Monday, December 31, 2007

Spiritual Resolutions

I saw these first over at Inner Dorothy. Who writes:
They are based on a series of spiritual disciplines found at the Spirituality and Practice web site. The list itself is authored by MaryAnn and Frederic Brussat.

Like Sue, I am not really into resolutions (as in I can't recall ever having made any) but these sound like good guidelines for a faithful life.

1. I will live in the present moment. I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future.
2. I will cultivate the art of making connections. I will pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life on the planet.
3. I will be thankful for all the blessings in my life. I will spell out my days with a grammar of gratitude.
4. I will practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the "other" is shunned. I will welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness.
5. I will seek liberty and justice for all. I will work for a free and a fair world.
6. I will add to the planet's fund of good will by practicing little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and manifold expressions of courtesy.
7. I will cultivate the skill of deep listening. I will remember that all things in the world want to be heard, as do the many voices inside me.
8. I will practice reverence for life by seeing the sacred in, with, and under all things of the world.
9. I will give up trying to hide, deny, or escape from my imperfections. I will listen to what my shadow side has to say to me.
10. I will be willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around me, however unlikely or unlike me they may be.

Year In Review Meme

January: According to the Belief-O-Matic that is.
February: Now the question is do I buy it this summer in hardcover or wait an extra year till the paperback comes out????
MArch: Well the good news is we, technically speaking, still have water.
April: For the best April Fool I have seen this year check this out!
MAy: [You TUbe Video] Growing up in a world where many of the big gains of feminism had been made, it was easy to think that all people accepted that equality had nothing to do with gender.
June: So I have almost recovered from the weekend.
July: July 1, 1867: THe British North America Act took effect and Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined into the Dominion of Canada.
August: [picture] LAst month we got a djembe
September: Spending a rainy afternoon working on liturgy and planning sermons from now till Reign of Christ Sunday.
October: In the last few years the UCCan has instituted a policy saying that every one in paid ministry is entitled to a 3 month sabbatical (at full salary and benefits) after 5 years of continuous service (and presumably every 5 years thereafter).
November: Whenever I preach on November 11 (Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day, or Veteran's Day) I use a story.
December: 'Tis the season for a flurry of bulletins as we need to get up until January 6 done in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Retreating Idea

Earlier we were watching Gather Gospel and Gloria was talking about a women's retreat. Beloved says "I would really like to do that someday".

Then a moment later she describes what she would really like to go to.

A Clergy Family Retreat. One where clergy famililes would attend. One where some portion of the time would be family together activities and some would be unscheduled and of course there would be chances for worship and prayer and music and Bible/faith study.

But some of the time would be a chance for clergy to gather togehter, and for clergy spouses (spice?)/partners to gather together and time for the clergy kids to gather in age groupings. THe purpose of these break-out groups would be to network, to share war stories and concerns, to share wisdom. THe clergy could talk about clergy stuff, the "spice"/partners could talk about the joys and hazards of that role and the kids could talk about what it means to be a PK (there would need to be a number of breakings of the kids group to keep them with similar ages).

I think it is a great idea. I know we in the church tend to shy aways from labelling something as "just for clergy" for fear of being seen as exclusivistic (or is that just in the UCCan?) but the reality is the clergy and clergy families have different sets of concerns.

Now the appropriate question is: How does one go about finding something like this? Or who would one approach to make it happen?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The THings Kids Say

Last week we are at coffee and the local paper editor says he has to run to take a picture at the mall. Who of? Some of teh Lions he says. "Tigers and bears too?" some smart-aleck clergy type asks. Everyone says "oh my!" and has a good laugh (always nice to know you can throw a punch line out there and have people catch on).

A few minutes later the Eldest comes up to mom and says very earnestly "I want to go to the mall"
"Not to day" comes teh reply.
"BUt I want to go to the mall!"
"Why?"
"I want to see the tigers"

Dead silence, followed by muffled laughter from all the adults. THe editor then explains that it was Lions but not real Lions-- just people called Lions.

But she was very earnest about it---she wanted to go see the tigers. AFter all, she happened to see tigers in town last speing. THe circus tigers were passing through town and she saw them at the local campground (quite by coincidence as it happened).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Help! Help! I'm being Oppressed!

For the last month Typepad has been oppressing my attempts at commenting. Instead of the comment being posted I get a 500 error message. ANy one out there have a clue why?

Or maybe Typepad is just fighting back because I enter a blogspot URL in the webpage field?

Monday, December 24, 2007


A Very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you from each and every one of us!

A Christmas Prayer

God of our waiting and hoping. For so long we have been waiting for this night. For so long we have been waiting for the coming of peace, the wonder of a better world, the reign of love and justice. On this night we gather to celebrate the birth of a baby who promises to bring all these things. May our celebration of his birth lead us to work with the Babe to help the promises and possibilities come to be.

God who changes our lives. The promise of Christmas comes with a challenge. You challenged a young couple to take risks and have a baby despite the social sanctions that told them what they were doing was wrong. You challenge us to do more than adore the baby, but also to care for his message and pass on his love. Help us to embrace the awe-inspiring change that comes with the birth of a new world, born with a baby in a manger.

God of carols and children. As we hear the old story and sing the old songs reawaken in us the wonder and awe of childhood. May we remember the joy and excitement of Christmas as we join in the celebration on this night and tomorrow morning. Help us raise not just voices but also hearts and souls in joyous song as we celebrate the birth of hope, the gift of life and light in abundance.

God of chaos and calm. The scene around the manger that night must have been noisy and hectic. And yet we imagine it as being strangely peaceful. All of us with children understand that contradiction. Life is hectic and noisy and chaotic and yet we can find the oases of calm when we stop to look. As we celebrate with noise and song and story, may we also find the silence of the night and the peace of your presence.

In the beginning there was darkness. And you called forth the light. Throughout recorded time there has been darkness, and you called out the light. In our world today there is darkness, help us to find the light. The Christmas story reminds us of your love and care for your created, how you will never abandon us to the dark. In the face of the darkness help us choose to be people of the light. As we stand in the glow of starlight and angel song and a babe with his mother may we always remember that though the light shines in the darkness the darkness has not, will not, and can not over come it.

God of Christmas. Tonight we celebrate the birth of a child. But we also celebrate the birth of hope, the changes of life, the wonder of childhood, the calm in the midst of chaos, and the power of light. On this holy night awaken in all the world a burning desire to make peace and justice, love and joy a reality in our homes, in our town, and around the whole globe. And may we share with meaning and gusto the immortal words “God bless us, everyone”.

These things we pray in the name of the baby who now lies in the manger, the child who later taught his friends to pray together saying:
Our Father, who art in heaven…

This is a classic



HAt tip to Sue

Sunday, December 23, 2007

In Search of Light

A Christmas Story/Monologue

(Darkened stage, sitting in “living room” singing “Tomorrow Christ is Coming” verse 1 [words here, 2/3 down the page])

“the world is full of darkness” What appropriate words to sing in the middle of a power outage.

I hate the dark. Always have. It makes me uneasy when I can’t see clearly. I guess you could even say I am afraid of the dark. Everything sounds strange, everything seems creepy.

And really that is what I dislike about winter. I don’t mind the cold and I love snow, even shovelling it doesn’t really bother me. But those short days and long nights drag me down. I try to plan a trip to sunnier places each year, just to get out of the dark.

SO I really wonder about Christmas. People keep telling me it is a festival of light but then why is it at such a dark time of year? Why not celebrate light when there is a lot of it?

Still, you know, here is something about dark I identify with. Maybe that is part of why I don’t like it so much. I see the darkness of the world all too clearly. Sometimes people call me depressing or pessimistic but I see it as realism. The world is a dark place. (sing verse 2 of TCCiC)

See what I mean. The hymn writer knows. For many people the world is always dark. People are being pushed out of house and home, people live in terrible places, children are born into lives that will be nothing but struggle and hardship. Of course they are “crying out for love”.

You know the other thing unsettling about darkness? In all my favourite books dark means evil or bad. As things get harder and harder Frodo and his friends go into dark places – Moria, Mordor – and they are fighting the Dark Lord. And over and over again Harry and his friends are warned about Dark Wizards and have to learn to fight against the Dark Arts. When Harry is in the most danger he is in dark places. Dark means bad in so many ways in books, in songs.

