Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sermon for February 27th 2011 - Flesherton Pastoral Charge

(Disciples – Ann Weems)

Hurting they came to him. Healed they followed him.

Grateful they gave to him what they had and what they were.

Blessed they became a blessing and went out into the world in his name.

Those who are hurt and healed, grateful and blessed,

still move among us in his name...

How do we experience God?

How do we experience God in the deep dark moments of our lives? And how is that different from how we experience God in the less deep dark moments of our lives?

Do we experience God differently in those moments, compared and contrasted with the other moments of our lives?

How do we describe God? What words do we use when we think or speak of God? What images do we call to mind when we try to articulate our faith?

Or, do we never put much thought into our faith, and our belief in God until we hit those deep dark moments that leave us reeling … and cause to wonder if there is even a God at all ?

They're tough question … but they are good questions to raise and reflect on periodically, because they help us to comprehend, understand and articulate our faith, not only when we face challenging moments, but when we are just merrily cruising through life and giving little thought to our faith, or to God at all …

A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me is having a faith, and being in a place of leadership within the Church helps you deal with the kinds of happenings that have unfolded in my life recently … “Does it make it easier to face the grief?” she asked.

I thought about the answer and said - “not really ...” then went on to describe the one crucial difference that I think I've lived over the last few weeks … and that is the ability to articulate clearly the swirl of emotions and the ambivilance I really feel towards God at this time … I'm not left in a place where I am struggling to express feelings of outrage and abandonment … I not only get it, I can see throughout the history and heritage of the Church examples of people who had similar moments in their faith journey, and who were able to express those feelings without throwing up their hands and walking away …

I can draw from a well of images and ideas and experiences that move far beyond the idea of God as a bearded old man sitting on a throne somewhere nodding his head in “understanding” as all hell breaks loose in the lives of his followers … I can wrestle with the issues before me and pull the multitude of images and ideas of God that populate our Scriptures ranging from that bearded guy on a throne all the way through to God nestling us as new borns at her breast … being able to appreciate and express the experience of the divine in such broad and diverse images helps to feel God's presence in those deep dark moments when we feel utterly alone.

And, yet if you want to rile up a crowd in the Church start talking about God in images and genders that are not male, old, grey and bearded … people get down right ornery about such things. I've known of people stomping out of church, never to return because I've DARED to speak of God as Mother … as Sister … as something more than that bearded guy on the throne, and even though we have Scriptural references to these fabulous and powerful images of God that are so much more than the traditional notion of God as father, they were offended …

What saddens me most in that moment, is the failure to grasp the breadth and depth and profound power of God's presence in our lives that is conveyed and celebrated in those many images of God … in those deep dark moments, sometimes the 'safe' and 'comfortable' image of God as the bearded old guy on the throne, doesn't work, and we need to experience and articulate the Divine in other ways …

Jesus got this when we spoke of God … Jesus spoke of God in radical ways – not off the wall radical, but returning to the roots radical … the images Jesus used of God were not new, but rather reached back into the Scriptural traditions and reclaimed ideas and images that had been expressed centuries earlier.

When Jesus said to his disciples, “when you pray say ...” he offered them a prayer that began with the words - “Abba, Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ...” Abba doesn't mean Father in a formal respectful way. It means Daddy … the itimate familiar term we use when we're referring to our father figure … Daddy who is in heaven … this is not some cold formal theological construct seperating us from God, but rather it is a close, intimate, and deeply familiar expression of God as someone inexplicably involved in our day to day lives … DADDY … MUMMY … whatever term we use for the bonds that give us life and meaning …

And, as Jesus spoke those words people were shocked and outraged … he was expressing an image of God that was disconcerting to those who wanted to hold power and protect God from the holy.

“How can you keep order when people are talking so casually about God?”

And that perhaps is the key … it's ALL about order and control. You can't control people and maintain order when everyone is talking about God in their own way, using metaphors and images that are meaningful ONLY to them … we can't bow in pray, or gather to worship if everyone has a different way of expressing their belief and faith in God.

Yet, that is exactly what Jesus was getting at … it's not about order and control, it's about experiencing FULLY the holy. Understanding and expressing our faith in the images and metaphors that speak to us and speak to ur experiences.

If the image of God as a mother holding her new born to breast and giving food and sustainence is meaningful to you – GREAT … if the idea of God being like a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing speaks to you – awesome … if the notion that God is experienced in our lives like the hands of a potter gentling pulling the clay as it spins on the potter's wheel is what helps you move forward in life – that's wonderful … because not one of these images is the only representation or experience of God, but together we begin to understand, comprehend and experience God in more full and expressive ways.

