Our Purpose and Mission Statement

Working to build God's dream. Help wanted!

We the people of Glen Rhodes United Church, are determined that our life together will be fully inclusive for people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, differing abilities, ethnic origins and economic circumstances. Therefore, we hope that God will work in us so that we will be a sensitive congregation, willing to share our faith and gifts in language and worship, in the life and work of our church and wherever God calls us to do justice in the wider community, with compassion, fun and laughter

Monday, 28 October 2013

"Give us this day" Robin Wardlaw October 27, 2013

Pentecost 23, Year C
Readings: (Joel 2:23–32); Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 16–18; Luke 18:9–14 
 
Time races by. Yesterday we were getting started. The day before we were children, with all time stretching out before us. Change seems to happen faster now, and we know that people have been saying that in every generation. The psalm reminds us that it’s harvest time again—so soon!—and we are grateful for everything that rain and sun and soil give us year after year.
On Reformation Sunday, which we are combining with Peace Sunday this year, we think back five hundred years to the eruption against entitlement and privilege that split the church. Many people were upset that bishops were rich, and set up in those positions by powerful parents and benefactors. The church had stopped being the church, in other words. Martin Luther picked up the flickering torch lit by Anabaptists and other earlier reformers and nailed it to the door of the church in Wittenburg, in what is now Germany.
 
This week, a German bishop was disciplined for his lavish lifestyle. By the pope, no less. Can the Catholic Church change, and align itself with the poor? What about the other churches? What about this church? We do that. Can we change to take into account generations of people coming up who look for very different things in their spiritual lives, who see church the way it has been done as almost irrelevant?
 
It’s about focusing in what is truly important. Paul seems to be reviewing things at the end of his life, the end of about twenty years of intense missionary activity. He’s under house arrest in Rome, meeting with people, writing letters, and waiting for his trial by imperial officials. “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He is confident that Christ will have the crown of righteousness to award him, “…and not only to me but also to all who have longed for Christ’s appearing.” There is the strong sense that he is letting go. No more big trips around the Mediterranean planned. He’s not going to make it all the way to Hispania, what we call Spain, after all. His great goal, to preach Christ to all the world.
 
Perhaps we are like Paul, in the stage of life where our big adventures are all behind us. Different things may weigh on our minds these days, for the most part, than whether or not the crown of righteousness awaits us, but maybe these old scriptures are not completely dated. Look at the gospel passage, from Luke. A story about two men at the temple, total opposites in their image of themselves. The religious guy sounds obnoxious. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” No. I’m good, I’m solid. I make God feel good. The tax collector comes to the temple with a very different agenda.

This story has the effect of making us wonder about ourselves. As it was intended. Every week, the World Council of Churches puts up prayer concerns on its website to help churches know what to pray for when they are praying their way around the world. This week, our prayer focus is on island nations in the Indian Ocean. Wouldn’t I love to know who wrote that other Christians around the globe should pray for“The leading of the Spirit for churches to renounce self-justification and rather work for the establishment of justice and human rights for all.”Self-justification. I’m OK. No flies on me.
 
It’s this kind of spiritual and intellectual laziness that gets a person into trouble, often. And not just individuals. Our nation is allowed to launch missile strikes from drone aircraft and kill people in your country. Our industry is allowed to use the air we all breathe or the water we all drink for our waste disposal. Our sect is entitled to blow up innocent people in markets or buses or places of worships. We are justified.
 
Reformers want change, but not through violence. Martin Luther started off as a reformer, then turned more vengeful and bitter as the church opposed his ideas. He ended up supporting violence against poor people, people who had been inspired by his early writing to believe they were loved by God and had a claim to full humanity and all that entails.
Peace is not just the absence of open conflict. Syria is not at peace, but neither is Bangladesh, where people sew our shirts for a dollar a day. And we don’t enjoy peace either, if people have to visit a food bank to make it to the end of the month. Peace and reform are closely connected.
 
Let’s hear from others about what it takes to get peace, one American, one South African to start.
 
