, leaving him half comatose.  An Avatar happened to be going down the same road, and when she saw the man, she shuffled by on the other side.  So too, a Scooby Doo, when he came to the place and saw him, he skedaddled by on the other side.  But a Muslim, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he felt sorry for him.  He went to him and bandaged his elbow, pouring on water and milk.  Then he put the man on his own cow, took him to an pyramid scheme business and took care of him.  The next day he took out two purple pieces of monopoly money and gave them to the babysitter. “Look after him.” He said, “and when I return, I will pay you for
any extra damages you may have.”
Does this story sound familiar to you? If you're churched at all, it should ring a few bells for you. It's the Mad Libs version of The Good Samaritan. I asked the youth and children to select verbs, nouns, occupations and such at the start of the service and then I told the story.

Dave read the scripture reading in French and some folks acted out the story. You remember it right? Some religious people ask Jesus what are the basic laws to follow in God's world. Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. And love your neighbour as you would yourself. At which point, the religious know-it-all tried to trick Jesus and asked, 'But, who is my neighbour?' And Jesus, being way clever, answered with parable rather than a straight-forward, easy to work around answer and told the story of the despised Samaritan being the hero of the injured man. The priest and the Levite were not the heroes. THAT Samaritan was very much the hero.

And then I asked some questions...

·       What do you suppose the injured man thought when he saw the priest coming his way? (If you can’t rely on a religious leader to help you, who can you count on?)

·       What about the Levite (lay leader respected in religious circles)? (Disappointed, an outcast, not worthy of being helped…)

·       Why do you suppose neither of them stopped to help? (Ritual cleanliness, being late, maybe they were being tricked…)

·       The injured man was a Jew and Jews HATED Samaritans – they treated them like second class citizens. How do you suppose the injured man felt when the Samaritan walking towards him? (Helpless, vulnerable, expecting to be taunted or harmed further?)

·       What did you notice the Samaritan did in this story? He took IMMEDIATE action. He saw someone in need and got involved. He ignored prejudices. He saw a person in serious need and acted. His concern for the injured man was genuine and long-lasting. He made arrangements with the innkeeper to return later to check on the man’s condition and settle his bill.

·       How do you think the injured man felt when he realized the full extent of how the Samaritan helped him? (THANKFUL) When you live with gratitude, you look at the world with a different outlook – you are more compassionate, forgiving, helpful, kind.

·       What was Jesus trying to say when he made the Samaritan, a hated foreigner, the hero of the story? (Our neighbour can be ANYONE.)

Not very often do we come across such dramatic opportunities to help someone else. My son Simon and I saw a very bad accident last week. We got to be good Samaritans because help was very much needed but there are very few moments in life in which we witness such a dramatic event. I can think of two different ways of loving the world as you would love yourself even when there are no accidents or violent acts to respond to:


Gratitude - Thumbprint Prayer -- Each day look for at least one person, place, or moment that you’re thankful for or that fills you with feelings of thankfulness. When you are with that person, or are in that place, or have had that moment, leave your thumbprint somewhere close by. As you do, say—even under your breath—“Thank you, God!” See how many thumbprint thank yous you can leave in the world.

Helping - Acts of Kindness – write some action you could perform this week on a piece of paper and put it into the offering plate

The youth and the children then collected all the sticky notes with acts of kindness written on them and taped them to the cross. It was awesome.

And that is how our message time went on this Thanksgiving Sunday. You can watch the whole service here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

This That and the Other

Alright. I'm going to confess right here and now - no burying the lead... I have not done what I wanted/said I would do. I had it in my head that I would read a book in a couple of weeks and then I would write up a little blog post about the book. You know - just write up a little something in between the sermons and other such things that I write in my day-to-day to life.

It's a funny thing, but there are folks who still don't know that a minister actually does work four (and sometimes five) days of the week beyond Sunday. We compose - on paper or in our heads - sermons. We write grant applications. We write bible study programs. We write newsletters. We write prayers, worship services and blessings for babies. We help with Committee work. We host programs. We make phone calls and visit those who need a pastoral presence in their lives.

You get it. I know you do. But sometimes I forget. And I think I can write just one more thing before the At-a-Glance gets sent out on Thursday afternoons. Which is a long-winded (I am a preacher after all) way of saying, there's no way I could write a blog post for each book I've read so far this year.

A valuable piece of advice I received as I was contemplating becoming a leader of international study trips was:
When things don't go the way you thought they would and you realize you can't achieve your goal, you change your goal.
Isn't that amazing? Makes life infinitely better most days.

