Messages

Minister's Weekly Messages
[see below for Community Growth messages by Karen Hunt]

16 February

We cast our 2020 Vision to connect more deeply with God, each other and our community.  We've heard how the Holy Spirit gives us gifts for the common good to accomplish that relational connection.  So now, with that vision before us, we're learning to humbly walk with God and, by following Jesus, reflect the light of the world.  Following is not just saying "Yes, I've heard of Jesus," accepting Jesus as an idea.  Biblically, following Jesus is an embodied action -- trying to emulate Christ in our behaviour.  That requires getting to know Jesus through scripture, prayer and time in the Christian community.  The more time you spend with someone the more you know them, the deeper your relationship gets. 

What we are finding out is that God wants to be in relationship with us, and expand us and grow us by blessing us, if we choose to come along on that journey.  God will help us to mature in faith if we trust and walk.  It is easy to look at a long journey and say "It's too far."  "It's too scary."  "It will take a long time."  "It's too dark and uncertain."  "I don't know the way."  If we say "no" we just stay where we are -- but nothing changes.  The adventure comes from saying "Yes" to God, and stepping forward, trusting in faith that God has a greater vision and purpose, that God knows every twist and turn of that journey.  We are taking baby steps, like infants in Christ, and we have a heavenly parent that wants to catch us if we stumble and teach us how to walk and how to run until we're flying.

Many people look at the state of the world with fear -- viruses, wars, political unrest, economic disruption, pain and suffering.  They might feel like quitting before they started.  But a long time ago one of the great theological minds of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, said something helpful:  "Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well and times shall be good.  Such as we are, such are the times."  In other words, we make the time around us worth it by our presence.  For a time such as this, the world needs Christian love.

This week, commit yourself humbly to the walk, come and encounter that loving parent, grow in that light, and see where it takes you!

9 February
On February 2nd we began “The Humble Walk,” talking about how to develop our relationship with God.  We will be “walking” from here to the season of Lent upcoming in the next few weeks, and looking at how to grow and deepen our relationship with God by following Jesus.  All of these practices and ideas will help make more room for God’s love in our lives, preparing us for the Resurrection celebration but also preparing us for a way of life that should serve us in all times and all places.

I didn’t realize until after that last Sunday was “Groundhog Day.”  A fun tradition of hoping for spring in the face of the cold winter.  Well, the “Groundhog Day” film starring Bill Murry is one of my favourites, and a “sermon” in itself -- if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  If you have, watch it again -- after all, Bill did!  It has a wonderful message about spiritual growth over time, and shows the life practices and attitudes that can both ruin lives and enrich them.  The beautiful thing is that we can choose how we respond to the moment and change it by changing our attitude.

The movie and our scriptures emphasize that life is both the big moments and the small ones, and we can find value in every moment if we are present.  Listen for the presence of God in each moment and share God’s love with everyone you meet -- over and over until it’s a way of life.  That’s our humble walk, and it’s a journey worth taking!

2 February

 Continuing our theme of 2020 Vision, Rockton and Sheffield have had their Annual General Meetings the past couple of weeks and we had some time to discuss goal setting.  Some of the things to pray into for this year that came out of those discussions are:

●     Engage spiritual practices

●     Experience God

●     Renew baptismal vows

●     Improve our current activities

●     Develop a culture of appreciation

●     Encourage children

●     Grow attendance

What I love about these goals are that they are related.  If we can engage our spiritual practices more intentionally, we will deepen our relationship and experience with God.  If we renew our vows and focus it will help us in that process, and also make us more present and intentional in our church activities.  If those improve and are more spiritually fulfilling, it will blossom in our relationships and church culture, growing our sense of appreciation and gratitude.  In that kind of environment, children and families will be drawn to this place, because the Spirit will be moving.

To that end, our first step is deepening prayer practices -- whether at Silence and Stillness Tuesday nights, at Bible Study on Wednesdays, throughout meetings during the week, or on Sunday morning.  We are practicing “Listening Prayer,” and if you would like to hear more about that please come talk to Gavin in Rockton on Tuesdays and Thursdays (currently 9am-2pm) and in Sheffield on Wednesdays.

