Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The BEST part of waking up is Level Ground Trading in YOUR CUP !!!

Four steps to a beautiful start to the day:

1) Fresh roast Colombian Dark Roast Coffee Beans from Level Ground Trading Ltd.:

2) Place a generous portion of coffee beans in the grinder (repeat if necessary!):

3) Place fresh ground in coffee make with cold filtered water:

4) Brew coffee maker, then enjoy the steamy end product!!:


(No bar codes for me !!! I like my coffee freshly roasted, ground as needed, and brewed to perfection right in my kitchen ... my coffee maker may not be fancy, but with a GREAT coffee, it delivers an exceptional mug !!!)

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Dedication with a family connection ...

Back in September, I was honoured to be asked to Preach at the 170th and FINAL Anniversary Service for Lingelbach United Church (formerly Lingelbach Evangelical and Lingelbach Evangelical United Brethren Church).

It is a small yellow brick building that stands on the North-West Corner along highway 7&8 between Stratford and New Hamburg ... on the South-East Corner sits the Cemetery where my father, his parents, brothers, and many members of our family tree ... on the South-West Corner sits the farm that was for almost 140 years, our "home" farm ... It's a significant place in my memory and in my axis mundi ...

To be asked to come and preach at the church where 40 some years ago I was dedicated, and where in the years prior my parents were married, my father was buried, and my grand parents attended, supported and were buried from, was significant and poignant.

The service was noted previously in an earlier posting ... it was a wonderful moment that I will forever be thankful for ... In addition to reaquainting myself with my roots, seeing family members I haven't seen in too long, and being immersed in the place that ultimately gave rise to my present ministry (along with Centennial United in Stratford - also a former Evangelical and Evangelical United Brethren Congregation !!), I left that morning with a special memento of the Church and my family connection there ...

Ms. H. found a copy of the 1958 EUB Hymnal that had been donated by my Grandparents Alvin and Erna ... but what made it extra special to me was the pencilled noted alongside the dedication plate ... I can picture my Uncle John, probably about seven at the time, taking exception to being left out of the dedication, and deciding to surreptiously include his name while no one was looking !!!

For over 50 years that hymn book served the people of Lingelbach with its quaint dedication ... and now that Uncle John, like Uncle Jim, Uncle Bruce, Uncle Glen, Uncle Earl and my dad Sam have all gone, that simple pencil inscription becomes a precious (and precocious) memento of the past !!! I may never sing from this hymn book again, but every time I open it, I remember where I come from, and I reaquaint myself with my history and heritage.

I'm proud to be an Ankenmann. But I'm even more proud to be a child of the Evangelical United Brethren Church !!! (and to be completely honest, I likely would have done the same thing Uncle John did !!)

Good to the last sip ...

My connection with Level Ground Trading Ltd began in the mid-1990's when I discovered their amazing Cafe San Miquel coffee while we lived in the Lower Mainland of BC.

Since then, the dark roast whole bean Cafe San Miquel has been my coffee of choice ... a choice, I've shared with numerous others who have come to have the same appreciation of a fine cup of java !!!

I've organized sales of Level Ground's coffee, sugar and dried fruit at no less than three separate congregations as a fund raising opportunity for thier life and ministry. For a time the Mayor's Office in Brandon even used Cafe San Miquel in their coffee pots !!!

Tomorrow, after an absence of almost five months, the Colombian Coffee (Dark Roast Whole Bean) returns to my coffee pot !!!!!

Not only that, but I add two more congregations to my tally of congregations where Level Ground Trading Ltd Coffee will be available for sale !!!! To do my part to help Eugenia United Church and St John's United Church, the Ethiopian and Colombian Coffees will be for sale through the Church office !!!

I'll openly admit my motivations are twinged with my own selfish coffee interests ... but fortunately, as I am able to quench my coffee craving for the Colombian Dark Roast, others are able to share in the enjoyment of one of Canada's BEST fair trade coffee ... stay tuned, I've even enquired about making the coffee available thru the Resource Centre at Central Westside United Church in Owen Sound !!!!

A GOOD Coffee MUST be shared !!!!

Oh, and it makes an absolutely FABULOUS Christmas Present for those 'hard to buy for' folks on your list !!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Passing of TRUE Canadian Icon !!!

At the age of 84, Leslie Nielsen, a true Canadian Icon has left this mortal coil ... but OH what a legacy this talented man leaves behind ... dozens upon dozens of movies ... and some of the funniest moments put to film ... He was in every respect truly one of a kind !!!
Rest in Peace Mr. Nielsen, and thanks for the many, many, many laughs !!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The view this morning ...

This morning after a night of blowing snow, we awoke to the proverbial marshmallow world in the winter ... BLAH !!!!

It took an hour of shoveling to get the driveway, the deck and the entrance cleared ... it does look lovely, especially with the sun shining so brightly ... I guess it's safe to say that winter has finally arrived ... apparently we have a snow warning still in effect for our area, so it may mean MORE shovelling ... but for the moment, the snow is shovelled and a brunch of french toast from fresh baked bread and hot chocolate made the work worthwhile !!!

Chocolate Chip cookies and a glass of milk ...

It is dark ...
It is quiet ...

Standing at the kitchen window, I watch the snow plough pass the house for the fourth time.
The wind outside it blowing, moving snow from here to there ...

It looks cold ...
Everything is blanketed with a layer of fresh white snow.

An occassional car passes, its wheels sloshing through the snow and slush.
I can't help but wonder who is out driving at this time of night, and where are they going, or where are they coming from ...

The only sound in the house is the rhythmic 'tick-tock' of the clocks, and the occassional groan or creak from the house as it bends and flexes in the wind.

It is dark ...
It is quiet ...
It is late ...
I should be in bed, but I've been awake now for almost three hours ...

Faint hunger pangs drew me to the kitchen in seach of a little something ...
I found a couple of chocolate chip cookies, and a glass of milk.
I enjoyed them standing looking out the window, watching the plow and the wind.

Sometimes a cookie is just a cookie,
but sometimes it is a chance to stand and reflect on life and the path we've trod ...

Sometimes a cookie is just a cookie,
but sometimes it is a chance to enjoy the moment ...

Friday, November 26, 2010

A message that made me take a second look:

I followed this fuel truck down the highway from Markdale today, I came up behind him just after I was almost involved in a head-on collision with a light blue Kia driven by a woman more interested in talking on her cell phone than paying attention to the road and on-coming traffic ... as for the truck, he observed the laws, and was a good driver in some truly awful road conditions ... the message on the back of the tank is obviously with tongue firmly in cheek !!

From the living room window ...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An inspiration in word and in deed (or should it be INDEED !!)!!!

One of the privileges of ministry is meeting people and having them share their journey and their reflections with you ... once in awhile you meet someone who has a special story to share, and who have found a means of sharing something unique and special ...

Sharon, a member of Eugenia United Church, is just such a person. She has in recent years discovered her voice, and has put to paper and CD her poetry. Her words reflect a deep spirituality, and a quest to share her words with others.

Sharon has a webpage to connect with her ideas and her poetry, and I would encourage folks to go and check out the web page AND Sharon's words ...

You'll find it at: poetryspeaker.com

Sermon for November 21st 2010 (Reign of Christ Sunday)

There is a story about a monastery in France that was renowned for its deep spiritual life. People flocked from all over Europe to share in the inspiration that it offered. People yearning to experience the presence of God came to the monastery to encounter the Holiness that was part of the place and its spiritual life ...

In time though, the brothers became proud and began to take themselves too seriously. Instead of living in humility, they became proud of thier humility, and slowly fewer and fewer pilgrims came to seek out their wisdom and guidance. Fewer monks came and joined their order. In time the brothers became rigid and worshipped the way things were ... their order and their monastery was dying physically and was spiritually dead. The monks were old and in a few short years the monastery would be nothing more than a memory ...

