Sunday at Scarboro – Feb 10, 2019

Worship Start Time: 10:30am
Theme: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany - Annual General Meeting & LUNCH

Read Lee's message HERE.

This Sunday we will incorporate our Annual General Meeting into our usual worship service. Service starts at 10:30, and the coffee will be on at 10 as usual! Read the Annual Report HERE.

After service, we will gather in the Memorial Hall for lunch, celebrating Rev. Lee Spice as she prepares to move into her new role as Pastoral Relations Minister for Region 3, Chinook Winds. Lee has been with us since 2010, come and help send her off with love and laughter.

Lee's last sermon at Scarboro will be on February 17th, and her last service here will be an intergenerational service on February 24th. We have been so lucky to have her all to ourselves for nearly a decade; now it's time for her to spread her gifts to the wider United Church.

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Sunday at Scarboro – February 11, 2018

Worship Start Time:  10:30am
Preaching: Rev. Lee Spice
Co-Presiding: Rev. Erin Klassen
Theme: Do You Not Know, Have You Not Heard? Have You Been Listening All This Time?

The coffee is hot at 10:00am, come in and get comfortable. Service begins at 10:30 and is followed by coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall.

Come and explore what we are being called to. Are you listening?

This Sunday's service is also our Annual General Meeting. A friendly reminder: if you make a motion, you get your name in the minutes and you will be able to remember that you attended! Have your say on the work and life of YOUR church!


Transfiguration Sunday/AGM Sunday
February 11, 2018
Rev. Lee Spice

Every year, the church celebrates what we call “Transfiguration Sunday.”  It’s a rather bizarre image that the scripture relates, about a motley crew of disciples following Jesus up a mountain, and then seeing the body of Jesus transformed with the glowing presence of God, and seeing Jesus standing there with Moses and Elijah – the two great figures representing the Law and the Prophets of their Jewish faith.

Every year, we hear how Peter wants to build some shrines up there. It is a beautiful moment to be remembered...but Jesus will have nothing of that. They descend the mountain to their lives below, and Jesus holds them to secrecy...his work is not yet to be revealed, and so they must only carry the moment in their hearts.

This Sunday, I find myself thinking about the shining moments of the church. You know, those moments of our life together when we, the Body of Christ, light up with the presence of God... Oh, there are a great many of them... this year, and in previous years... For the wider church, as well as for ours, right here.

The greater world of the Protestant Church has been celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation...when Martin Luther began the process of relinquishing the common people from their separation from God and the scriptures ... a separation perpetrated by their own church. A shining moment in the life of the church.

And do you remember some of the shining moments in our own United Church of Canada? Decisions in 1988 that showed that we were on our way to the work of inclusion and full participation for the LGBTQ2* communities. And, hopefully, the work begun so many years ago towards apology, reconciliation and right relationship with Indigenous people will be seen as a shining moment, even if it was in response to the wrongs perpetrated by the church.

Do you remember some of the shining moments even in this past year, right here? The gala, the fall fair...and some stunning moments in worship - times when the music of the choir touched so many hearts, and the voices and virtuosity of the soloists and instrumentalists rang with the presence of God and transported the listeners to a holy place. Do you remember times like these?

The times of prayer, when we bring our joys and sorrow before God, and the joyful moment when the children capture some of the light to take with them, and the word proclaimed by preachers from this pulpit...do you remember these shining moments?

I remember one shining moment when a fire down the hill displaced some families, and the church was opened up as a place of hospitality and and place for the emergency agencies to begin their work.

They are moments to be captured and remembered...but they all point to one thing...the shining presence of The Holy in our midst.

It is tempting, always, to dwell in these moments. But as much as the church treasures them, we can't stay there.

What Jesus knew, as he urged the reluctant disciples down the mountain, is that building a monument up there might be a trap. It might only serve to keep them trapped in the past, reliving the shiny moments, and, essentially, keeping them from their own ministry, with the people, at the bottom of the mountain.

