Litany for a celebration of a bequest

In 2007, St. Andrew’s (Haney) United Church received a bequest from the estate of a long-time member of the congregation. This was the first bequest received by the congregation. As the Trustees worked on the best stewardship of this gift , I was asked to create some kind of ‘liturgical celebration of the gift’, to be part of our Sunday morning worship.

This is what came together.

St. Andrew’s (Haney) is used to a weekly “Minute for Mission” or “Minute for St. Andrew’s”, in the response section of the liturgy, just prior to sharing in the offerings.

It made sense that the ‘celebration of the gift’ would go there.

A photograph of the person who made the gift was posted to the screen, along with her name and years of her life, followed by an ellipsis. (eg. Richard Bott 1968-2069-…)

I apologized to the guests who were present that morning, saying, “I hope you don’t mind if we take a few minutes to remember a person in the congregation who shared quite a bit of her life with us.”

Part of this individual’s joy was making people laugh, by wearing the strangest of hats… so I threw on my M&S “Cat in the Hat” hat.

Because she was well known to the congregation, I asked if they would share some of the things they remembered about her life. We took about 10 minutes, with stories about her love and connection being shared. (If she had not been as well known to the congregation, I would have asked someone who knew her to prepare and share a short ‘bio’, including the individual’s connections with the congregation.)

Then the convenor of the Trustees rose to explain that, in her will, the individual we were remembering had decided to give a gift of $X to the congregation, believing that it would help us to continue to live out our mission “to worship God, educate and serve in Christ’s name.”

After a moment of (somewhat stunned) silence, we entered into a prayer of thanksgiving, which included a congregational response.

One: For the gift of X’s life…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For the gift of your love through X’s life…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For the (here I picked out some of the things I had heard in the storytelling)
– hats
– jokes
– hugs
– smiles
– wisdom
– …
s/he shared with us…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For this gift, that will help us to continue
the ministries to which you Call us…
the ministries in which X shared,
the ministries in which she continues to live…
All: We thank you, God!
One: We ask you to help us to be wise in our use of this gift,
just as we ask you to help us to be wise
with all the gifts you have given.
All: In your love,
in Christ’s name,
in the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we pray… amen.

We then joined in singing “I, the Lord of sea and sky” (VU#509) (Lyrics & Music: Daniel Schutte, ©1981 Daniel Schutte & New Dawn Music)

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Advent 3 – Year B (1 Thess. 5.16-24)

I’ve got a secret… I’m not sure I should share it. Oh – you won’t tell anyone, will you? I don’t want the congregation to know. Ok?

Thanks!

I went… well… I went… went Christmas shopping yesterday. I wandered the mall humming Christmas carols and thinking of the gifts I wanted to give to people I care about.

Most of them are pretty silly, little things… but I’ve tried to put some thought into them. With each gift, I want the person who receives it to know that this gift is a token of my respect and love for them.

And I had fun! OH – look – don’t tell the minister that, ok? Don’t tell the minister that I had fun during Advent!

See… I get the feeling that we’re supposed to use Advent as a quiet time. A time for ‘getting ready’. Almost a ‘penitential’ time. A ‘get down on your knees and pray time’. Not really a time for dancing and singing or being particularly joyful.

(Pause)

Pardon me? You saw the minister putting up decorations? You say that he was sipping on a cup of hot apple cider?

You heard him singing, “Joy to the World”?

You saw him coming out of “A Thousand Villages” with a bag or two?

Hmmmm…

(Pause)

I wonder.
I wonder if there can be joy in our waiting?
I wonder if there can be joy in our preparing?
I wonder if there can be joy in our looking back at our lives and in our looking forward into the coming year?

I wonder if joy and Advent can be together?

I… wonder.

In our wondering, we worship God.
In our waiting, we worship God.
In our joy, we worship God.

We worship God.

Sung response: “As Long As We Follow / Na nzel na lola” (Words and music: Joseph kabemba, Congo, (c) 2004 General Board of Global Ministries, GCGMusik, 475 Riverside Dr. New York, NY 10115.)

God of all life,
we sing your praise,
we shout our rejoicing,
we dance our joy –
knowing that you rejoice
with your creation.
In the birth of a child,
in the laughter of teen,
in the smile of an elder –
you are here!
In the cries of a baby,
in the quests of youth,
in the wonderings of the wise ones –
you are here!
Alleluia, loving God!
Alleluia, amen!

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Advent 2 – Year B (Mark 1.1-8)

Title: Go into the world, proclaiming Jesus the Christ.

I walked through the park on Tuesday night. Its beautiful. The lights were in the trees. It was quiet.

I stood in the park, at the centre of town, looking towards the bandstand. There wasn’t much light, everything was wrapped in shadow… and there was a bit of a wind. It was quiet.

That’s when I heard a baby cry. Not loudly – just enough to let her mom know she was hungry.

That’s when I heard a mother’s smile. Not loudly – just enough to say, “Hush, love. We’ll be home soon.” I could almost see the arms rocking as I heard the first few notes of Silent Night being hummed.

And that’s when it hit me.

What if the Christ Child was that child?
What if the Christ Child was born today?
What if the Christ Child was born every day?

How would my life be different?
How would your life be different?

In our Advent waiting… Christ is with us.
In our Advent hoping… Christ is with us.
In our Advent dreaming… Christ is with us.

