A hurricane… the beginning of Intentional Interim Ministry… a federal election called…
Those set beside stories from our Bible, I will touch on all of these.
In the beginning, God. In the beginning, light. In the beginning, the wind from God swept over the waters of creation, creating life. The winds last week didn’t feel much like creation did they? They felt more like destruction. Lost power, lost lives in the Bahamas, lost income for people in the Atlantic provinces as places of business closed.
My husband and I were very conscious of not just how lucky we were, but also how privileged we are. We have a generator, we have a gas stove, and even if we didn’t, we had the means to replace any food that we might have lost if we didn’t have a generator. My income wasn’t going to be reduced just because I lost a day of work, mind you it was Sunday! The only day I work of course! I hope all of you came through last week without too much damage and loss, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, I hope you have people you can turn to… and if you don’t, I hope you turn to us. We may not be able to do anything more than listen to your pain and pray, but those are not small things.
You know a hurricane isn’t a bad metaphor for entering into a time of Intentional Interim Ministry! There will be chaos and confusion… there may even be conflict! But there will also be courage, creativity and compassion. In the beginning of God’s creating, there was chaos… In the beginning of God’s creating, there was disruption…In the beginning of God’s creating, there was everything necessary for life to flourish. And you know what, we still have everything for life to flourish. But perhaps we have re-define what it means to flourish.
Last spring, the executive met with the Rev. Dr. Susan MacAlpine-Gillis and Regional Minister David Hewitt, agreed that Intentional Interim Ministry was the best way forward, formed a Transition Team, and formulated the following goal: to engage the congregation in a process of spiritual discernment for the future of the congregation, assessing the many resources of the congregation, including, but not limited to,: mission, connection to the community, people, building, and finances. Just a small undertaking! 😉
Did you hear those words ‘spiritual discernment?’ That’s what we will be doing… spiritual discernment… inviting God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit into the conversation with us. I do not have any preconceived notions about where the next two years will take us.
I have education and training to help congregations look at themselves and to answer the eternal questions:
• Who are we?
• What assets do we have?
• Who is our neighbour?
• What is God calling us to do and be in this time and place.
By the way, I LOVE your tagline: Faith that matters. Love that matters. Community that matters.
I have processes that will be helpful as the Transition Team and I will begin soon in order that we might discover together how Stairs will thrive going forward. We will, to coin a term from the Rev. Dr. Brian McLaren, ‘Make the Road by Walking.’ That is to say we will create the way out into the future out of who we are and what we have to offer.
Most of all, I have a deep love of ministry and God’s people, a personal faith that has been tested in many ways, and most of all, an abiding conviction in the Jesus story and its relevance for today. A story that offers healing for all of us. Just like the story we heard earlier from the gospel of Mark. The story of a man with a withered hand.
It’s a healing story… It’s a miracle story… It’s a challenging norms story…
Jesus healed on the Sabbath… a day set aside from the efforts and tasks of everyday life. It’s as counter cultural now as it was then. Sabbath keeping is the belief that we are not created to only produce. That we are more than what we can do. It’s a belief that we are created in the image and likeness of God and that we honour God by taking care of ourselves, our relationship with God and our relationships with others. A day for love of God and love of neighbour. Of connection to God and connection to neighbour. Of service to God and service to neighbour. So technically, Jesus is breaking Sabbath law to heal a man with a withered hand.
This story follows another story of breaking Sabbath law, listen to these few verses from the previous chapter of Mark: One sabbath he (meaning Jesus) was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
The sabbath is a blessing and for blessing. It is not for confining.
Lamar Williamson Jr. in Interpretation, a Bible Commentary, writes this, “To do nothing is not enough, says Jesus. Rightly to observe the Sabbath is not only to rest and to worship, but also to do good, to save life; that is, to make life whole, both our own and that of our neighbour. The principle suggests to Christians that Sundays be spent not in self-indulgence or self-denial, but in renewal and in service. Undertaken out of genuine reverence for God and love for neighbor, acts of kindness on a Sunday an be restorative not only of the persons healed by those acts, but for the healer too.”
We are healed when we heal. One of the Stairs offers healing to the neighbourhood is through the Food Bank. How many of you are involved with the Food Bank in some way? It’s an important part of your ministry to the wider community isn’t it. I have spent just two Wednesday mornings there, but was struck by the hospitality that is offered on Wednesday mornings, by the dignity in which folks are treated, and by the resources that are offered. I am also struck by the stories I was told by some of the clients of the Food Bank. Stories from vulnerable people. How many of you would not do something to feed a hungry person on the Sabbath? Whether that was shop, harvest or cook?
Not many of us I bet. Food is one of the most basic ways we offer healing to our neighbours and the world. Healing and wholeness… for all, not just for some.
In the coming days, the days leading up to the election, there will be many voices telling us that their way is the best. That only their party can offer healing and hope. Some of these will appeal to our selfishness and greed, others will appeal to our better selves.
The United church offers some guidance, not who to vote for, but on the kinds of questions you can ask the candidates as they come knocking on your door.
1. What is their stance on climate change?
2. What relationship do they see with Indigenous people?
3. Questions about health care, disability, conversion therapy, housing and homelessness.
4. Hunger, food security.
6. Mining justice
7. Peace building.
We’ll get some of those resources printed and available to you. The choices we make as citizens on October 21st will have an impact on our church. The choices we make as part of this congregation will have an impact on the world. How we offer healing?
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus on the road, amen.
Genesis 1:1 – 2:3
September 15, 2019
Stairs Memorial United Church