And I get that. When I say the world is dark it is the bad stuff I think about. It isn’t about light or brightness or even colour. It is the shadows. Shadows of poverty, or of unemployment, or of warfare, or of racism and discrimination. They are dark. And still we have Christmas in the darkest time of year. I just don’t get it. (start singing verse 3 of TCCiC)

Man this is depressing. And yet it is real. That must be why I have always liked this hymn. It just seems so much more real than so many Christmas carols. It takes seriously the problems of the world. But my is it bringing me down. (pause and listen) Hey, I think the power just came on. (turn on lamp) Hey great it has.

Gee that light feels good. Now to bring some light to my spirit. (open Hymn Book) Hey here is a different one. “Kindle a flame, to lighten the dark, and drive all fear away”. I like that idea. Instead of muttering about the darkness and getting depressed we should do something about it. That sure is better than sitting here and getting depressed about it. Still, what about Christmas? Why have a festival of light in the middle of the darkest time of year?

Anyway, now that the lights are back I better start preparing to read Scripture at church for Christmas Eve. (open Bible) Maybe that will help me understand. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” Well that makes some sense. I guess you can’t appreciate the light unless you know what darkness means. Still the darkness seems so much stronger right now. Wouldn’t the darkest time of year make a good time to celebrate Good Friday? But then there is Easter, it doesn’t fit right now either.

What’s next? (flip pages) “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Well there you go! That explains it! We celebrate light in the darkest time of year because the darkness doesn’t win!

Do I believe that? Well I don’t know, the darkness seems so strong sometimes. Both as real darkness and as a metaphor the darkness seems really hard to beat. But I remember that even in the darkest night it takes very little light to be able to see fairly well. SO yeah, light is stronger than the darkness.

And really, even in those books the darkness was beaten. Of course that was the whole point of the plot though. But more to the point, the encounters Frodo and Harry and their friends have with dark forces make them stronger and wiser. Facing the reality of darkness helps them to grow.

In the end, it must be about hope and trust. If we truly believe that the darkness is weaker than the light then we can face it boldly and grow in the experience. If we doubt that light is stronger the darkness will scare and worry us. Christmas is the reminder that God’s light is the light in the darkness. SO yeah, it makes sense to celebrate it in the winter. Any fool can celebrate light when there is lots of it. IT takes faith and trust to celebrate light in the midst of darkness.

But I still prefer the light. I still wish the nights weren’t quite so long. But time for a new song, one that isn’t quite so dark. How about “Good Christian Friends Rejoice”
(exit stage, lights go on for the singing of the carol)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

THe Tree is Up!

One of the tasks today was to decorate the tree (it was put up last night to allow the branches time to fall). Here it is in all it's, um, glory.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Joseph's Story

Chaos? I’ll tell you about chaos! For months now my life has been one bit of chaos after another.

First I went to see Joachim to talk about arrangements for a marriage between myself and his daughter Mary. Planning for such a thing is at least disruptive and life-changing. But then, just as the arrangement is announced news starts floating around town that Mary is pregnant. Now that moves us quickly from simple disruption into chaos.

What was I supposed to do? If I cancelled our arrangement Mary and her whole family would be shamed. If I went forward I risked being labelled a cuckold and a fool before the marriage was even finalized. I wanted to do the right thing, but in the middle of all the voices telling me what to do I wasn’t sure what was right and good. It seemed that my life was crumbling around me.

You see I had chosen Mary on purpose. It wasn’t just a good business match between her father and I. It wasn’t that she came from a good family. Over the years I had come to know Mary and I sincerely liked her. We could talk and laugh together. I wanted to spend time with her. I certainly didn’t want to leave her to shame and possible stoning. I also didn’t want to give up on what might have been. My mind was a mess.

Then came the dream. The famous dream where an angel came to me and told me what was happening. So I went forward with the betrothal. Not that this lessened the chaos. I was called a fool and worse by people around the town. Mary and I were well on our way to being outcasts. Only the strength of my family reputation saved us. And Mary, well there was something about her that was different. She has always been a dreamer but after she returned from her cousin Elizabeth’s her dreams were grandiose.

And just as life was settling down it all got turned upside down. The blasted Romans, fools that they are, ordered that all of us return to the town of our forefathers for a census. Just another way to get taxes out of us I say. But no matter how foolish it was, we weren’t about to take on the Legions. So now the whole countryside was thrown into chaos.

Imagine half the population wandering the highways. The roads were beyond crowded, families got separated, people were almost trampled. But we had to go. Mary was near her time but still we had to go. So we made the long difficult trip to Bethlehem in the land of my ancestors. This was the time when the chaos was also a help. If the roads hadn’t been so crowded the journey would have been far more dangerous. Still, I was worried about my betrothed, quickly becoming my beloved. As we reached Bethlehem she was sure that the child was about to come.

Then, to make matters worth, there was no housing to be found. No where to stay, no idea where to find a midwife. If I thought things had been chaotic before, they were far worse now. Mary was about to have a baby and the only place I could find for us was a little hole where they kept animals. I felt like a failure.

That was the first time I was at a birth. It was hellish. There was screaming and blood and, well, chaos. I was beginning to wonder when I would know anything but chaos again. But then they called me over. I bent down and picked up this tiny little boy. He would be my son and I would be his father. And as I sat there in the straw beside Mary with this tiny bundle of cloth and flesh in my hands I was hit by a wave of calmness. Even last night in the midst of all that chaos I found a point of calm.

I know that life will not always be easy. I know that being a poor peasant under brutal Imperial occupation will often be disrupted and chaotic. But as long as I remember last night with that baby I will know that calm is possible. That is all I need to know. Calm is possible.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WHy Put ANgels on Top of the Christmas Tree?

A totally non-reverent explanation

CHristmas was coming and Santa was frazzled. Everything was behind schedule and it seemed things just kept going wrong.

First mice had gotten into the sleigh. Not only had they eaten the upholstery but they had fried the ultra-sensitive navigational system.

Then the reindeer had gotten sick, it was doubtful that a full team would be healthy enough to fly on the 24th.

Then the elves had gone on strike. Santa had been forced to bring in a team of angels to help complete the work once an agreement had been reached (Santa is no strikebreaker).

Now, if things weren't bad enough the master Naughty/Nice list along with 2000 bags of letters to Santa had just dissappeared. GOne. Into the thin Arctic air.

At that point a young angel came in and asked: "Santa, where do you want us to put the Christmas tree this year?"

Moving From Chaos to Calm (A Prayer)

This is a prayer for our Advent 4 worship on Sunday. Now only a story for Joseph's voice on Sunday, a story about seeking light on Monday and the "Christmas Prayer" to find/prepare and all the worship items will be prepped.

God, there are days when it is hard to know what to do next. So many activities and so few hours. Then add in a few extras to celebrate Christmas “properly” and the carefully planned schedule can fall to pieces. We celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace by working ourselves into a frenzy that lacks peacefulness? What is wrong with this picture?
God of our busy-ness,
Bring your peace to our lives

All the noise noise noise noise! It irritated the Grinch and it drives us batty too God. All that noise keeps our nerves on high alert. Music playing everywhere, people calling out to each other, kids screaming and laughing, cars running constantly to warm up. Sometimes we just need some quiet time to relax and “be”.
God of our busy-ness,
Bring your peace to our lives

God, life is tiring. In fact some days life is downright exhausting. How can we re-energize ourselves without feeling guilty? In the end we know that we can’t do it all but how do we choose. In this season when the earth around us is resting help us to rest and take a break too.
God of our busy-ness,
Bring your peace to our lives

God, over and over we hear how you are active in the chaos. In the beginning you spoke into the primordial chaos and brought forth order and life. In the story of your people it is often in the times of disruption that they are able to find your presence. In the chaos that sometimes overtakes our lives, may we sense your presence and your comfort.
God of our busy-ness,
Bring your peace to our lives

God of peace. You call us to “Be still and know that I am God”. On those days and weeks when we start to run frantically from one thing to another remind us to be still again. May the Christmas gift we give ourselves be the time to break from the treadmill. May the Christmas gift we give our loved ones be our real presence; energized because we take time to rest, and truly present in the moment rather than three steps down the road.
God of our busy-ness,
Bring your peace to our lives
AMEN.