“It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt
 
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela
 
Believe in it, work at it, she said. Work with your enemy, says Mandela. He is celebrated around the world because he could somehow do that. He could see beyond his own suffering, his own mistreatment to the well being of his whole country. How badly do I want peace?
 
Here are a two more Americans with a very similar view of peace.
 
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace. Helen Keller
 
What about Canadians? Here are a couple from the only Canadian every to win a Nobel prize for peace.
 
“The grim fact is that we prepare for war like precocious giants, and for peace like retarded pygmies.”
 
“But while we all pray for peace, we do not always, as free citizens, support the policies that make for peace or reject those which do not. We want our own kind of peace, brought about in our own way.” Lester B. Pearson
Our hero, Jesus, didn’t live into old age. A few brief years to share the vision that burned within him. His share of the world’s work and the world’s struggles lasted something like three years, we believe. What if he had escaped the casual brutality of the empire somehow? What would his ministry have looked like after ten years, thirty, fifty? That was never going to happen, of course. He had as much chance of staying free as a Russian billionaire who speaks against the current regime, or a feminist in Saudi Arabia.
 
The only Member of Parliament to vote against war in 1939 was James Shaver Woodsworth, a Methodist and then United Church minister who founded the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. This is his grace before a meal.
"We are thankful for these and all the good things of life. We recognize that they are a part of our common heritage and come to us through the efforts of our brothers and sisters the world over. What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. To this end, may we take our share in the world's work and the world's struggles."
What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. …we take our share in the world's work and the world's struggles. Or do we? Roosevelt, Mandela, Woodsworth—they’re all talking about the work required, the struggle. Can’t I just be peaceful? Isn’t that enough? Can’t I just treat others with respect, keep the weeds down around the yard, recycle like I’m supposed to and be thought of as a peacemaker? I’m not Eleanor, I’m not Nelson, I’m not J.S. I’m just, you know, an ordinary person.
 
This is our struggle as Christians, isn’t it? If, together, we are the body of Christ, what would we not do for Christ’s vision, God’s dream of a different kind of world? Peace, reform: our commitment, my commitment. Peace, a world re-formed: the promise of Holy Love. They don’t require a wholesale change in the way a person is in the world, but rather a different awareness, a different appreciation. What did Pearson say, again? “…while we all pray for peace, we do not always, as free citizens, support the policies that make for peace or reject those which do not.”
 
How do I know which policies make for peace? They will be the ones that make for more justice. They will be the ones that allow people with less to organize, say, to protect their rights, that curb the power of the powerful. They will be the ones that see the harvest as something that flows to everyone, not just the person with the biggest stick. The policies that protect the fish, the corals, the wild things and wild places. You know all this.
 
If we need to set up a peace school here, to figure how to make peace, let’s do it. If we need to practice our lines or our skills, our discernment of the policies that make for peace, we can. We have this inheritance—stories and traditions of the faith. We will add to the legacy in our time and leave something Christ-like behind us. We will not give in to smugness, that we are somehow justified by our own actions. Our race is not over. Our fight—for peace—is not yet done.

 

