Rev. david`s Blog - Sept. 25, 2020 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah This well-known hymn to the famous Welsh music Rhondda was sang last Sunday at the end of Emmanuel’s reopening service. That hybrid worship of public and Zoom had 23 gathered in the sanctuary and 22 on line. The Bedford Pastoral Charge is worshipping in Stanbridge East and some 20 people have attended the first two services. The hymn is an affirmation of faith, of hope in this world and the one to come as well as a recognition of a Relationship that roots us on the journey of life and faith. Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but thou art mighty, hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more, feed me till I want no more. I have been praying that prayer these last few weeks, asking for guidance and discernment. The younger emergency arrival in my home needs long-term care, until the age of majority. I have been discerning if it was possible for me and my co-parent to keep him. There were so many positives: a new school at MasseyVanier, friends, bike travels, a generous heart. There were many challenges as well, especially the 24/7 parenting vigilance necessary. When placed beside the beginning of a new decade, eighteen years of fostering and the shifting of my energies I said no to the long term and this youth. After three months in my care he moved to a new home Wednesday. We cried at the departing, he on his way to a new adventure and I, to return to a suddenly ultra quiet house. When Jesus arrived at the Jordan where his cousin John was immersing repentant sinners into the waters of baptism, a short insightful conversation occurred. John tries to dissuade Jesus: John tired to make him change his mind. I ought to be baptised by you, and yet you have come to me. Jesus answered him: Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall do all that God requires. (Matthew 3: 13-17) That exchange makes both Jesus and John more human, more rooted in their time and history and not just holy receptacles for God to use. They are flesh and blood, real life cousins and not just characters in the Christmas pageant, a story of angels, and miracle births. They discerned God’s will for themselves in real-life circumstances just as you and I must do. Jesus’ words echo in my spirit during these days of difficult personal decisions, faithfulness to vocation and being able to sleep at night: Let it be so for now. For in this way we shall do all that God requires. Simple, no judgement, making the best decision possible in the moment, accepting that it is enough and that God will bless us. As we reopen to public worship, the youth drumming circle at Emmanuel, a baptism this Sunday in Stanbridge East, we do the best we can in these circumstances. We think, we discern, we decide in these days the best course of action. We don’t second guess ourselves. We do our best. As we balance the needs of all our community, to be loving through essential protocols yet willing to baptise a new born wearing a mask and visor, may God bless us. As we discern how to have communion together, as we worship without singing, and as we love unconditional love, may God bless us. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more! Amen. - Rev. David
Message - Karen Lackey Ryan - Sept. 20, 2020 Burrs in our bonnets KLR 20/09/20 The Christian message is disturbing to many, a threat to the status quo and demanding of individual and social change. There are many who have a problem with the idea of God. There are those who have a problem with the idea of a God-created world. There are those who have a problem with the death of Jesus on the cross. There are those who have a problem with the idea of the resurrection. There are those who have a problem with the idea of faith. I believe that the biggest problem that many people have is that posed by John the Baptist, when he cries, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt. 3:1) If I repent it means that I have done something wrong; according to whose code? What have I done wrong? Why do I have to repent? Repent of what? The word Repent alone opens an entire philosophical and theological debate. No one wants to be told what they don’t want to hear. Nobody wants to be told that they have “sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Of course, I have to include myself among those who resist. Just the word sin is enough to be a bother. Being a flawed person, it is ironic that I can stand before you and profess at all. Recently I made the acquaintance of Jeremiah. The book of Jeremiah is the longest in the Bible, of prose and much poetry, which I have yet to read completely. The essence of the book, and the entirety of the life of Jeremiah, is the constant and consistent prophesying to the corrupt and rebellious people of Judah that destruction is near. This proved to be a thankless task, a task that Jeremiah, like Moses was reluctant at first to embrace. Jeremiah says to the Lord, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But God will have none of /2 it and responds, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you and say whatever I command you.” But, this is not without reassurance for God continues, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (Jer.1:6,7) Consequently, the life of Jeremiah was filled with abuse. He was mocked, beaten, ostracized, had almost no friends, was imprisoned, and generally lived a torturous life. As our reading this morning states however, “So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all the day long. But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more of his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.”(Jer. 20:8,9) No matter what happens to him, Jeremiah cannot stop prophesying. Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet, and there are many who are weeping today for many of the same reasons as Jeremiah did long ago. We might say about many topics, “What were they thinking?” whether it is the anti-maskers, or climate change deniers, or leaders of all kinds who put profit over the health and welfare of individuals and the environment. To name a few topics. It reminds me of an incident with my daughter when I was working many different shifts. The regular babysitter was away for a day or two, so my daughter was cared for by the friend and neighbor (of the original babysitter.) When I asked, How was it, my daughter replied, “Do this, Do that! Do this, do that!” She didn’t have to say more. In this time of the little virus that no one can see, that is wreaking so much havoc, many people here at home and farther away, even a colleague, will deny the recommendations of otherwise well respected and acknowledged authorities, like the CDC and WHO, to “wear a mask.” The 10% or so of protesters assert their right to resist being told what to do. /3 In most of our adult roles, we come to situations in which we have to convey uncomfortable truths. As a teacher, one of the most difficult things I had to learn was how to tell students they failed. At first I tried so hard to say it gently, the message was so veiled, that the student would end up questioning what I meant! There are so many things that we don’t want to hear. So many things we don’t want to have to say. We respond with anger, disbelief. depression, or despair. It takes a long time to learn how to confront with care, and a long time to learn how to receive bad news gracefully. The apostles question Jesus about why he speaks in parables. In Matt.13: 14,15 Jesus quotes Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but not understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” The Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, is full of prophets warning us that to disobey brings disaster. The voice of Jeremiah is not the only one. The voices of doom and gloom often seem to outshout the voices of love and promises that are also embedded there. There is a reluctance to hear the message that disobedience has consequences. Roman 3: 10: tells us what we already know. "There is no one righteous, not even one.” Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. In Jeremiah 31: 31-34 we have the reassurance: " The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares
/4 the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
Jesus adds, in Matt. 13: 16: “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many peoples and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” We are not children. We are not afraid of the word Repent. We are not afraid of the word “sin,” although it is not easy to admit our faults and confess our sins, and the word itself can make us uncomfortable. Perhaps we are not enough disturbed by the Christian message to Love our neighbor as ourselves, and to forgive seventy times seven. Sometimes we must be provoked to action. Ephesians 6:13-20teaches us how to live the truth: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Adapted) With Paul, let us, 18 pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, let us be alert and always keep praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for us, that whenever we speak, words may be given us so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, Pray that we may declare it fearlessly, as we should.” In the hope of love and forgiveness, Amen
Rev. David`s Blog - Sept. 18, 2020 Serenity, Courage, Wisdom God, gives us grace to accept with Serenity the things that cannout be changed. Courage to change the tiings which should be changed, and the Wisdom t odestinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did \this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy wht yOU FOREVER IN THE NEXT. AMEN This prayer was composed by Reinhold Niebuhr, an American Protestant theologian between the late 1930s to early 1940s. This original and longer version was written in the perilous days of world war on an ordinary Sunday in Heath, Massachusetts. It was published for the American armed forces and in the 1950s adapted as a core prayer of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement. It has inspired countless people and continues to encourage those battling addictions, seeking guidance and living difficult challenges of life.
It has been on my mind as I regain strength after a few weeks of cold and pneumonia and realize it takes time to return to full energy. Listening to my body is essential for my health. I have assumed energy and well-being with no major problems and find I am not very patient with myself these days—I want to bounce back immediately!!. Serenity— when I cannot change things, please God. It reminds me that in global realities of war or pandemic we need words that express our fears, anxieties, hope and faith. It reaches into our spirit to calm and focus us in the reality and preciousness of the here and now. I find personal inspiration in a pastoral prayer written by a pastor during the chaos of world wide war that continues to bring meaning to many. The words we say are important. As we know, these months of Zoom worship prayers reach beyond the computer screen to connect us. The faith we live as we return to public worship is rooted in courage. Resiliency is fundamental to the way we would follow the Way of Jesus.
The echo of a familiar hymn (VU 266), written by an slaver who became a pastor and abolitionist, John Newton (1779), also reverberates from long ago:
Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; 'tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
Brothers and sisters, be inspired by these prayers and hymns of people living real faith in real times. Be resilient and faithful in these challenging days. Live serenity, courage and wisdom every moment. - Rev. David
Rev. David`s Blog - Aug. 28, 2020 Don’t Worry, Be Happy Remember the song sung by Bobby McFerrin: In every life we have some trouble But when we worry we make it double Don’t worry, be happy, Don’t worry, be happy, now. Simple message, great rhythm. After the funeral service and internment of Hermie Miller this Wednesday at the Mystic Union Cemetary, I stopped to visit Carol Soule. She was rocking in the sun on a cool afternonon. We had a visit. Both of these experiences placed me in the lives of 2 people in their 90`s who had lived deeply rooted in the area. Their stories of the generations, changing times, relationships, loss and joys reminded me of what is essential in life. Carol and I sang together a hymn of our youth: When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Count your blessings. Live in gratitude. Jesus taught in the sermon on the mountain that we need to choose our focus (Matthew 6: 24-34): God and the kingdom or money and possessions. He contrasts the needs of the body for food to how God provides for the smallest creature. And clothes? Look at the wildflowers and how God paints the fields with colour and vividness. Can God not take care of you? So, do not worry about tomorrow; it will it will have enough worries or its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings. (Verse 34) These are anxious days. A potential second wave of the coronavirus, the return to school during a pandemic, reopening churches to public worship. Concerns are being expressed, parents and vulnerable people are worried about greater exposure and institutions like schools, hospitals and churches are doing their best to keep people safe and secure while moving tentatively forward. A gift in the early other worldly experience of confinement was a fresh perspective on the reality of time. With everything on hold, living in the moment was the only way to get through each day. Life slowed down, extraneous things were removed...taking care of loved ones, getting groceries, facing the challenges of one day was all that was possible. Life was focused, you tasted it differently, you counted blessings and gave thanks. Jesus invites us to a focus of faith each day. - To not be anxious about tomorrow. - To trust daily in God’s faithful care. - To believe in the simplicity that comes in gratitude and living the precious gift of each moment. I strive to stay focused and to trust. Join me in this daily challenge. - Rev. David
Rev. David's Blog - Aug. 23, 2020 Forgiven and Forgiving There are times when I use this sentence as an affirmation after the prayer of confession in our Sunday liturgy: We are a forgiven and forgiving people, thanks be to God. Last week I lived an experience that revealed an inner vulnerability. Annie Salomon Reynaud died of COVID-19 months ago and her children wanted to celebrate her life. They reached out to me as there was no minister available at l’Église Presbytèrienne St-Luc in Rosemont where I was minister for ten years (1988-1998) and I had known their Mom well. I left St-Luc at a time when I was bruised and wounded with the judgement and homophobia from within the Presbyterian Church towards LGBTQ clergy in their midst. I was not yet ‘out’ when I came to the Townships on an internship to serve Granby-Abbotsford, Sutton-Dunham for seven months. (1998-1999) I felt such relief when in the interview (held at Emmanuel) Dorothy Thompson of Abbotsford said to the committee: this conversation is about David’s gifts for ministry, nothing personal is to be asked. I felt from that moment on such a relief, to be able to serve from my ministry gifts and leadership without a storm cloud over my head. It was a deeply felt grace experience.