Chirstmas Shopping Made Easy

Having trouble finding that perfect gift?

Well worry no more. Here is the answer for that hard to buy for person.

Monday, December 17, 2007

THe End is in sight!

Once the December 23 bulletin is done I have all bulletins done till Epiphany. Yeah sure there are some sermons and meditations to finish planning in there but the bulletins are done. HEre are some pieces of that final bulletin.

CALL TO WORSHIP
It’s getting closer, the day is almost here!
In just a few hours the calm night will be shattered by a newborn’s cries.
We come to worship in anticipation of the birth.
We come to worship the God who becomes one of us.
As we prepare for Christmas we come to give thanks to God as we sing and pray together…

OPENING PRAYER
God of Christmas, in this time of anticipation and preparation we give thanks for all that Christmas is…
the excitement of childhood,
the music of carols,
the promise of a better world to come,
the hope and joy of waiting,
the fellowship of the busy-ness,
the moments of calm and peace.
And in the midst of our Christmas celebrations we find you God.
Sharing in our joy and our anxiousness.
As we experience the wonder of the season,
May we remember the child who taught us to pray together singing…
LORD’S PRAYER (sung #959 VU)

Offering Prayer
The Christmas season is all about gifts.
Gifts of a mother pregnant too soon and a father willing to take a chance, gifts of life itself.
Here we offer our own gifts, trusting that they too would be gifts of life, and that in abundance.
We offer them to the baby in the manger, God made flesh. Amen.

COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
Closer and closer the birth gets. Soon the first labour pains will be felt.
We go to finish preparing for Christmas.
Soon the chaos of the preparations will give way to the chaos of Christmas night.
And even amongst the chaos and excitement we will look for peace and calm.
The peace of a sleeping baby, the calm hearts that know they are held in the loving arms of God.
We know that blessing, and we share that blessing with others at Christmas and all year round. Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2007

ANother Quiz

Back when I was in Confirmation (25 years ago) we took a Christmas quiz. Many years later I found a copy of it on line and saved it in a file.

THis year I posted it on the church blog. You can find the quiz here and teh answers here.

Oh and here are the answers to the quiz from WonderCafe I posted earlier.
  1. Mary to foretell the birth/announce the pregnancy; Joseph to foretell the birth and say it was OK to marry MAry anyway
  2. MAry-Luke Joseph-Matthew
  3. Luke
  4. Matthew
  5. Who knows?
  6. who knows?
  7. diddly
  8. what donkey?
  9. sheep by extension--at least Luke mentions shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.
  10. MAtthew
  11. Luke
  12. what innkeeper?
  13. Luke
  14. Matthew
  15. who?

ANd the extras I added:

  1. Luke
  2. MAtthew
  3. The gospels don't tell us what kind of baby he was

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tooth Fairies Should be Organized

YEsterday morning Eldest came running in saying "Daddy daddy! My tooth fell out!"

Our first thought "Oh no, it fell out over night and is lost" but no, she had it in her hand. SO we set it in a safe place until bedtime, then in a ziplock and under the pillow it goes.

LAter last evening, it comes time for a tooth fairy visit. ANd neither of us have the proper change! Luckily I remember that there may be a loon at teh church so we scrape together $1 of loose change and I run over to make the switch.

ORganized, competent parents would likely have thought of such things before 9:30 right?????

Christmas Is... (For the Christmas Edition of the paper)

Christmas is carols and children. At Christmas time the child-like senses of wonder and acceptance are awakened in us. As we sing the carols and tell the story we are reminded of our childhood memories. The gifts and the foods bring out the child in all of us. The mystery of the stories (either Jesus or Santa) challenges us to move past adult rationalism. Christmas calls us to be child-like once again.

Christmas is waiting and hoping. When will Santa come? When can I open my presents? When will the baby be born? When will the world be better? When will things be right again? We wait and we wait. But we wait with hope. Christmas reminds us to be people of hopeful expectation. Christmas reminds us to hope for the future. Hope is born at Christmas, and so we wait for birth.

Christmas is chaos and calm. There is so much to fit into the month. Parties and concerts and shopping and baking and special church services. Oh my! Chaos is part of Christmas. But there is calm too. There is the peace of the Christmas snow sifting down. There is the silence of the frosty nights. There are both in our story too. The calm of the traditional vision of the manger is shattered by the chaos of a newborn’s cries and the violence of an oppressive world. Christmas comes in the midst of our lives with chaos and calmness.

Christmas is life changing. Some of the chaos of Christmas is because if we take Christmas and the story of the baby in the manger seriously Christmas is life-changing. Birth means that the life beforehand will die. Life will never be the same again, for parent, for child, for everybody associated with the child. At Christmas we mark not just the birth of a child but of a whole new world. And while we wait with hopeful expectation for that birth, we also wonder what will need to die so that the birthing process comes to full potential. Christmas is life and world changing.

Christmas is light in the darkness. Even in the chaos there is calm. Even in the fear of change there is hope. There is hope because Christmas reminds us of light in the darkest times. It is Christmas. The nights are long and cold in midwinter. But then we hear a tale of light, we hear that those who walk in times of darkness will have light shined on them. The world will be changed. New life will be born. There is light and there is hope.

That’s what Christmas is Charlie Brown.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

WHat's it worth these days?

Yesterday eldest came home with a very loose front tooth.

Given that:
a) she is only 4.5 which seems early for teeth to be falling out;
b) she complained about it hurting; and
c) she told us it started hurting after she used her teeth to flip up the straw on her juice cup
we were a little concerned she had injured the tooth and made a dentist visit yesterday afternoon. Dentist took an X-ray and turns out that the front teeth are in fact coming in (and very fast since the X-ray in October didn't show them at all) and this tooth should fall out any day now.

Now this is right in keeping with the fact that her first teeth came in early and fast--at 3 months they just started sprouting like crazy. So it makes sense to have this happen early -- she is getting a molar early too, with no complaint about pain.

But the real qustion is: when the tooth fairy visits, what does a tooth go for these days???

Prologue for Christmas Eve (Based on John 1:1-5, Genesis 1:1-4)

(begin with all lights off except for cross, windows & rope lights [front of chancel] & Tree & icicles along side and back – read from front of platform)

In the Beginning was the WORD. And the word was? The word was God. And the word was with God. But the word was what?

The WORD was the catalyst of creation, all things were created through the word. But still the word was what?

Try again. In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and darkness covered the face of the deep. Then God spoke into the darkness saying “Let there be light!” and there was light. (crack/activate light stick – light sticks scattered throughout congregation will also be activated now)

There! There it is! The WORD was LIGHT! In the light was life for all and in the life was light for all. The Word was Light!!!!!

But the darkness remained. For God separated the Light from the darkness and said that it was good. But the darkness remains…

As the years fly by God’s people strive to be people of the word, people of the light. But just beyond the glow is the darkness. Always it seems like the darkness is trying to overtake the light. Empires rise and fall. Prophets and wise women speak out and are silenced. Still the WORD, the LIGHT, is there, shining.

At various times the light is hidden, the word seems silent (drape cloth over the light stick) but the light never goes away. For behold, the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not, will not, and can not overcome it (uncover the light stick).

And so, all those who walk in times of great darkness still gather to have light shined upon them. And so we gather in search of the light, which shall be for all people, Glory to God in the highest! And on Earth Peace. (lights go on)

Monday, December 10, 2007

NOw Who Would I send this too......

Check this out!