Anyway, this is me changing my goal. I will - I WILL - read all the books I set out to read this year but...the blog posts will happen when they happen. And one is happening today. And, with this post I will be more than doubling my finished book, as my new ministry colleague and most favourite person with the last name Harper says - strap in cause things are about to get a little crazy.

I've consulted my Goodreads account and according to it and this blog, the last book I mentioned here was Reasons to Stay Alive - book 7 of the intended 26 I want to read in 2018. But I have been reading. Slowly but surely. Here are the books I've read since my last post...

#8 - Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A lovely quick read about how to guide your child to respect themselves and others. To treat others as you would like yourself to be treated. To honour each and every being and expect the same in return. I think I knew/had learned most of what was mentioned in this book but there were still some very good realizations in this book.

#9 - Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist by Franchesca Ramsey

I saw an interview with Ramsey about her activism as a result of making the short video Sh*t White Girls Black Girls She was catapulted into the limelight with the video and had a steep learning curve on the ins and outs of being an activist. She writes about what it means to be a black woman in America and how challenging it is for a black woman to navigate in the world. If you read only one chapter of this book, read the one about black women's hair - the politics of hair, the discrimination of hair and the rude behaviour associated with hair. 

#10 - Yes We (Still) Can - Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump by Dan Pfeiffer
As many of you know, I'm on a bit of an American politics kick these days. Dan Pfeiffer was very much an insider to the Obama Whitehouse and he continues to offer political commentary on the podcast, Pod Save America. Living through the chaos of the Trump Whitehouse, this book is a fascinating read. And...I want to share this story about my decision to read the book. I had been contemplating ordering it, especially since ordering it within a certain time would mean a certain good charity in the States would get a small cut of the book sales. But I was wavering on whether I would actually read a whole book on politics and forgot about it. At least I thought I did until a box from Amazon arrived at home and this book was in the package. I thought, 'oh, I guess I did order the book - huh.' And I read it. Meanwhile, my eldest son, who follows the same pollical commentaries as I do, asked if I had received a package from him lately. No. No I didn't, I told him. Finally, when he was visiting in August, he tells me that this book was the package that he sent. Oh! That's why I don't remember ordering the book! I thought I was losing it for a little while there. He knew I had it because he and I are connected on Goodreads and he saw that I was reading it despite not realizing the Amazon box had had a gift enclosure note that I had missed. I thanked him and then gave it to him to read.
#11 - More Ready Than You Realize: The Power of Everyday Conversations by Brian McLaren
An interesting read about the power of evangelism, testimony, story-telling and friendships. I really appreciate McLaren's gentle push and pull of going deeper in theological exploration.
#12 - The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs
After reading Jacobs' Year of Living Biblically, I figured he'd be worth reading again. This book is fun but tedious. It's basically a summary of the Encyclopedia Britannica interspersed with vignettes from his life with his wife and extended family - which are the nuggets of hilarity that kept me reading. I do feel a bit smarter having read the book but new bits of information I have are a bit esoteric and likely not very helpful in day to day life.
#13 - Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person - Shonda Rhimes
This book made the pile of books my dear hubby chose to read over the summer. I write that sentence like he chose the books in that pile. How it happened went more like this... 
Him: I think I'm going to read 6 or 7 books this summer.  Me: Oh, can I do that with you?
Him: Sure. Me: Do you need suggestions? 
Him: Sure. Me: Okay, this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one. 
Him: Sure. (He finished all seven books. I finished 4.) 
A friend had recommended Rhimes book so I added it to the pile. I wasn't so sure when I started the book but I found it to be a good read. Rhimes is responsible for all the good TV on Thursdays evenings (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, etc) but she woke up (metaphorically) one day to the realization that she was not living life to its full potential. She was not having fun. She was not living a full life. And this book is about how she figured it out and started living life the best she could.
#14 - The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
This book was summer homework for the SVUC Board. A great way to help you get focused on what's important and how to accomplish what you'd like to achieve. Easy to read and worthy considering how it can help you get to where you want to go.
#15 - The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by MLK Jr himself
This was a challenging read. Not because of the writing. But because of the terrible and desperate situation African Americans lived in before the Civil Rights Movement. I had no idea how immediately MLK was thrust into state and nation-wide leadership after he was ordained and called to his first congregation. How much his and his family's life was under constant threat. How VERY BADLY white people treated black people during the era of Jim Crow. This book is worth every minute it takes to read it.