I went into the city loasr Thursday evening to lead a gathering of 5 in a moment of celebration , with a favorite French Huguenot reformation hymn and prayer. Il faut qu'en Dieu l'on ce confie ... Agreeing to lead that celebration touched a hidden place of inner woundedness. I felt healed. I let go of the past. The anger, judgement and hostility I had experienced within that denomination was released and I felt a calmness. Joy and peace dispelled that darkness in my heart and memories. Is this example too personal to write in a blog? I hope not. For it is only when the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, intersects with our lives that grace and faith are alive, bringing hope and blessing. On the cross, wounded and dying, Jesus spoke the words that reverberate across time and into my spirit: Father forgive them... At Zoom worship last Sunday we sang these words written by Rosamond Herklots in 1966 (VU 364) to the tune of There Is a Green Hill Far Away: 'Forgive our sins as we forgive,' you taught us, Christ, to pray; but you alone can grant us grace to live the words we say. How can your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart that broods on wrongs, and will not let old bitterness depart? O cleanse the depths within our souls and bid resentment cease; then, bound to all in bonds of love, our lives will spread your peace. As often happens, I meditate the scriptures of Sunday worship in the week that follows. They nourish me on my journey of life and faith but also challenge me to live conversion in my heart. As I celebrated Annie’s life, I literally felt a gentle gurgling of a deep source of refreshing waters, wetting the parched desert of that place within me, dried out, hidden within, of hate-filled accusations, of betrayal, and of the judgement of my person, not for any action, but simply for being me. I can only forgive others if I receive forgiveness. I can only be freed from past wounds if I name and release them. I can only move with courage into the challenges of today if I am living the joy of grace, hope and faith in this moment, not regretting the past. I can forgive and be reconciled with others as I experience God’s grace. Serving the Cowansville and Bedford Pastoral Charges is a joy for me. It was with a sense of homecoming I returned to the Townships after twenty years in Verdun. I pray God bless our ministry to all who are vulnerable and that we discern our way into reopening to indoor worship. I pray with you Jesus’ prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Amen. - Rev. David
Rev. David`s Blog - Aug. 14, 2020 Stargazing in August The 2020 meteor shower peaked on Wednesday. There were some 50-100 meteors per hour as the Perseids (my new word of the week) came along in this once-a-year event when the earth passes through a trail of comet dust on its way around the sun. The dust burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere generating so-called ‘shooting stars’ and even the odd fireball in the night sky. Wow!!! Incredible!!! Who would have imagined I would find myself in a farmer’s field in East Farnham, Wednesday late evening, to experience this incredible spectacle in the sky: Venus brightly shining, the visual outline of the Milky Way, the steadfast Big Dipper, and the shooting stars...awe and wonder. No entrance fee . No big city light pollution. No video screen stimulations . No hesitation from the youth group to gather for this experience. A real time, life-altering experience of stargazing. Is this what Abraham felt as he looked to the stars and heard God’s promise that his posterity would be as numerous as the stars? Is this what the Wise Ones felt when they saw a bright star inviting them to follow and experience the awe of the birth of Jesus? Is this what creation felt like when Creator placed the night lights in the sky? Psalm 8 (from The Message) declares: God, brilliant Lord, Yours is a household name... I look up at the macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do you bother with us, why take a second look our way?... God, brilliant Lord, Your name echoes around the world. What a deeply felt affirmation of faith! Inspired by the wonder of Creation. We can see the visual only or imagine LIFE intertwined into the fabrics of all creation. Faith sees behind the tapestry the weaving of Creator’s handiwork. Faith declares these invisible hands stitching, weaving, creating, recreating. The Star Creator is inviting relationship with all of the Creation, including us human beings. From the macro-skies to the micro-self God is present. Stargazing invites us to participate in the wonder of LIFE. When I see the stars I speak God’s name : Awe! Wonder! Creator! We celebrate with joy the name of Creator, not only out there in the heavens but in the sharing of stargazing wonder as youth group, as community of faith who have inherited God’s promise to Abraham, those of blessing and belonging. As disciples of Jesus we are invited into the wonder of real-time living relationship with God. To the assurance that life is expansive, generous and incredibly complex. Teach me, God, to wonder teach me, God, to see; let your world of beauty capture me. Praise to you be given, love for you be lived, life be celebrated, joy you give. (Walter Farquharson, 1973, VU 299) Amen. - Rev. David