A John The Baptist card for repentant types

A Christmas Quiz

ONe of the participants on WonderCafe posted this quiz in the forum. NO cheating--try it without the Bible in front of you.
According to Scripture (as opposed to common wisdom and carols):
  1. Who was visited by an angel to foretell the birth?
  2. In which Gospel did this angel appear?
  3. Which of the gospel's tells the story of Jesus being born in a stable?
  4. Which of the gospel's tells the story of the Magi or Kings?
  5. How many Magi visited the baby?
  6. What was their mode of transportation?
  7. What does Mark's gospel tell about the first Christmas?
  8. Which gospel tells about the donkey?
  9. What animals are mentioned?
  10. Which gospel tells about a star?
  11. Which gospel tells about angels singing?
  12. Did the innkeepers wife persuade him to give these travellers shelter?
  13. Which gospel has Mary & Jospeh taking their baby to the temple to be dedicated?
  14. Which gospel has them fleeing in haste to Egypt?
  15. What did the littlest shepherd offer to the baby Jesus?

ANd here are 3 questions I added to his:

  1. Which Gospel has Joseph and Mary living in Nazareth before the birth?
  2. Which gospel mentions a house?
  3. How fussy was the baby? HOw do we know?

A Christmas Medley (sorta kinda)

THis is hilarious:

Christmas Gift Remembered

Well actually it was my sister who got it but we all played with it. Especially tic tac toe and making music (which was hard since all the notes were the same length).

Friday, December 07, 2007

TO Aid in Your Procrastination....

Since I know you all need reasons to procrastinate. Besides, Elves and penguins, and treats--what more could you want?


Games at Miniclip.com - Adventure Elf
Adventure Elf

Help Oliver collect all the stolen loot and save Christmas.

Play this free game now!!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Historical CLuelessness redefined...

Apparently Jesus predates everyone--and not in the theological pre-existent Christ sense

HAt Tip

A Day to Remember

THis is the 18th anniversary of a sobering event.

Read this and this to know more.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If you say so...


Your Score: Fennel


You scored 50% intoxication, 50% hotness, 75% complexity, and 25% craziness!



You are Fennel! You're a cool cat. Crisp, clean, fresh, and extremely complicated. You're like quantum physics or modern jazz. Think Niels Bohr meets Ornette Coleman. You may look normal now, but once you sprout, you look kind of, uh, funny.

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test written by jodiesattva on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
Hat tip to PPB

MAry's Story -- A Letter to Joseph

This is for Sunday's worship...

My betrothed Joseph,

You must have so many questions, so many doubts. After all this isn’t how it is meant to happen. Just before our marriage is to be made official word comes out that I am with child. You would be well within your rights to cancel the agreement with my parents and leave me to my fate.

Joseph, you must believe me. I have no idea how this came to pass. It is a mystery to me. I know what the town gossips have been whispering in your ear but it isn’t true. I haven’t been playing the whore. Just out of nowhere I found myself with child. I understand that this is hard to believe, but it is true.

You asked what my feelings around this series of events were. To be truthful, I hardly know. At first I was afraid – afraid of how others would react, afraid for my life. Then I was angry. How dare God do this to me? Did I really have a choice? Would saying “no” have made a difference when the angel came (I did tell you about the angel right)? Then from somewhere, I don’t know where, I found the courage to say yes, although it was with a touch of defiance. Somewhere I had a flash of foresight about this child. Joseph, this child of ours (I trust I can say ours) can change the world. This son, I just know it is a son, will truly be a child of God. He will teach and do wondrous things. But in the end, my heart forebodes, he will die a terrible death. These things I discussed with the angel. No, these things I told the angel, but he had no answer to give.

My visit to my cousin Elizabeth was a blessing. It got me away from the gossiping tongues and accusing eyes. Elizabeth too had a flash of foresight about the greatness of our child. And I had another flash. My heart was moved into prophecy as our people knew of old. I knew somehow that God was doing great things, that God was moving mighty forces to turn the world upside down. And so I sang. Maybe no-one will remember my song but I sang of God who makes the weak mighty and lays the mighty low. Our son will be a revolutionary Joseph, a revolutionary I say.

And now, how do I feel? The first flush of defiance has faded. The fear remains. The eyes and tongues still stab me with accusation. True, your commitment to live out the deal you made with my father has lessened them somewhat but until we are truly married the fear will still haunt me. And I have indeed accepted my lot Joseph. Someday people will either curse or bless me for giving birth to the child I carry, the son I carry. But he will change the world. Thank you for standing by me Joseph. Thank you for taking the chance and being a father to this special child.

I remain your wife-to-be,
Mary

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

ADvent Candles

A little late for this year I know but I have posted our Advent Candle liturgies over at the church blog. Who knows, maybe they will spark something for you.

On LEaving the Community

THis morning I became aware of this website.

The creator, James Love is a disgruntled former member of the order of ministry in the United Church. I have never met him save for both of us taking part in United Online.

NOw I have to say that when a faith community ceases to be a place one can call home spiritually then the mature and responsible (not to mention Scriptural) thing to do is leave it behind in search of a new home. And I can see the need for a pastoral presnce to help those who are coming to the same conclusion. But I see something else in this website.

I see poaching, an attempt to convince people that the UCCan is no longer a "real church" and so people should leave them behind. I see an attempt to foment discontent and conflict (see the subversive stayers link). I see an inability to let go, to fully leave -- sort of like a divorce when one party is so consumed by the supposed (or real) wrongs of the other that they keep harping on them. ANd so I also see anger and hurt.

Scripture tells us to shake the dust off our feet and move on. THat is hard and painful but it is also mature and responsible. This website saddens me. It saddens me because its writer is so obviously hurt by a place he once called home. ANd it saddens me because rather than moving on he continues to snipe at a place many of us still call home and are, frankly, tired of having the same arguements over and over.

Epiphany Anyone?

My it feels strange to be prepping a bulletin for a month from now. ANyway, here are the bits I wrote for Epiphany Sunday...

PRAYER OF CONFESSION/ASSURANCE OF PARDON
In the light of the star…
we are forced to look at our lives more closely.
Watching the magi arrive,
we are challenged to offer our own gifts to the child.
As we look at our lives and respond to the challenge,
we confess that our lives are not what they could be, that we sometimes fail to live up to the challenge of being your people.
For the times we do not go far enough, when we abandon the search for Your way and presence,
forgive us we pray.
…time of silent confession…
Many times in our life’s journey we, like the Magi, come into the presence of God-made-Manifest. Because of that we know that we are accepted and forgiven and sent out again to continue the journey.
Thanks be to the God who travels with us. Amen.

COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
The Magi saw a sign of God’s presence and brought rich gifts.
We go out looking for God’s presence in our world.
What gifts do we take with us?
We take all that we have to offer, we offer ourselves.
In our quest for the star, for God-made-manifest, we walk with God who is present in our world and in our lives, wherever we go.
We give thanks for God’s blessing and presence. Amen.

Monday, December 03, 2007

ANd now For Low Sunday

Here are some pieces for December 30:

CALL TO WORSHIP
The presents are opened, the wrapping paper tossed out, the leftover turkey is being eaten,
and the story we told on Christmas Eve continues…
We prepare to turn the pages of a New Year,
knowing that each year brings joy and pain.
We come to acknowledge the good and the bad of life.
We come to worship the God who is there in the light and the shadow…

OPENING PRAYER
God, although the angel song is stilled and the chaos of Christmas is dying down we continue to seek the babe in the manger. We come to hear about the joy and the pain of the world into which he was born. We come to experience the promise and hope his birth brings to the world. Amen.

Offering Prayer
Just as we give gifts to family and friends at Christmas,
as a way of showing our love and concern.
So each week we give gifts to you, O God,
trusting that they will help spread your love in our community and around the globe. Amen.

Christmas is Life-Changing

That is the theme for this Sunday. Here are some liturgy pieces:

OPENING PRAYER
God, we live in a world of change.
And we admit that change is often terrifying.
Here we come and hear how the story of faith changes the world,
We remember Mary and the angel’s words that changed her world,
We seek to hear what changes the life of faith has in store for us,
In this time together help us to embrace the possibility that change can bring growth as well as loss.
We pray in the name of the child whose birth we await, who taught his friends to pray by singing together…

DISCUSSION (In lieu of a sermon we are trying a small group discussion time)
1. Think of a special pregnancy announcement in your life. What were your thoughts when you heard about it?
2. What are some of the life-changing events in your life?
3. Change can be a terrifying thing. What helps you respond to changes big or small? Is change a chance to grow? A time of loss? Both?

