Minister's Weekly Messages
[see below for Community Growth messages by Karen Hunt]
is it that the negative stuff, the stuff that makes us afraid, so
easily overshadows what is good? People bemoan the fact that the
size of our congregations is diminishing. We are not alone in this. It
is a phenomena experienced by many churches. I worry about this too —on
a Thursday or a Friday or a Saturday. But not on a Sunday! When I walk
into the sanctuary on a Sunday, and I look out at the people in the
pews, numbers don’t matter. Every single person a beloved child of God.
Every single person is worth it. God isn’t counting. So why am
You have shown me over and over again that when there is
a need, you will show up. This summer, even with people on holidays,
the gardens were kept up, the chancel was renovated, the basement
insulated and painted. Most of the labour was free. Thank you for
When we show up for God, God shows up for us. On
Sundays: we give thanks, we sing. we listen, we pray. We sit -
without distraction - in the presence of a someone/something that is
both greater than us. We sit with God the higher power, God the
ultimate concern, God who generates life and love. Yes, you
can worship God on a county walk, beside a lake or lying in bed. You
can say your prayers alone and ponder God’s existence all by yourself
but when we gather in community something special happens; we are no
longer a single candle lighting up a dark night, we are 10, 20 or 30
candles shining brightly for all to see.
“You are the light of the
world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light
a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and
it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:14-15)
I am grateful to all the people who support our church. Remember, the your presence is the greatest gift of all.
fast approaches and we can now enjoy cooler weather mixed with warm
sunny days. We had a nice time at the food truck event at
Sheffield this past week. After a rainy day the sun came out and we
were able to enjoy our food outside. It's good to see gathered
friends and neighbours from the community.
This week at church we
will conclude the series "What's in a name? Biblical names and
our names for God." We'll speak about the names we use for God
and what they mean to us. God reveals God's name to Moses: "I
AM," God says. What does this cryptic answer mean? What does it
tell us about God. If we struggle to understand we can look to Jesus
for clarification. Thanks be to God!
Labour Day weekend! I hope you will enjoy some rest from your labours
this weekend. I'm happy the church season is gearing up. I hope
to see many of you back at church after yout holidays away. I am
starting a 3 part sermon series this Sunday: "What's in a name?"
Understanding the meaning of names in the bible and the principles
behind them helps us to see deeper into the meaning of the
stories. Names are clues to identity. We have many names for God.
What are they? What do they tell us about the nature of God and
our relationship to God? These are some of the questions we will
Priscilla and her husband Aquila were tent makers by profession. Paul the apostle, met
them at Corinth. Paul, worked with them making tents in between his preaching engagements in the synagogue.
Did Priscilla write the book of Hebrews? She was a strong leader in the early church. The
book of Hebrews was not quite written in Paul’s style. Someone else seems to have written it on
his behalf. Someone familiar with his message.
Why not a woman?
Old Testament reading this week is from 2 Kings 2:1-14. We hear about
the prophet Elijah. Prophets spoke truth to power. They had the
difficult job of challenging kings to follow God's rules for a peaceful
and just kingdom. Often they ended up fleeing for their lives. Elijah
is one of the more well known prophets. He confronted the King Ahab
about wicked behaviour. Ahab was married to Jezebel and together they
encourage the people to abandon the God of Israel and worship Baal.
Elijah proved that Baal was powerless and that Yahweh was supreme. When
Ahab's wife Jezebel orders that Elijah be killed he flees.In many ways
Elijah's story mirrors and also foretells the story of Jesus'. Elijah
doesn't die. He is taken up in a whirlwind and carried off by chariots
of fire. As Elijah is being taken up he throws his cloak (his mantle)
down to his student and follower 'Elisha'. Elisha catches
the mantle and carries on the work of his teacher. There has been a
long line of prophets who have caught Elisha's mantle. Who are the
prophets that speak for God's peace and justice today? Think of someone
you admire and trust to make the world a better place, someone famous
or not famous at all. Maybe you are that person to someone else. When
we focus on God and God's work, we are taking that mantle and
continuing the work of Elijah.
on earth? Where would that be for you? I found it at the Royal
Botanical Gardens today. I went to see the roses. The sun was shining,
the flowers were beautiful and there was soft classical music playing
in the background. I felt like I was in heaven.