"Never Give Up!" Year C Warren Schell October-20, 2013

Loving God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our strength and redeemer.
ALA’S STORY
Her name was Ala. She was feisty, just under five feet tall, great smile. Many challenges to pigeon-hole her as special needs.
She was one from a number of group homes who came to Brown’s Corners United every Wednesday evening for an hour of fellowship.
We were making Tibetan prayer flags one night and everyone was making a square. The theme was what are you thankful for.
Ala proudly displayed her flag with HEAGLAK printed in bright colours. “Health. We all want to thank God we are healthy!”
And Janet, another participant, able to read, announced “That is NOT how you spell health!”
Ala was devastated.
Sometimes I’m stunned at my capacity to fabricate.
“Actually it is a perfectly fine way to spell health. And, since God understands everything, there would be No problem
with God’s understanding Ala’s prayer. HEAGLAK is just an alternative spelling.
“Oh”,was Janet’s reply.
Sometime our prayers may seem as confusing to others as Ala’s spelling of health was to Janet.
What are we praying for?
What are we really asking?
Why?
I can’t believe you prayed for that!
But today’s gospel cites Jesus telling the parable of the persistent widow to let his followers know they should always pray and NEVER GIVE UP.
Women were considered the property of their husband’s in Christ’s time. If you were a widow you would be looked at as worthless. Less than a slave.
I like the woman in this story.
She has spunk. She had to have it and nerve too. It’s really all she had and she went for it. Probably she felt she had nothing to lose.
Not a courtroom in our sense with some robed judge sitting on high looking down.
These are pastoral stories.
Once a week bring your griefs before the judge in the marketplace. He would be sitting at a small table. People will be milling about---dogs and kids a part of the picture. I doubt if there was a bailiff insisting on“Order in the court” that we are so familiar with from TV and movies.
And to add a bit of drama we know we have a crooked judge on our hands. Out for himself. Not above taking a bribe from someone.
“I want the money for the land my husband sold Abram.”
“Go away. You have no right to be here.”
One week later:
“I want the money for the land my husband sold Abram.”
“Go away. You have no right to be here.”
Talking to his cronies later the judge says, “This woman is going to drive me crazy.” [And, at that point if he had taken a bribe to ignore her I’m sure he was wondering if it had been enough.]
Many weeks later:
“I want the money for the land my husband sold Abram.”
FINE! The court decides in your favour. Abram, pay up!
In reality this passage is such a gift on a day when, after the service, we will sign more petitions and post cards for Amnesty International.
Like our persistent widow we will keep hounding the unjust leaders / people in power around the world. And we will remember that our own politicians are NOT immune.
Last week John and I were at the Bloor Cinema for “Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth” about the Mayan resistance to mining in Guatemala.
A number of things touched us both deeply:
  • The profound spiritual connection of the indigenous Maya to all of creation
  • The complete lack of respect of corporations for anything standing in the way of the mines
  • The statement, “We don’t expect anything from the “GRINGOS”---their name for the Americans---, but we thought Canada and therefore Canadians were better than that.
  • 70 % of all mines worldwide have their head office here on Bay Street or somewhere else in Canada
  • For the first time in my life I was ashamed to be Canadian
  • The use of cyanide, outlawed here, destroying water and the environment because there are no laws in place in Guatemala
  • I have written letters for the folks whose story was being told in the movie.
  • Many of us here at Glen Rhodes have signed petitions calling the mining companies to task.
It seems like an impossible thing to take them on. It is this call for justice that started it all in 1961 when Amnesty International was formed.

Peter Berensen, a lawyer in London England was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguesestudents from Coimbrasentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom during the autocratic regime of António de Oliveira Salazar.
Peter wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson's article, entitled "The Forgotten Prisoners", was published. The letter asked readers to write letters to the powers that be showing support for the students.
People wrote.
The students were released.

Amnesty International was founded in London two months later in July 1961 at a meeting of Benenson and six other men, that included a Tory, a Liberal and a LabourMP. The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries.

If memory serves when I joined AI there was only one person on staff at AIES. Until that point Sue Nichols who was the wife of the Unitarian Minster in Ottawa was it. A room in the church and one woman.

A priest in Nova Scotia received Urgent Actions by fax, photo-copied them, and sent to AI members across the country. We were constantly reminded to send him stamped envelopes so he could continue his work.

7 people in 1961. We are now over 3,000,000 strong and growing.