Proclaim God’s reign!
Christ is with creation!
Alleluia. Alleluia! ALLELUIA!

Second Advent Candle is lit.

Sung response: “As Long As We Follow / Na nzel na lola” (Words and music: Joseph kabemba, Congo, (c) 2004 General Board of Global Ministries, GCGMusik, 475 Riverside Dr. New York, NY 10115.)

All: Holy God,
we come to Christ’s table,
open to your Presence.
We come to Christ’s table,
open to your Love.
We come to Christ’s table,
open to your Reign.

May we carry your Advent gift –
the bread and the cup…
the laughter and the love…
the challenge and the hope…
our names and your Name…
into a waiting world.
Amen.

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Advent 1 – Year B

Title: As we wait, understand the gift… and rejoice!

Have you ever wondered about this whole “Advent” thing? You know – the season in the church’s life when we’re totally and completely out-of-step with the rest of the world.

Decorations started going up around town as soon as the Remembrance Day parade had passed.

Do you see any here?

Turn on the radio and you’ll hear “Jingle Bells”… even “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World”, but we won’t be singing Christmas carols until Christmas Eve – or pretty close to it.

Why do we have to be different?

Is it just so we can show the world that we’re concerned about all of the buying and selling that seems to have taken over… or is it something more?

Could it be that we are standing against a ‘commercialization of the sacred’?

Could it be that we believe that Christmas is really about God’s presence in the world, transforming it in impossible ways, through an unimaginable medium – a newborn child?

Could it be that we are taking the time to intentionally explore where our personal stories connect with the stories of God’s people throughout history – with Mary, with Joseph, with the shepherds and the Wise Ones… with all of our sisters and brothers who have gone on before?

Could it be… that we realize that this time… this Advent-time… is more about God’s action than our busy-ness?

Could it be… something… more?

The first Advent Candle is lit.

Sung response: “As Long As We Follow / Na nzel na lola” (Words and music: Joseph kabemba, Congo, (c) 2004 General Board of Global Ministries, GCGMusik, 475 Riverside Dr. New York, NY 10115.)

All: God of the heavens,
God of the earth,
God of every moment of our lives:
help us, we pray.
Help us to wait.
In our waiting, help us to see.
In our seeing, help us to hope.
In our hoping, help us to love.
In our loving, help us to act…
so that Christ’s Advent in our lives,
might be a time of transformation
for all.
Alleluia!
Alleluia, amen!

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Proper 26 – Year A (Joshua 4.1-7)

God said to Joshua,
“Let these stones be a memorial of when
the Ark of the Covenant passed over
the waters of the Jordan.”
If these stones – these walls – could speak,
what memories would they share?
Memories of tears and of laughter.
Memories of mourning and joy.
Memories of noisy argument
and quiet listening.
Memories of children running
and elders watching.
Memories of lives lived well.

Stories of God’s presence?
And stories of God’s love.
If these walls disappeared,
would the memories go with them?
No.
The memories would live on
in our lives.

So – what are the memorial stones?
These walls? This building?
Or…
Us.
We are a living memorial.
Carrying the story of Christ’s love
each and every moment of our lives.

In memory, as memory…
we worship God!

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Learning Covenant

Jesus had this wonderful way of helping people to see the reign of God.
Sometimes he did it by telling stories.
Sometimes he did it by being a teacher.
Sometimes, he did it by being a student.

In this community of Jesus’ people, we try to be learners and teachers. We try to realize that every person has within them God’s gifts… and that if we listen carefully, we’ll learn something of God’s love through each and every person.

We’re at the beginning of a new season in the life of the congregation. The Book Group is meeting again. The Bible Study is meeting again. And… even though the Sunday School continued throughout the summer, they’ve geared up for even more learning and teaching!

Today, we are going to share some promises with each other – ones we’ve shared before.

Would everyone who is taking a leadership role in the Sunday School please rise, and move into the centre aisle?

(When they get there…)
Will you do everything in your power to both teach and learn from the children in our care? Will you love them and care for them, to the best of your ability, each and every day? If so, please say, “We will, God being our helper.”
Leaders; We will, God being our helper.”

Would all of the children and youth who will be taking part in the Sunday School or the Jr. Youth Group, please join the church school leaders in the aisle?

(When they get there…)
Will you do everything in your power to both teach and learn from the leaders? Will you love them and care for them, to the best of your ability, each and every day? If so, please say, “We will, God being our helper.”
Children & Youth: We will, God being our helper.

Would everyone in the congregation who is part of – or is intending to be part of – the UCW, the Book Group, the Bible Study Group, the study on Progressive Christianity, the Discipleship Group, the Prayer Exploration group, the Women’s Retreat Group, or uses the Daily Scripture and Prayer Pamphlets please join with the leaders and the children in the aisle?

(When they get there.)
Will you do everything you can to teach and to learn, to faithfully explore what it means to be in relationship with God and with one another? If you are ready to do this, please say, “We will, God being our helper!”
Gathered people: We will, God being our helper!”

Finally, would everyone who is attending worship this day please rise and celebrate that we are all learners and teachers in the household and family of God. Do you promise to live out Christ’s call, this day and the days to come? If you are ready to do this, let’s hear you say, “We will, God being our helper!”
All: We will, god being our helper!”

With our prayers and our promises, knowing that God is with us in each moment, we shout, “Hallelujah! AMEN!”
All: Hallelujah! AMEN!

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