Then one day a scraggly stranger came to the door of the monastery. He was dirty and obviously homeless ... he smiled as he asked the monks for a place to rest for the night. The monks reluctantly invited him in, and set a place for him at the table.
Over their simple supper they enjoyed his presence, laughter and spiritual stories passed back and forth across the table. The monks sensed a spiritual depth in this stranger, and lingered til late in the night savouring the visit and the conversation ...

The next morning as the stranger prepared to leave the monastery and continue on his way, he thanked the Abbott profusely for the kindness of the brothers, then whispered in to the old man’s ear:

‘I need to tell you a secret ... one that God has given me with the permission to share with you ...” with a smile and a twinkle in his eye he continued: “Christ is here in your midst !! The Messiah is masquerading as one of your brothers !!”

The Abbott was shocked ... “The Messiah is here?? The Messiah? Here?? ... In this place ?? No !! That just isn’t possible ...”

Yet after the stranger left the Abbott shared the revelation with the other brothers ... and like the Abbott they couldn’t believe it either.

BUT, then they began to think about the revealed secret ... could it be brother John? No, he’s too selfish ... but it might be Brother Peter? No, he’s too clumsy ... they looked at each of the monks sharing the Monastery with them and wondered ... could he be the Messiah?? Could he be pretending to be selfish, or clumsy, or unlike what we’d expect of the Messiah? Could the Messiah be masquerading as the least likely of the brothers, pretending to be something that he is not to open our eyes and hearts and spirits to the possibility?

They then started to treat each other differently. They recognized the possibility that one of their brothers could possibly be Christ, and so they acted accordingly ... AND they recognized that with the Messiah in their midst they had to be more vigilant about their spiritual life too ...

Soon they lived an engaged and enthusiastic spiritual life ... they read scripture and prayed and worshipped with fervor ... the no longer took their spiritual life for granted nor took their humility for granted either. Soon people began to make their pilgrimages back to the monastery to learn from them and to share in the spiritual wisdom that was once again vibrant and dynamic in the ancient stone walls ...

New Monks began to join the order and it once again became a centre of spiritual life ... ALL because they became open and alive to the possibility of Christ in their midst.

They opened themselves to the possibility of Christ being present in their order ... they became a manifestation of the Kingdom of God not just to the world around them, but to one another and to themselves. They remembered their purpose and their vocational call !

We are called on the Reign of Christ Sunday to pause before we begin our Advent Journey to Bethlehem and the events of the First Christmas, to pause and remember our vocation and our calling. We are being called to remember our vocation as members of the Kingdom of God resident and incarnate in the world.
This past week I re-read a passage in a book that rattled me in a good way ... Graham Standish, a Presbyterian Minister writes in his Book “Becoming a Blessed Church”:

Many of today’s mainline churches are wandering aimlessly in the desert wondering what to do to inject new life into their congregations. I’ve talked to many pastors and leaders of these churches in my work in retreats, at Conferences, and as a spiritual director. They struggle painfully as they try to find the RIGHT approach, the RIGHT programme, the RIGHT system, to get their church moving and growing. They go to Conferences and workshops that promise them a fast-growing, healthy, church if only they do this or that. They resturn from the Conference or workshop armed with new ideas and renewed energy, only to find three months later that they are back where they were before – demoralized and drained of energy.

Remembering our vocational calling – to be the Body of Christ is the first step.
Remembering that we may encounter Christ in our midst is the second step. And to ground everything we do in prayer is vital to all of it ... without prayer, the Kingdom of God will never come into being.

Without prayer there is no vitality,conversation with God. and there is no life in the ministry and work of the Church ... the challenge as we acknowledge and accept the Reign of Christ and posit Christ in the place of ruler and King over us in turn offers a challenge to embrace the fullness of prayer, not as petition, but as an ongoing conversation with God that emphasizes experiencing the Holy and the very presence of God.

One author notes, somewhat facetiously that Homer Simpson, the patriarch of the Cartoon family The Simpson’s is a typical of most North Americans when it comes to things spiritual and religious.

Homer goes to church mainly because Marge drags him there ... one of my favourite episodes involves Homer sitting watching a football game while Reverend Lovejoy offered his sermon ... the end of the sermon coincided with a crucial touch down on Homer’s tiny tv, and his exuberent reaction was NOT for the sermon ... Marge’s “Oh Homer!” summed the moment up very nicely.

Homer also prays. But he only prays when he needs or wants something. His prayers on the show have been summarized as “Oh God, it’s me Homer ... I know I don’t talk to you very much, but if you give me this, I’ll be better about my faith ...”

In many ways, Homer is US ... he is what many of us in our culture are like. We forget about things spiritual and religious until we have a crisis, or we face something scary and frightening – then we remember God.

Yet, what prayer is, is NOT petition. It’s something far more. It’s a conversation with God that is not asking for something specific, but is engaging in an ongoing conversation with God AND most importantly, standing fully in the presence of God.

Years ago I remember being in a Conference AGM in BC when the worship service lead by the First Peoples of the Coast challenged us to move through the world KNOWING that everything around us is Holy Ground and infused with the very presence of God.

“take off your sandals,” enthused a button blanket wearing elder, “you’re standing on holy ground ...” and he went on to describe Holy Ground as being ALL around us, not seperated from from us.

Prayer is the same ... it is not about drawing into God’s presence periodically in isolated moments and locales, it’s about being in God’s presence ALL the time.

Prayer is simply being present with God and knowing that our thoughts and our words are heard and answered ...

One last idea to consider when it comes to prayer ... In the movie Evan
Almighty there is a scene that I’ve used as semon illustration before.
In the movie Evan Almighty, former newsbroadcaster Evan Baxter, has been elected to the US Senate and when he arrives in Washington DC finds himself called by God to building an ark and save humanity from a pending flood. Evan endures incredible ridicule of his neighbours and his community while his wife and sons struggle to make sense of his inexpicable behaviour.

Evan’s wife has finally decided she needs to just leave Evan to his insane quest, and get away ... she and the boys end up in a diner where she has a conversation with the waiter who also happens to be “God”.

After confessing to who her husband is, God replies that he likes New York Noah and thinks what he is doing is a love story about believing in each other ... he explains by asking: “If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience, or does he give them the opportunity to be patience? If he prays for courage, does God give them courage or does he give them opportunity to be courageous? If someone prayed for family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”
Prayer is not about asking God, but rather living that love story between ourselves and our creator.

As a Church, we are called to be the Kingdom of God in and to our world ... we are called to acknowledge Christ as our one and only King ... we are called to share our faith.

AND all of that begins in, and is ground with prayer ... prayer that envelopes us in the very presence of the Holy, and sends us into the world without fear to face what we’re called to transform through the resurrection.

To turn back to Standish for a moment. The calling of the brothers in the Monastery we began with is the same as our calling – to Be Alive with and to the very Presence of Christ in our midst.

And remarkably, when we’re aware of that, “All that matters is that we do what we are called to do, how we are called to do it, and where we are called to do it!!”
May it be so, thanks be to God, let us pray ...

Be Present to the moment ...

In doing my prep for Sunday morning I found a passage in Eckhart Tolle that caused me pause ... In the Advent season of waiting and anticipating, one can easily get too caught up in the preparation and find one's self in a place of anxiety waiting for the unfolding of Christmas, or one can be so fearful of the season that one can find one's self in a place of anger, resentment and negativity. The challenge for the season, and indeed the calling of faith that resonates as we make our way to Bethlehem is to be present to the moment in which we stand, and to wait actively for the events to unfold ... we can neither hurry, nor tarry, but instead we need to simply make the journey both through Advent, and in our daily lives, step by step:

Negativity is not intelligent. It is always of the ego.

Whenever you are in a negative state, there is soemthing in you that wants the negativity, that perceives it as pleasurable, or that believes it will get you what you want. Otherwise, who would want to hang on to negativity, make themselves and others miserable, and create disease in the body?

