Welcome to my blog. I hope my thoughts touch a part of your story.
|Posted by jeffdoucette on December 21, 2015 at 5:45 AM|
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
Dear Teame and Amine,
We have not yet had the chance to meet…nor have we even had the chance to talk and hear one another’s voice. Yet already I can feel a connection to you…I feel as if I already know you in some small way.
You do not know me, nor our group that will sponsor you as family. You only know that someone in some far away land has agreed to help you at this point in your life journey.
I know little of your story. I know you are brothers and that your life has not been easy and you have made the choice to leave your home, your family, your way of life and your country. I know that because of political and religious persecution you do not feel safe and you made the life changing decision to leave the familiar, the known. I hear that you were small business owners and probably had familiar people who came to you…people who might have been your family, your neighborhood friends or people visiting where you lived. I wonder what you might have sold. My wife and I love to shop at small local shops. And then your life changed
I know that your country was Eritera, nestled in the Horn of Africa between Ethiopia and Sudan. I know your country went through political upheaval and that there was much corruption with the new government and that you no longer felt safe there. I cannot even begin to understand what it must be like not to feel a sense of safety in one’s life.
I think a lot about what you must be wondering. Like who has sponsored you…and why? I wonder about the emotion you must have felt when you got the news from the Visa Office. Were you happy? Excited? Relieved? Sad? Afraid?
Let me tell you a bit about our group. We are made up of two Christian churches in Canada that are part of the United Church of Canada. Our names are Dunbarton-Fairport church and Pickering Village church. Pickering Village United is a neighboring Church and we have begun a wonderful friendship with them. And guess what…we teamed up with the local Mosque called the Pickering Islamic Center. Our church and their church have been great friends for more than 10 years at least and we work on common projects. They are a wonderful, peaceful loving Muslim community that reach out to people in need. I am actually going to have lunch with their community after church today.
So why are we helping to sponsor you? The simple answer is that this is what we do. We respond to people in need and with great love and great generosity. As Christians and followers of Jesus, we try and imitate him and his life story and live by his teachings. His teachings were brought down to one simple command: “Love God and Love neighbor” and we believe we cannot love God truly if we first cannot love our neighbor…even if we have never met that neighbor.
For us neighbor has been in those who come to the local food bank we donate to. They might be living on an isolated First Nation reserves hundreds of miles away. They might come into homeless shelters for men or women or children or into VAW shelters. They might come pregnant or having children been born seeking help. They might be gay, lesbian or transgender and have been rejected by their family or church. They might be people who are living with addictions or are family trying to cope. They might be young children living on the Autism spectrum who come to our respite program or who are part of our church family. They may be people living with differing abilities, people who are grieving, who are survivors of abuse. They may be people who live in poverty or are displaced and come in needing our help. They may be living with mental illness. We do our best to respond with great love because we believe they are neighbor even if we do not know them.
This morning we are reading a story from our bible between Mary and Elizabeth, two cousins who were both pregnant with significant babies. One would be called John the Baptist and the other would be known as Jesus. When Mary found out she was pregnant with Jesus she went to be with her cousin and found her to be with child also. There must have been much laughter as they shared their stories with one another and yet both knew their children would be part of a greater story affecting many people. I love to think that Mary was not a meek and mild person thinking she had no other choice. I love to think that Mary smiled a mischievous smile when she said yes to the angel to give birth to Jesus. The song Mary sang became a defiant song of hope against political and religious oppression that would bring hope to a world in despair.
And the incredible part of this story was that Jesus was born a refugee. His parents Mary and Joseph gave birth in a place that was not his home and they found out the local political power wanted him dead and tried to find him. They had to travel through foreign countries for their lives until they found safety and peace.
And this is why we want to help you. We want you, like Mary to sing a song of defiant hope in the midst of your own political and religious persecution. We are helping you as a refugee family because Jesus was part of a refugee family. We are not the biggest church, nor the most well known church, nor the most popular church…but we are a church that loves. And as part of that gospel commitment to love we have been working very hard to make our church a space safe for all people. Out of our desire to love as Jesus asked us to do we have pledged to welcome everyone regardless of their age, race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, differing attributes and abilities both physical and mental, cultural identity or economic circumstance. I do not mean only our church space…but wherever we go as church we make a safe space.
We do want you to know that we are not sure if you are Muslim or Christian or practice any faith, nor did we ask. That is not our business but your own journey. We have no expectations of you to become part of our church family. We only wanted you to know why we said yes to help you begin a new life.