Message - Karen Lackey Ryan - August 16, 2020 August 2020 Reflection Karen Lackey Ryan Do Not Worry, Have Faith Matthew 6: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? This passage is easy to say and not easy to live. It is the rare person who has not suffered the stress of worry. Is worry the same as anxiety? Today Anxiety is prevalent everywhere, and persons who seem to “have it all,” can be just as anxious and worried as any. There are current debates on whether the levels of anxiety are increasing, especially in the West, and for what reason? Is it a matter of wealth and class, or age? Circumstance? A Materialistic and Pessimistic society? Elders may worry about health, losses, or other things that were not worries at an earlier stage of life. Elders in general, are considered to be less anxious, letting go of fears about “what people will think.” Millennials, in comparison, (b.1981-1996), have higher levels of anxiety than might be expected. It is often assumed that the young have their health and every opportunity ahead of them, whereas the young of today have less financial and social security than previous recent generations. Anxiety is not new. In 1621, Robert Burton described the symptoms of anxiety attacks in socially anxious people in his book The Anatomy ofMelancholy1: “Many lamentable effects this fear causeth in man, as to be red, pale, tremble, sweat; it makes sudden cold and heat comeover all the body, palpitation of the heart, syncope, etc. It amazeth many men that are to speak or show themselves in public.” There are life-threatening circumstances over which we have no control; then there are the internal preoccupations that interfere with our daily smooth functioning. Crises are experienced in different ways. Many remember the memorable Quebec ice storm as a time of community gatherings, and shared meals, as teams of workers spent weeks repairing the damage. A fallen tree, or lack of electricity have certain solutions, although it may take time to fix. Alternatively, for the individual who does not seem to be in any acute or obvious distress, may experience an internal and persistent feeling of insecurity, inadequacy or doom, for no apparent reason, and which has no easy remedy. I am talking about a level of anxiety high enough to interfere with daily function, close relationships and quality of life. Worries that are not resolved not matter what the resources that are spent to address them. Attitude and behaviors change, although efforts are made to valiantly “suck it up, and get on with it!” Asking for help goes against our independent self-image, and can increase feelings of vulnerability and dependence. Who to ask for help? Who to trust with our fears? Who has any answers? It is too easy to feel alone in our heads and alone in an uncaring universe. There is a lot of talk these days about systemic racism. I would make a case also, for systemic alienation. Am I just a cog in a material world, or a human being worthy of dignity, pursuing a meaningful life on earth? From what source do I receive my worth? What is this lack, this source of insecurity and danger? Rather than a fight for physical survival, the fight seems to be for emotional and spiritual survival. What foundation is lacking when all other needs are fulfilled? Where is the kindness and reliability that creates trust and safety? Where is the Love? When I consider the Old Testament in general, I hear stern voices telling me to obey or else. Punishment and revenge drown out the voices of love and peace. God is forever calling Israel to repentance, and us also. Or else! Romans 3: 19-24 is key to understanding the purpose of the law, and describes the sure foundation of our faith. 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Do I live in a beautiful, awe-inspiring and majestic universe, or do I live in a cold and indifferent universe where no one is ever satisfied? Do I believe in a kind and forgiving God, or do I believe in an angry and punishing God, if I believe in God at all? Do I access the omnipresent grace of love and forgiveness, or do I deny God, deny sin, and fail to forgive myself? In Deuteronomy 30:19 our choice is clearly stated: This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. And Luke 11:11-13 reminds us, 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[a] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
These are important questions because they form our attitude and expectations of what life has to offer us. And what we are willing to share with others. There is a difference between feeling like a blessed and precious child of a God-created and forgiving universe, as opposed to feeling and believing that it is all up to me, myself and I to forge a successful life where only the strong survive.
A world without forgiveness is a cruel world indeed. Yes, the cost of forgiveness is Repentance. I must acknowledge that I have come short of the glory of God and even my own expectations of myself. This seems to be a small price to pay in comparison with a drive to revenge or a search for an alternate hero-savior.
Why not accept Jesus? Why not accept that I cannot do it all alone? Why not forgive myself and others our very humanness, with all of our inherent limitations. We are called to give up our God complexes! We are the children of a loving God, who is more kind and generous than many of us are with ourselves. I am imperfectly perfect or perfectly imperfect and that is the way God made me. It sometimes takes a lifetime to leave comparisons with each other, or some internalized ideal, behind.