Heaven feels like a
place where everything is right with the world. There is no impulse to
fix or change - all you do is stay still and look. Take it all in and
thank God for the beauty before you.
Where do you like you are in heaven on earth?
week I am on a study leave. I am attending a retreat that focuses
spirituality and aging. There are pastors, chaplains, and
spiritual directors here as well as people who work in the medical
practioners. Everyone agrees that spirituality is important at
every stage of life but especially as one ages. What is spirituality?
There are many definitions but this is the one that I like:
"Spirituality is whatever feeds your spirit. It is found in the things
that bring you joy, love, hope, and peace. Spirituality is also
whatever gives your life meaning. When people spoke about their
spiritual resources in life, they named many different things:nature,
writing, loved ones, music, books, gardening, being near water.
These spiritual resources become more and more important to us as we
age. For me, art has become a great source of spiritual solace as well
as a source of enlightenment. I particularly enjoy gazing at pictures
that depict the life of Jesus and his disciples. It is a prayful
experience and it speaks to me in ways that go beyond words.
learned today that Claude Monet did his best work in the last twenty
years of his life. He lived to 86. So it's never to late to
shine! God will keep teaching us all of our lives. I look forward
to what I have yet to learn. You are my best teachers!
Sunday is the last of our sermon series "We Sing Our Faith." Just
as we'd prefer not to have a choir with all altos or all sopranos, we
also like to have a mix of different talents in our
congregation. When people's talents harmonize we make beautiful
music together. Work becomes fun. Friendships are formed. Forgiveness
for wrong notes is freely given.
Pentecost celebrates the birthday
of the Christian church; before Pentecost disciples traveled spreading
the Gospel, but there was not an organized church. When the Holy Spirit
descended on the crowd of people who gathered to hear the story of
Jesus and they listened to his life giving message, the people received
multiple gifts of the Spirit. The greatest gift of all was the
ability to understand each other. No matter what language you
speak, you can understand the messages and moods of classical music.
Music is that universal language that can communicate stories and
emotions without words. I pray that God will bring us harmony and help
us sing beautiful melodies together as we worship.
Sing Our Faith”, this is the title of our three part sermon
series. Part two is this Sunday. You’d might be amazed at how
much of your knowledge of theology comes from hymns. Theology is
the study of the nature of God and religious belief. The very
first hymn I remember learning was “Jesus Loves Me.” As a child I
found this a very comforting thing to know. I still do! We
sing about Jesus as a shepherd, a sailor, a king, a Saviour and also a
sacrificial lamb. Who is Jesus to us? From the hymns we sing we
can see that he is many things. No one metaphor or image or even name
can some up the nature of God. They can only give us a piece of a
wonderful portrait. There will always be an element of mystery.
The hymns I love best are the ones that match up best with my image of
God. Joseph M. Scriven sings of Jesus as a friend - more of a personal
saviour than a King or divine ruler. There are times I need a friend
Donald Fishel sings of Jesus as “Lord of All the
Earth” - the risen Christ. There are times I want to sing songs of hope
and praise for what God is doing not just for me but for all
creation. What is your favourite hymn? What do you like about it?
- the words or the melody or both?
was pointed out to me that many ministers belonged to church choirs at
some point before they became clergy. It shouldn't be surprising.
Choir members are among the most faithful church attenders. Every week
they sing out the gospel message for the glory of God and the pleasure
of the congregation. We learn a lot about the Christian faith from the
hymns we sing. I struggle sometimes with hymns that challenge my
theology but have great melodies- some of the older gospel hymns are
like this. I also struggle with some hymns that say exactly what I
believe but are very difficult to sing - some of the More Voices hymns
are like this. It is a powerful spiritual experience when just the
right words combine with a beautiful melody; "Amazing Grace" is a hymn
that comes to mind. This week one of our readings comes from the Book
of Revelations. This intimidating book is challenging to read but it
has inspired some great hymns. In the next few weeks we'll be exploring
the theology and the inspiration that comes from hymns. The
reading this week is Rev. 21:1-6. Look it up and see if it you
can identify some hymns it has inspired.