Offering Prayer
Mary responded “let it be with me according to your word”
And gave of her body and life to further your plan.
God here we too give of ourselves and our lives,
Trusting that our gifts big and small will spread your peace, love, hope, and life in the world. Amen.

COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
Birth, new life, promise, Christmas is about all of these.
And so Christmas is about the world being changed.
Go now ready to embrace the changes of Christmas
We go ready to support others in a changing world.
Remember always that the God who changes the world and calls us into the birth-pangs of a new world is always there as our coach and supporter and guide.
So be it! Thanks be to God! Amen.

Christmas Eve Liturgy

'Tis the season for a flurry of bulletins as we need to get up until January 6 done in the next couple of weeks. Here are a couple pieces for Dec 24

Offering Prayer
It is the season for gift-giving.
And now we bring our gifts to share with the world.
It is the season when light breaks into the long dark nights.
And we share that piece of Divine Light that burns within us with the world.
It is the season of hope, of peace, of joy, of love, found in a baby in a manger.
Remembering these things we give our gifts to the God in the manger, and through that manger to the people of the world. Amen.

COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
We who walk through the darkness of the world have seen a great light.
We have met the Light of the beginning in a manger filled with straw.
We who have seen the light take hope in the promise that no darkness can overcome it.
And, filled with hope, we carry that light to the world around us.
Go as light-bearers and hope-bearers, secure in the knowledge that God: the Creator, the Babe in the manger, the Spirit of Christmas is with you always
Thanks be to the Gift-Giving God of Christ-mass!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Yeah but...

Ontario will start to phase in full-day learning for four-and five-year-olds in 2010, seven years after Premier Dalton McGuinty first promised to introduce full-time junior and senior kindergarten.


But are 4 year olds really ready for full day schooling? Sure you can find studies showing an improvement in some areas but what are the costs (and I don't mean the money)?

Granted, many children that age are now in day care so this is really a different form of funding child care. But is it the best way? What will the curriculum be?

My fear is that in the end this push to start school earlier and more intensively fits in to a larger process of pushing kids to do too much through their school career. Are we asking too much too soon? Or just asking too much period?

And just for balance...

Here are some more favoured seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food
Peppermint/chocolate pinwheels -- must make some this year
2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)egg nog, preferably with a splash of, um, nog
3) tradition (church, family, other) candles and Silent Night on Christmas Eve, Yeah I know its a little overdone and schmaltzy but it just needs to happen.
4) decoration natural tree, preferably put up just before CHristmas (21st or later)
5) gift (received or given) The girls are just getting in to the Christmas thing so the look on their faces when they come downstairs....
BONUS: SONG/CD that makes the season worthwhile...Santa I'mRight HEre (secular) any of a number of sacred ones.

LEast Favourite CHristmas

Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey?
Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols?
Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stick it? (Lights please.)
Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food
I'd say fruitcake but I don't eat it...same with mincemeat tarts...but turkey is (IMHO) highly overrated. THere is only one reason to have turkey and that is as an excuse to have stuffing
2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...) How many seasonal beverages are there? I quite enjoy egg nog season myself
3) tradition (church, family, other) REally not a big fan of children's christmas pageants.
4) decoration icicle lights, especially multi-coloured icicle lights
5) gift (received or given) I plead teh Fifth
BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it. Grandma GOt Run over by a Reindeer (secular) The First Noel/Nowell (Sacred)

THis Deserves wider viewing....

Found out about this one at WonderCafe

Monday, November 26, 2007

Waiting Anxiously -- A Prayer for Many Voices

Each portion of the prayer will close with the words:
O God how long?
Each time the congregation will respond with:
We wait with hope, we trust in the promise.

#1: God, every time I turn on the news I get depressed. There are so many places where people live such violent lives. Using war as a way of settling disputes doesn’t seem to be going away. How much longer do we need to put up with this? The prophets of old promised there would be a time when war would be no more and people would live in peace. Isn’t it time for that to happen?
O God how long?
We wait with hope, we trust in the promise.

#2: Why are children hungry? That’s what I want to know God. Over and over again I read that You want us to ensure everybody has their basic needs met. But still there are people without homes, without clothes, without enough to eat. Why are we still waiting for justice?
O God how long?
We wait with hope, we trust in the promise.

#3: Another mill closing. One a week it seems. The news seems so bleak for this part of the world. The economy just keeps sounding worse. There have to be better days out there somewhere. Mining or forestry or something else has to happen. How many young people will we lose before then? How do we continue to live abundant lives while we wait? We need some good news, even just a little bit to keep us going.
O God how long?
We wait with hope, we trust in the promise.

#4: God, I worry about the church. Across the country, at many levels, in many denominations, there is a mood of crisis. There is anxiety about money; there is anxiety about shrinking numbers and aging members; there is anxiety about how long things can continue as they are. I know there is a place for the church in the world and in the lives of the people around me but we could really use a sign that it will be there for our children. I look for a road that will take us into the future, I await a sign that the church can continue to be a place that gives life to God’s people.
O God how long?
We wait with hope, we trust in the promise

#5: God, long ago you sent a liberator into Egypt to free your people suffering under Empire. Then you promised a Messiah as they struggled under other Empires over the years. Then a man named Jesus came and brought words of liberation in a new way and a new understanding. Now we who in the midst of a new Empire continue to cry for liberation. We need a new liberator, another coming of an Anointed One to give us life in abundance. We wait for you to once again break into our world in new and surprising ways.
O God how long?
We wait with hope, we trust in the promise.

And the people all said Amen. Amen

Waiting and Hope -- Liturgy for Advent 1

OPENING PRAYER
We come with hearts that are anxious, uncertain of the future;
God, relieve our anxiety, help us to embrace the possibilities.
We come as those who wait with hope for the better times to come;
God, help us counter the despair we see around us.
We come as those who look to the promise of birth and new life,
God, be born in us and our world again and again. Amen.

Offering Prayer
Gift-giving God, as we get closer and closer to Christmas we hear more and more voices crying out “Please Give”
And we respond as best we can. We share of our lives to help all around us live in abundance. Here we offer a portion of our gifts, trusting that they would be used to spread Your love in our community and around the world. Amen.

COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
The Advent journey has begun. Each day brings us closer to the wonder of Christmas.
As we get closer the excitement grows and the waiting gets harder.
We wait with hope for God to once again break into our world in surprising ways.
And we share our hope in the promise of the future with those we meet.
We go to live in hope, hope based on the knowledge that God is with us wherever we go.
Thanks be to God! Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

TO MArket TO Market...

No we didn't buy a pig (plump or fresh or otherwise)

BUt we did make use of our time in the city. BOught skates for the girls (the hope here was to find what fit then have daddy go back later to buy them as Christmas presents--that didn't work). DId a variety of other errands.

One was to buy some props for the Christmas Eve Service. WEnt in, found the box we were looking for, bought it. When we got home at 5ish Beloved got the box out, then comes into the living room asking "did you take these out?" Turns out we paid $13 for an empty box!!!!! Call the store, explain what happened and that we are out of town--only option they can come up with is to bring teh box and the reciept into the store. Maybe have to find another way to plan for the 24th.

Oh and we got a new van. A few months erlier than planned (we had 3 months left on our lease) but the deal was as good as it would be then and htey included paying out the lease. And we now are the owners (?? we haven't actually paid for it yet of course--5 years of payments) of a bright red 2008 Sedona. ANd my were the girls excited--all the way home they were downright wired.

If we had been on the ball we would have taken a picture right after picking it up, when it was still clean and shiny. Now it has a nice glazing of road salt and muck but a picture may appear soon....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Newspaper column -- When Christmas Isn't Joyful

Joy to the world! The Lord is come! So the old carol goes. In the minds of many Christmas is a time of joy and happiness. Christmas is about carols, chocolates, children, and community. It involves Christmas parties and presents. It is a season when the world can pause from the everyday grind and talk about peace, hope, joy and love. Even the opposing armies in World War 1 left their trenches to celebrate Christmas for heaven’s sake!