And, sadly, unlike the widow whose prayer was answered, we still write. It seems there are always new men and women speaking out for freedom needing us to go to bat for them.
2 years ago Amnesty celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. Heartbreaking when I consider that our letters / cards / petitions are really prayers in the flesh. Why bother? Simply because Christ says never give up in prayer.
Stephen King’s novel The Shawshank Redemption, was made into a movie starring Tim Robinson and Morgan Freeman. Andy Dufresne, a prisoner wrongly convicted for his wife’s murder, is put in charge of the prison library.
Every week he writes a letter to the state legislature asking for funds to buy books for the prison library.
After six years with no response, he receives several boxes of books and records, a check for $200, and a note requesting that he stop sending letters to the legislature.
Andy's response is to start sending two letters a week!
Never give up!
Like this vignette from the movie, Jesus' parable of the persistent widow is a story of perseverance and hope.
The widow presents her case over and over to a judge who respects neither God nor humans. Nevertheless, in order to preserve his own sanity, the judge finally decides the case in favor of the widow.
Jesus' point in the story is that if people can wear down uncaring judges, how much more readily will God respond to our requests, since God really does care about us.
This is a message about perseverance, but it's also a message about hope.
The widow was in a situation in which she was powerless to act.
Only the judge could bring relief.
The fact that the woman persisted with her request shows that she never gave up hope that justice would be done.
In real life, justice is not always done, but like the widow, we must fight on anyway in the hope that God will change human hearts.
Or maybe, with God’s help, we'll just wear them down!
And the prisoners will be free!
And, until that moment comes, we will never give up. We will not stop writing and calling for justice here and around the world.
Amen
A 2011 article by David Reiff in Harper’s Magazine in advance of the tenth anniversary of the attack on 9/11 for me captured some of the primary lessons of war in our current world, and the approach we take at Ploughshares.
September 9, 2001: most of us likely have firsthand memories of that day—where we were and what we were doing when the planes descended on their targets. I started playing golf in Niagara quite early that morning. About 10:30am I saw an unusual number of military jets taking off from a US Air Force base on the other side of Buffalo. In the club house I watched on tv the second jet flying into the World Trade Centre.
Rieff recites what is written on the brass plaque at the lower Manhattan site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood: 
May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.
Unexceptional sentiments, writes Rieff. A time of remembrance, such as a funeral, is not a time for subtle historical revisionism, critical analysis, sharp rejoinder. It is a time for solidarity, deference, and piety.
This is what will take place tomorrow at cenotaphs across the country.
Remembrance of this tragic event, which seared a nation, and beyond, is a time for respectful recounting of the losses—personal for the family and friends of those who died—and for the broader notion of striving to live without these vicious attacks on the calm and mundane of everyday living.
But Rieff also points to the unseen guest at occasions of remembrance, and the fact that remembrance can have a downside. In the plaque’s platitudes is the phrase, “strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom.” This is not innocent piety. It is a call to action. It is a contemporary political claim on the nation. “The ghost at the banquet of all public commemoration is always politics—above all, the mobilization of national solidarity.” The essence of nationalism is that it can create support for collective action.
And such collective remembrance and action are not always wise, nor welcome.
Remembrance doesn’t usher in “closure,” a psychological term that can be, according to Rieff, a malign and corrosive fantasy. Remembrance can nourish illusions about how long we human beings can remember; potentially grave political and historical consequences can be nurtured by remembrance.
Rieff quotes Ecclesiastes 1:11, “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to happen, among those who come after;” to make the point that there is no telling how long 9/11 will live in infamy in our minds and hearts, and that it may be saner and more healthy for the body politic to get on with forgetting than to dwell on remembrance.
At some point, historical travesties slip from stirring passions to being debating points, to being calendar blips, to being—for all intents and purposes—forgotten.
Consider Pearl Harbor, Rieff says to his fellow Americans. On December 7, 1941 there was an outrage, “a day that will live in infamy” according to President Roosevelt. Ten years later that date would be recalled with angry public denunciations. Fifty years later, Rieff asks, who would refuse to buy a Toyota because of Pearl Harbor?
Wars end, usually through negotiation and compromise. People move on. Old enemies become new trading partners. It can take years—or decades. The length of time can be determined by how much and how long people focus on revenge or exacting vengeance through processes of remembrance and action. Keep churning up the memories and you can prolong the period of getting to yes—that is, to peace.
Rieff delicately suggests that we consider cutting to the chase. The so-called war on terror will never end with what’s left of al-Qaeda in the dock or an acquiescing peace agreement signed at Tora Bora by Taliban leaders. Strategic forgetting may actually be preferable to remembrance if it speeds the process of reconciliation. “Then the peace that must come eventually might actually come sooner.” 
5. Christian Remembrance
As Christians we regularly participate in an act of public remembrance that is apart from political life, but not without implications for political life.
The high claim of the church is that all other forms of remembrance are subservient, and are to be judged according to remembrance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
When we engage in the communal act of sharing the eucharist, communion, the Lord’s Supper, we share in confessing that remembrance of Jesus trumps all else:  the passage of battles, empires, kingdoms and potentates. And we not only do this in remembrance of Jesus’ past, but also in our belief in his presence with us today, and that this will continue until he comes again.
It should not surprise us that temporary political leaders, whose lives and actions will, in time, fade to dust, from time-to-time have perceived Christians as a threat to their own standing and proclamations of remembrance of lesser things, such as battles and centennials and their own mighty works. These are but vanities of vanities in the view of the writer of Ecclesiastes.
When we “do this in remembrance of me,” meaning remembrance of Jesus, these temporal realities are put in a different, lesser perspective.
6. Joining the Christian Story
Christianity, like Judaism, is a religion of remembering.
In the Christian rite of baptism, we re-member, as in attach, our memories, our personal histories, to the life and story of Christ.
The Eucharist is our collective remembrance of this primary and life-changing commitment. It is a story of peace, and our shared journey to build it. 
 