This is the experience and understanding of God Jesus spoke of when he offered those words from today's Gospel reading … God cares about us as individuals … God cares about us as people … God cares about us as God's own children.

And if we're limited in our understanding of God to a bearded old man sitting on a throne far above our heads, how can we truly experience the fullness of God's love and care for us?

If we've limited ourselves to understanding God only in narrow and concise ways, how can we express and experience God when our encounters with the holy are outside and beyond those narrow definitions?

These past few weeks have not so much tested my faith, as tested my ability to express my faith and articulate my experience of the Holy in the events unfolding around me … I've wept … I've raged at God … I've found myself unable to say anything to God … and there have been moments when I've even doubted that God exists at all … yet, undergirding it all is an understanding, that God is those very things Jesus speaks of in our reading today.

God is about experiencing the holy, not arguing about how we express that experience.

God is about feeling loved and cared for no matter what is happening around us, not splitting hairs over which images and words we use.

God is about standing in a place where we can affirm and feel our role as a beloved child of God, rather than bickering over what concept of God we use to articulate and celebrate our relationship with God.

It's ultimately, not about the words or concepts at all … it's about HOW we experience and live the relationship we have with God in our day to day lives … it doesn't matter what words we use, or what concepts we call to mind. At the end of the day, the important thing is that we have God in our lives to begin with, and that we are able to convey and share that experience with others.

In the midst of the temptest that has enveloped me over the last few weeks, I had one of my friends comment at my ability to face all that was before me … “you are obviously much stronger than we realized” he quipped … as he reflected back on my childhood when I was regarded as the cry baby, and the suck, and the mommy's boy, and how that contrasts to what I've been embodying today, I realized that my ability to face what is before me right now – that perceived strength - rests entirely in my faith …

There have been many days in the last few weeks when I've gotten out of bed and put my feet on the floor, and simply put one foot in front of the other until my day ends and I crawl back into bed … For two decades I've been counselling people that sometimes ALL we can do is put one foot in front of the other, take one breath, live one moment, and keep moving forward … it's good advice … but it is hard advice to live when you're in the middle of those deep dark moments.

My strength over the last couple of months has come from two sources … the circle of friends and family who have been there through it all … and from my faith – my believe that no matter what is unfolding around me, no matter what storm is breaking over me, no matter how dark the night may be … we are not alone.

A few days before mom died, I mused on a quotation that has been very much part of my journey over the last few years – the quotation: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time ...- Andre Gide” has guided me through the events and happenings over the last six years. I ended my reflection by writing the words:

Life is too short to take it too seriously ... sometimes we need to just let go and trust in God to see us through. The affirmation to that came this morning in my early morning devotional as I read a passage by Standish, who said it is vital for Churches to find themselves in a place where they simply trust in God, and live their faith as a VERB not a noun ... he cites an example of a Chruch stressed by budget concerns, and rather than calling a special meeting, or making a special appeal for funds, they opted instead to trust in God through prayer to see them through ... it worked.

Life is like that sometimes ... what we want, may not be what God wants for us, nor is what we need ... sometimes we need to simply let go and be present to the moment and leave the rest in the hands of God, our higher power, the cosmos, fate (whatever term you wish to use), and see what unfold ...”

A colleague cited these words as a prophetic vision of what I would need to face the long dark days that were ahead for me …

That may be true, but in this moment, where I stand the simple reality that aroses from this morning's readings is the realization that the words we use don't matter as much as the experience we seek to share with others …

In our faith journey, experiencing God, and being able to share that with others is more important than getting hung up on the dogmatic words and concepts that serve only to divide us from one another … Today we are called to live our faith, and to experience the verb God, rather than the noun!!

May it be so, thanks be to God … let us pray …

Sermon for February 20th 2011 - Flesherton Pastoral Charge

This past week, I had a chat with a long time friend about things church and more specifically, the impact of Luther on the Christian Church ... Rob and I have been friends for all of my life – he grew up across the street from us, and was like an older brother to BOTH Scott and I, so when we sat down to lunch earlier this week, we talked about family and common experiences in and around our neighbourhood, then the talk turned to a series of class I took with he and his then new bride back almost 25 years ago.

They were membership classes for the Lutheran Church, and the pastor was a personable and very knowlegable man, who endured a lot with the presence of a United Church heretic in his midst for the 16 weeks ... but we survived, and I could technically have joined the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church after having taken these classes ... but instead, I stayed here in the United Church, and used what I learned to deepen my understanding of things Church.