We imagine that this is not your first choice to come to Canada. We are sure your first choice is to be able to live in peace and safety in your home country of Eritera…but this is not possible. So we hope you will find a home in Canada and this wonderful community called Pickering.
I hear you may speak fluent English…but you will hear strange words such as “Double Double”…”Blue Jays”…”Maple Leafs”…the “X” and “some cold eh?” but before long you will find your place. And my dream for you is that you will know you are loved, and you are welcome and you are safe. And most importantly you are no longer a refugee…you are a Canadian. May you breathe out and breathe in the love we have for you.
Mary and Elizabeth would both find out their children would be a gift stirring love inside them. I thank you for stirring LOVE in us…for reminding us of the refugee story we will tell this week on Christmas Eve. Like Mary and Elizabeth who are pregnant in the Scriptures this morning…you are pregnant with possibilities. We are midwives, here to help you give birth to your hopes and dreams. And we do so with great love and respect.
And so I await with great hope and excitement and joy the words “They have a flight and will be here soon”. We wish you a safe journey to us and know many people are excited to help you make home...oh yes and one more thing…because I can never say this enough. You are so loved!
Rev. Jeff, pastor of this wonderful church family I call
Dunbarton-Fairport United Church in Pickering, ON.
|Posted by jeffdoucette on November 20, 2015 at 8:30 AM|
44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ Matthew 25:44-45
A reality check on fear of Refugee Sponsorship which has taken on a ridiculous amount of verbal wrangling came on my cousin Trent’s facebook page this week. Trent is a proud member of the Maliseet First Nation from Tobique, NB. It went as follows:
Seeing all the hate written and shared on facebook, it makes me want to say a huge shout out to all my aboriginal friends. Thank you for not having the same opinion as a lot of people have when we, the Acadians, came as refugees to this country. We were also running from people who wanted to harm us and I'm certain it must have been terrifying for all of you knowing by protecting us, you may have been putting yourselves in harms way. Instead of letting us freeze to death in this cold climate, you taught us how to live off the land. You gave us shelter and also shared whatever food you had. When the enemy found out where we were hiding, again, you could have told us to leave to protect yourselves. You didn't, you took us deeper in the forest and showed us what true humanity looks like. So today, I say thank you to all Aboriginals who showed tolerance, acceptance and love to the French Acadians who came here as refugees .
As a Christian minister my heart is deeply saddened at how fear and prejudice has taken over from the past few weeks. I am the first to acknowledge the pain and fear that might be within us after numerous attacks throughout the world over the past week especially. But fear has never been a core tenet of our faith for two thousand years. It has been there, but we have turned to scriptures and the generous response of fellow disciples to over come it.
So now all of a sudden for some reason we have allowed Refugees to become the target and response to our fear. Both here and in the US…two places that were built on the backs of stories of immigrants have pockets of people turning their backs on reason and turning to fear as an answer. And we need to remember that we are all immigrants here in Canada having been welcomed by Indigenous people as we were reminded above by Nancy. And what is painful is to see how that fear has turned to burning mosques, smashing hindu temple doors, pushing innocent Muslim mothers to the ground or insulting them on transit.
But I refuse to let that get to me or make me bitter or even to lash out at critics. Instead I will put my heart and soul and dig in all the more to respond to the gospel passage above where our faith response is put to the true litmus test. I will continue to forge deep friendships among our Muslim sisters and brothers at our local mosque. I will continue to forge friendships among our multi faith community through our COFAA group. And I will especially continue to move forward encouraging our new Beginnings: Interfaith Refugee Sponsorship group as we work to welcome to brothers 39 and 27 from Eritera in the Horn of Africa who seek peace and a new home in Canada.
I will let the government do their security vetting and Canadian Immigration do the proper work needed to ensure we are safe as they have been doing for decades. And we as a Christian community will do our part, raise money and raise awareness and gather and meet with great excitement building friendships with our partners as we prepare for the arrival of the two brothers.
I encourage us to take a deep breath, not to ignore the news, but to definitely know that some people choose to live in fear and ignorance of those that are difference. We will not be able to change them and personally I do not have the desire to waste my energy there. Instead I will work to do what I was called to do, encourage our people to respond to the stranger with generosity and love. I will live the words to the song Ubi Caritas et amor, Ubi caritas Deus ibi est…Where Charity and love is found, God is there.
Until the next time….Let us love one another.
|Posted by jeffdoucette on October 23, 2015 at 11:45 AM|
I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my baby you'll be.
Robert Munsch ‘I’ll Love You Forever.’
I have been living with a heavy heart over these past few days as I have heard the news of a colleague who with her husband had three newborn triplets die way too soon. I can’t imagine the grief, the emotions, the questions, they and their extended family are living.
