Sunday at Scarboro – Aug 19, 2018

Worship Start Time: 10:30am
Theme: Summer Church

It's summertime in Calgary! Come to Scarboro as we worship together every Sunday at 10:30am. We will have the coffee on at 10, so come early and catch up with your community. Throughout the summer we are offering opportunities to incorporate the arts into your worship experience. Come and see what we are up to this week! There will be more time for coffee, tea and conversation after the service in the Memorial Hall.

The children's theme this summer is "Exploring Spirituality through Science & Play" - so come and explore at Scarboro!

REMINDER: Get your t-shirt orders in for Orange Shirt Day - EXTENDED to Thursday, August 23! Shirts are $25 each with proceeds going to support reconciliation initiatives. Design by Indigenous artist, Bear Horne of Victoria, BC.


August 19, 2018 - Message: Psalm 111

Rev. Erin Klassen

 

What do you fear?

Grasshoppers

Needles

War

God?

 

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

 

What comes to mind for you when you hear that?

 

What does that mean?

 

Is ours a God that we need to fear?

Is that a God we want to believe in?

If not, does that make us fools?

 

I can’t help but think of Psalm 27, the opening of that being:

God is my light and my salvation;

   whom shall I fear?

God is the refuge of my life;

   of whom shall I be afraid?

 

So are we afraid or not?

And just who is it that we are supposed to be fearing?

 

Let’s spend a bit of time unpacking that.

 

Russell Rathburn says: “Any Christian Hebrew scholar will tell you that fear doesn’t mean fear like we understand it, that a better translation is more - understanding the awesomeness of the love of God.”

 

But still, where does that leave us?

 

Why does it continue to be translated as fear? Why doesn’t someone fix the translation?

 

There are other translations:

The good life begins in the fear of God. (MSG)

The way to become wise is to honour the Lord.(GNT)

Reverence for YHWH is the beginning of wisdom.(IB)

 

Is there wisdom in there?

 

My colleague the Reverend Mindi Welton-Mitchell agrees that fear is a harsh word. But argues that it is used for a reason here: because this is the God of all creation, mighty and powerful, the one who holds our lives in hand.

 

She agrees that while there is fear, there is also this “awe-inspiring nature of God of who is beyond our understanding. Holding that tension of awe and fear is what grounds us into living in God’s ways.” Without that fear, she argues, we would simply seek our own ways, solutions and desires, and we would come up empty.

 

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

 

So what then should our relationship to the divine be?

 

Luckily, this psalm tells us.

What we have here is song of praise and thanksgiving. It is an acrostic poem, meaning that each line begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.The lines are short, only a few words each, but they pack a lot of meaning in.

 

What we have here is essentially God’s CV or curriculum vitae. It’s essentially a resume. The words curriculum vitae are Latin and loosely translated mean: the course of my life.

 

This psalm bears witness to all God’s works - the Exodus, the Covenant, manna and quail in the wilderness, and the establishing of the heritage and homeland of the people. This is a catalog of all that God has done and will continue to do for us. Liberate us, guide and provide for us, and then welcome us home.

 

The works of God are described as great, full of honour and majesty, faithful and just. These works have been studied and gained renown. God’s commandments, the covenant, are sure and established, standing firm as they are carried out faithfully.

 

This description of God, and what God has done and will continue to do, is one of a God of promise and compassion and love. Our God is to be praised for all this.

 

Indeed, we begin this psalm with praise.

 

Alleluia! I will thank you God, with all my heart.

 

Psalm 111 is the first of several Hallel Psalms, so named because they begin with the Hebrew words, Hallel (praise) and Yah (a shortened version of Yahweh).  Again and again, God’s people are called to praise their covenant making and keeping God.

 

We are called to praise God with every fibre of our being.

 

Hear, O Israel: YHWH, our God, YHWH is One!

You are to love YHWH, your God,

with all your heart,

and with all your soul,

and with all your strength.* (wealth/substance)

Let these words that I command you today

be written in your heart. (Deut. 6.4-6)

 

So we sing to God with our whole hearts, every bit of substance that we have, and that praise expands to include those gathered around and then the whole congregations. Much like the abundance of God’s promises, joyfulness and gratitude also expand to all God’s peoples.

