Scripture Reading (The Message) Ephesians 2:1-2
1 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behaviour from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Sharing our Joys
1 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 2:1-2
In the many words written in the Annual Reports over the last two years, I was inspired by the vibrant hope of St. James’~Rosemount United. I hope you were too – and so it’s why we’re going to share just a few of the joys of our ministry together. For while the last two years posed one issue after another, as a congregation of the United Church of Canada, and as we participated in the wellbeing of our community, we have refused to be defined by hardship. Instead, we leaned into the creativity of God, discovering new ways of being church together.
From Teresa Carse’s early mobilization of volunteers to deliver in home meals to ensure any food pre-purchased for Lunch Sundays didn’t go to waste, to the UCW creatively figuring out how to do fundraisers that doubled as opportunities to reconnect, food continued to be a way to unite us. Did you know that through the Turkey trots and those drive-thru meals thanks to the UCW and Angus Sheach from DeliWorks, over the two years, $12,000 dollars was raised in support of the UCW and the Mission and Service Fund of the United Church?
Or just last year, nearly $63,000 flowed in and out of our church, into the many corners of the world where it was needed. We’ve joked a few times at Executive and Board meetings about tithing – the practice of giving out of our abundance – but we as a church did just that, sending nearly 23% of the money collected here out into the world, to the aforementioned M&S Fund, or to the Ugunja/Kenyan Student support, or even our own community as we’ve helped the Food Bank, Monica Place, and OneRoof. This is why we’re here. To watch what God does and then do it…[since m]ostly what God does is love… [to embody a Christ-like love that is] not cautious but extravagant. I am inspired by the extravagance and joy that we share together.
I too am inspired by your trust, in me and the leaders of this church. I know the minute I start mentioning people that I will undoubtedly leave someone out, and inadvertently hurt someone, but I pray you’ll forgive me. From Alison and Monica, Lynda and Peggy and Evelyn and our amazing choir and ringers we’ve pulled in at the last minute, Jim and Dave and the Property Team, Mearle and Jan and all the amazing parent volunteers – that’s just to get Sunday to happen. There’s also the Mission and Outreach team continuing our mission efforts as mentioned, but so too the Pastoral Care team touching base with those confined to homes and residences…all the while praying you’ll keep the counters and Finance committee and Scott busy, to pay for this amazing ministry of ours. Many hands make light work, but so much of the last two years were not light work. We stumbled our way through one difficult decision after another, trying to find our way together. We debated, we prayed, and we tried to do what was faithful in this place and time. Did we make mistakes? Absolutely. Will we continue to make mistakes? Without a doubt. But I am profoundly grateful for those who offered their leadership even knowing the mistakes we’d make. That’s what true leadership is.
For it took great courage to reshape worship and Sunday School. Many of you will have noticed that Lynda and Peggy have taken roles of opening of worship so that I could be downstairs to help with Sunday School. We struggled finding teachers in the fall, and instead of give up, we decided to start over, rethinking Christian Education for what we needed now. Sometimes it looked like a tableau inspired journey through Holy Week assembled by Mearle and Jan. Other times it looked like 47 games of checkers. (Or even bouncy castles). But bless all those who have worked to give the kids a safe place where they were inspired, supported, and encouraged. Through it all, we wanted to teach them about love, like God has loved us.
I continue to be inspired by the vibrant hope you offer others. Even ones you may never meet. Over the last year and because of your support of myself and my call to ministry, I have been leading funerals for local funeral homes. Some of these are Christian, many have some vague belief in God, and others are atheist. In the great differences of beliefs, they’re all the same in the grief and love they share. And I’ve felt that need and call to remind them that they are not alone, offering love in a way that is not cautious, but extravagant. I’ve felt privileged to represent our community in this way, because I was able to reveal an understanding of faith and love that they have rarely experienced. For some, it has given them a new perspective on church, and without your support that might have never happened. For it reminds me of United Church document, A Song of Faith:
In and with God, we can direct our lives toward right relationship
with each other and with God.
We can discover our place as one strand in the web of life.
We can grow in wisdom and compassion. We can recognize all people as kin.
We can accept our mortality and finitude, not as a curse,
but as a challenge to make our lives and choices matter…
…Grateful for God’s loving action, we cannot keep from singing.
Creating and seeking relationship, in awe and trust,
we witness to Holy Mystery who is Wholly Love.
I am filled with joy and gratitude to be a part of a community that seeks to make our lives and choices matter, as we witness to Holy Mystery who is Wholly Love. And so, as today you reflect on our shared ministry of St. James’-Rosemount, where does joy bubble up for you?