What Rob and I recalled this past week was the impact that Luther had on the church – an impact that continues to reverberate throughout the Church to this very day ... Luther began his journey because he found the Gospel and the requirements of faith to be onerous and untenable ... Luther acknowledged that he was spending hours on his knees in confession, and even during confession found his mind wandering and sinning ... it struck his legalistic mind as odd that we were expected to be so removed from sin, that even the act of confessing our sins lead one to sin ... something wasn’t working ...

So, Luther began to study the Scriptures, and to read what they REALLY said, not what his professors, and his colleagues and his fellow monks said – but what the Scriptures said ... and as he read the words of Jesus, Paul, Moses and the others recorded in the Bible, he began to have serious questions about the disconnect between what he was reading, and what he was hearing preached from the pulpits of the Church ... and yet, no one wanted to hear, much less answer his questions ... yet Luther was nothing, if not persistent ... until on day at the Cathedral at Wittenburg, he nailed his 95 Theses – or questions to the Door and set off the Protestant Reformation ...

What has always struck me most about Luther, was his no nonsense and very common sense approach to life and church. In Rome on pilgrimage once, he was horrified to hear a priest conducting the Mass in Latin, and as he broke the bread for sharing amongst those gathered didn’t say “the body of Christ broken for you,” but rather said cynically – “bread you are, and bread you shall remain” – Luther was deeply offended not only at the offense offered to the eucharist, but he was also offended at the cynical hypocrisy of the priest who clearly didn’t believe the theology he was representing, and through the use of Latin was misleading the congregation ...

Interestingly though, some of Luther’s most candid and succinct expressions of faith came not in grand theological treatises, nor in his lectures and sermons, but rather when his students and followers sat down in a local tavern and over beer and beverages, discussed things theological, and Luther spoke frankly and often bluntly about things ... offering reflections and musings about life, the universe and everything – statements that some six centuries later remain concise expressions of taking this book (...) and applying it to life in the real world.

Where Rob and I headed in our discussion this past week, was in the need to reclaim some of Luther’s no-nonsense approach to things Church. Rob and I discussed the experiences we’ve both had in the church when the ‘way things are’ took precedence over being open to the will and the way of the spirit. Too often in the Church the rules and regulations and the dogma become the very reason for being, and the sharing and living of the Gospel is put safely under lock and key. For a Good Lutheran like Rob, such legalism is a bitter pill to swallow, because it is the very thing that Luther raged against when he began the Protestant Reformation.

Luther remembered the gift and the power of God’s grace, and shared that remembrance with the rest of us. For Luther the very fact that God offers unconditional and limitless Grace to us, was enough ... it doesn’t mean we have a carte blanche to go and do whatever we want, but rather, in response to God’s grace we will TRY hard to live a spirit guided life, and live according to the precepts of our faith ... but when we fail, and we will, we simply claim anew that gift of Grace through confession.

Regretably, in the generations that succeeded Luther, this freedom was curtailed ... the very thought that you could make confession and continue on your way, only to make a confession sometime in the future was unbearable to some ... so they imposed rules ... they set up expectations and regulations ... they hemmed in the gift of Grace by establishing legal boundaries and perameters to protect this precious gift of Grace ... and ironically, in the process, they began to recreate the very thing that Luther had so eloquently rejected ... God’s gift of Grace is free for the taking – anything else becomes a human construct that Luther repeatedly rejected.

The bottom line in Luther’s teaching is the realization that a close reading of the teachings of Paul and Jesus and others, reveals a movement towards a faith NOT based on legalism and imposed rules.

Our Gospel readings this morning, are evidence of this ... Jesus knew the legal requirements laid out centuries earlier by Moses at Sinai ... and instead of further underscoring them, and demanding more strigent observation of the LAW, he instead pointed out the value and the necessity of living those principles fully, and in the process envoking an active resistance to the legalism and the polictical machinations of the day, by living according to the tenents of our faith.

If a man slaps you on the cheek, give him your other cheek ... this is not just passivity – but is an active resistance to the one who would slap you. By turning your face and offering the other cheek, the aggressor (the one slapping you) would have to go through incredible contortions to slap your cheek ...

The slap to the cheek would be delivered with the back of his hand ... so to turn your face means he has to step it up a notch by slapping you with the palm of his hand – a NO NO in the culture of the day, or he has to use the left hand – the unclean hand – an even bigger NO NO in the culture of the day ... or he has to go through incredible contortions to whack you ... by simply turning the cheek you are moving the burden to the aggressor and limiting his ability to strike out ...