Well the truth can be somewhat different than our perceptions. For some people Christmas is anything but happy. Maybe this is the first year after a death in the family. Maybe this year one of the children isn’t coming home for the holidays. Maybe there is added stress and anxiety because of the economic situation and the expectation to buy gifts. For a variety of reasons Christmas can be very difficult.

It is hard to go against the expectations around us. When people expect us to be happy and joyful it is difficult to tell them that we aren’t feeling that way. But it is important that people have a place and a chance to be honest with themselves and their family and friends about what they are feeling.

Faith communities should be that place. In our faith lives we should be able to embrace the good and the bad of life.

One way we have of facing the reality of a difficult Christmas is to name it openly. One way we have of doing that is a Blue Christmas service. The name comes from the song made famous by Elvis – I’ll have a blue Christmas, without you… In this service we have the chance to pause in the midst of the busy-ness of the Christmas season to name aloud any pain or loneliness or anxiety we may be carrying. We take the time to affirm the reality of those things that interfere with the happiness and merriment of the season as we seek the joy of Christmas.

Christmas comes at what is literally the darkest time of the year. The nights are the longest and the days the shortest. For some people this transfers into how they feel emotionally as well. In some places Blue Christmas services are held on Dec 21, the longest night of the year, as a way of naming the darkness and countering it with the promise of light. Because the only cure for darkness is light, God’s light can in fact help us face darkness both physical and emotional.

Being sad, or anxious, or upset at Christmas is normal. Finding a way to name and feel our feelings is as important at Christmas as it is any other time. If you find Christmas hard, or if it is just this year that Christmas is hard, you are invited to a Blue Christmas celebration on December 16 at 7:00 at Riverview United Church. Let’s take a break from the busy-ness and happiness to name the darkness of the world, then we can be ready for the coming of the light.

Advent Service Music

Am I the only one who gets tired of singing the same stuff every year at ADvent? ANyway, I decided to try writing words to sing as the offering is brought forward and to close the service. I am not really crazy about either of them, especially the third rhyme in the closing...ideas for imrovement welcome.

Doxology (tune Jingle Bells –sung twice)
Giving gifts, giving gifts
Sharing what we’ve got
In the Christmas spirit we
Offer them to God

CHORAL RESPONSE: (tune God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)
God bless you all as you go out
To share the Christmas joy
To tell of peace and love and hope
Born with a baby boy
And may we pass God’s love along
As if in God’s employ
O Christmas is coming once again, once again
O Christmas is come once again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Baptismal Vows--PArt 2

I've been thinking more about the questions I raised in this post on Saturday. So what would it mean for the church to be more intentional about living out their baptism vow rather than constantly complaining about families not coming back after getting the kids "done"?

Some possibilities:
  1. naming a person/family to "adopt" the baptismal family. This role would be to help with child care,transport and other logistics about being at church (like sitting with one child while mom takes the other to the washroom etc.). Another role would be to serve as a source of information about the church and church activities.
  2. being very intentional about making the church a place where newcomers are welcome. This means a space where people who are less familiar with the traditions and customs of "how things are done" will not be judged for behaving "inappropriately"
  3. talking to families with young children about what they might want from a faith community
  4. creating a culture where kids can be kids while worship is happening--not frowned at for talking, not expected to sit still instead of moving
  5. having an active church school program that may or may not take place on SUnday
  6. including people of all ages in church activities
  7. an "adopt a grandparent" program
  8. mentoring relationships to encourage families and individuals to grow in faith
  9. a place where questions are welcomed, taken seriously, and answers are talked about
  10. a chance for parents to tlk about parenting and its challenges in a faith context

SOme of these would work in some places, others in other places. ANd there will always be families who choose not to engage. But we as communities have to take responsibility for what choices we make--and choices in areas like #2,4,6&9 are often made so unconsciously that we don't recognize the messages we are sending.

Reign of Christ COmmissioning

This Sunday is the end of the Liturgical year, the Reign of Christ Sunday. It also means that we are about to start another Advent and teh new year. This COmmissioning attempts to provide a bridge...

COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
The circle goes round and round again
As one year ends we prepare for another to begin.
We celebrate the now of God’s Reign
Remembering that God promises to provide leadership that will guide and protect God’s people.
We also recognize that God’s Reign is not yet complete
And so we go out to help it reach its completion, we go out praying “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”
We close the year sharing the ancient prayer “Maranatha – come Lord Jesus.”
And begin the new awaiting with hope the birth of a baby who will change the world.
As we go out with hope and promise we go held in the love of the Shepherd God: our Guide, our Protector, our Leader.
Reign of God, break into our lives! Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Kids and music and church...

Today was our music Sunday at church. This morning was our "Favourite Hymns" service. WE sang 14 pieces and listened to another 3 on CD--all from a list of favourites that was built over the last few weeks. THis is something we do every couple of years. For Children's Time I sang part of Sing, SIng a SOng before talking about who likes singing--with Eldest leaning in close to teh mic to sing along.

THen this evening we hosted Bruce and Cheryl Harding in concert. THis was very enjoyable as attested by all those in attendance. BUt here is the best story of the night.

About 5:30 I see a car in the parking lot so I head over to open the doors and turn on lights etc. It is our guests so I call the house to say that I was staying over to help them set up. About 25 minutes later, I am about to get my jacket on and cross back to the house for a bit when I hear the rest of the family arrive. Apparently after I phoned Eldest decide it was time to leave. She got dressed, she got coat and boots on, and demanded mom open the back door for her so she could come over.

Mom convinced her to/made her wait till everyone else was ready and they came over. 15 hours before the concert they came over. Eldest ran in and talked and talked and talked to them. Oh yeah, she was just a little excited. ANd she sat with mom and sang along for the whole 2 hours despite being so incredibly tired.

A good day all in all.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Baptismal Vows

A typical UCCan baptism service for an infant or child includes the parents making a profession of faith, then promising to raise the child in the faith (or to share the faith with the child, or language such as that) and then the congregation promises to help the parents live out that promise.

Often in UCCan circles there are those families who have their child "done" and then are rarely (if ever) seen again. The habit in the church communities is to complain about these families who don't take baptism seriously. But I have started to look at it in another way.

HOw do we as faith communities live out our vow? How do we encourage those familes to pass on the faith? I hunch that in may places it isn't all that much. Simply offering a church school program isn't enough. So now the quetion to ask is how best should we do it?

If we aren't living out our vow we have no right to complain about the parents who seem to take their vow more lightly than we might wish.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Memories are made of this....

This morning while playing around on facebook I found a group for St. Albert Children's Theatre Alumni. ANd man did that bring back memories.

St. Albert Children's Theatre was started with a dramatic adaptation of The Hobbit in an old arena in the summer of 1981. 26 years later it is still going strong. THere were 3 summer plays at the arena and then St. Albert opened the Arden Theatre. From that point on the program bloomed to include fall and winter performances as well as summer drama camps.

SACT, and an accompanying program called the Arts Renaissance Troop of St Albert, largely helped me remain sane--well at least as sane as I get--in my teens. Especially in Grade 9 when my school life was hellish, these people were friends who helped make for a safe place. It is one of the few things I wish I could do again from my teen years. WHether I was on stage or behind the scenes I really truly enjoyed those 6 years. My last show with SACT was in the summer of 1986, my last show with ARTS was the spring of my Grade 12 year, 1987.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Banquet of Hopeful Expectation--An Advent Communion

Invitation
God’s Banquet is coming. The time we await when all will gather from North, East, West and South.
A banquet where the rich and powerful will sit with the weak and poverty-stricken. A table where young and old will learn from each other. A time when all will sit together in peace, “and the wolf will lie down with the lamb”.
Here at this table we get a foretaste of God’s banquet. This is indeed God’s table, not the church’s, and so all who seek to follow The Way are welcome to eat and drink from it.
Come and taste the grace eternal, come and see that God is good.

The Great Thanksgiving
God is with us
We are not alone
Christ is present here
The Spirit moves within us
Let us give thanks to God
In memory and in hope

Blessings be to you, Creator God,
Who in the beginning brought light and life to the world and who continues to bring it love and light everlasting.
Your song of wisdom echoes through the ages, your ancient promise still brings us hope.