References
Oliver, Dean F. 2012. Vimy Ridge Day. Canadian Military History, 21:3, pp. 48-57.
Rieff, David. 2011. “After 9/11: The limits of remembrance.” Harper’s Magazine, August.

 

 


 

 

 
               

Thursday, 17 October 2013

“Thank goodness”   Robin Wardlaw   October 13, 2013 

Creation Time, Pentecost, Year C
Readings: (Deuteronomy 26:1–11); Psalm 100; Philippians 4:4–9; John 6:25–35 

Alice Munro won the Nobel prize for literature this week. Her stories explore the stable and unstable parts of ordinary people, their dreams and fears, often hidden from others, and sometimes from themselves.
Two scientists got the Nobel prize for physics this week for discovering a particle, a boson: Peter Higgs from Scotland and Francois Englert from Belgium. Bosons are named in honour of Satyendra Nath Bose, a quantum physicist from Calcutta, who described their behaviour a hundred years ago. Fifty years ago, Higgs, Englert and four others theorized that there had to be something, something heavy by quantum standards and very hard to detect, that gave other particles mass, a field, an attribute of apparently empty space that is sort of sticky. Last year, at a giant circular particle accelerator right on the French-Swiss border, the Higgs particle showed up. At last. Thank goodness. If it weren’t for this force field, we wouldn’t be here. Nothing would. You’ll be excited to know that the Higgs particle is a boson with no spin, electric charge, or color charge, whatever those things are. It is also very unstable, decaying into other particles almost immediately after it is formed in a high energy collision. Something very unstable makes everything else stable, allowing for both solar systems and short stories.
At Thanksgiving it’s good to go back to basics. We’re not just grateful that we got cranberries on sale, or that we found a fantastic new recipe for stuffing, but for our very existence in a large, baffling universe. It is wondrous to think of the age and complexity of the universe. And even more wondrous to think what came before the universe we know, what else exists besides this one, and the fantastic gift of it all. Writers help us recognize and name our gratitude, wonder and every other kind of feeling. Thanksgiving is filled with aromas, sights, tastes—an occasion to go deep into the wonder.
If you’re willing, I’d like you to go on a guided meditation that might help put us in touch with all creation, and lead us into renewed gratitude for daily gifts at this harvest time of year.
This meditation is inspired by the First Nations spirituality of giving thanks. Gratitude was woven into every aspect of First Nations life and faith. Not only at harvest time, but every day, in every small act of hunting or gathering, native people acknowledged and gave thanks to the Creator for each simple gift.
Then, as now, this daily practice of appreciation goes hand in hand with enjoying life. And with being close to God. If we slow down and become fully aware of our daily gifts—not just the feast, but, say, a single apple—we live deeper in God’s grace.
I invite you now into a short meditation on the gifts of Creation. I’ll guide you with my voice through this meditation. If you haven’t done something like this before, please give it a try, and let me know about your experience at the end of our service.
Guided mediation: Enjoying Daily Gifts
First, just relax. . . settling fully into your body. Lay your hands on your lap, and let your shoulders down. . . Close your eyes. . . and allow your attention to gather in your breath… Feel your breath coming in and going out, gently by itself, deep within your body. No force, no strain. . . Simply allow yourself to rest back, and be carried on the gentle rhythm of your breath.