Likewise, each of the teachings we encountered this morning have a strong element of active resistance to the dominant culture of the day ... by using the legal expectations the oneous is placed on the agressor to avoid shame and uncleanliness and THEY are placed in the position of being embarrassed by their own actions ... if they want your coat, give them your robe also so that THEY are shamed by your nakedness ... if they want you to carry their pack for a mile, carry it a second mile, so they are shamed by your action ... if they want something, give it to them and give them more so they stand in a place of embarrassment and shame ...

It is a brilliant use of the law, to turn the law on its ear ... in the midst of the civil rights battles in the US, Martin Luther King used this same principal by building on what Gandhi had taught a generation earlier ... King noted:

I'm happy that he didn't say, "Like your enemies," because there are some people that I find it pretty difficult to like. Liking is an affectionate emotion, and I can't like anybody who would bomb my home. I can't like anybody who would exploit me. I can't like anybody who would trample over me with injustices. I can't like them. I can't like anybody who threatens to kill me day in and day out. But Jesus reminds us that love is greater than liking. Love is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men. And I think this is where we are, as a people, in our struggle for racial justice. We can't ever give up. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for first-class citizenship. We must never let up in our determination to remove every vestige of segregation and discrimination from our nation, but we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege to love.

I've seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I've seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens' councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: "We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, and we'll still love you. But be assured that we'll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory."

Such is the power of active resistance – BY USING THE LAW creatively, the burden is shifted to the aggressor, and we stand in a place where the weakness of the legalism and the rules and the regulations are revealed for all to see.

Grace is NOT about legalism – Grace is about freedom. And freedom is lived when you stand in a place where Grace is embodied in every thought and every action ... where my initial conversation with my friend Rob went, was to a place of realization that folks like Luther, and ultimately Jesus come along to free us from the legalism that places the word of the law foremost ... they see, speak and embody a spirit of the law approach that values the relationship between us and God – the Covenant to Abraham that says simply “I will be your God, and you shall be my people ...” – the Covenant to the Prophets that challenges us to live our faith humbly and with the certainty that we belong to God ... it’s not really that hard ... it’s about being free to live our faith and to share it with others in every action and every thought ...

May it be so, thanks be to God – let us pray ...

Prairie Preacher stakes a claim in the Highlands ...

It has been over five years since I first went 'online' here with my Prairie Preacher blog. Along the way, there have been some additions and changes, but with 2401 posts (as of this entry), the Prairie Preacher has remained a place where I am comfortable to muse about life, ministry and the things that are on my mind.

I've been fortunate to have met some fabulous new friends along the way, and I feel blessed to have been able to continue sharing the many ups and downs of my life journey with friends across the country, and indeed around the world. In recent days, my family have encouraged me to continue writing here as I've wrestled with the struggles that have come with losing Mom, Scott and Mr. B in such short order. I have also been humbled by the active encouragement by the Flesherton Pastoral Charge to explore and even exploit the potential and possibility that exists in sharing our ministry online

Today, in addition to updating the website for St. John's and Eugenia United Churches (found here), I have also launched a new blog that will be specific to the life and ministry of Eugenia and St John's United Churches.

This new blog called "United Church in the Grey Highlands" (found here) will be primarily a place to share sermons, reflections and announcements from the Flesherton Pastoral Charge, but it will also be an intentional outreach ministry that seeks to link current members and adherents with the alumni and other interested people who are part of the ever expanding circle that is the United Church in Flesherton.

As part of the seasonal Stewardship Campaign in Flesherton, the decision has been made and embraced, to reflect on, and improve ways we can live the concept of being a welcoming and inclusive community. Beyond simply saying "All Welcome" the folks in both congregations are exploring ways to widen the invitation beyond our Sunday Morning services.

Stay tuned, with each passing day, they seem to be coming up with more ideas and new ways of being Church to their community. Instead of simply wondering what they can do, the folks in Eugenia and Flesherton are rolling up their sleeves and getting busy doing it ... and the 'it' remains dynamic, fluid and ever changing!!

Today, in my ministry, I feel deeply blessed to be amongst a group of people who grasp and comprehend what it means to truly be a People of the Resurrection. They've been down some hard and difficult roads, and have not only survived, they have prospered, and now they want to share that with others ...

Come, and join us in our conversation and in our ministry.
You are ALWAYS welcome !!!