I have always said that after age 40 I can no longer blame my parents for anything. Now that I am over age 60 I realize that I can no longer shirk responsibility for my own decisions and actions of the present and past. There is no one to blame. I pray for forgiveness and am blessed by forgiveness. It is not the opinion of family, friends, and neighbors that ultimately matter; I must prepare every day to come face to face with my Maker, and be prepared to give an account of myself, no excuses.
The Law shows me where I fail. The love of Christ is my safe harbor of love and forgiveness. I can leave cruelty behind. I embrace and practice kindness, first to myself, then to others.
The words of Mother Teresa, effectively summarizes this reflection:
“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12: 30-31 both remind us to: Love your neighbor, as yourself. Thanks be to God, Amen
Rev. David`s Blog - Aug. 7, 2020 EMMANUEL & BEDFORD P.C. NEWS Volume 3, Issue 31 Friday, August 7, 2020 The Old Blue Book I need to be careful how I use the word old. My mother was born in 1929 just one year before the printing of The United Church Hymnary. She does not describe herself as old. I have teenagers around me that look from their youth towards my aging-ness and remind me that at 60 I live in a very different world: culturally, linguistically, experiences, than theirs. Am I old? At Jean Coutu a wanting to be helpful clerk said to an older person: we can deliver this to you, you don’t need to leave your home. Meant to be helpful it felt ageist and the need for independance in one’s later years somewhat diminished. One of the struggles during these Covid-19 days is how to be community of faith within the protocols that protect the vulnerable. We know that wearing the mask speaks to love of our neighbours and that any activities we have as church need to fall within the protocols as per Quebec and United Church regulations. As the months drag on and social bubbles are created there are still so many significant challenges to gathering together. The post labour day reopening of our buildings is arriving quickly. From the "all are welcome" inclusion we normally affirm is an emerging language: welcome, wear the mask, distance yourself, and don’t sing. It is a different language yet rooted in love. Thanks to the teams in both pastoral charges who are managing this reopening challenge. I long, as you do, to sing faith within community, to pray together, to live the rituals that weave us with those who have died and celebrate new births and possibilities. I am frustrated at times with new realities that none of us were prepared for and try to do my best in these times. At the outdoor service at the Ridge tomorrow we will sing from The Hymnary that sits in the pews at the Old Stone Church. Worship leaders will be singing Jean Corey’s favourite hymn as others hum its tune with no vocalization. We will live distancing, mask wearing and show love for those able to attend in nonphysical ways. It is a tradition of many years to sing faith at this historic church in Stanbridge Ridge with roots as a Baptist Mission in 1842. It will be my first experience there and will include a memorial moment for Jean and a celebration of Cynthia Reynolds as she leaves for her internship year as part of her ministry studies. For those unable to be part of this gathering, cards are being signed from the whole of the Bedford Pastoral Charge. I know that these are challenging times for everyone and for all places in our world. Churches are not the only ones needing to adapt to new realities. I know that the longing to return to what was ‘normal’ remains further away than was expected. I know I need to lead by example and not be as inpatient as I feel. So, I will sing Jean’s favourite hymn from the Old Blue Hymnary and feel life, love and gratitude. I will give thanks for a living, ageless faith that roots me in these days of shifting realities and emerging paths that lead us forward. Jean’s favourite older hymn (also found in Voices United) is: Come, let us sing of a wonderful love, Tender and true, tender and true; Out of the heart of the Father above, Streaming to me and to you: Wonderful love, wonderful love Dwells in the heart of the Father above. Let us sing of our faith in new ways and in new expressions together. ≈ Rev. David
Rev. David`s Blog - July 31, 2020 Seasons of life at 113
You know you are settling in when you have your first wedding, and a few weeks after, your first funeral. These powerful words of Jaroslav Vajda were written in 1983 (VU 229): God of the sparrow God of the whale God of the swirling stars How does the creature say Awe How does the creature say Praise The punctuation is intentional, the words move through a variety of emotions: Awe, Woe, Grace, Care, Love, Joy...Home. This was the hymn I thought of at last Sunday’s burial in my backyard. At the wedding of Mark and Jasmine there was the joy of promises spoken, symbols exchanged, celebration as the newlyweds glowed and my mother stepped into my arms for a dance, lovely! The words and symbols were different as the Blue Jay was lowered in the ground. It flew into the patio door at breakneck speeds and died within seconds of hitting the patio floor. I saw its struggle to breathe as it slipped into death, and remembered past experiences. I was saddened by its accidental death and it’s beautiful foliage of feathers, lifeless. The reality was that we as ‘family’ needed to dispose of the body and a burial was quickly arranged. A hole into the forest bed was prepared and a small group of mourners gathered. There was gratitude for the preciousness of life and symbols were added: a home made cross etched with words of love, a flower and a plastic dog so that it was not alone. Some stones marked the intersection of the celebration for life and the reality of death. The youth in my care responded to death in personal ways. At my previous home there were a few funerals. One I remember brought deep sobs to a foster son who would never show emotions and resisted all kindness. Tough, hard and difficult at 12 years old. The death of his cat was a deeply moving moment when the tears flowed and I sighed a relief that there was hope for his battered soul as love rode the wave of grief. At June Lamey’s celebration of life this week I used the words of the shortest bible scripture: Jesus wept. (John 11: 35) Jesus’ empathy at the death of his friend Lazarus touches me deeply, reminding me that God in human flesh not only walked in our midst but understands the frailties and emotions that touch us in the everyday. And his tears give me hope that in this life and the one to come we are not alone. Relations sustain us in this world and the next. In a few moments I will be on the phone with my youngest son to talk about a difficult story of the Bible: Sodom and Gomorrah. He asked that we read and discuss it together and I will shift gears from Blog to Conversation. This is the call of our lives, to shift gears seamlessly and live each moment with joy and openness. Sometimes grieving is coloured by the need to make sense of its context. For families losing their loved ones during Covid-19 there is a lingering grief deepened by confinement and the missed opportunity of holding a hand one last time. Complicated by the interdiction of human touch and the rituals that bring comfort in the presence of our loved one’s passing sadness can mix with darker emotions. Pray for all grieving families. Love through sickness and vulnerabilities. Reach out with humanity to all God’s creatures. Treasure life wherever it is found. Answers may not be found but you are not alone in grieving. This we do as a faith community. Thanks be to God. Rev. David
Rev. David`s Blog - July 24, 2020 Is There a New Normal? I crave the things that give life its beauty, the simple things: gathering with friends or family, human touch or a double kiss (both cheeks), singing together, living in community. I was not made to live alone, and enjoy the chaos of shared space and many at the table. And also those quiet moments at the beginning of the day when I drink a first coffee and journal in the garden, in communion with Life and Creation. With changes to health regulations I adjust to the mask indoors as do you. I consider how my actions impact on others and show respect and care by loving my neighbour and wearing the mask. And with you I consider how to navigate the changing reality of living in a COVID-19 world. Jesus noticed the busy fishing enterprises as he walked along the shore of Lake Galilee. He saw the hard working fisher folk with good hearts and called them to follow him into a new adventure and way of living. It reads so simply, so straightforward and appears seamless. Yet to respond to his call would mean tough decisions of leaving their livelihood, their families and security of the known for what was unknown. As the call was answered, Matthew (4: 22) writes: and at once they left their boat and their father and went with him. Imagine how the father felt with the “& Sons” removed in that instant from the fishing business, in the family for generations. The boats are left for others to care for as best they could when Jesus claimed the strong and healthy sons. There is no call without sacrifice and our actions impact on those we live with. The seemingly seamlessness of the story in a few words hides the turmoil, real cost, adjustments to families, anxiety and moments of panic as new recruits follow Jesus and everyone, including spouses, children and parents, adjust to a new reality. We are all adjusting to a new reality. As both the Cowansville and Bedford pastoral charges follow guidelines for outdoor worship and examine how we ready ourselves for worship indoors after the Labour Day weekend, we too are in this new adaptation as a community of faith. We seek to love our neighbour and be thoughtful in our approach to new rules relating to gatherings. We want to protect the more vulnerable in our midst while attempting to be a community in gathering, loving, praying, worshipping. Whether this Sunday at 15h00 in the Cowansville Cemetery beside Emmanuel or an open air service at The Ridge (Stanbridge East) on August 8th, we will follow the guidelines as printed in today’s newsletter. We will live these experiences and learn how to gather differently. We will hold each other in prayer, those attending and those unable to be there, those who have compromised immune systems and those who need to know that our care means a wave, not a hug, a word of greeting, with distancing and no kissing. We do not know what a new normal looks like or where it leads us. We take a tentative step forward and live out of call: to follow Jesus, to be good news for others, to be community of faith adjusting to new realities. I enjoy these words written by Gordon Light, (More Voices # 12) that says: Come touch our hearts that we may know compassion, from failing embers build a blazing fire; love strong enough to overturn injustice, to seek a world more gracious, come touch and bless our hearts. Come touch us in the moments we are fragile, and in our weakness your great strength reveal; that we may rise to follow and to serve, steady now our nerve, come touch and bless our wills. Come touch us now, this people who are gathered, to break the bread and share the cup of peace; that we may love you with our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength, our all, come touch us with your grace. - Rev. David
Finding a Quiet Centre It is a hymn we will sing this Sunday and one I enjoy. Come and find the quiet centre in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed: clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes, that we can see all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be. – Shirley Erena Murray, 1989 I’m writing the blog this morning as the rain falls on my garden, softly and gently. It is watering the new Hydrangea standard, the Kismet White Echinacea and la pièce de résistance: the Ginkgo biloba ‘Mariken’ planted in the front garden for all to enjoy. You can tell by these words that my mother and I spent some wonderful hours at the Rêves et Jardins nursery calculating what changes and additions would look best at rue du Pacifique. We looked over the garden plan, calculated the growth of plants and made decisions. It is a passion that we share. We spoke in that language known only to gardeners. The house emptied from the visit yesterday and I appreciate the quieter beginning of the day this morning. The reorganization of beds, sheets, blow up mattress and linens and a return to “normal”. I was considering a blog on post wedding clean up! The reflective beginning of this day reminds me of the presence of prayer in the life of Jesus. His ministry started with