So. There you have it. I'm up to 15 books out of the 26 on my reading schedule this year. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker is next. It promises to be good ready - Hatmaker regular gets told by Evangelical Christians that, because she's a woman, she has no business expressing her thoughts about theology, Jesus and God. I'm thinking she's a bit feisty and I like feisty.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Season of Creation - Humanity

Genesis 1.26-28,2.7-8, 15 and Mark 10.42-45

On this third Sunday in the Season of Creation, we are looking at the role and responsibility of humanity in God’s world. We celebrate the diversity of the human race and rejoice that God’s divine nature is revealed in each and every one of us. And we reflect on the task bestowed upon us when the first people were brought to life in the Garden that we know as Eden—the task of caring for God’s Creation. In the first Creation story we hear that humanity was supposed to subdue and have dominion over all the earth, which implies to be dominant and to be bossy, just like your older sibling when you were growing up. Or was that you, being the bossy one of the kids? You remember those times, when you were playing make-believe and your sister told you what role you were to play and what you had to do and what you had to say? Or when your big brother would settle into his spot in front of the TV and look over at you and tell you, not ask you, to get him an apple? You feel me? I’m not just working out something here on my own, am I? Anyway, to have dominion over something calls to mind dominance without consultation. But there’s the second Creation story and we hear that humanity was to till the earth and keep it. When you keep something, it usually means to mind it and care for it, doesn’t it? You have a responsibility to keep whatever it is safe and sound, and in the case of the hermit crabs that came home one year during winter break, keeping them meant keeping them alive—which is a harder task than you might first imagine when you sign the permission form to do such a thing without considering exactly what it is that hermit crabs eat. Or that they don’t like dogs and 2-year-old grabby hands very much. Actually, public service announcement, hermit crabs like neither of those two things at all.

All of humankind, each one of us, are made in the image of God, which, depending on the day, is kind of hard to get your mind around isn’t it, with all the ethnicities, gender identities, shapes, sizes and colours we all are, it’s hard to think of any one image God could possibly be from the world of humans that now populate the earth. But, what if we don’t think of image as being simply visual? What if the word image better means a reflection? As in, humankind reflects who is and what is God? We are to mirror God to the world and to care for the world as God cares for the world. God is not imagined in the staticness an idol or a painting. God in known in the freedom of human persons to be gracious and compassionate as God was gracious and compassionatewith the birthing of the very world in which we now reside. And, just as God invites, evokes and encourages, God bestows this power upon humanity to care for Creation. Power to invite, evoke, encourage does not overpower or demand. This kind of power means in having dominion is to shepherd, to care and feed the animals or to be the steward of the household, to ensure there is food enough for the family and that the home is safe and warm. To have dominion is to secure the well-being of every creature and bring the promise of each to full fruition. Humans were tasked to take up their God-given responsibilities to care for the rest of Creation. We are to treat the world as God would treat the world and help the world along to realize its full potential.

So, Creation comes into being and humanity is charged with its care. Take good care of all that I have made, says God, there’s only one rule. One rule. Do you remember what it is? Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That’s it. Care for the world and stay away from that tree over there. But, of course, the illegal fruit is eaten and things fall apart. Humanity is banished from the Garden and all the difficulties of living are imposed upon humanity. Back pain and birth pains forever change how our lives are lived but God does not release humanity from our essential task of caring for the world. Adam and Eve apparently make it all work. They till the soil, they have children, they keep themselves and the world alive and healthy. But then, do you remember what happens next in Genesis? If you ever want to read a fast-paced and compelling story filled with dramatic highs and lows, read Genesis. It is an exciting tale. Anyway, the world is created, not once but twice. Humanity is created, not once but twice. Humanity is told to care for the world. Don’t eat the fruit. They eat the fruit. Adam and Eve are banished. Crops are planted, babies are born. Then we move to chapter 4. Remember what happens next? Cain and Abel.

We get just four chapters into the story of all of Creation and the first murder happens. There is no mention of violence before this point. Cain gives the bare minimum he thinks he can get away with in his offering to God from his harvest. But Abel, that annoying younger brother, gives generously from his abundance, thanking God for all that God has given. God makes it known that Abel’s abundance is preferred over Cain’s scarcity. Cain gets angry and it shows, cause he gets this thunder face going on and God basically says, why are you angry? You held back, you held back what you had to offer. Cause, you know that God knew exactly the gifts, skill and opportunity Cain had to work with, God knew what Cain had to offer the world. God basically says to Cain, you were not as kind as you had the ability to be, you were not as compassionate, you were not as loving, you were not as generous as you had the ability to be with what you had. Cain, ashamed and embarrassed of having his greed revealed, finds his ego bruised because his brother managed where he could not. Suddenly he sees his relationship with his brother as a competition and he desires what Abel has—to be the favoured one. To have more than what Abel has. To be more than Abel. And so, he kills Abel dead. Which, of course, does not improve, at all, Cain’s relationship with God. And then everything from there pretty much goes to hell in hand basket. Humanity and God begin the seemingly-endless journey of trying to figure out a working relationship in which we can get back to making real the full potential of the world, until we can find our way to the top of God’s peaceful mountain, where all can be well and all can be well and all manner of things shall be well.