 

We sing of thanksgiving and awe.

It is here that praise and fear go hand in hand.

We don’t like to think of fearing God, but it is possible to fear disappointing someone that we hold in high regard, someone we look up to, someone we love dearly.

 

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

 

But it is more than that as well.

 

Those who practice it have good understanding.

 

I am especially taken by the way that Stan Mast turns this phrase on its side.

He wonders: What if the fear of God isn’t an emotion, but an action, or a set of actions?  

 

To fear God means to live by God’s precepts, to abide by God’s covenant faithfully and earnestly. To put God’s compassion and grace at the center of our lives and then act accordingly. Being wise, understanding how to live in the world, begins with being true to God’s promises.

 

Because if we turn the page in our hymn book and our bible, we will find that the Psalm 112 is similar in language and form. In fact, Shauna Hannan tells us, it would appear that the two Psalms belong together; both are acrostic poems, which contain twenty-two lines with each line beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Even more, they use similar words and phrases: referring to the upright, who are gracious and merciful, providers, and doers of justice. Both sing of the promise of the the future (in 111:8 the works are established forever and ever, and in 112:8 hearts are steady and in the end will triumph).

 

The amazing thing about this similar use of language is that one Psalm (111) is focused on the work of God, as noted above, and the other (112) is focused on the actions of those who “fear” God.

 

So it would seem that not only are those who fear God expected to act like God, but those who find great delight in God’s commands are capable of mirroring the deeds of the God.

 

It is important to note that it is Psalm 111 that comes first; it is only because our Lord is already gracious and merciful and just that we are at all capable of being gracious and merciful and just.

 

And that does fill me with awe and fear.

Amazement at what we are capable of, and trepidation at the responsibility.

Let us hold that in our hearts.

And then let it expand to all of Creation, sharing the love and works of God.

 

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,

Those who practice it have good understanding.

May your praise endure forever.

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Office Closed

office closed

Church Office Closed Aug 6-10

Wednesday Communion, Thursday Tea with the Revs, and Faith Exploration sessions will continue as scheduled. For  urgent requests, please contact our Coordinator, Jill. The ministers are still available by phone and email. If your request is not urgent, please leave a message and it will be returned on August 13.

 

Sunday at Scarboro – Aug 5, 2018

Worship Start Time: 10:30am
Theme: Summer Church

It's summertime in Calgary! Come to Scarboro as we worship together every Sunday at 10:30am. We will have the coffee on at 10, so come early and catch up with your community. Throughout the summer we are offering opportunities to incorporate the arts into your worship experience. Come and see what we are up to this week! There will be more time for coffee, tea and conversation after the service in the Memorial Hall.

The children's theme this summer is "Exploring Spirituality through Science & Play" - so come and explore at Scarboro!

NOTE: The Church Office will be closed August 6-10. Wednesday Communion, Thursday's Tea with the Revs, and Faith Exploration sessions will continue as scheduled. For urgent requests, please contact Jill at [email protected] - our Ministers, Lee and Erin, are available by phone and email. Otherwise, feel free to leave a message on the office email or voicemail, and they will be returned on August 13.

REMINDER: There will be a funeral service for our dear friend, Marion Jorgensen, on Tuesday, August 14 at 2:00pm with a reception to follow.


Busted: 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a

Rev. Lee Spice

Before the scripture is read, I want to catch us up on the story:  Here’s what has happened so far: From the roof of his house, the King David saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing – it was probably the ritual bath that she was required to do after her period.  He sent for her and slept with her [he’s the king – she had no choice].  When it turned out that she became pregnant, David tried everything to make it seem like her husband, Uriah, was the father.  He got him back from the battlefield, and instructed him to go to his house and “wash his feet.”  Have we ever talked about how “feet” in this case, is a euphemism for “genitals?”  Pretty much, he was saying – go sleep with your wife.

In any case, Uriah doesn’t.  He doesn’t think it’s respectful, with Judah still at war and the rest of the soldiers still in the field.  David even gets Uriah drunk, and he still doesn’t do it.

As a last resort, David sends Uriah back into war, and instructs the soldiers around him to pull back when Uriah is out there, so that he will be killed.