So, whenever there is negativity in you, if you can be aware at that moment that there is something in you that takes pleasure in it or believes it has a useful purpose, you are becoming aware of the ego directly. The moment this happens, your identity has shifted from ego to awareness. This means the ego is shrinking and awareness is growing.

(Eckhart Tolle - Oneness With All Life, pg 117)

The Advent Season is a reminder to engage in active waiting by living in full awareness of this moment ... this moment is ALL there really is.

Dayenu !!

Aw Shucks ...

I got an email from a friend and a reader of my blog that I felt compelled to share ... it made me blush, but also helped me appreciate the deep care and support this friendship has brought to my life in the last ten years ... So, good, bad or indifferently here's what was offered by an old friend who has been there through thick and thin:

Just thought we'd write and tell you we think you are already a Blue Jay .

Only a couple of items didn't ring true......obnoxious and stunningly beautiful ( sorry)
But you ARE bold, have a loud booming voice when you want to use it, you love to eat and you are intelligent.

So you more or less fit the bill.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My study ...

A long time ago, one of my mentors and inspirations in ministry used to neatly, and carefully clip quotations and passages out of books he was reading to save them for posterity, or future use ... whichever came first ... in time, a couple of his books made their way into my library, and every time I encounter the void in the middle of a page in the midst of a book, I think of Ross and smile at the thought that somewhere this paragraph was dubbed valuable and was dutifully clipped and saved for a sermon, or an article or some creative expression that flowed from his life and ministry ...

The biggest impact Ross had on my life was a passion for books ... I still remember the very first book he gave me ... it is sitting on the shelf in my study, and every time I catch a glimpse of it, I think of him and the collection he and that single tome started.

This past week I've been reading the book "The Parboiled Pastor" by Steven McKinley and found within it, one of his collected columns that was about the role books play in the life and ministry of clergy and church leaders. McKinley's words resonated with me, and with the feelings I have about books ... he spoke of not being able to loan out books for fear of getting them back (something I can REALLY relate to) ... but it was his view of the ROLE books play in our preaching.

McKinley talked about his mentors speaking of spending time in their Study - not thier office, their study ... I have always taken time in my sermon and service prep to read and truly research my themes and topics ... to some, it is a waste of time - there is no direct contact with people, and so it is not considered part of ministry ... but those who understand like McKinley (and others) note that time spent in study is time spent refreshing one's batteries spiritually, intellectually and physically, and it is also time spent reinforcing and expanding one's understanding of ministry and calling.

Sitting amidst various books and resources may not seem to be valuable time in ministry when emphasis is placed on visits, services, and other more physical actions, but without a grounding on a solid theological foundation, none of the work will amount to much, and the dynamic transformation we are called to embody and share will instead wither and die ...

The resurrection is not an intellectual exercise, nor can it be fully appreciated and proclaimed without a good grounding in the literature and theology of our culture and our world ... having a physical space called a Study, where we sit and do the necessary work of ministry that is far more than just reading, is about finding that balance point and preparing ourselves for the vocation that is ministry.

I am deeply appreciative to finally have a space within our house that is a dedicated "study" ... I share it with the felines of our house, but it is where for the first time in almost four years, my books are out and accessible, and I can step into it and immerse myself in the process of study and the gift of the Spirit it entails ...

It may not be pretty, or neat, but my Study is MY space ... and for that I am thankful.

Contentment ...

In this moment, the house is quiet ... everyone has gone off to volunteer for an hour or so at a local animal shelter, then they are heading on to Owen Sound for a brief shopping trip ...

Coltrane's Side Steps disc 2 is playing in the kitchen, the dishes are done, the laundry is underway, the dogs are napping and the cats are sleeping ...

I am struck with a sense of peace and contentment on a cold crisp fall afternoon. Life has it's challenges, I would be lying if I said it was "perfect" ... but life is better than okay, it is good.

Today for some reason in my mind's eye, I find myself looking back and remembering some seemingly disconnected and unrelated moments ... Coltrane pulls me back to the raining fall afternoon in 1990, when I discovered his music thanks to a floor mate at Queen's Harkness Hall ... watching the jays and the squirrels battling over the peanuts in the feeders out the living room window hearkens me back to the many walks taken when Noahkila and Ms H were younger and we feed chickadees and ducks at Riefel's bird sanctuary in BC ... the fair trade coffee at my elbow reminds me of the many cups of coffee shared with many people around many tables over the last twenty years of ministry ...

Today's retrospection is far from sad and morose. Instead, it is affirming of a life and ministry that has, despite its set backs and struggles, been full and rewarding, and has led me to a good place ... today the realization that came the other morning, that the voices of poets and prophets are not only allowed, but welcomed here in this community and in this Presbytery has drawn me to a place that feels strange yet comfortable.

I have spent most of my ministry being the outsider. My voice has been unwelcomed and largely met with hostility. I'll own that a portion of this is entirely my own fault, and the harsh tone has not been helped by some of the other factors at play within me ... but feeling abandoned and rejected by The Church, while it purports to be a place of inclusion and welcome made the sting of rejection that much harsher ... Having colleague dismiss my pain and fail to listen to what I was experiencing only deepened the isolation.

This past week, in a safe place I was part of a conversation about sanctuary and Sabbath and Shalom ... I reflected on my experience where those holy gifts were not only lacking, but were actively worked against by the Bureacracy of the greater Church, and as I heard the experiences of my colleagues cum friends, I realized that the failure to find such safe places the sin of the greater church towards itself. And it is a failure that rests firmly on the anger and fear that roils through too many corners of the Church - an anger and fear we are completely unwilling to name much less own.

Today I can look back and see the toxicity that I was trying to proclaim the Gospel within ... it was a futile task in the face of a bureacracy that doesn't want to let the Spirit's wings to unfurl ... In such a setting the poets and the prophets are not welcomed , and they are actively opposed. Instead it is the status quo of the priests and preachers who hold the power and actively maintain the role of gatekeeper and prevent the admittance of those who fail to 'keep the peace'.

In such a setting, the Spirit weeps and the Church falters then fails despite the glowing commentary to the contrary ... When gate keeping by the priests and preachers takes precedence and the poets and prophets are prevented from speaking, then the Church becomes no different than Little Jack Horner sitting in the corner and gleefully applauding himself for such good and faithful action.

Today, I see clearly that ministry is about speaking up and speaking out and that for the Church to be healthy and whole, we can not place constraints on the voices of poets and prophets, even when they make us uncomfortable and make us squirm in self-recognition.

Feeling affirmed as one of those prophetic voices, I feel content in ministry for the first time in a very, very, very long time ...

Poets and prophets understand what it means to say: "Speak Lord, your servant is listening ..." and we aren't afraid to face the consequences of accepting that call !!

We are called to be The Church - The Incarnate Body of Christ.

We are NOT called to be a social or a political club ... one day maybe we'll finally grasp the difference ... and when it happens it will be as a result of the poets and prophets NOT the priests and preachers !!!

May it be so ... thanks be to God !!

Working for peanuts ...

Where there's a will there's always a way !!!

This guy is DETERMINED to get the peanuts in the bird feeder !!!

He has to jump up almost a metre on to the deck, then up another metre to the railing, and finally up in excess of a metre to reach the feeder ... and his final acrobatic stunt is dangling upside down while his back claws grip the feeder top ...

He's earned his peanuts !!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's weird ...

I'll admit to being hooked on CSI and CSI New York ... I'll watch CSI Miami, but don't care for it as much as the other two series ... There is much about the original CSI series that I enjoy, but the closing credits hold a special appeal for me ...

Every time I hear the instrumental notes of The Who's "Who Are You?" in the closing credits of CSI I am transported back to the late 80's when I worked night watering at the Stratford Country Club ... the radio in our shop was set on FM 96 out of London ... many nights the DJ would play what we now call classic rock from groups like The Who, The Rolling Stones, and others ... I have a connection to "Who are you?" that takes me back to the dusk til dawn shift, with that song echoing across the darkened fairways ... it was a fun place ... a safe place ... a comfortable place ... and the music holds it together in my memory.