Having launched a new order of service on Sunday, its design is intended to improve the flow that facilitates prayer and discerning the presence of God.  Pray into that, think about it, and look forward to our Feedback Form from the Worship team later in February.

God is in this place -- let us give thanks, celebrate, and continue to grow our awareness as 2020 Vision continues to give us eyes to see and ears to hear, and hearts open to the Spirit’s movement!

23 January
Just to recap:  our vision for 2020 is focused on building connections --  with God, each other, and our neighbours.  Vertical, horizontal, diagonal -- to build outward from the centre and reach others with presence and love.

The heart of that vision is our relationship with God, who is accessible to us through the person of the Holy Spirit, and can be revealed to us in scripture, prayer and worship.

So together we are seeking to encounter God relationally -- not just receive intellectual understanding alone, an education about God, but more -- to know and experience the Creator that loves us, the Saviour that redeems us, and the Spirit that guides us.

This week we will be piloting a new worship service format to facilitate that sense of encounter, and we invite you to dwell in it, try it on for size.  After six weeks we'll be sending out feedback forms and asking what worked for you, what didn't, ways to keep moving forward.  Initial reactions are often to changes because they're changes -- instead, pause and pray, and see what God says.

We'll be focusing more and more on how to listen for what God is saying, so stay tuned for announcements about Prayer Circles and Alpha, as places and spaces where we can live that out.  Stay tuned!

16 January
This week is where Vision 2020 really becomes a lived action and not just a catchy phrase.  Rockton will be having their Annual General Meeting on Sunday and Sheffield on the 26th.  We will be putting a cap on 2019 and setting the tone for the new year.

I write this message in the morning before going to my ordination interview, the culmination of a season of my life that began at my baptism years ago, that I preached about just last Sunday. Today impacts my future as a minister.

What Faith means in all three cases is entrusting our future to God - Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God is with us.  James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.”  God does not force intimacy upon us, but patiently waits to be invited in.  Let 2020 be the year we radically invite God into our lives - into every meeting, every interview, every prayer, every relationship, every decision every day. 

God is working for our good. Stick close, draw near. We’re going to be fine. More than fine - 2020 is going to be one for the books!

9 January
In Sunday's service we talked about casting vision for 2020 -- our goal is to be intentional, grow our relationship with God, each other and the community through presence, and learn to discern together what God's will for Rockton-Sheffield is for the future.  That will take prayer and conversation, both collectively and one on one.

Let's discern and worship together, and find out what else God has in store for 2020!

Community Growth by Karen Hunt

16 February
Valentine’s Day is one Holy Day that has become very commercialized. The word love goes up in lights but does it light up our hearts and actions?  Although the decorations have been around for weeks, we probably haven’t had the opportunity to look beneath the red and pink sweetness that blankets so much advertising. For me, that changed this week. In small groups in our small communities of Rockton and Sheffield and beyond, we have been blessed to turn the love talk into walking the Love Walk.  This week a whole choir was unanimous in their commitment to actively support a women’s group, giving their time and their voices.  Bible Study and Alpha meetings also looked deeper into what it means to truly love our neighbour even when, or especially when, they are unlovable.   God gave us the ultimate picture of love by sending Jesus to die for and to rescue us.  This gives us so many opportunities. Opportunities to build greater bonds within our church family. We opened up conversations that will help us to grow together. Love shows us the way forward in faith. God has always loved us.  What a wonderful gift.  Love everlasting.

9 February
Faith: Believing with the Heart
I can hear myself sharing with friends that I was shocked at how quickly my faith faltered recently, when I was faced with several unsettling events which happened in a row. My mind was instantly filled with visions of sad endings and catastrophes. I didn’t think I could make it through. But then the community restored my faith. Murray shared his patience. Gavin prayed. Choir music soothed. I learned that when the rubber hits the road, we can open our eyes, and hearts and hands to reality that we are not in charge. God created us. God loves us. God has a plan for what should do. We must only love one another and believe. After a week of support and debate and reading and singing. I am more assured than ever that setbacks and trials highlight God’s great love for us and also the love we share with one another. Exciting things are quietly happening in Sheffield-Rockton. Hearts are open. Voices are speaking up. We are not retreating into isolation. God speaks and God provides the way to go but he doesn’t drag us kicking and screaming down the road. We are finding ways to move beyond the devastating words of cancer, fear, hate, separation and loss. We are moving forward in faith.