Reading:  2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a

I was at a workshop, listening fervently for words of wisdom, when the facilitator turned the tide and said to all of us, “What’s the worse thing you’ve ever done?”

This began a difficult inner inventory.  The sins of the past lined up like soldiers: Was this the worst? Was this one?  Do a lot of little mistakes add up to a big one?  What if you didn’t know it was a bad thing until afterward?  Does it still count?

I’m sure there were many of us in that room who had trouble naming just one thing that would qualify as the worst.  And there were many who could name the worst thing very quickly.

It appears that King David was apparently oblivious to his own transgression.

And, apparently, doesn’t see anything wrong with that.

God sends the prophet Nathan to talk to David, and tells him the heartbreaking story of a little lamb.  This little lamb is the only thing that the poor man has – so precious that he treated it like a pet, and fed it from his table, and cuddled it in his arms.

The rich man sees the little lamb, and when visitors come to his house, instead of taking an animal from his large flock, he takes the poor man’s little lamb, and kills it to serve to his guests.

David is wild with anger.  “Who is this man? He deserves to die!  He shall give back four times what he took!”

Nathan says, “It was you, you idiot.” Or something like that.

It can be very painful when the truth is uncovered about our wrongdoing – when our sins become known to ourselves.  I think this is true of individuals, personally, and it is true of our collective wrongdoing, as a society, or as a church.  Think of the damage that the church has done in the name of religion – from the residential school system to the sins perpetrated against the LGBTQ2+ communities, to the way that the Bible has been wielded as a weapon…often, ironically, accusing others of sin.

The ways in which humanity is inhumane – it boggles the mind.

Whether we personally come to realization that things are just not right, or whether we realize that our own church or our own society is at fault – it is very tempting to hide it.  When you hide it from yourself, that’s called “denial.”

King David hears from Nathan that God is going to punish him.

I have a different perspective.  I don’t think that it is God who punishes sin.

Truthfully, when our wrongdoings are allowed to fester, I think that it’s they, themselves that are hurting us. When you think of…maybe the worst thing you’ve ever done, or, perhaps, that series of small things that are clamouring to be the worst thing…think of how it has hurt you.  The guilt.  The wreckage of relationships.  It nests in your heart and burns and hurts, and continues to hurt.

Barbara Brown Taylor – Speaking of Sin – we do ourselves and injustice when we don’t speak about sin.  Sin is not just doing something bad, it is a “wrecked relationship: with God, with one another, with the whole created order.”(p. 57)

But she sees speaking of sin as being hopeful – we are not doomed.  However a person sees sin – whether it’s one’s own personal wrongdoing or being trapped in the various collective sins of our world – the only way to begin to deal with it is to name it. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, “sin is our only hope, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again. There is no help for those who admit no need of help.  There is no repair for those who insist that nothing is broken, and there is no hope of transformation for a world whose inhabitants accept that it is sadly but irreversibly wrecked.”

There’s a series on the internet called “Have a Little Faith,” which features Nadia Bolz-Weber.  They’re all great, so I commend them to you.  In one called “How the truth sets you free,” she talks about the way she has hidden the truth – those secrets that you don’t want anyone to see; those secrets that you don’t even want to see.  They are carefully curated, and the last thing you want is for light to be shone on them.

And if they were to come out, if she were to stop pretending, she says, “The truth might just crush me.”

She goes on, “and it does crush me – but in the instant it does crush me, it puts me back together into something more real.”

Something more real – I guess that’s what Barbara Brown Taylor means when she says that sin is our only hope.

So, what do you say?  Would you be able to open your heart to the Holy One?  Would you be able to expose that hidden secret, and fully open up to the healing power of God?  As Leonard Cohen wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.”

I’m not talking about a public revelation of your secrets.  I’m meaning that your inner voice speaks the words that you may have been afraid to speak.  Yes, maybe this is confession, the value of which the Catholic church still holds.  And it’s also the basis of the AA’s Step 5.  But, here, in this moment, this is between you and God.

I invite you to enter into a time of prayer with me.

[prayer, then silence]

The wonderful Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  If ever a workshop leader asks you, “What’s the worst thing you have done?” may you be able to answer that the light of God has shone upon everything that can be considered “the worst,” and you, like a butterfly, have been transformed – you are beloved, forgiven, and free.

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