Sermon for February 6th 2011 - Flesherton Pastoral Charge

Activist, Pastor and Theologian Jim Wallis once observed:

“Several Thousand years ago, the writer of the Proverbs warned, ‘where there is no vision, the people perish.’ That ancient warning also applies to our contemporary situation. Without a vision, we are indeed perishing. From the violent carnage of our inner cities to the empty consumerism of our shopping malls, from our shantytowns to our stock exchanges, from the muffled sounds of children in poverty to our twenty second media sound bites, from our toxic wastes to our the our wasted time watching television, from our religion of entertainment to our entertainments of religions, from all the substances we abuse to the economic and political institutions that abuse us – we are a society and culture that has lost its way.” (The Soul of Politics – pp xv-xvi)

There is an uncomfortable truism in this observation. We are a society mo has lost its ways. We yearn for what once was – the simpler way – while we struggle for a quick fix – something easy and simple that takes 3 or 5 or 10 easy steps to attain. If you doubt this yearning, take a look the next time you are in a bookstore, at the self-help section and scan the titles ... people are desperate for something more. They want to unwind some of the hollowness of our culture and find a deeper more significant meaning for the world, our lives, and our very existence.

Even if they lack the right language, what they are embodying, is a deep spiritual hunger. A spiritual hunger for something more than what they see day in and day out on the flickering screens of computers, tvs, cell phones ... something more than what they experience in the malls and shopping centres ... something that feeds the hunger deep within.

The irony for the Modern Church – for us – is that outside in our communities, people are yearning for the very thing we are offering ... our mission and calling as a people is to be The Church, present and real to the world – to proclaim and share the Gospel through our every action, our every word – to share the Gospel through our lives.

But we too have lost our way ...

The challenge we must face and consider is the simple questions of “who are we? And what do we do?”

When I was a Leader of a Beaver troop back in my younger years – Beavers, being the 4-7 crowd of the Scouting movement – we used to begin our weekly gathering by asking the questions: “Who are You? and What do you do?”

The Beaver colony would shout back as loudly as they could – “beavers, beavers, beavers, . Sharing Sharing Sharing.”

If I asked the SAME questions here today, or any day the answer would be stunned and confused silence ... some one might gather the courage to say – “um, we’re the church, and we’re here to ... um ... worship ...” or something like that.

But by and large, we would stand confused, stunned, and likely bordering on the angry that I dared embarass you with such a question ... if we ask the modern church – who are you? and what do you do? Most would be hard pressed to come up with an answer.

Yet, we instill in our children the missions and the objectives of whatever group or team they are on – from Beavers through to Hockey, Soccer, Baseball – we want them to understand the importance of being together, working for a common cause, and GETTING the reason for being there day after day, week after week.

But somewhere along the line, we adults gathered here as “the Church” have lost our way ...

Then we hear a reading like today’s Gospel reading where we are called to be like salt in our world.

We hear that and almost immediately think of a salt shaker ... the white stuff our doctors tell us to cut back on, but that makes food taste so much better. What does it mean to be like salt in our world?

What does it mean to be light to our world?

What does any of this mean, if we’ve forgotten who we are and what we do?

Step one in grasping this metaphor is to appreciate salt as something more than just a simple condiment that flavours our food, and wreaks havoc on our health ... Salt is a very useful and important substance. In its myriad of forms it has many many roles in our world.

The three broad uses of salt involve purity, preservation and flavouring.

In the ancient world, salt was viewed as something pure and perfect. It was one of the elements nature provided, and was offered back in almost every ancient culture as part of the sacrifices given to the gods. Even ancient Judaism used salt in their sacrifices to God. Salt is pure and acts as an agent of cleansing and purification physically and metaphysically.

Salt is also the most common of preservatives. From salt fish, to pickles to Egyptian mummies, the antiseptic qualities of salt were and continue to be used to preserve anything from food to pharohs.

And thirdly, salt brings out flavour in even the most mundane of foods ... popcorn and french fries just don’t taste right without salt ... and how many bowls of soup have we had where we reach for the salt shaker BEFORE we even taste it? Salt makes food taste fuller and better.

And salt had other roles and purposes in the ancient world too. Salt was a commodity that was traded and bartered much like gold and money is used today. In fact, for a time Roman soldiers were paid in salt – hence the origins of the term salary – and salt was regarded as a valuable and precious commodity.

Salt was also used throughout the middle east to seal a covenant between people or parties. Even today, traditions persist that see warring opponents sitting down and sharing a piece of bread sprinkled with salt, as a sign of their new covenant.