It's weird - every time I hear that instrumental, I'm standing in the doorway of the old shop at the Golf Course looking out into the darkness and thinking about where the water sprinklers need to be moved next ... memory is powerful and odd thing sometimes !!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Priest, Preachers, Prophets and Poets ...

Today I had an epiphany ... one of our parishoners here talked about her newly published book of poetry, and reflected on the transformative journey that her words represent ... she talked of her spiritual journey and the healing and transformation that she has experienced in finding her voice and having the courage to share the words of her spirit with others ...

As she spoke I realized several things ... the first was her acknowledgement of sharing her thoughts and words as a vocation resonated with me ... secondly, her connection of her words to her faith and to a call from the Holy Spirit inspired me ... and thirdly, her courage challenged me to remember the urgent need for poets, prophets and those who are willing to live on the margins of the Church, reaching out in non-traditional ways, and speaking the words the people of God not only need to hear, but yearn to hear.

I have long been a fan of people ranging from Jim Wallis through to Joan Chittister and Ann Weems, and I rely on thier words and works and example as I move through ministry ... yesterday I realized how vital the voices of the poets and the prophets are to a healthy and balanced Church. But more than just realizing something I've already know, I had my being opened to the simple reality that for the first time in many, many, many, years, I am in a place where the voices of poets and prophets are not squelched and silenced, but affirmed and lifted up ... In this community the surrounding milieu of artisans and people who have chosen a different life path than society's status quo means that the spiritual tone of the faith community is one that is open and welcoming.

It is a welcome that is lived out by embracing and embodying outreach that moves far beyond traditional Bible Study and Sunday morning worship ... Euchre gatherings, coffee groups, and other small group ministry within the realm of this Pastoral Charge means Church is dynamic, fluid and non-traditional. The expression of the Gospel in this context is open and welcoming to the breadth of human spirituality that is lived and affirmed here in this place ... the voices of the poets and the prophets are not only free to speak - they are welcomed and heard and celebrated.

Today, for the first time in my ministry, I feel free to be myself ... to speak my heart and mind, and to no longer fear the revenge of those who stand in places of fear and discomfort and who want only Priests and Preachers, but not the uncertainty and dynamism of Poets and Prophets who hear the voice of the Spirit and dance to the music that echoes across the sands of time ...

Poetic voices are needed in the church to remind us of the need to follow the Spirit ... Prophetic voices are needed in the church to call us beyond the comfort of the moment and inspire us to more than may think we're capable of ... the problem arises when the status quo seeks to silence those voices.

Today I celebrate being in a place where poetic and prophetic voices are given room to speak, and where they are heard and encouraged ...

As the ancient reply says quite eloquently: "Speak Lord, your servant is listening ..."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reincarnation ...

For the moment let's assume there is some cosmic form of reincarnation operating in the universe, and we have a chance to decide for ourselves what form our next life will take ...

If I had such a choice, I would like to come back as a Blue Jay ...

They are bold and brassy,

They are loud and obnoxious,

and they arrive at our bird feeder every morning like a bunch of gansta'wanna be's scaring off the other birds and greedily filling their bellies with the seeds and nuts ...

Yet, they are stunningly beautiful ... they are unbelievably intelligent ... they are not afraid of much ... and they are fun to watch ...

If I could chose, I would come back as a Blue Jay and wreak havoc and have fun doing it !!

Sermon for November 14th - Flesherton Pastoral Charge

We say it every week ... Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name – THY KINGDOM COME ... Thy Kingdom Come – is simply a succinct proclamation of Jesus thology and understanding of the world. The coming of the Kingdom was foundational to all that Jesus was about and all that he believed. The pending Kingdom of God informed everything from Jesus’ approach and attitude towards the temple through to his understanding of the Messianic Banquet that would bring an end to all of time and space in Jesus’ eschatology.

The Kingdom was far more than just the apocalyptic vision of history drawing to a close – it was and remains an active and involved process. The Kingdom will come when ALL of God’s children embrace, accept, live and celebrate the values of the Kingdom and share them with one another. Jesus teachings and parables were ALL about the kingdom – a time and place not unlike that envisioned centuries earlier by prophetic voices like Isaiah’s.

Jesus proclamations about The Kingdom of God are offered in a time and place where apocalyptic voices were proclaiming the end of time was at hand, while other voices were advocating for the creation of the end times by actively engaging in violence and uprisings to help encourage its creation ... Jesus stood and said – “the Kingdom of God is like ...” and used mundane everyday examples to illuminate the need to care for one another, and to create a place of compassion, acceptance and loving faith where all people belong.

Jesus’ vision of the kingdom was not about a violent cataclyism that ends history ... but was about every day actions being offered in faith to create the world the WAY GOD WANTS IT TO BE.

For Jesus, the Kingdom was about to reveal itself – but not through some light show worthy of a 21st Century Hollywood blockbuster – but through simple individual actions of people like you and me ... The Kingdom of God and its existence or its destruction ultimately was placed in OUR hands. We would decide if it was to happen or not ... our actions would herald it or deny it ... our faith would be the determinent for its arrival or departure. The Kingdom of God was what we would or wouldn’t do.

This notion of the pending Kingdom played a significant role in Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica. Like most of his epistles, Paul wrote this letter in response to crisis unfolding in the heart of the faith community. In this case, it was a strong notion that the apocalypse was about to come. As I read commentaries about this letter, I envisioned a community with a number of folks walking about with the “end is nigh” signs on their back, warning others that the end was about to come.

The members of the Church in Thessalonica were so convinced that these doomsayers were right, that they began to neglect other aspects of their lives ... the description of this early church reminded me of the 18th Century movement that would become known as the Shakers.

So convinced that the end was at hand, members of this sect sold everything they owned, donned white cotton garments and climbed tot he top of a mountain in the Eastern US to await the rapture ... the next morning, cold, tired, hungry and poor, they came back down and tried to make sense of their apparent error ... Three times, this sect announced a date and climbed to the top of a mountain and waiting, and three times they returned the next morning to try and figure out what had happened.

Back in the 80’s I remember being handed a newspaper that proclaimed that the end of time was at hand ... the date was something like the 17th of November 1989 ... then again when I was in Theology College a Church out of Korea made the same assertion ... and if we look back to 1999, we’ll remember the Y2K phenomena that foresaw the demise of life as we know it because programmers had failed to add two digits to their computers ... and today, we have many who believe the Mayan Calendar points to the end of time in 2012 ... we can cite example after example of apocalyptic visions, and the use of fear to convince people that the end is truly at hand ...

Our reading from Isaiah arises in a time and place that seemed like the end times. The people of Israel had experienced war after war after war ... they had watched the temple fall ... they knew that just over the next hill lay yet another army ready to crush them militarily, and it was just a matter of time before ALL that they knew would be wiped away. Yet, here is Isaiah, standing before the people saying – “Don’t be afraid ... it may seem like the end of time, but God is with us ... God will restore us, God will guide us back to the place where swords are forged into plough shares, spears are reshaped into pruning hooks, and God’s Shalom is poured out upon all people ...”

Isaiah, wasn’t speaking from a place of comfort and security – but was standing in the midst of a era full of fear and apprehension and uncertainty ... there was no comfort and no security ... just fear of what was going to be ... and he stood and said – “DO NOT BE AFRAID” offering a reminder to the people that God’s presence promises a transformation in the face of this fear ...

It was fear that gripped the people of Isaiah’s world ... it was fear that gripped the people of Jesus and Paul’s world ... and ultimately, if we are wholly honest, it is fear that grips our world ... We are really no different than the folks in Isaiah’s world, or in Jesus’ world, or in the church at Thessalonica ... they ALL had the same ideas ebbing through their community, convincing people the end was at hand.

And so for the Thessalonians, Paul sat down and penned a letter to try and convince the church people of their mistake ... he wanted them to come back to some rational expression of faith ...