Recently, Ron and I took a whirlwind vacation to London, County Kent, and Canterbury, in England. The next slide is on the inside of Canterbury Cathedral...one of the few cathedrals that allow you to take photographs on the inside. The work in these cathedrals is stunning. Glorious moments of architecture that make one's heart soar, like the rising domes in the ceilings. We went to a sung Evensong at Westminster Abbey and a sung Eucharist at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, and the voices rising in those spaces were moments of exquisite beauty.

But even the beauty of those spaces is not meant to keep you there. Soon, the wardens of the church gently invited the gape-mouthed crowds to leave, and we found ourselves out in the dreary weather once again.  Like Jesus' disciples, we were out where the people are.

Jesus did not want those shining moments to be a trap.

One of our days in England, we planned a visit to the Tower of London. It wasn't so much the tower or even the Crown Jewels that I was excited about. We had read that there was a  colony of ravens that lived there. In my rather naive thinking, I imagined these ravens walking around the yards, getting up and leaving for the wilds, only to return every day to the adoring crowds. Of course, this is what we found (next slide).

The legend is that, if the ravens were to leave, the monarchy would fall, so they don't take any chances. When the birds are let out of the cage, they can't fly away, because their wings have been clipped.

Oh, they are well-taken care of...they have their own keeper, and they are fed and treated well, and they are loved and even coddled, but they will never be free. Oh, how many times the church has built its own cages, with all the best intentions.

And, yes, by dwelling in the past, the church runs the risk of building lovely, comfortable cages, even for ourselves.

Jesus did not want the shining moments to be a trap...As beautiful as our own shimmering church moments are...As awesome as the soaring voices and precious moments feed our souls and bring us joy, the church cannot allow an appreciation of the past to be the very thing that clips our wings...that builds our cage.

And so, on this Sunday where we look back at our church year, it is time to remember, with joy, that God is with us, and to savour those exquisite moments when the Body of Christ shone with the presence of God,

And it is time to descend the mountain, to where the people are... to where the work is.

It is time to look forward to other moments, knowing they will come, because, beloved church, God's holy presence wants us to fly.

(Silence)


 

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Sunday at Scarboro – February 4, 2018

Worship Start Time:  10:30am
Worship Leader: Rev. Erin Klassen
Theme: Do You Not Know, Have You Not Heard? Have You Been Listening All This Time?

The coffee is hot at 10:00am, come in and get comfortable. Service begins at 10:30 and is followed by coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall.

Come and explore what we are being called to. Are you listening? We will be celebrating communion this Sunday. All are welcome at the table.

Next Sunday is our Annual General Meeting. The 2017 Annual Report is now available here and under Resources / Governance / Annual Reports.


Do You Not Know, Have you not Heard? Have You Been Listening All This Time?
February 4, 2018
Rev. Erin Klassen

Friends, this is possibly my most favourite Scripture passage. I love the Hebrew Bible, what we sometimes call the Old Testament, especially the prophets - what they have to say is as relevant today as when it was written. Within the prophets, I love Isaiah - the combination of challenge and comfort, the call to action and the promises of God. I so appreciate Isaiah’s vision for the future and encouragement to live into that in the present. Within Isaiah, it’s this passage. In its entirety, it has so much to say. Then within it, there are so many individual phrases that capture our attention and spark our imaginations. This passage is one that sticks in my mind. It is the one that recommends most in times of grieving, or uncertainty, or hope. It is everything that I do believe and everything that I want to believe.

It is a call to remember who we are as people of God and to remember who God is to us.

This chapter from Isaiah begins with God saying the words “Console my people, give them comfort. Speak tenderly to their hearts”. Just sit with that phrase for a moment. Allow God to speak tenderly to your heart….     What is it that you hear?

What I hear and see in this passage is the beauty and fragility of humanity. We have a description of human effort with all of its potential and its limitations. We hear that even the young and strong will eventually grow tired. Everything that God and the Gospel call us to, following Christ, being love and grace in the world, working toward justice and dignity for all. That’s hard work, it can be exhausting and overwhelming. It can sometimes feel like too much.