Over the ages you have called people to embrace your hope and share your love.
But even when they have closed their ears to the song you did not stop singing.
You sent prophets and messengers to your people, reminding them of the promised time of peace and justice that would surround the world.
They came in the midst of our despair and filled us with hope.

And then you came to a young woman named Mary and laid out the promise in a new way
Promising her a son, who would be called Jesus
Promising her that in her son the world would be changed
And now as we prepare for that child to be born, we echo the ancient cry:
O come, O come Emmanuel

And also we lift our voices in song, singing together the praises of ages (MV #203 tune: Kingsfold)

O holy holy holy God,
O God of time and space.
All earth and sea and sky above
bear witness to your Grace.
Hosanna in the highest heav’n,
creation sings your praise.
And blessed is the One who comes
and bears Your name always

The Story Remembered
Yet even now, as we prepare to celebrate his birth, we remember the life that this baby will live.
We remember how he broke the bonds of human tradition to show all what the Banquet of Hope could be as he ate openly with the despised and the outcast of his world.
And we remember one special meal, foretaste of the banquet that is to come, that he ate with his closest friends.
Gathering them together in an upper room to share the story of liberation, he prepared them for liberation.

And at the end of the meal he took bread, blessed and broke it, then passed it to them saying:
Take and eat. This bread is the body of Life, broken by the world. Eat it in remembrance and in hope.
After that he took the cup, blessed it, and passed it to them saying:
This cup is the sign of the New Covenant. Whenever you drink it remember me, for I shall not eat or drink again until the time of the heavenly banquet.

Remembering the birth of the child in the stable, we remember also his life, his death and his resurrection.
We remember how he poured his love out all he met and look forward to his return and the coming reign of peace, love, and justice.

And in our remembering we sing the mystery of faith (MV #204 tune: Kingsfold)

Sing Christ has died and Christ is risen,
Christ will come again!
Sing Christ has died and Christ is risen,
Christ will come again!

The Spirit Transforms
God, you poured your Spirit on Mary and she sang words of defiance and hope.
Pour out your Spirit upon us gathered here. As we eat and drink may we know your presence.
As we eat and drink may we be opened to the possibilities of your hope and power
And may we be strengthened in our time of waiting for peace and justice so that we will have the courage to make the Christmas promise a reality.

And the people all sang: (MV #205 tune: Kingsfold)

Amen, amen, O Holy One!
Hosanna and amen!
Amen, amen, O Holy One!
Hosanna and amen!

And now, as beloved children of a loving Parent, we pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…

The Pouring and Breaking and Serving
The Bread we break is the Bread of Life
The Cup we Share is the Cup of Promise
These are the gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.
Come and eat, the banquet awaits.

Prayer Following Communion
God of pregnant expectations, God of Christmas promise, God of child-like hope, we have eaten and drunk from your table. May the eating and the drinking fill us with hope in a world of despair. May we be beacons of hope as we wait for the day when the world will be changed. Grant that this taste of your banquet which is to come would give us the hunger for peace and justice in our community and around the world. Amen

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Next Year Will be Different

This morning as the secretary and I were talking about the bulletins for the Christmas season it struck me that this month is going by just as fast as October did and I have a shiite load of work left to do for Advent. (Candle liturgy, hymn selection, carols for Christmas Eve, planning sermon/meditations, the Christmas pageant, the Blue Christmas service...).

And so I have resolved that next year I will take a week of study leave in late October or early November to use as a planning week.

Now if someone could just remind me of that around June so I can make arrangements with the M&P committee...

Monday, November 12, 2007

SAy it isn't so!

6 Weeks! 42 Days!

That's it. THat's all the time there is to Christmas. ANd of course Advent starts in only 3 weeks from yesterday. THe Christmas Parade? 12 days from today

Life is so hectic, where do we find the time to actually prepare for this stuff? (practically, liturgically, psychicly and spiritually)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Sermon of REmembrance

The sermon from this year's LEgion Service can be found here

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A MEmorial PRayer for Remembrance Day

God of life and community, once again we gather here to mark the 11th of the 11th. We come together as people from many backgrounds and histories, brought together in one place remembering Jesus’ prayer “that all may be one”.

God of community, you have called us to live with our brothers and sisters in peace and justice. So as we gather we echo the sung prayers “Let there be peace on earth, let this be the moment now” and “all we are saying, is give peace a chance”. Awaken in the hearts of humanity the drive for a world where peace and justice flourish.

But even as we gather to share our hopes for peace we also remember that we, as the people of the world, have all too often failed to hear your call for peace and justice. And so today we pause to remember millions who have been victimized by wars of aggression, wars fought for reasons noble and base, wars fought in many places on this ball of life we share.

Specifically today we remember places with names that sound strange and foreign to Canadian ears: Ypres, Passchendale, Vimy, Ortona, Juno Beach, Hong Kong, Kandahar – places where young men wearing the Maple Leaf fought and died or fought and were changed in the name of God, King, and country. We also remember those who remained, and remain, at home waiting and wondering and worrying.

God of all the people of the world, on this day we remember more than those Canadians who went and fought in strange lands. WE remember all soldiers, those in uniform and those in everyday clothes, who fight on battlefields. We remember those who are not fighters but are instead caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, civilians trapped between fighting forces. We remember people of many nationalities: German, British, Japanese, Australian, Italian, Dutch, Afghani, American, Iraqi – we remember their losses and pray that all who suffer will know your comfort and compassion.

God of life, we give thanks for the love and bravery of all who answer, in many different ways, the call to serve God and neighbour in times of conflict. We think of their commitment, their sense of duty, their willingness to risk all and we honour them.

Gracious God, on this day of memory, when we think of those who went and never returned, and of those who returned wounded in body or in spirit, we also pause to name those from this Legion community who have died since last we gathered in this way (read names).

Now, God who calls us to be peacemakers and peace-bringers, we who have remembered and honoured prepare to return to the world. May we carry with us a renewed commitment to be people of peace. May all who gather in this way today in communities large and small become activists for peace and justice at home and abroad. Help us to remember the importance of seeking peace, true peace, and that this peace will never come from a gun barrel – only from the changed hearts of your children. May we never forget that the cost of peace’s absence has already been far too high.

God of peace the surpasses all our understanding, we pray our remembrances and our hopes in the name of the one called the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ, who taught us all to pray by saying together:
Our Father, who art in heaven, ...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cool

Years ago on THe A-Team Hannibal often said "Gotta love it when a plan comes together"

Well sometimes the best things are unplanned (depending on one's theology of course) --like this that just arrrived in my e-mail

Smile!

Advent is Coming!

Both in meaning and in time that is. In less than a month we will be into Advent. Here is where I am at so far:
Advent 2007
Christmas is…

1st Sunday December 2 – Christmas is waiting and hope
Character (story or monologue) Isaiah & Unemployed person
Scripture
-Isaiah 2:1-5
-Isaiah 35:1-10
-Isaiah 11:1-10

2nd Sunday December 9 – Christmas is life-changing
Character (story or monologue) Mary & modern Mary
Scripture:
-Luke 1:47-55
-Luke 1:26-46

3rd Sunday December 16 – Christmas is carols and children
Character (story or monologue) Pageant Sunday, White Gifts

4th Sunday December 23 – Christmas is chaos and calm
Character (story or monologue) Joseph & modern parent
Scripture:
-Isaiah 7:10-16
-Matthew 1:18-25
-Genesis 1: 1-2, 31-2:3

Christmas Eve – Christmas is light in the darkness
Character (story or monologue) ??????
Scripture:
-Isaiah 9:2-7
-Luke 2:1-14 (15-20??)
-John 1:1-4
-Genesis 1:1-4

The intent is that each week will include a Biblical story and a modern story around the theme. Much of it will be first person or interview style. I am also thinking of playing with the order of worship in here so maybe the character will pop up a couple times during the service (I think Mary would work well that way). Maybe on the 4th Sunday the service will be split between chaos and calm? Still have to come up with hymns, and the Scriptures are somewhat tentative, but I am hoping that now that I have titles the rest will come easily.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

THe Sun'll COme Out...

Yesterday the girls borrowed Annie from the library to watch during quiet time today. While watching part of it I couldn't help but be struck by the hopefulness found there.