God gave us the responsibility to care for our world. To love one another as we would love ourselves. To spread the good news to all of creation. To till the land and keep the world so that it would flourish just as we hope our children will flourish. Being kicked out of the Garden of Eden was not the end of this responsibility. Adam and Eve still bore the responsibility to care for Creation and we bear that same responsibility today. I know that the story of Cain and Abel was not our scripture reading today (fun fact, Cain and Abel didn’t make the Lectionary cut and so, yet another story you very rarely hear from the pulpit) but I think it is an important story for us to remember when we are talking about humanity’s role in God’s Creation. Because, it seems to me, when we are exploring the ills of the world and ask how and why people behave in such ways that so many people and the environment are harmed—like the decision making process around this nonsense of Ticketmaster allowing scalpers to cheat the system to the benefit of Ticketmaster, the decision to deceive people out of their life savings, the decision to cut taxes at the expense funding education and health care, the decision made by Volkswagen to cheat on the environmental tests of their cars, the decision that leads someone to light what becomes a wildfire, the decision to sell fresh water to corporations while whole communities of people, particularly indigenous communities right here in Canada, do not have access to clean, drinking water from their kitchen tap, the decision to deregulate industry so polluting the environment is not discouraged or punished…decisions such as these go back to chapter four of the Book of Genesis.

The disregard that Cain had for the life and the well-being of his younger brother Abel is repeated again and again throughout our history of humanity. Disregard for another’s life, disregard for the health of our ecosystem, disregard for those who are not our family, disregard for those who do not love as we love, disregard for those who do not identify as we identify, disregard for those who do not believe as we believe, disregard for those who do look as we do, disregard for those speak as we speak, disregard for children that are not our children, disregard for people who are not our people. We have forgotten that our place in Creation is not as ruler above all but instead to be engaged with and amongst all that God has created, animals, humanity, the environment. Humanity was made in the image of God. The Divine is revealed through us humans, our actions and our behaviour. The Divine is revealed through our ability to be just, to be loving, to be compassionate with all aspects of God’s creation. And knowing that each one of us—each and every person who walks this earth—is a reflection of the Divine, how can we possibly continue to support those making the decision of Cain when the well-being of one or a very select few is lifted above and over the well-being of another of God’s people, another of God’s reflections? How can we assist in shepherding Creation and the world to its full potential when we allow for an individual’s or a corporation, which let’s face it, is made up of a bunch of individuals, when their greed and egos take priority over that which is best for the community, for those who do not have a voice at the table, for those who are at the margins, for those whose needs are ignored?

This Season of Creation is an opportunity to be reminded that each one of us most definitely have a role in keeping God’s Creation. In shepherding this world that God has created into being a place of peace and joy. Jesus told his disciples this very thing. In the reading from the Book of Mark, Marci read, Jesus says, you know the leaders of those non-Jews, they are leaders who bully and who lord their authority over those they rule. But, he says, this is not how God wanted the world to be. Those who lead must lead from amongst the very people they are leading. In fact, those that lead must be right where the people are—they must drink the same water, they must have the same access to health care, their children must attend the same schools, they must live as close to the city dump as others, they must walk and drive the same streets and see all aspects of the community they are leading. You must serve those you lead. And, then, shockingly, he tells them that he came not be served but to serve. And this is exactly how we, you and I, can continue to keep this world and Creation of God’s. But, we who live right here can help our community and our province. Believe it or not, but it was not planned to hold the Outreach Showcase on Humanity Sunday but I could not help but recognize how fortudious it is that in my conculsion today, I wanted to encourage each one of us to go out and serve the community you live in, serve the needs of this city of ours, serve the environmental needs of our living space and the wider province. If each one of us were to serve in some small way or another, we cannot help but make a difference in our world. And, when we serve together as a community of God’s people, the impact we can make on Creation will be even greater. And, today, you when you leave the sanctuary, the Outreach Committee has very nicely set up a series of displays in which you can see what type of God and Jesus loving ministry they make possible to those in need. And they cannot make it possible without engagement by people from this congregation. Not only will you witness the impact we, as a community of faith, in our surrounding communities, but you will have the opportunity to see where you and your family can participate, where  you can serve the very people and environment that you live with and alongside. And if you have an idea or a plan for further ways we can make a difference in God’s Creation, talk to anyone from the Outreach Committee, I’m sure they would love to hear your idea. We are not alone this world. We live amongst and with God’s Creation and God is with us, God never leaves us. Thanks be to God.