Monday, September 30, 2013

FOr October 6, 2013 Proper 22C, Worldwide Communion Sunday

God of the global community of faith,
we gather here in this place, but we also gather with Christians around the globe to sing, to pray, to break bread together.
God of life and hope,
we gather here to embrace life, to be filled with hope, and to be sent back out into the world.
God of the table,
as we break the loaf and share the cup may we feel united with the global community with whom we share the task of spreading your love and hope with the world. Amen

God, you call us to bloom where we are planted,
but there are times when we would rather have been planted somewhere else.
You call us to live in the present and hope for the future,
but, to be honest, there are times we long for things to be like they once were.
You challenge us to sing the songs of faith in a place that has become different and sometimes feels hostile,
and we wonder how we can do that, we wonder if the song will resonate anymore.
God of grace,
free us from our fear, release us from our anxiety, open us up to live fully in the present and with hope for the future.
...time of silent prayer...
In the words of Jeremiah God proclaims: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” God promises to be with us as we sing the songs of faith and live the life of hope.
Thanks be to God! Amen.

As people who have come to be worship together,
we prepare to leave this space of worship
As people who have come to be fed,
we go out to feed the hungers of the world.
As people who are called to sing faith's songs,
we go out to sing of hope, of promise, of the God who is with us always and everywhere.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Sermon for a Celebration of Life

We have come together today to give thanks for a life. We have come to tell stories and share memories. We have not called our gathering a funeral or memorial service, the family were quite clear that the purpose of today was to celebrate NAME`s life and so that is what we have called it.

Sharing stories and memories, saying thank you, celebrating a life, these are good things to do. Today as we hear stories shared we learn more about NAME, about what others knew and thought of him, about what made him a special part of life in Grande Prairie. As the stories are told we may be moved to sweet tears, or to a fond smile, or a hearty chuckle, or full-fledged laughter. Laughter and tears are both signs of love. They both come from the heart. And they are both good things. So tell the stories, let the laughter ring and the tears flow. That is a great way to honour NAME and his memory.

But that is not the only reason we have come together today. For most of human history, at least as long as we have intentionally developed communities, humans have known that we need to do something to mark the passing of a loved one. We need some way to say good bye, to give thanks for how they touched our lives and some way to look forward to the life following the death. We join together in that long tradition today. It is not enough to share the stories, we also need to be reminded that there is hope in life continuing and to be reminded that we are not alone in our time of grief.

In the United Church Creed we find these wonderful, yet mysterious words: “In Life, In Death, In Life Beyond Death. We are Not Alone”. In his letter to the Roman church Paul states his firm belief that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God. If these statements are true, then life continues. Life still wins.

In the Gospel of John, just before his death, Jesus tells his friends that he goes to prepare a place for them in a house of many rooms. In this lies the implicit promise that there is something beyond our last breath (otherwise what is the use of preparing a room?). There is something more. That is about all we can say with certainty. There is more. Last Monday, as NAME took his final breath he was welcomed into the place that had been prepared for him with the open arms of love, the love that has surrounded him since his birth,the love which holds him and us in arms that will never let us go.

And for those of us who are left? Where is our hope? Because let us be totally honest. Even as we celebrate a life that was full and well-lived, even as we give thanks for gifts that have been shared, even as we know that death is an inevitable part of life (as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminded us so many centuries ago), we know that the death of a loved one leaves a hole in our lives. We know that it brings feelings of pain and sorrow, that it may leave us wondering what life will be like now that our loved one is gone. What promise does “In life beyond death” hold for us. Where is our hope?

I remind you now of the words of Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.... He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. ...The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”

God is with us, our rock and our strength. God is the one who gives us strength when we can't keep going. God is the one who helps us deal with (cope with?) life in all its randomness and unfairness. God is the arm we lean on, the shoulder we cry on, the one who picks us up and carries us when our strength fails. God cannot remove the hardships of life but God is there as we journey through those hard times. Right now life may seem dark and hard. But God's hope is that we all make it though the darkness and once again walk in the light of hope and faith.

Another Psalm uses the imagery of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. That is God's hope for us in our grief – that we find a path through the valley of shadow and back out into the light. But we don't need to find that path alone. In fact I would go so far as to say that we shouldn't try to find that path alone. We find and walk the path with God as our companion and guide. On that road we may meet God in many guises. In the phone call from a friend who calls “just because”. Or in the person who drops by with a dish of food. Or in the gathering of friends and neighbours to share stories. Or in the sense, almost impossible to describe but very real, that we are not alone, that someone is in the room with us. But however we feel/see/meet the presence of God we know that we are not alone.

NAME has come to his time to die. There is nothing anyone can say that changes that fact. And so we come together to celebrate his life, to give thanks for the gifts he shared, and also to name our grief and to seek hope in the face of death. We know that life's hardships are somehow easier when we face them together so we support one another. And we share the words of faith – Life Wins. Somehow life still wins. Death does not have the final word. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For September 22, 2013 Proper 20C, 18th After Pentecost

My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
God of life, there are times when the wounds of life seem overwhelming.
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
God of hope, there are times when hope seems to have left us permanently.
With those among us whose lives sometimes seemed mired in darkness, with those among us who live in a shadow of depression, with those among us who live with the constant panic of anxiety..
We pray for comfort, for healing, for hope.
Knowing that there are times when we all are struck by such issues
We pray that we too will find the support we need, and we remember...
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
God of life and hope, God of light that shines in the darkness, through your grace bring us through the deepest shadows of life and lead us back into the place of healing and hope.
There IS a balm in Gilead.
And wherever else God's children are in pain. Thanks be to God. Amen.
We live in a world where people share their joys and sorrows
We go out to share our lives with the world around us.
We live with people who are hurting.
And so we share God's word of hope, God's promise of light in the darkness.
We trust in the words of Dame Julian
All will be well, all manner of thing be well.
Go with God, who is there in the light and the dark.
Thanks be to God. Amen

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

For September 8, 2013 Proper 18C

God of beginnings, in this season of beginnings,
open us up to new possibilities, new learnings, new friendships.
In this time of worship,
fill our hearts with vision, fill our souls with hope.
In the midst of this community,
call us forward to be the people you would have us be,
move us to change the world around us in big and small ways.
This we pray in the name of Jesus, who taught his friends to pray saying...

As our time of worship concludes...
we return to the world where we live and serve.
As a people who learn and teach...
we go out to learn and share how God is active in the world around us.
As people endowed with a mission...
we go out to be the hands and feet of God in a world of need
May God go with you to guide, to strengthen, to challenge.
Each step of the way.