Here are my nominees for best biblical mother's of all time:
Jochebed, for having the courage to save her child by letting him be raised by another woman.
Sarah for laughing and embracing motherhood in her 90's.
Naomi for being a loving mother-in-law and helping her widowed daughter in law to find love and security again.
Mary, mother of Jesus, for courageously and faithfully accepting the challenge of being the mother of the Messiah.
of these women demonstrates great faith in God and great love for their
children. They didn't get mother's day cards but they continue to
this day to have our respect and admiration. They are the mother's of
3 May 2019
goes fishing- again. When Jesus met Peter and his brother Andrew, he
called them away from their fishing boats and he asked them to become
fishers of men. After Jesus' crucifixion and his appearance on
the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to Peter and the disciples
again while they are fishing. It takes more than one appearance for the
disciples to realize Jesus is alive. It's the same with us. We need to
encounter Christ again and again before we believe that he is with us.
Our experiences are not like those of Peter and the other disciples, we
don't meet Jesus in the flesh, but we do encounter Jesus in the spirit.
Jesus "the word made flesh" is the embodiment of God. The Wesleyian
Quadraleteral suggests that we get to know God in four ways: through
scripture, through tradition, through reason and through experience. We
may not meet Jesus in the flesh, but we do meet the spirit of Christ as
we worship, as we think, as we read scripture and through the
experience of our lives.
What difference does knowing Jesus make to you?
26 April 2019
week's Gospel reading is about two disciples encounter with the living
Christ on the road to Emmaus. The two men, Cleopas and an unnamed
disciple, do not recognize Jesus when they meet him. Walking and
talking, they discuss what has just happened in Jerusalem. Jesus
speaks to them about the scriptures. It's not until Jesus breaks bread
and pours wine that they recognize who he is, and then he
disappears. What does this mean to us? Do we sometimes meet the
living Christ and not recognize him? How would you know Christ if you
met him? Imagine the scene. Then imagine what you would tell him and
what you would ask him. One way to encounter Christ is to imagine
ourselves with him and play the scene out in our minds. Find a quiet
place and a quiet time and seek him. Ask God to help you and thank God
for what you receive.
19 April 2019
Good Friday as I write this, and the weather is appropriate to the
occasion - dark gray skies and soaking rain. On days like these we are
impatient for the warmth of the sun and flowers and leaves on all the
trees. But we all know we must endure the cold rains of early spring to
make the plants grow.
I think of the terror and torment of Jesus'
last days. I think of the pain his disciples must have felt. I think of
the women who were close to him: his mother Mary, Lazarus' sisters Mary
and Martha, and his dear friend Mary Magdelene. Did they know that
Easter would follow Good Friday as summer follows spring?
hearts must have been broken the day he died. Thankfully, Jesus had
prepared them for what was to come. He had planted seeds of hope in
John 14: 1-3 “Do not let your hearts be
troubled. Believe[a] in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house
there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told
you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and prepare
a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that
where I am, there you may be also.
John 14: 18 “I will not leave you
orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no
longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.
20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and
I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who
love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will
love them and reveal myself to them.”
John 14: 25-29 “I have
said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the
Advocate,[i] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to
you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give
to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do
not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away,
and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am
going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I
have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you
Did his disciples remember these words in their
grief? Unlike the disciples of that time, we are blessed to know
the rest of the story. We know that Easter morning comes after Good
Friday. We know there is hope and life and resurrection ahead.
Our 'hallelujahs' will remain buried with Christ until the dawn of
Easter morning. Then we will sing out in joy.
Community Growth by Karen Hunt
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.
While Bible Study is on summer break, I continue to read the weekly
passages. Imagine my concern when James tells us in Deuteronomy
30: 9-14, whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at just one
point is guilty of breaking all of it! No makeovers. No retries.
This week a movie company is working at the farm. They too strive
for perfection but there are many do-overs and retakes. Are
imperfect Christians bad people or just bad actors? What about
misreading the holy dialogue or missing opportunities to witness to
His Word? Then there are those sour notes, where things said and
done make people pucker and scowl. What about missed entrances,
where we could have reached out to one another in love?