Salt, when Jesus stood and challenged his followers to be like it, had many different purposes and uses ... many positive, some negative, but ALL of them relevant and central to their understandings as people, and as a culture.

So, his statement was heavily loaded with meaning. Saying – “be like salt” was not a simple straightforward commendation, it was a statement heavy with implications and meaning.

And that perhaps is part of the problem in the modern era ... when we hear the words: “be like salt”, we want to keep it confined to the glass shaker on our tables that our doctors want us to put away ... we want to keep our calling limited to being a simple condiment, and stay away from that other stuff that sounds complicated and hard ... we are willing to be salt providing it is easy and simple and won’t rock the proverbial boat.

But, unfortunately, that is not what God is calling us to ...

To return for a moment to Jim Wallis, moving forward from the quotation I shared earlier, Jim also observed:

“the poverty of our middle class life is a sign of our crisis. Our shopping mall culture keeps consumers busy in an age of hitherto unknown materialism fraught with culture emptiness, loneliness, anxiety and a fundamental loss of meaning. A most revealing sign of the crisis is the blank, sad, or angry looks in the eyes of the young who congregate both on the wasting corners of urban streets, and in the wasteful corridors of suburban shopping malls. But a moral focus on consumerism makes both liberals and conservatives uncomfortable, perhaps because both sides are so deeply caught up in it.”

Wallis cites an example from an American city where a young man fleeing two others armed with automatic weapons runs through the doors of a downtown church building believing he will be safe there. His pursuers don’t even pause at the doors, but instead begin spraying the interior of the building with gunfire. Later the leaders of the church are indignant as they express their contempt for the sacrilige that was visited upon them. “How dare they treat a Church this way ...” they cry. Yet other church leaders more familiar with the ways of the streets, shrug their shoulders and say – “if the church won’t come into the streets, the streets WILL come into the Church.”

This example underscores both the necessity of the Church to be salt to the world, and the current status of our Church removed, seperated and in many respects irrelevant to the world around us ... we are called to something more. We are called to be salt and light to the world, and it begins by taking seriously our ministry to our communities, and to the people we meet day in and day out.

We are not simply a social club.

We are not just a gathering of people once a week to sing and pray.

We ARE The Church – the body of Christ incarnate and real in the world.

We are THE Church – called to be salt and light to our world.

The first step is to reclaim the visions and dreams that come with our faith. To move out past our wooden doors and to go into the world with the values that are intrinsic to our faith.

The first step is to dare to dream about what COULD be ... youth activities, a bustling Sunday school programme, a strengthened music ministry, better accessibility for our buildings, new people showing up, the return of familiar faces who have wandered off for a time, new forms of ministry and outreach that move us past just Sunday Morning at 9:30/11:00, doing more online to reach those who want more ... the list of possibilities is limited ONLY by our imaginations, and our imaginations are limited ONLY by our willingness, or unwillingness to dream and hope.

So, as a church – as a people of faith – we are called to be salt, and to be salt we must begin to dream about the possibilities and potentials of what we – you and I – can do together as the people of God.

On one level, it’s a daunting task – what if we try something new and it fails? We ask ... and we think more about it, (whatever ‘it’ is) and begin to inventory the possible NEGATIVE consequences, then decide it’s not worth the bother or the risk because it will never work anyway. What we NEED to do instead is dare to dream, and more importantly, dare to take the chance of trying – and YES, we will have failures – some of them will be epic and embarassing – but that’s the risk we have to take, because not only will we learn from our mistakes, we will, for EVERY mistake, have a success too. BUT, more importantly in the eyes of the community and the world around us, the willingness to take chances, to get messy, and to make mistakes expresses the WILLINGNESS to live out what we believe, to move beyond our comfortable sanctuaries, and to reach out into the world with love and care and FAITH.

We WILL have failures, but for every failure we will have success, and even in our failures and our mistakes, we will learn and grow, and we will be regarded as being successful BECAUSE we dared to take the chance and try.

When you ask a colony of Beavers, “who are you? and what do you do?” and they shout back “Beavers, beavers, beavers, sharing, sharing, sharing.” You then encourage them to go out into the world and take chance – to try new things, to explore and learn and grow ... it’s a lesson for ALL of us to consider as we strive to be salt to our world ...

May it be so, thanks be to God – let us pray ...

(Please note: Much of the material from Jim Wallis is from his book 'The Soul of Politics' which is available through a wide variety of sources on line (like and is well worth having, reading and using. I invite you to consider tracking down a copy and purchasing it - The Souls of Politics is a valuable addition to ANY library.)