The greatest irony in ALL of this though, is how similar the circumstances faced by the early church is to the context in which we live ... we live in a time where many voices counsel us that the ‘end is nigh’, and want us to live in a place of selfish fear more worried about where we’re gonna end up, then about what we’re doing with our faith.

In the US in recent months, Conservative Commentator Glenn Beck has tried repeatedly to take Jim Wallis of the Sojourners Community to task for being unfaithful. Beck has said that social activism has no place in the Church, and has dubbed Churches and preachers who emphasis social action as unfaithful ... and yet, if we turn back to the words of Jesus himself – even the prayer he taught his followers, we find that social action – making a difference in THIS world was fundamental to everything Jesus proclaimed, preached, taught and was about.

Folks like Beck who denounce social action, and those who are so focused on the end times that they look BEYOND this present moment are missing a significant component of our faith ... living our faith today, in today’s world, addressing today’s issues and challenges.

Ultimately the counter balance to the uncertainty and the fear is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom of God is about living our lives with faith and integrity, trusting in the very presence of God to transform the fear of this moment into the hopeful certainty of being sustained and held by the holy presence of God.

Yesterday at Presbytery we talked for a time about the need for Stewardship in the Church. We noted that often the idea of Stewardship is the annual campaign to raise money to address a need, or a budgetary short fall. We talked about becoming more aware of stewardship issues and how our faith connects to the church in more ways than just putting a few dollars on the collection plate.

I shared with a colleague my view of stewardship that when we embrace the ideas put forward by Jesus himself of the Kingdom of God found within each of us, our need for stewardship campaigns diminishes. Instead of having to appeal for time, talent and treasures each week in the Church, we instead live the notions of transformation that are foundational to our faith.

A good steward makes EVERY decision about finances and resources by considering the full impact of their decision ... as an example, the simple act of buying coffee is an act of stewardship ... we can buy the cheapest brand name, or the no-name store brand, OR we can commit to being good stewards and buy a fair trade brand that ensures 25% of our purchase price goes directly to the grower ... moreover, the fair trade companies invest in local business in the coffee growing regions, so another percentage of our purchase helps the friends and neighbours of the grower find a better life. Most fair trade companies also emphasis the use of shade grown coffee, which produces a better product, maintains more of the natural forest cover, AND encourages the presence of wildlife alongside the coffee plantations. Shade grown coffee also means fewer human interventions to prevent disease and pests, AND it offers spin off products like fruit for the grower’s family, and dried fruit or jam to be marketed and sold beyond the community ... AND many of the fair trade companies invest their profits in foundations that provide education and training for the children in these areas. In one case, the company prioritized the education of girls and young women offering them a chance at something they had never had before – a university education.

So, when we stand in the aisle of the grocery store and have to decide which coffee to buy, ALL of the factors from economic and social through to environmental should come into play, and as educated and faithful stewards we should make our decisions accordingly ...

As good stewards standing firmly in the Kingdom of God, every decision we make should be done from a perspective of faith that accepts and understands and proclaims the certainty that God’s transformation is at hand.

Unfortunately, too often we’ve gotten good at limiting, restricting, protecting and gatekeeping our faith when what we are called to do and to be, is LIVING our faith.

Living our faith out there in the real world, every day, not just here one day a week. Good stewardship begins here (heart), by embracing the idea that our faith and our compassion and our care can and will transform the world – not just our little corner – but the world.

Ultimately, we are called to become engaged believers. The idea – ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is a call to live out our faith by being good stewards of all that God has given to us ... it’s about being active and involved, not cowering in fear waiting for the end times ... Behold the Kingdom of God is at hand – and it is you and I and what we do with our faith ...

Go into the world and BE the Kingdom of God in all that you do ...
May it be so, thanks be to God, let us pray ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Everybody needs a sunbeam !!

In this moment ... remembrance ...

As I reflect on Remembrance Day I keep recalling the words of Oscar Romero:

Peace is not the produt of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silence of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and duty.

Today is about remembering the cost of war and violence ... it is not about wrapping everything in a patriotic flag and blithely accepting a pro-militaristic agenda ... Today is about acknowledging the profound sacrifice an entire generation made counter the evil wrought by a tyrannt, and expressing our appreciation ... Today is about recommitting to a way of peace and challenging our leaders to stop glorifying the horrors of war ...

Today is about reclaiming Shalom as more than just the absence of war ...

We Remember ...

Today, for the first time in my ministry, I was invited to lay a wreath before the Cenotaph during a Remembrance Day Service ... as I climbed the stone stairs before the simple monument that marking the sacrifice of the fallen who left this community and never returned, I thought of my Grandfather who began a similar journey not far from here when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy and left his family behind to spend 6 years in the service ... I thought of the men and women whom I have met over the years who have shared their memories, experiences and stories about their time serving God, and King (Queen) and Country in Two World Wars and the many peace keeping missions that have forged the identity of this nation ... and I thought about the first hand experiences I've been blessed to hear ranging from Afghanistan to Vimy, from the men who have been there ...

Today as I laid the wreath, I thought of the many moments that have shaped my experiences and recollections of Remembrance and I gave thanks that I have been privileged to have met so many men and women who have been part of this story and experience. I realized as I placed the wreath that none of them ever asked for respect or special treatment, but on November 11th, they each remembered quietly and reflectively the losses and the experiences they have been part of ... none of them ever called themselves heroes, and none of them expressed support of armed conflict and war as a solution ... instead they looked back, wept and remembered ...

Today it got me thinking, that we need to follow thier lead and quietly acknowledge the losses that have defined this nation, and recognize that in a time and place of Remembrance it is about recalling the fallen and nothing more ...

146 ... 147 ... 148 ... 149 ... 150 ... 151 ... 152 ...

Trooper Larry Rudd
age 26,
of the Royal Canadian Dragoons
died May 24th 2010

Sgt Martin Goudrealt
age 35
of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment
died June 6th 2010

Sgt. James MacNeil
age 28
of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group
died June 21st 2010
Master Corporal Kristal Giesbrecht
age 34
Private Andrew Miller
age 21

of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group
died June 26th 2010.

Sapper Brian Collier
age 24
of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment
died July 20th 2010.

Corporal Brian Pinksen
age 21
of the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Newfoundland Regiment
died August 22nd 2010.
With thoughts and prayers
for their families,
their comrades,
and for all touched by their deaths.
They shall not grow old as we who remain grow old,
Age will not weary them, nor the years condemn,
at the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We Shall Remember Them
We Shall Remember Them.
Lest We Forget.

PLEASE !!!!!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sermon for Sunday November 7th - Remembrance Sunday

We stand in the season of Remembrance ... a significant piece of our task in this season is to hold on to the lessons of the past and place them in their proper context, offering lessons for today and tomorrow from the experiences of what once was … and the goal of marking Remembrance Day is remembering the past so we can learn how NOT to repeat it?

The challenge in drawing from the well of the past is to avoid engaging in a process of nostalgia that colours the past in warm soft tones and dubs it a “golden era” where everything was simpler and somehow better … remembrance is about recalling the past and honestly appraising its pros and cons to inform our decisions today.

Looking back on the era that we recall on November 11th, we need to remember fully the impact that world war one and two had on our society, and ultimately on us, even across the passage of time. Canadian Author Robert Collins in his retrospective work “you had to be there” looks back on the effect the Second World War had on his generation and notes:

"We were not a miltant people. We grew up with veterans of the first “great War” and their horrific experiences soured any taste we might have for battle. Yet 1 136 999 of us, men and women – 10% of the population – joined up, because it was the right, necessary and only thing to do." (page 54 – You Had to be There)

One cannot really underestimate the experience war had, but to revisit Collins, we gain an appreciation of WHY the second world war had such an impact. For starters he notes:

“we know that thousands of Canadians died wastefully, and we grieve for them. They were friends, brothers, husbands, sons and daughters. But those who fought, and the rest who served in uniform or in war plants at home, have a right to be proud. That time, that experience, has set us apart ever since.” (page 54)

Today, the impression of the Second World War has faded, and for most of us war is simply something that is viewed on our screens and in our reading material. It is something distant and far away. Even with attempts to honour our soliders and the fallen from Afghanistan, war is still something very distantly removed from our day to day lives here in Canada. We know our soldiers are serving overseas in an active combat war, and periodically we hear of casualties and deaths – but by and large it is something over there.