And yet, we are assured of this: God is everywhere and everlasting, never fading, knowing everything and everyone – inside and out. God gives power to the powerless and comfort to the desolate. These are words of promise and continuance, an assurance of the strength of Love in the midst of the exile.

Our passage from Isaiah was written in an attempt to answer a crisis of faith provoked by the exile of the people of Israel to the lands of Assyria and Babylon. The words and imagery that we know so well, that provide us with such comfort: the mounting up on eagles’ wings, refer back to the Exodus from Egypt – another exile. We face so much exile in our lives.… mental illness, addiction, chronic health issues, cancer, grief, joblessness, divorce….

We often question, where is God in the midst of exile? of loneliness? of fear? of pain? of mourning? The answer in this passage is “I am here. I never left you.” Indeed, God is always here and will never leave us.

With that knowledge, we are encouraged to wait. Now, to “wait” for God is to cultivate an attitude of hope and patient expectation – essentially, the very definition of faith. The footnotes in my Bible note that usually the Hebrew verb means awaiting for God to act, to bring vindication or rescue. However, in this case, it is more akin to the Taoist principle of wu wei, or non-action. Waiting for God’s empowerment instead of relying on our own resources, provides an inexhaustible source of strength, of hope and of love.

To understand the depth and power of God’s strength and love. We are called back to the beginning, to cast our imagination and our vision all the way back to the story of creation.

                Was it not told to you from the beginning?
                Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

 

We are asked to remember that it was God that stretched out the skies like a curtain.

That God will be with us in this life of faith.

That God will help us to turn the world upside down.

When our values, our society’s values do not match, we are called to change, with the help of God. Again, it may feel overwhelming, like too much, like chaos. Indeed Isaiah assures us of this:

God reduces the privileged to nothing
                And throws the rulers of the earth into chaos.

But that particular word, “chaos” is in Hebrew word that is used there is the same one that is used in Genesis: tohu. It is is a single phrase that has so much meaning, it can be “formless and void”, or “bewildered and astonished”, even “unseen and unformed”. It is the description of the state of the earth before the Spirit called it into being. As such, it draws us back to the beginning to recall the gift of God’s creative power.

Indeed, this whole passage does, reminding us of God stretching the skies, and making the stars. The word used there: bara, means created or creating. It is only applied to God implying that only God creates, but it is also used only in this chapter of Isaiah and Genesis. Again, it is meant to bring us back to the beginning, back to the basics, which is the word of God.

The word of God that was with God, flows from God, and is God. In the beginning was the Word. As Michael T. Hillier tells us: The word that extended from creation’s first hour, through all the prophets to now, must be encountered again.[1]

This brings me to the Gospel of Mark. I didn’t include it in the Scripture readings. Honestly, I was hoping to avoid it because of this little gem included in today’s passage:

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (Mark 1.29-31 NRSV)

I mean, what is with these guys? First, they abandon their father at sea. Now it seems that they can’t even let Simon’s mother-in-law get a moment of rest. Now, she has to get up and serve them. What if the poor woman just needed a minute to herself? A bit of peace? Have you seen that meme, it’s a beautiful pastoral scene, a meadow under the stars with an antique bed at the forefront? The words above read, “sleep doesn’t help if it’s your soul that is tired.”

Upon further reflection, I believe that this is the point that the mother-in-law is at. She does need peace. The kind of peace that Isaiah reassures us of, again and again, the kind of peace that Jesus offers. In the moment that they share, he lifts her up. And she goes about her work. The gospel reading goes on to detail city gathering round, bringing to Jesus those affected with unclean spirits. Because of her interaction with the word, this woman was able to continue in her ministry, fulfilling her (our) call to offering hospitality and hope to those around her.

If we are weary while living into our call as Christians, it is hopefully because we are doing the hard work of bringing God’s reign to the world here and now. May we be strengthened as we join God in empowering the powerless, may we have faith, and stay grounded in the Living God that has always provided for us from the dawn of creation.

If your job is mostly emotional labor, it's important to remember that your emotional exhaustion is not a moral failure. It's a workplace injury. (Sam Natale @pubicdefender on Twitter)

[1] http://breakopenword.blogspot.ca/


 

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