23 January
As we ring in 2020, it has been impressed upon me that many significant moments in our lives are announced by the ringing of bells.  One friend’s husband ended cancer treatment with bell ringing.   On the farm, we moved a vintage bell closer to the back porch so that we could use it to message each other whenever one of us was walking or working farther than shouting distance away.  Inside our homes there are a long list of things that depend upon bells to deliver a message.  Bells warn us when doors are left open. Bells can signify new arrivals or when something is finished or when a machine is slipping into “error” mode.  Bells on church steeples and at railway crossings call us to gather, or slow down and they help to keep us protected from danger. Ringing bells can provide all kinds of information but the bell doesn’t do the work on it’s own. It takes our hands or, at the very least, our listening ears.  Then we must understand the message. After those two ringing moments, there isn’t any value added until we take action.  Go to church.  Gather together.  Hear the message. Fix what is broken.  Celebrate what has worked.  Ring out the News!

27 December
            As we say goodbye to 2019, we find ourselves saying other goodbyes.  Illness.  Loss of life. Separations due to work.  We come together and then move apart, as we celebrate the high and low points of daily living. Living out our goodbyes in our faith communities does not get easier with practice.
            The recent experiences of Advent culminated in the happiest “Hello” as we welcomed Christ. But now what happens when the Angels leave.  When the Shepherds and the Wise Men leave. Once again, we feel the fears of separation.  Faith and Hope seem to place us back into an uncomfortable time of separation and waiting.
            In our Rockton-Sheffield faith community, we mirror these feelings as we say goodbye to our minister. While she has shepherded our churches, her messages in all their variety and wise examples always focused on, “What does God’s message mean to you today in your life?” Putting faith into action, although it includes closing some doors, also means opening new ones. Faith in action includes both “Hello!” and “Goodbye!” As 2019 draws to a close, we pray for Reverend Hart and for each one of us as we draw closer to God.

21 December
Love is the focus during the fourth week of Advent. We all know what love is.  Love is caring for one another and feeling that caring spreading around us.
As the year winds down, we remember those we have loved and lost this year.  We reach out to show love to those who are facing hard times. We joyfully sing about the “Wonders of His Love” on that “Holy Night”. Whether we celebrate the smallest things one at a time or in a large crowd, we remember, “Truly he taught us how to love one another” not only at Christmas but every day of the year.
The words of love uplift us.  The actions of love change us. Whether we realize it or not, our communities are paying attention.  We express love by taking time out of our busy lives and trying to make a difference. Being an active example of love can change the mood within our own communities. God’s love doesn’t end at the church door.  It walks out with us wherever we go. God’s love embraces everyone we meet.  God’s love stretches to all people. We are truly loved. We are truly blessed.

12 December
THE JOY GATE
I’ve read the story. I know about stars and shepherds and the manger
I don’t remember any gates. How did they protect themselves from danger? 
That night when angels came through the gates of heaven to announce the heavenly Son.
Shepherds left un-gated pastures. The sheep followed along.
They didn’t worry about what they lacked.
They never questioned or decided to turn back.
Their faces shone with Joy
As they gathered round that baby boy.
Is there a JOY gate that is open, waiting for us to walk through?
Would we find it? Could we find it? if we did, what would we do?
Would we shut the gate upon Him … and turn His gift aside?
Are we ready to meet Jesus … with hearts that are open wide?
Someone left the Joy gate open that night in Bethlehem
And humble and low the Son of God came to save the world of men.
Not a palace but a manger.
A king without a throne. Could anything be stranger?
No entourage to shout His worth
But a choir of angels proclaimed His birth
Before we decide what we will or won’t believe is true
Let’s take time to find the Christmas gate …
and see if we can walk on through. 
 #walktheChristmastalk