From this calm, centered place, imagine yourself walking into a freshly mowed apple orchard in early spring. Feel a soft, warm wind blowing against your face. As you walk, you find yourself particularly drawn to one old apple tree, standing in the full sunlight, its branches just beginning to wake up from winter with new growth and new leaves.
You settle back against its trunk, where you are held without effort in a place of safety and peace, rooted like the tree to the rich soil beneath you. Feel yourself falling into the orchard’s warm embrace. Breathe holy love deeply into your heart. Draw God’s strength up from the fertile ground below you. Rest here.
As time unfolds, you see buds begin to form on the branches sheltering you, buds that gradually open into a cloud of delicate, white flowers. Hear the bees buzzing between the flowers, dancing in a pulse of life all around you, pollinating each white flower, feeding off the sweet nectar. Listen. Wait.
Summer comes, and the flower petals fall around you in a shower of white. Summer sun and rain swell the flowers’ fertile ovaries into a new shape. See the innermost part grow into a seed core. See the outer wall transform into miraculous molecules, full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, a fruit whose flesh is crisp, juicy, and sweet—expanding with Divine energy.
Feel your heart swell as this apple grows larger before your eyes, day by day. See it ripen in color as well as size, changing from light green to marvelous red. The old tree’s branches begin to bend under the weight of its luscious fruit. Many seasons of growth have led to this one, precious harvest.
Now the air cools, and the fall wind begins to stir your hair. Reach up, and pick just one, sweet apple. Soon many people will enter your quiet orchard to gather its bounty. Imagine their hands gently taking all the apples from the tree’s branches and placing them into crates. Imagine other hands carrying these heavy crates from orchard, to tractor, to truck, to market for other hands to select, taste, and enjoy.
You hold just one sweet apple—a beautiful gift from the orchard’s air, sun, soil, and water; a miraculous gift from an old tree and its friendly bees; a perfect gift from a loving God. Allow your mind to enter into its seed core and feel its energy of new life. Energy in perfect harmony with every one of God’s creations.
Now take a deep breath . . . Begin to bring your awareness back to this room. Become aware of your physical surroundings. Move or stretch as you need to  . . . and when you’re ready, open your eyes.
Daily gifts are all around us. They feed us, shelter us, excite us, soothe us. We remember Jesus’ words about bread and hunger and true life. We think of Paul’s affectionate remarks to his friends in Philippi who had treated him so well. “…beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:7-9)
I’ll end with these similar thoughts from an early North American sermon from pioneer times about caring, respect and sharing. We’ll thank God, thank goodness this day, and allow this same spirit to be with us.
Please be gentle with yourself and others.
We are all children of chance,
and none can say why some fields blossom
while others lay brown beneath the harvest sun.
Take hope that your season will come.
Share the joy of those whose season is at hand.
Care for those around you.
Look past your differences.
Their dreams are no less than yours,
their choices in life no more easily made.
 
And give.
Give in any way you can.
Give in every way you can.
Give whatever you possess.
Give from your heart.
 
To give is to love.
To withhold is to wither.
Care less for the size of your harvest
than for how it is shared,
and your life will have meaning
and your heart will have peace.[Anonymous 17th-Century Sermon]