Thankfully life isn’t a movie. There isn’t a Director. There is God the
Father. He will never give up on us. He sent his Son to bear our
imperfections. We don’t have to wonder if others appreciate our
performance. It doesn’t matter if we are better or worse than
someone else. We have already been named by God. We are His.
God doesn’t ask for unachievable perfection. Our Father simply asks,
Will you come and follow me. We are truly blessed.
week every day has included taking my granddaughters to
gymnastics classes and driver training lessons. The treat for me
is that I got to watch people. Some met in coffee shops.
Some were learning how to swim. Some did Yoga in the fresh
air. They all had one thing in common. They were
happy! At least that’s how it appeared to me. From the outside
looking in, I saw people who had set goals and were working to achieve
them. It is obvious that they were having a really good time being
together. I couldn’t see if they are having fundraising problems.
I don’t know if they are worried about the future. There was no
way to tell if health problems were affecting some of them or all of
them. Nevertheless, if asked, I would gladly join any of these happy
groups. Sure there might be challenges but, like Rockton-Sheffield, I
would still believe in God’s guidance. And so am I closer to answering
the million dollar question, ”is there a secret to a happy
church?” Yes. Meet together. Train faithfully.
Share joy. Love God with all your heart.
met a man this week who opened up about his fears for his son who is a
paratrooper. In one year, the young man was present when two of
his peers where killed during NATO training exercises. One in
eastern Europe and one in Alberta. Fighting for peace is a fearfully
difficult concept for many of us to relate to. In 1966 “The
Ballad of the Green Berets” was the first, and perhaps the only,
positive song that came out of that conflict. Many young people I
knew were trying to decide what role the church and faith and the
politics of war would have in their lives. Music often shows us
the way to healing. Instead of separating the areas of stress in our
lives, sometimes we need to fight for faith and understanding.
Fighting Soldiers from the sky
Fearless men who jump and die
Men who mean just what they say
The brave men of the Green Beret.
Holy Spirit truth divine
Dawn upon this soul of mine
Voice of God and Inward Light
Wake my spirit. Clear my sight
Lead us Lord to fight for faith
Spread Your Word from place to place.
Heal the hurting. Reach the lost.
Sharing Love at any cost.
At Bible Study, the topic of experiencing the Holy Spirit was raised. I
remembered sitting with Dad in church and the discussions at Young
People’s or in Junior Choir. My church experiences have changed very
much since then. Today, some of my family watch their local church
service online. Others check in to pray with far-away friends on video
chat. Many find it hard, even on Father’s Day, to attend a live church
Somehow the topic of
digital devices came up along with the idea of asking questions of Siri
and Alexa and Google Assistants. Bill was moved and amazed with answers
received by Kelly and Marty. The discussion became livelier as many
fingers began flying. Difficult scientific questions were asked
and answered. Then, considering it was Bible Study, we posed questions
about church, God and the Holy Spirit. And there were answers! No
question was shut down by saying “Leave your devices at the church
Perhaps it is time to leverage modern
technology, as we work to rebuild faith communities. We can meet youth,
Millennials and anyone who is questioning the church wherever faith
intersects with daily living. Relevant questioning. Transparent
normally subdued wood tones of Sheffield church were different on
Thursday night. The organist was not playing yet but the
conversations were light and laughter floated down the stairs. We
did our warm up exercises and sang the chosen songs of praise. We
practiced our Pentecost anthem and expressed enthusiasm that it wasn’t
dark but instead was a celebration. One choir member remarked
that it fit well with the 75th anniversary of D Day. We were all
thankful for the huge sacrifices that were made so that we could be
We then shared what we knew about Pentecost. “We
wear the colour red because it symbolizes joy and the fire of the Holy
Spirit.” Pentecost red. Little touches of red had already been placed
around the sanctuary. Red, the color of Strength and the Power of
the Holy Spirit. Once again, it is brought home to us that it is
because of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus that we are given eternal
life. There was energy and vibrancy in the air. The energy of
sharing. The power of faith. God was with the soldiers on D
Day. The Spirit of God is with us in the celebration of
Pentecost. God is with us in our communities today. We are blessed.