Even in the orphanage where "It's a hard knock life" Annie still finds the hope to sing about her absent parents coming to get her and to share the promise that the sun'll come out tomorrow.

I wonder, what do we do to foster that kind of hope in our own hearts and the hearts of those around us?

Maybe it helps to remember that "your never fully dressed without a smile".

Monday, November 05, 2007

Called to be Peacemakers

Recently the United Church of Canada launched a new fundraising program called United For Peace. This Sunday evening the focus of our worship (morning worship was potponed yill evening to allow for the Legion Remembrance Day service) will be on peace.

OPENING PRAYER
God, you call us to be people of peace,
but too often the world around us seems to call us into conflict with our neighbours.
You call us to love our friends and our enemies
but the world tells us to fend for ourselves, to compete with our neighbours.
During this hour together, awaken in us the desire for a changed world.
May this time together strengthen our resolve to bring more peace to our lives.
During our worship fill our hearts with hope that peace is possible.
Help us to live out the truth of the words “All we are saying, is give peace a chance”
This we pray in the name of the one who was called the Prince of Peace, Jesus, who taught his friends to pray by saying…

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Another Resource

In my continuing plan to get much of what I have written online (and maybe to avoid some work) I have posted another sermon. Click and read COntract or Covenant?

Remembrance DAy Stories

Whenever I preach on November 11 (Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day, or Veteran's Day) I use a story. Well this year will be a dialogue, but still something a bit different from a standard sermon. Since the church blog is formatted for expandable posts I posted two of these stories there.

If you follow the links you can read Bill Remembers or The Dreams

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

HAlloween -- Part B

ANd now here they are ready for Trick or treating--On a night with snow/ice pellets in the air and a windchill of -12C
ADD: IT appears that as excited as they were to go trick or treating they were far more excited about kids coming to their house. You'd think it was the best thing in their lives.

Halloween -- PArt A




HEre are the costumes the girls wore for indoor parties this year. They also have outdoor costumes that fit over warmer clothes--maybe they will come up later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not Again!

They're buying us off. It is really that simple.

The Federal government has announced plans for $60 Billion in tax cuts:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has tabled a motion that calls for $60 billion in personal and corporate tax cuts over the next five years, including a further cut in the GST to five per cent, effective Jan. 1.
NOw I think that tax cuts are always a bad idea. THey always seem to end up benefiting the rich more than the poor. Take teh GST cut for example. Canadians like to hate the GST, have done so ever since it came in almost 20 years ago. It is an irritant. But on reflection I really support the GST. AS a consumption tax it means that those who consume the most pay the most--that means the people in higher income brackets pay the most. But of course that means that they also save the most with this cut.

If governements really want to alter the tax system to benefit low income Canadians I have some suggestions:
  • raise the basic personal exemption (note that they are doing this) -- this helps to raise the floor level income at which people start paying tax -- maybe teh poverty line is a good goal, you earn less than that you pay no income tax and get a much larger GST rebate
  • lower tax rates for lower income people (again this is part of the package)
  • makeit illegal for provincial welfare plans to claw back benefits such as the Child Care credit
  • raise the GST rebate to low income families

The government's own numbers for their proposal show that the higher your income the more you benefit from their plan -- by a factor of 3.

ANd please--lowering corporate tax rates? THat is a priority? THat generally increases corporate profits far more than it encourages job creation.

Mind you I also think the taxing of income trusts was a good thing, that a carbon tax is worth considering, and that a governmental surplus means that the government did not spend enough-not that they collected too much (and don't get me started on the EI surplus).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Liturgy For Nov 4

THe one standing task I have for Monday is to get the Order of Service done. Here is part of it. Tomorrow some other preparatory notes will be posted on the church blog.

CALL TO WORSHIP
The crowd gathers, excitement buzzes in the air.
There, over that way! God’s Chosen One is here!
We stand on shoulders, we climb trees, anything to be part of the action.
Hey! Look! See me!
In our excitement we come to meet God, to feel God’s presence, to be changed people.
Hey! Look! Over here! Wait, what was that about being changed?
Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon enough. Now let us pray…

OPENING PRAYER
God, like Zaccheus, we come seeking to join the crowds around you.
We go out of our way to make time to be here.
Like Zaccheus we find ourselves changed by our experience of your love.
You fill us with the impulse to help improve the world around us.
May our next hour be a time of re-energizing, of opening to your Way of love and life.
May this time together continue to re-orient our lives and our priorities. Amen.

COMMISSIONING AND BENEDICTION
The crowd still gathers, the buzz still rings.
We have met, we have visited, we have been invited to change.
The encounter leaves us different than we were before.
Experiencing the presence and love of God leads us to pay a price.
The cost of our meeting is small compared to the blessing we receive.
And so we go out to share and to spend our love and our life.
As you go, remember that the God who changes us is always with us, that the Christ who challenges us also supports us, that the Spirit who emboldens us also lifts us up.
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oh Boy...

We had a congregational meeting and supper this evening. One of the discussion questions was "Something I think we should try is...."

I think we are going to be BUSY. Options such as an alternate spirituality experience once a month (sort of an alternate worship but not really), a study group on the "get to know your neighbours/faith siblings" idea, a different worship format, a church drama group, special events, providing coffee houses for people to get together, youth group...

All good ideas, but a lot of work to get details put together and implement even some.

THe ones that catch me right off are an alternate spiritual experience (and I think I know where to go for support and help in making that happen) and changing the worship format/order of service.

On the latter, currently our ORder of Service could best be described as "Standard United Church worship" And while it works I am tired of it. But I am not entirely sure how to rebuild it. What have you folks out there done with your order of service???

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Leadership and the Dying/THriving Church

THis Afternoon whilst waiting for my co-travelers to finish their shopping I finished reading I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church.

While I disagree with some of Nixon's interpretations, and while I found some of his suggestions were based for the urban, larger church far more than the small rural congregations many of us actually serve, there was a lot of food for thought in this one.

It was a lot about choices: life/death, community/isolation, fun/drudgery bold/mild, fortress/frontier, now/later. Parts of it tied in well with tomorrow's sermon about a world of abundance. Parts of it will come up during the Lenten sermon series I am planning. ANd since my plan is to spend time this year encouraging congregational visioning it will certainly come up (along with a couple others on the bookshelf--such as this and this) in that work.

But in the mean time it was time for some lighter fare. SO tonight I started reading this by Rick Mercer. Multiple laughs a page in that one.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pumpkin/Apple Friday Five

SingingOwl writes at the RGBP site:

All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is near. As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. We didn’t yet worry about razor blades in apples or popcorn balls or some of the other concerns people have with Halloween these days. Halloween was a chance to be mildly scared, and better yet, to dress up and pretend to be something we really weren’t. Let’s talk about that a bit, but then let’s add in some food ideas for this year. Where I live the leaves are falling, the temperature is chilly and pumpkins are for sale everywhere, along with many kids of apples. What's more, the "Holiday Season" will soon be upon us. ACK! I could use a new idea for dessert. So, here we go…

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child? Parties at school (dances in later grades), maybe trick or treating if I was allowed--although I don't remember being an avid trick-or-treater anyway.
2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do? Not really. THere is a kids party in town we often go to. But the kids are just really starting to get excieted about HAlloween.
2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else? Neither. If I want to eat an apple a plain apple will do.
3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them? Take bets on how long they stay whole sitting on the step after HAlloween? Target practice for slingshots?
4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures. I don't, the beloved does a bit: pumpkin lights on thefront step, some clingys and some kids art on the window Decorating the house for Halloween is relatively recent in Canada and is growing by leaps and bounds.
5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality? I love dressing up. And the costume certainly helps move into the character.

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones. I don't have a recipe but when having Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law's family I remember having a pumpkin cheescake with chocolate crust that was truly scrumptious.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

PAstry Ministry

Every year I spend 3 mornings in October doing pastoral visiting over pie dough and apples. For pictures from today's work see the church blog

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is UnAmerican

Seen a variety of places today, I think it works equally well for Canada.
remember to read with tongue firmly planted in cheek...
  1. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
  4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
  5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.
  6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.
  7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.
  9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
  10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.