In World War Two, war was a reality for everyone, whether they were involved in combat or not. Inordinate numbers of men and some women served in a huge diversity of roles during the war. Ordinary citizens too were involved. At first agricultural production was ramped up and prepared for shipment to our British cousins, then came the Victory Gardens to produce food for homes and families, allowing the commercial ventures to send more to feed the troops and support network. Next came knitting socks, sewing pajamas, and baking cookies to be sent to airmen, sailors and soliders.

Collecting scrap metal, and not wasting anything became common activities, especially among children who valued the pennies they earned collecting old cars, equipment and other recyclables. The pennies in turn were used to buy Victory Bonds, War Saving Certificates and others investments that supported the war effort.
Collins notes that in 1942 rationing came into effect for everything from milk to gasoline. But his observation that alcohol was rationed to ensure our airmen had enough alcohol to supply necessary de-icing fluid to our air force so they could “avoid the icy hand of death.”

Even the role of women in society expanded dramatically in the early 1940’s with more and more women working in factories and industries that had previously been closed to them. More than the fanciful representation of Rosie the Riveter, the involvement of women in every branch of the service and at every juncture in the vast supply network meant the role of women had forever changed.

Yet, the war effort was not without its darker side ... the internment of the Japanese across the west, the establishment of Prisoner of War camps in remote corners of our nation, and the ever increasing toll of wounded, missing and fallen, meant that war was more than a grand patriotic adventure. It was as many observed – Hell ...

At a time of Remembrance we are challenged to balance our nostaligia and our revulsion and find the balance point that remembers the sacrifice of the fallen, while committing to finding a better way to deal with human conflict than all out war.

I’ve long consider it an honour to have met and heard the stories of vets from all of the conflicts Canada has been part of in the last century. I cherish the recollections of sitting with Herb, a Vimy Ridge vet who at the age of 105 was finally honoured for his service in that definitive Canadian Battle ... his story, 80 plus years removed from the actual event retold in vivid detail the days of battle that forever coloured his character and his view of the world.

I cherish the time I spent with Franklin, a simple army grunt turned poet who spent his idle hours penning poetry that captured the essence of battles he was witnessing and participating. But underlying it all was a deep cynicism that questioned the wisdom of armed conflict and proclaimed with out shame or fear the futility of war ...
There were many others ... the Mosquito pilot from Hanover who flew a plane with wings that came from the factory his father managed ... the landing craft pilot who watched helplessly as dozens of men died before his eyes in places with the familiar names of Dieppe, Scily, and Juno ... and there was a young father who lost four comrades in Afghanistan and has spent years recovering physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally from the moment that shattered when he glanced at his watch and a bomb hidden in a box of grapes detonated ...

Over and over, I have been blessed to meet men and women who have served in our military and who have quietly shared the stories of their experiences ... stories and memories of both heroism and horror, that serve to remind us that we must never forget ...

Never forgetting is not about glorifying war and wrapping everything in a patriotic fervor and ignoring the bloody horrors of war ... never forgetting is about ensuring that the sacrifices of the past are not and have not been in vain.
Never forgetting is about finding a new way of Shalom ...

Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it well when he notes in his book “No Future without forgiveness” that:

“most of human history as a quest for that harmony, friendship and peace for which we appear to have been created. The Bible depicts it all as a God-directed campaign to recover that primordial harmony when the lion will again lie with the lamb and they will learn war no more because swords will have been beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Somewhere deep inside us we seem to know that we are destined for something better. Now and again we catch a glimpse of the better thing for which we are meant ...”

Tutu goes on to cite the examples of cleaning up after natural disasters, global responses to famine and other happenings that need help from beyond the immediate community ... the human spirit yearns for something more – something better ...

Remembrance Day – and this season of Remembrance is when we do more than embody that yearning ... Remembrance Day is when we use those memories to at actualizing that yearning ...

Franklin, a soldier in world war two gave me a book of his poetry, much of which was written on the battlefields of Europe through 1944 and 1945 ... in his later years he shared his words with me because he didn’t want the lessons he and his comrades had been part of to be lost. One of the strongest lessons Franklin learned was that in war when you die, it doesn’t matter the colour of your uniform – you’re still dead.

One late afternoon he sat on a hill side above two cemetaries in Italy – one for Allied troops, and one for German troops and watched the people of the surrounding country side come and pay their respects to the fallen on BOTH sides of the conflict that had so recently rolled through this valley, he wrote the following:

The shades of night are falling
On a cross-enstudded field
‘tis the resting place of hundreds
Of the Nazi marksmens’ yield;

While not far over yonder,
Less than half a league away
From the graveyard of the khaki,
Are the gravestones of the gray.

There’s one common soil to hold them,
Warmed by the self same sun,
And the winds that blow o’er khaki
Wails its path across the hun.

Too, the bees, by nature’s bidding,
Reckoning not from where they grow
Mix the nectar from the blossoms,
Off a friend with that of foe.

Hear the bells on hillside chapel,
Sounding out the vespers call,
Tolling out in common volume,
On the sleeping one and all.

See the peasants wending mass-ward,
Up the path at eventide,
Sign the cross with equal fervor
To the dead on either side.

Comes the stealthiest of hushes,
On this hero-strewn lea,
And the spectres of the corpses
Live in forms they used to be;

But one thing alone is lacking,
‘tis the longing to affray,
And in one forgiving mingle,
Are the Khaki and the gray.

Gone is all their warring spirit,
Followed by their martial mien,
Love has gathered in their heart-reins
Where but hatred once had been.

Lo! They speak in bated whispers
Of the grief that is to be,
With the last and western problems
And the wars near hallowed seas.

They decide in ghostly murmus,
To tender on this plea –
“Let war hatches all be sunken
In some unrelenting sea.”

So, they spake, ‘til dawning flares
Heralding in the rising sun,
Hastens on their prompt adjourning,
Sends them back from whence they’d come.

But the journey back togehter
To that haven they must go,
For He has but one lone barracks,
For the warrior, friend and foe.

Now to all the worldly salons,
Who we, from war, would save,
Pray be guided by this venture
From the land beyond the grave.

Our task of faith is to remember ... and to commit to a path of Shalom that is more than merely the absence of war ...
May it be so, thanks be to God, let us pray ...

Autumn Images ...

I was playing around with my camera and found a number of pictures ... some I took ... some that mysteriously appeared on my camera ...
These three I decided to share !! (the top two I think we taken my Ms. H ... the bottom one is mine) !

In this moment ...

The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, and it has the makings of a great day ...

This morning over coffee, I sat in the dining room and read through a stack of back issues of the United Church Observer that the church secretary had given me yesterday ... as I read over the last year and a half of articles and stories I noted a very warm and positive glow to much of what had been published. There are few articles that note the negatives the modern church is facing ... I was struck by the unrealistic portrayal of the Church that this overarching tone offers.

As I read the articles I heard the echo of Reverend Mervyn Reuber's counsel on a warm summer afternoon in 1993 ... as he reflected with me on my pending ordination, Rev. Reuber offered words I have long held as my mantra and have shared on numerous occassions:

"The church is NOT a namby pamby social club," he said bluntly, "It is not a place where warm pink fuzzy hugs are handed out to people ... it is the BODY of Christ incarnate and real in the world." He would go on to reflect what that incarnation means and how it is about living the prophetic words of generations who saw the need to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable.