6 December
   December 8 th begins the second week of Advent.  The week of Peace. Before writing this, peace had been elusive for me. I missed an appointment. I was behind on my to do list.  A recent discussion escalated into a disagreement. I didn’t even have the focus to pray, “Dear Lord, please give me peace.“ Then I attended Bible Study and my perspective changed.
            At first, the focus was on words like fearful and sinner and awful.  But as the sharing went on, I heard the words evolve into humility, tranquility and awe. We talked about past and present understandings and, through the unselfish give and take of the others, I saw the joy that teaching and learning and giving unselfishly inspires.        
Perfectionism shackles us into anxiety. Humility is calming and the good news is that we already possess peace.  “God came down as a vulnerable and helpless babe, in a forgotten town, into an ordinary family. He gave us the Peace of His Presence. It is God’s gift to every single one of us.”
            What must we do to earn this we ask? The answer is simple: “Give Him your heart.” This is the Peace that passes understanding. Peace.

23 November
Pre-Christmas busyness has taken over and I have had to say “No!” to some of the things that are a routine part of my community life.  Two of those – Bible Study and Charge Chat – were on this weeks chopping block.  Upcoming concerts, however, are high on the priority list, both as participant and audience.  I am looking forward to the Brass in the Barbershop Concert at Sheffield this Sunday and love that it features members from both Rockton and Sheffield United churches. As well, it has been wonderful practicing with Christmas choirs and Cantatas and hearing how the leaders work with us to bring out the message.  None of the songs consist of one part, but of many.  The harmony happens when all of the parts make their contribution.  Furthermore, the words have inspired some of the best discussions of theology that I have heard lately. I loved it when the choir leader said enthusiastically, “This week’s hymn selection is excellent!”  We began to practice and to confirm that the hymns expressed individual faith and, as well, ways of living that faith in the whole community. Poetry. Theology. Comfort and Commandments. When some of those phrases stick in our heads and repeat their holy message over and over, we are blessed.

15 November

Blessed with living in rural communities, do you ever think about the noises of our lives?  Upstairs, as I write this, I am playing a You Tube selection from our November Christmas Cantata, while downstairs sounds spill forth from an office computer.  Simultaneously, I snap open suitcases to get packed for our long-awaited getaway. We have planned a quiet weekend. But how quiet will it be?  To get there, we must first join the sounds of cars, trucks, and buses. Horns will honk. Engines will backfire.  For a while, airplanes will thunder overhead. When will we reach that place called “Quiet”?
            Outside I can see the first heavy snowfall of November.  Right here, right now there is the opportunity for quiet stillness. In the spaces in between vacuuming, snow ploughing and ringing phones.  There a time right now for meditation.
            Each one of us is able to find our quiet place and feel restored. Faith waits in the spaces. Of course, afterwards we will again seek out the people, sounds, music and noises that God has given us to share.  Faith lives in the noisiness.  Faith grows in the silence.  We are blessed.

9 November

The more active we become in rural communities, the more fully we experience the full range of life experiences and faith blessings.  This week the Rockton-Sheffield Charge provided us with opportunities for difficult conversations ranging from funeral planning to Remembrance Day memories and discussions of war and peace. On the proactive side, learning how to meditate, perform CPR, understand Bible Scripture and Pilates classes were opportunities offered for better spiritual, physical and mental health. Some neighbours and friends were actively involved with the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  Choirs provided us with the challenges and rewards of new music being prepared for Christmas, while also preparing our hearts for celebration. And through it all, volunteers kept working on behind-the-scenes planning and maintenance of our churches.  It takes everyone sharing their talents and gifts.  We are truly blessed.

2 November
         We can all name the big moments that have tested our courage. But sometimes we have to show real courage over seemingly little things.  Making a phone call.  Going out of the house.  Doing a job alone that we always shared with someone we have lost. Keeping a routine doctor’s appointment. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary.  But oh how our minds think up reasons for postponing, avoiding or not doing them at all.
            We need to recognize that everyday courage takes us out of our comfort zones. It is not the imagined courage of fighting dragons or saving the world. Everyday courage says no when you are peer pressured to say yes.  Standing apart from a crowd to be yourself.  Speaking out at the risk of being unpopular.  Courage is needed to truly make change.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It is hard to see. The test of courage is one day at a time.  One prayer at a time.
            “I asked the Lord to walk with me, when darkness was all that I knew
            He said to me ‘Never be afraid, for I will see you through’.
Be brave.  Be a blessing.