prayer (Mark 1: 12) and was a reoccurring theme of his life, even at his death on the cross. There are many scriptures describing how Jesus would often go to a solitary place for prayer. (Matthew 14: 23, Mark 6: 31-32, Luke 5: 16, 6: 12-13, 11:1). My favorite is Mark 1: 35: Very early the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house. He went to a lonely place where he prayed. Hebrews (5: 7) has also this interesting text: In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God... As I follow the example of Jesus, I make room for prayerful reflective moments in my life. They renew and resource me and grow my intimacy with God in solitude and silence. The Hebrews text reminds me of the messiness of prayer: cries and tears. Prayer expresses so many emotions, concerns, losses and joys. Prayer is a lifeline that lets balance, courage and strength fill our hearts and energize us. It roots us, as does love, in hope and faith. I have some incredible memories of the wedding last Saturday. Of adapting to the weather, hearing the promises of Mark and Jasmine and experiencing how a small group could live intense joy during COVID19. Of my Mom leading the pack as we walked to the local crémerie for ice cream and of deep conversations about health, family and faith. What a blessing to live these precious times together. I give thanks to God for each of them as I hear the newly planted shrubs cry alleluia as the rain soaks into their roots. - Rev. David
Rev. David`s Blog - July 17, 2020
message - Karen Lackey Ryan - July 17, 2020 July 19, 2020 Genesis 28: 10 -19 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 139: 1-12 Matt. 13: 22-30 Romans 8: 12-17 The year is steadily moving on through Ordinary Time, post- Resurrection and Pentecost. During the liturgical year we follow the life and example of Jesus Christ, the impact of which changes our lives with the grace of light, love, and forgiveness. How has the love of God changed me/you/us? Jacob’s dream encounter with God on his way from Beersheba to Haran is an opportunity to reflect on where we meet God along our own life’s journey. The journey can be a linear chronology, or like Jacob’s ladder (or stairway), a step-by-step scale of progress up a set of desirable degrees, or, even a bridge across the waters. Jacob is an ambivalent character, all too human, from a family easily considered dysfunctional, and sounding all too familiar. He is the younger twin, whose name implies someone who follows, literally “grabs the heel” as Jacob grabs the heel of Esau during the birth process. Competition between the two brothers started early! Jacob is the favorite of his mother, Esau the favorite of his father. Although Jacob uses premeditated deception, aided and abetted by his mother, to steal the blessing and inheritance of Esau, Jacob gets the glory and the new name, Israel. The life of Jacob serves a larger purpose. Jacob (Ya’akov in Hebrew) is one of Judaism’s three patriarchs, and appears throughout many chapters of the Book of Genesis. He is the son of Isaac and Rebecca, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, and the father of 12 sons, the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jacob/ The story of Jacob asks: Does the end justify the means? Esau and Jacob are two different types of men, or two sides of the same coin. Esau is the hunter, “a man of the open country,” the rebel who married two local Hittite women, contrary to the instructions of his father, Isaac. Jacob “was a quiet man, staying among the tents.” (Gen. 25: 27) As Jacob was running away from Esau, he slept and had his famous dream. Instead of having guilty feelings, he saw angels “ascending and descending” a stairway from earth to heaven. Instead of punishment, he saw the Lord, who conferred more blessings upon him, his descendants, and ultimately “all people.” (Gen. 28: 14) Esau’s marriages outside the tribes of Abraham suggest that he was not loyal to the community of his own people. Jacob was a cheat and a thief, but, he and his mother obviously thought, “May the best man win.” Because of this deceit, Jacob became the ancestor on the road to fulfill the dream of multiples of descendants and possession of the promised land of Canaan. This seems so unfair. The wicked prosper. We want to believe that as we judge ourselves, being good and obedient, that all will work in our favor. That Esau should have received the blessing of his father despite any shortcomings. We are not always as in control as we think we are. We do not always see the larger picture. Matthew 13: 22-30 asks another question: Are we weeds or are we wheat? Unfortunately, most of us have our weaknesses, and those aspects of our personalities and behavior that need to be improved. One minute we may be like Esau, impulsive and throwing away our gifts to fulfill immediate needs, another minute we may be like Jacob, planning and plotting, and pursuing greater glory. We may try to ascend the stairway to heaven, or we may take one step forward and two steps backwards. We may go up one minute, and down another. It is not always consistent growth and progress, despite our best efforts and intentions. It is the wise person who admits the need for help. Thank the Lord for ample blessings. Psalm 139 is a blessing for the seeker: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me…you are familiar with all my ways…you hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me…Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” This is the intelligence of Jacob, that he recognized that, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Gen. 28:16) We too, like Jacob, must Wake Up to the presence of God in our lives, and open our hearts to the blessings and movement of God with us. Surely God is with us, surely God knows us, surely God has plans for us, surely the awareness of God in our lives changes us. Romans 8: 12 -17 gives us our own blessing: “Therefore brothers, we have an obligation-but not to our sinful nature…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” The Torah, and scripture as a whole, is a bridge between earth and heaven. Christ is our bridge between earth and heavenly things. We do not have to beg for our blessing, as Esau did. We do not have to scheme for our blessing as Jacob did. We are blessed abundantly, with priceless resources: the word of God, the Holy Spirit, the example of Christ, and our own commitment to life as children of the living God. Lead on Lamb of God! Amen