I can't help but think that today in the United Church of Canada the official status quo operating within our denomination is about comforting the comfortable and afflicting no one, which is an affront to our heritage as a church and is counter to the Gospels.

People outside the Church - those we yearn to offer a message to, see the Church very differently than those of us who are safely sequestered within. As one who has been rejected by the Church and driven out, I have seen a very different face of the Officialdom than that which is presented to the world.

Having experienced the abuse of a toxic congregation, and a spectrum of violence against myself, my family and my ministry, I can say with honesty that I am not alone in these experiences. The Spirit has perhaps lead me to meet many others who have had similar experiences of violence, threats and abuse at the hands of "Good Church people" and yet, the common experience beyond the savagery of the experience has been the ostrich like behaviour of people in positions of power and influence.

For me, being TOLD that the anonymous report to the Childrens' Aid that I was beating my children, the slashed tires on my van, the repeated shots fired at my house, and the anonymous threats to myself and my family, were not connected to the ministry I was part of speaks volumes about the fear the officials of the Church cower behind. Sadly though, my experience is NOT unique ... others who have been treated in similar ways within the Church have experienced the same treatment by the structure of the Church that supposedly prides itself on being caring, welcoming and just. I've also met too many who have had experiences similar to mine to label us as "unique" ... and yet our experiences are also ignored and belittled !!

It is tragic that there is no where within the Church where we acknowledge much less accept and deal with the horrendous reality that in too many corners of our Church we hang signs proclaiming "All Welcome" and failing miserably to live out that inclusive welcome. When proof of this diconnect is uncovered and the drake truth of toxicity is revealed, the blame is placed firmly on the shoulders of the victim, and never on the perpetrators. Sadly, the warm pink glow MUST be maintained at all costs despite any evidence to the contrary!!

Yet, beyond the safe doors of the Church, we hear voices of those who see this stark inconsistency and the breath-taking hypocrisy and who in turn reject the Church accordingly. Within the Church, we continue to fail miserably at owning this reality that everyone else can see, and we fail to engage constructively that critique.

I liken this process to the moment at a Conference AGM when a member of the Church stood and shared his experience of rejection and marginalization within the Church and said - "we are not as welcoming nor inclusive as we think we are ..."

The response of subsequent speakers was to completely deny his PERSONAL experience and repeatedly note that he was WRONG. This betrayed the inability of the Church to accept the reality of the moment, much less our ministry ... In truth, if even ONE person feels rejected, then we are not being the inclusive community we think we are. If ONLY one person feels like an outsider, we have failed to include them, and we are NOT inclusive. To argue that the person who feels excluded is WRONG is beyond ridiculous ... and it is unfaithful !!

Yet, that is the reality of the church today ... we maintain at all costs the status quo that tells us that the Church is fine. We hold to the illusion that when clergy step up and say they feel abused and rejected, it is THEIR fault, and never the fault of a toxic congregation, or an inept denominational structure ... Regretably, when these incidents happens (and they are FAR from occassional occurences), instead of addressing the blatant hypocrisy it represents, and setting out to rectify the situation, we instead entrench the status quo, pretend there is no problem, blame the victim and continue to wring our hands about the ongoing decline of our denomination.

I've said it repeatedly, and I will never shy away from saying it - people beyond the Church can see us for who we REALLY are, they can see clearly the hypocrisy and the failings that we chose to ignore, and they have the reasonable expectation that the Body of Christ will do more than just shrug and pretend that the warm pink fuzzies of denial are enough.

People outside the Church want a Church that is relevant, and that speaks THEIR language without fear or shame. They want ministers and congregations that are real and that take seriously the need to move past the hypocrisy of saying one thing, and doing another. A Congregation that claims "ALL Welcome" then fails to grapple the abuse wrought upon those who fail to meet the status quo expectation is failing to live out its welcome. This is in turn compounded by the failure of the Greater Church to acknowledge when this happens ... and such blatant and toxic hypocrisy is what is cited by those outside the Church who feel rejected, marginalized and ostracized by a Church that in turn scratches its head and says 'why aren't people coming?'

If we are serious about survival in the modern Church we MUST OWN our negative traits and deal with them. We must confess to our sins and alter our behaviour. We must acknowledge our demons and actively work to exorcize them. To do otherwise is to simply feed the view of the Church held by many that we are irrelevant, out of touch and hypocritical.

If we are serious about the survival of the modern church, we must stop pretending that everything is fine, and the problem lies with those who don't fit the mould ... The church grows and changes when those who don't fit the mould persist in following the Spirit and embracing the radical call of the Gospel !!

Moreover, to launch a volley of abuse and criticism at those voices who speak from their personal experience, and blame them for what they've endured fails miserably to embody the heart of the Gospel that sends us into the world to love and tend the wounded ... to blame the wounded beggar at our gates for his rejection and his wounds flies in the face of the ministry Jesus left for us all ...

So, for the modern church it is time to own our darker side ... it is time to honestly do the Shadow Work that needs to be done ... and it is time to reach out beyond the status quo and engage people where they are using the language, the tools and the experiences they have ...

Today, the Church has within its hands the ability to use a myriad of tools and resources to expand our mission field beyond the comfort of the buildings we call home. Through instant messaging, twitter, facebook and the many other online resources that have become ubiquitious in the modern world, the Church has the opportunity to reach out beyond the status quo and engage people where they are, and invite them to be part of the Body of Christ as it is meant to be ... the only thing lacking today is the courage to move beyond our fear and our hesitation.

For me, my commitment to a ministry of outreach means never silencing my insistence that the Church CAN and must do better, and it also means using whatever means necessary to expand the Circle of Care beyond the immediate physical location I call home ... The Church is the incarnate body of Christ, and our job is to stop trying to impose limits and restrictions on that Incarnation.

Stay tuned ... today I had an ephiphany realization about the possibility and potential the rural church has in better utilization of online resources in sharing the welcome to those who hunger for things spiritual ... If we're gonna say "ALL WELCOME" we need to be prepared to embody what it means ... and from where I sit today, I have found a community who understands that and are willing to live it ...

Thank be to God !!!

Hello ...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Order of Service - Covenanting Service October 31st 2010 - Flesherton Pastoral Charge

*Asterisks invite all who are able to stand
Gathering Music: David Kell

Words of Welcome:
One: The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, The love of God and the
Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Let us quiet ourselves before God
The lighting of the Christ Candle symbolizes the presence of Christ

*Introit: Come Let Us Sing. VU 222

Opening Prayer:
One: Holy One, as we mark the heritage of our past and celebrate the
gifts offered by All the Saints, may we be a church that
is more courageous than cautious;
a church that will not merely comfort the afflicted but
afflict the comfortable;
a church that will not only love the world but
also judge the world;
a church that will not only pursue peace but also demand justice;
a church that will not remain silent when
people are calling for a voice;
a church that will not pass by on the other side
when wounded humanity is waiting to be healed;
a church that will both call us to worship and
send us out to witness;
a church that will follow Christ even when
the way points to a cross.
ALL: Holy One, as your church, we offer ourselves in the name
of the one who loved us and gave themselves for us. AMEN


Presider: We are gathered here in the presence of God to celebrate a
new ministry and to covenant together for the service of God in this place.

Member of the pastoral charge: We present The Reverend Shawn
Ankenmann who has been called to a ministry of Word and Sacrament and Pastoral Care in Flesherton Pastoral Charge. We believe he is qualified and has been prayerfully and lawfully selected.

Presider addressing the new minister
Shawn, you are here in response to the call of Flesherton Pastoral Charge and by the action of Northern Waters Presbytery and Toronto Conference. We come together to mark a new relationship among you, the presbytery, and the pastoral charge.
May the God who has given us the will to do these things give us the power and grace to perform them.

*Hymn: In the Bulb There is a Flower VU 703

After the lessons the reader may say, The Word of the Lord.
And the people say, Thanks be to God.