26 October

Though we sometimes tire of hearing the path metaphor being over-used to describe our faith journey, it fits well when we feel like we aren’t sure of where we are going. If we are unsure of our destination what do we think will help us?  Is it leadership?  Is it change?
             I think the answer is given by parents, family and old and new friends who, when they know we are unsure, or running late or facing uncertainty, lovingly reach out saying, “I’ll leave the light on.”  Without judgment.  Without interference.  We are offered a safe welcome, whenever we arrive.
            In our rural charge we are all wound up and worried about where we are going and how soon we will get there?  Perhaps the question we should ask and the one that will lead us forward is “Where is God waiting?”
            We struggle with life and death, right and wrong, dark days and light. Through it all God is there. His light has no best before date. His light will show us the way. God is Love. 

18 October
     This Sunday begins the anniversary season in our Rockton-Sheffield Charge. Each anniversary is a time to appreciate two important things: a remembrance of the past and a celebration of what is to come.
            We look backwards into history to see where we began, what we have done and how we got here.  Then we imagine what lies ahead. However, before we move into the future, we need to grasp onto one more important thing. We need to grasp onto our Faith.  Our faith has brought us this far and faith will lead us on. Faith means always believing that something good is about to happen.
            Something good has happened in Sheffield for hundreds of years. Two hundred and seven years to be exact. Our prayer is that this anniversary celebration will strengthen, prepare and propel us into the next century, as we find ways to meet the needs of young and old in a changing world.  May we be inspired to join hands in holding on to a thread, a hand, a hope, a prayer. Our history has led us to this point. May renewed faith lead us into the future. We are blessed through all the seasons of our lives.

11 October

For deep ties to Sheffield-Rockton.
For the Gospel in word and sacrament.
For gifted church leaders past and present.
We give thanks.
For community, correction and encouragement.
For those who serve at Shelters and Seniors homes.
For church organists who nurture and grow Music ministry.
We give thanks.
For commitments to Bible study; exercise; work bees; spirituality.
For those who decorate and organize sanctuaries and social spaces.
For gatherers who deliver meals, baskets to hospitals, seniors and homes.
We give thanks.
For willing lifters of heavy stacks of chairs and operators of sound systems.
For all ages of historical buffs who share their wisdom and spiritual insights.
For neighbors, family and friends who draw together to comfort the grieving.
We give thanks.
For moms and dads, kids and cousins, aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpas
For church staff for their ministry, administration, church cleaning and maintenance.
For Rev. Louise Hart's caring instruction, thoughtful messages, and gentle shepherding.
We give thanks.
Thanksgiving in our Rockton-Sheffield charge overflows with blessings, rural connections in the annual celebration of farming, productivity and community at Rockton World's Fair. During this Thanksgiving weekend, let us give thanks to the Lord. We are not alone. We are blessed.

14 September
We are not even two weeks into September and we are on a roller-coaster weather ride. Sometimes hot.  Sometimes cold.  Sometimes both in the same day. Even so, we take for granted a good night’s rest and connection to each other by phone internet and open roads. Over the weekend, family, friends and travelling neighbours faced the potential for fallen hydro lines, closed roads and all the destruction of rampaging wind and waves battering the east coast. I don’t think we have ever had so many connections who had literally travelled or moved into the eye of the storm. While we didn’t give a second thought to meeting up for coffee, walking, biking or driving, these others were gearing up to face the unexpected and uncontrollable. Unable, and a little nervous, to call directly, I approached mutual friends and, by Tuesday, we confirmed that everyone we knew had come through safely. However, it may be a while until everyone in the Maritimes are restored to the routine repeatability of heat, hydro and clear highways. When our arms can’t reach the friends and family, we realize that community goes beyond the boundaries of Rockton and Sheffield. What we take for granted, others are praying for.
 


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