Sunday is the Seventh Sunday of Easter and we ask ourselves, what does
Easter mean in my daily life? Recently, Marty Pullin challenged us to
find the heaven inside ourselves and we are blessed with Rev.Hart’s
sermon series, “Singing our Faith”. Both speakers inspire me to recall
the chorus “Because He Lives.”
“Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone.”
Because He Lives, we know He hears our prayers for Eleanor Wood’s sister and for Ellery MacDonald.
He lives, we know there is hope for those recovering from serious
operations and for those facing ones in the days ahead.
lives we know He’s with all the many care givers in our communities.
Some, like my dear cousin Mary, are caring for two in one household.
He lives we see Him in neighbours and celebrate that they welcome our
spontaneous arrival on their doorsteps with requests for assistance,
conversation or advice.
Because He Lives in the hearts of each of us, we have the courage to stand up for Jesus.
“….Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.”
Balance is a modern condition that we often hear talked about. We aim
to balance work and play. We try to eat a balanced diet. As we
age, balance for its own sake seems like a good thing. But like
sunrise and sunset, the balance of bright and dark, although
repetitive, is never perfectly balanced.
are losses that make our lives feel out of balance. This week we
mourn the passing of ninety-nine-year-old John Culham. He was an
example of steadfast acceptance, hard work and the joy that can be
found in raising a family and being a loyal community man and sports
fan. We ache for the losses that mark the living of a long life and
then the Culham family graciously and joyfully shared how to celebrate
the joy this husband, brother, brother-in-law, father, father-in-law
and grandpa brought into their lives by his example.
Many of us feel like we must walk a tightrope between good and bad, sad
and happy. But then blessings are discovered in unusual places, or,
even at a funeral. Rev. Hart’s message urged us to remember the
balance that can be found in reading the Bible, singing praises and
walking with God beside us in our lives. We may not achieve
perfect balance but we will find perfect peace. Led by God. We are
week I welcome community interactions with an ear to what is happening
in the Rockton-Sheffield Charge. Missing my own Mother made it
bittersweet to think of Mother’s Day and be thankful for my
mother-in-law, my daughters-in-law and my daughter. I am always
listening for their mother voices. Even newly born babies respond
to their mother’s voice. Even in crowded arenas or from playing
field spectator stands, we identify our own mother’s voice encouraging
us. When facing temptation or when I think I am helping other’s
to resist it, I am amazed to hear my mother’s voice in my head or
coming from my lips. By Friday I had enjoyed many community
interactions but the most impactful was from a family man and neighbour
who dropped in to talk about trees. He obviously isn’t a mother.
However, we talked of nurturing. We talked of churches. He
shared where his church is in Bible study. Murray and I appreciated his
ease and commitment to a faith that is centered on Jesus. He
encouraged us to extend Christian hospitality and to go beyond the
familiar in reaching out. Family. Familiar. Love. As
we celebrate mothers of every kind, including non-moms, let’s find all
the ways to hold our communities in loving arms.
3 May 2019
WHERE IS HOME?
We are shocked by cardboard homes and warmly profess that every life matters,
Even as we retreat into our cardboard hearts, where our dreams fade into tatters.
“This Side Up” is the discarded box address
So we put down “The Government” as the owner of this mess.
The homeless endure cement sidewalks, cold and the harshest weather,
While we warmly criticize, all wrapped up in getting our blessed acts together.
Bundles full of emptiness accumulate on the sides of well-off streets
And we are filled with loss and confusion, as we scurry somewhere nice to eat.
We heard recently how both sides briefly became connected,
when humanity at Wesley Centre shared togetherness, from starkly different views.
And it echoed again in the church, through several respected elders,
who have walked steadfast journeys and stand tall in their chosen pews.
We were moved when one man shared his well-trodden path and what he knew
“Don’t give up. It isn’t just the building. It’s the people that carry us through.”
The Lord is in our halls, streets and villages, as we seek for home today.
The Lord is in our shelters. He walks beside us on His way.
We are not to hide away and hoard His love behind heart-closed fearful doors.
We must step out into the world sharing His blessings. That’s what God’s Love implores.