Hebrew Scriptures: Jeremiah 18:1-6
Epistle Lesson: Phillipians 4:4-9
Gospel Reading: Luke 4:16-21

*Hymn/Psalm: Make a Joyful Noise VU 820

Sermon: “A Toolkit for New Ministry”
The Reverend David Shearman

*Hymn: I, The Lord of Sea and Sky VU 509

Renewal of Baptismal Faith:One: Let us stand and join in a statement of our communal faith.

ALL: We are not alone,
we live in God's world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church;
to celebrate God's presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone,
Thanks be to God. Amen

Statement of this New Ministry:

Presider: Shawn, you are about to undertake the ministry of Word,
Sacrament, and Pastoral Care in this place.
You, the members of this pastoral charge are called to join
Shawn in worship, study, prayer, and action.
We, the presbytery, will be responsible for the oversight of this
ministry. Let us ask for God's grace as we covenant together this day. Let us pray:
ALL: Gracious God, by our baptism you have called us
to Christ's ministry; pour out your Holy Spirit
upon us as we commit ourselves to work
together in Christ's name. Amen

Promises of the New Minister:
Shawn, do you, in the presence of this congregation, commit yourself
to this new trust and responsibility?
New Minister: I do.
Will you accept the discipline of the presbytery and, together with its
other members, be responsible for the oversight of the church's life?
New Minister: I will.
Will you accept the support and encouragement of this pastoral charge and this presbytery?
New Minister: I will.

Promises of the Pastoral Charge:
The members of the pastoral charge shall stand.
Will you join with Shawn in a ministry of worship, study, prayer, and action within this pastoral charge and in the world?
Members of the pastoral charge: We will.

Will you support him/her as he/she serves among you in this ministry?
Members of the pastoral charge: We will.

Promises of the Presbytery:
Members of the presbytery shall stand.
Will you, as members of Northern Waters Presbytery, join with Shawn
and the People of Flesherton Pastoral charge in the ministry that is both theirs and ours?
Presbytery members We will.

Will you exercise oversight for their work and witness, support and encourage them in this ministry?
Presbytery members We will.

Presentation of Symbols:Take this Bible. Be among us as one who teaches
and proclaims the Word.
People: Amen
The new minister places the Bible on the pulpit or lectern.

Take this pitcher of water and be among us as one
who baptizes in the name of Christ.
People: Amen
The new minister pours the water into the font.

Take this bread and cup and be among us as one who breaks the bread
and blesses the cup, caring for those who hunger and thirst.
People: Amen
The new minister places the bread and wine upon the table.

Take this computer and atlas, be among us as one who is available
within this community and to the greater world around us.
People: Amen
The new minister places the computer and atlas upon the table.

Take this coffee cup and be among us as one who shares
our stories and joins in our fellowship.
People: Amen
The new minister places the coffee mug upon the table.

Take this puppet and be among us as one who celebrates
the Love of God to all people with joyfulness and play.
People: Amen
The new minister places the puppet upon the table.

Take this Manual and be among us as one who affirms and
strengthens our place within this United Church of ours.
People: Amen
The new minister places the Manual upon the table.

Presider: Shawn and the people of Eugenia and St John’s United
Churches, who are together the Flesherton Pastoral Charge, let these be signs of the ministry that is ours and yours in this place and to your community.
People: AMEN

New Minister’s Prayer for the People:
One: Holy One, we gather before you as Your Church,
Trusting in the gift of grace claimed through our prayers …
Hear us as we pray for ourselves, and for ALL your children …
Today, in this time and in this place,
We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can’t find any bread to steal,
who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
whose monsters are real.
We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed
and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at
and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.
We pray for children who want to be carried
and for those who must be,
for those we never give up on,
and for those who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smother with attention
and for those who will grab the hand of anybody
kind enough to offer it.
O God, we pray for all your children. Most gracious God,
we pray for your Church throughout the world.
Fill it with all truth,
and with all peace. we offer ourselves
in the name of the one who loved us and gave of himself for us,
In the name of the Risen One, we pray. AMEN.

Response to the Covenant

Passing of the Peace:
Presider: Many grains are gathered to make the loaf we share,
many grapes are mixed to craft the wine we pour out,
and so we, who are many and who come from many places,
are made one in Christ.
May the peace of Christ be with you as we rejoice
in the covenant we have made this day.
Let us greet one another with the sign of peace...

* Hymn: Jesus You Have Come to the Lakeshore VU 563

The money collected during today’s service will be
divided and shared a family who have been facing a pastoral care crisis to help in unexpected expenses they are facing, and with the Pastoral Care Chaplaincy with Grey Bruce Health Services.

Offering Hymn: “We Praise You O God” VU 218
We praise you, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator
In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.
We lay it before You, we kneel and adore You;
We bless Your Holy Name, glad praises we sing.
Offering Prayer:


The Invitation:
The table of bread and wine is now to be made ready.
It is the table of company with Jesus, and all who love him.
It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world,
and all those whom Jesus identified himself with.
It is the table of communion with the earth,
in which Christ became incarnate.
So, come to this table, you who have much faith,
and you who would like to have more;
You who have been here often,
and you who have not been for a long time;
You who have tried to follow Jesus,
and you who have failed;
Come. It is Christ who invites us to meet him here

As we join together offering the prayer:
Voices United page 959
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. AMEN

The Story of The Last Supper:
Blessed is our brother Jesus, who walks with us on the road
of our world’s suffering, and who is know to us
in the breaking of the bread.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus took bread and having
blessed it, he broke the bread and gave it
to his disciples saying, ‘This is my body, given to you.’
In the same way he took wine and having given thanks for it,
he poured it out and gave the cup to his disciples, saying, ‘This cup is the new relationship with God, sealed with my blood. Take this and share it. I shall drink with you next in the coming Kingdom of God.’

Let us pray:
Loving God, through your goodness we have this bread
and wine to offer, which earth has given us, and which human hands have made.
May we know Your Presence in the sharing of the
bread, so that we may you’re your touch in
all bread, and all matter.
We celebrate the life that Jesus has shared among his
community through the centuries, and shares with us now, made one in Christ, and one with each other, we offer these gifts and with them ourselves as a single, holy and living sacrifice. AMEN

The Great Thanksgiving:

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Lift up your hearts,
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.

We offer you our praise Dear God, with hearts lifted high,
for in the fellowship of your love
Christ comes close to us and we come close to Christ.
Therefore with the whole realm of nature around us,
with earth, sea and sky we sing to you.
With the angels of light who envelop us,
with Michael and the host of heaven,
with all the saints before and beside us,
with our brothers and sisters of everytime and place,
With our family east, west, north and south, we sing to you,
and with our loved ones, separate from us now,
who yet in this mystery are still close to us,
we join in the song of your unending praise:

Holy, holy, holy, God,
Power of life and love!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who comes
In the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!

Hear us, O Christ, and breath your Spirit upon us
and upon this bread and wine.
May they become for us Your Body, vibrant with your life,
healing, renewing and making us whole.
And as bread and wine which we now eat and drink,
are changed into us, may we be changed again into you, bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh,
loving and caring in the world. AMEN.
Christ has died.
Christ is Risen.
Christ will come again.

The Sharing of the Bread and the Cup:

Behold, the Body of Christ is broken for the life of the world.
He is Christ coming to us in bread and in wine,
The Gifts of God for the People of God.
Come the table is ready …

Hymn: Eat This Bread and Never Hunger VU 471
The hymn will be sung while we are seated
& receiving the elements. It shall be repeated until all are served.

Prayer after Communion:Let us pray:
For the bread we have eaten, for the wine we have tasted,
for the life we have received, we thank you God.
Grant that what we have done and have been given here,
may so put its mark on us,
that it may remain always in our hearts.
Grant that we may grow in Christian love and
understanding, and that ours may be lives of
faithful action, in Christ’s name. Amen.

We Go Forth Into The World

*Hymn: May the God of Hope Go With Us VU 424
Choral Response: Amen, Amen, Hallelujah, Amen (VU 974)