Rev. David`s Blog - July 10, 2020 Father of the Groom & Célébrant Some words are better in French. Célébrant, leading the celebration, I like that! Being both the father of the groom and the minister for the wedding ceremony this weekend of my eldest is a very emotional experience. And it happens in my new gardens in Cowansville. The visit of my mother, sister and brother-inlaw has filled the beds and rooms of my home. The mix of languages when the youth in your home only speak French is fun, new words are being invented and hand signals are necessary. Ça bouge! Families are about accommodating others. My mother was 31 when she was pregnant with me, her seventh baby. She has shared with me how difficult it was to mother in those early years with a non-ending flow of little ones afoot. As she inspects my garden in anticipation of her grandsons wedding we commiserate on her 60 year old son who is parenting at this time a 14 and a 13 year old. She has an opinion, about both gardens and parenting. I listen respectfully. We need celebrations and rituals in our lives. We need families, biological or other, always rooted in love. We need to know that relationships are rock solid and available in the long haul no matter what comes our way. The death of a three year old this week and the tragedy of four deaths last week in Notre Dame de Stanbridge remind us of the vacillation of life, never wished for, that happen and need all of our strength and courage. We need each other! We are community together. The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the core relationships that nurture and root us. The socially distanced, small wedding is possible in part because my neighbour has given access to her adjoining backyard. It allows for the accommodation of the 17 guests who will be present. A challenge, but necessary so family can celebrate the rites of passage. And do so simply, with generous love and yes, accommodating the most fragile in our midst. One of the scriptures for tomorrow is from one of the oldest wisdom text of the Bible, Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12. It reads, in part, Two are better than one, together they work more effectively. If one falls, the other can help him up. If it is cold, two can sleep together and keep each other warm. Two can resist an attack that would defeat one alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.
Grandma found silk material that my deceased brother Joe bought many years ago in China and stitched the following message on it: Mark and Jasmine, love is rooted in gardens! It will be a scarf wrapped around the hands of the couple after who speak their vows and exchange their rings. It is a symbol of the threads that tie our lives together and strengthen us in the storms of life. A couple speaking promises, their two cords intertwined with the presence of God, parents and family. Even those sending blessings by Zoom will be linked with us here. Have a wonderful wedding day! Whether rain or shine, love will be the focus and celebration. Thanks be to God. Amen. - Rev. David
Rev. David's Blog - July 3, 2020 Blue Velvet Is that not a song? The Friday blog is an opportunity to link into words my faith journey and spiritual practices that root me in life, hope and growth. When I got up this morning there was a kid on my new, clean, pristine, looking-so-good velvet couch. The camping experience must have ended at some point during the night. One of the stages in life is when you choose your furniture for your tastes, not for the wear and tear needed when there are younger children around. Mine was chosen a few months ago, just before COVID-19, from a lovely chic shop on Notre Dame in Montreal. It is made in North America, stylish, solid frame covered in deep blue velvet with one full cushion for seating. I read the riot act when it arrived: no food, dirty feet, drinking...this is my dream couch that lasts until...(you fill in the blanks)... One of the joys of having an emergency kid in my home is how the year-olderyouth became quickly a big brother and mentor. He has been a real help as the house accommodates another youth for the foreseeable future with trips to the recently opened Davignon Park Beach, paddle boating, hiking and biking, the two get along very well. The signs of the new arrival are everywhere: Shelby Lake huîtres on my kitchen counter, a mountain of laundry that cannot wait until my tradition of Monday morning, high energy that needs direction, jobs and watchfulness. There is the discovery of Pleins Rayons, an amazing Brome-Missisquoi initiative for youth with autism who repair bikes and sell them at very reasonable prices, on South Street, Cowansville. There are non stop questions, lights left on, toilet seats and water taps that break… whirlpools of water when the bath is used. A lot going on. I am remembering the Gospel from last Sunday (Matthew 10:42): ‘and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.` I am living in the preciousness of the every day. I am discerning the steps I take to stay healthy and balanced and am grateful for help in this initiative. When I bought the upgraded material for the couch I was asked if I wanted their super duper protective shield. As a parent I intuitively said yes, and this morning I add: thank God! The blue velvet couch will survive the next few months and the house will adapt to increased use. When I came down to the sprawled-on-velvet-reality I heard what sounded like laughter. Maybe it was Abraham or Sarah who laughed at the news of birthing a child in their later years? Maybe it was the laughter of my mother who comes next week to be part of the wedding in my back yard of her grandson, my eldest. She thinks I’m crazy and wonders where she sleeps as the guest bedroom has a new occupant. Maybe it is that lovely chuckle of God what looks at the things we do, purchase and see as important, and sends Life our way in the shape of a thirteen year old needing a room, bed and care. Both youth sought softer bedding during the night when the reality of sleeping outdoors sank in. I laugh at remembered adventures in years gone by as a sibling, a biological and foster dad. Bless the cups of cold water given in your name God. Bless our attempts to follow the example of Jesus our leader and brother. Bless all blue velvet couches! - Rev. David