I deal a lot with death, walking with families as they face death, the funeral preparations and how to live that period after. I try to walk with great respect and love and listen to them as they weave stories remembering their loved ones. I try to watch my words as I meet with families.
Dealing with death is not easy…it makes us uneasy. We are not sure what to say or do or how to act. And different times we end up saying the wrong things with the best intentions. I have heard people who have shuttered at what they have heard as they lived the death of loved ones.
Here are a few things I would suggest we not say:
(1) ‘It must be part of God’s plan’ or ‘God never gives us more than we can handle’ or ‘God must have needed an angel in heaven’ or ‘God must have called your loved one home.’ I question this understanding of God. How can we know what God thinks? What kind of God randomly chooses for one person to suffer but not another? What kind of God would say ‘Well today this person needs some character building. I don’t believe God needs extra angels or randomly chooses one over another to live through suffering or character building. Wouldn’t this mean God plays favorites? I believe we are human, we live and we die and our bodies die in different ways for different reasons, often unexplained and random. And end of the journey God welcomes us not calls us home.
(2) Don’t say ‘Oh you are young enough to have more children’ or ‘well you still have other children’ or ‘you might meet someone else’. Those who have died are actual children or family members who had names, hopes, dreams, stories and were deeply loved. Our comments can be interpreted that the one who died has less value than another.
(3) Try to refrain from saying ‘I understand what you are going through’. Each person is different and grieves differently and works through death differently. So no one truly understands a particular circumstance.
(4) Don’t try and explain the death or ask about personal information. We are not doctors, nor God. Families have been asked very private details and it is rude and frankly no one’s business bit theirs to share if and when they decide.
(5) Don’t say they are in a better place. For parents who have lost children or spouses who have lost a loved one…here with them is the better place.
(6) Everything happens for a reason. What reason would ever be good enough to substitute the death of a loved one. Don’t trivialize death…it hurts deeply.
Here are some things I would encourage us to do and say…
(1) When we are in contact with someone…say something as simple as ‘I am so sorry to hear the news, I am thinking about you and holding you tight in my thoughts and prayers. Don’t tell them they can call anytime if they need to talk everyone tells them that…rather actually call them and check on them.
(2) Cook up some meals for after everyone goes…some that can be frozen or something fresh. There will be days when they might not feel like cooking or baking.
(3) Drop by…don’t be afraid of people…they are still your family or friends. You don’t need answers. Come and just listen. Invite them to a movie or to go for a coffee or a drive or to the market to get groceries or pull out the crib board.
(4) Give space when they ask for it…they might need it…but don’t avoid them.
(5) Drop by and do some chores…take out their garbage on garbage day, rake their leaves, shovel their driveway, clean their gutters…don’t ask just do it. Offer to go for groceries or pick some up for them. Grief can keep us from doing the simplest of things.
(6) Invite them for a family meal and let them know they are not an imposition. Eating alone is one of the worst feelings as we grieve.
(7) Be aware that the first year is tough…every significant moment on the calendar might be difficult and full of memories.
(8) Don’t be afraid to share stories, to look at photos…this honors the story of love held with that person. Share memories or photos yourself…they might be new for the person grieving or be a favorite one.
This list is by no means finished…we can all add things to both sides. It is not meant to guilt anyone in what we have said or not done…it is to help one another through the process of grief. It is to remind us that saying nothing is okay because we do not understand death.
Let us be gentle in grief, loving and careful in our words and actions.
Until the next time…
|Posted by jeffdoucette on January 17, 2015 at 8:05 AM|
Bombs have kill-radiuses; churches should have love-radiuses--anyone within twenty miles of a church should know it.”
― Tyler Edwards, Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back Into the Body of Christ
As I write this year-end report we have just celebrated the Baptism of Jesus to end the church Christmas season. We have shared the story of Jesus making a conscience choice to walk into the waters of the Jordan river and be baptized into the story of God’s love. And with that risking to walk into the water he caused a major water ripple of love that would have touched both banks of the river and extended out into the countryside. It would be as in the quote above…a love radius that would ripple through the stories of people again and again.
2014 has been an attempt at our own “love radius”. It has been a year that has seen attacks again and again based on hatred and prejudice around the world…a “kill radius” if you will that has attempted to divide people rinsed in intolerance and fear. But in our congregation…we have attempted to become a counter voice.
When we began this Affirming process back in 2013…it was an attempt to say “In our congregation we want to say that we do more than listen to the story of God’s love proclaimed…we want to walk out of the Jordan River ourselves mirroring Jesus and bring with us that ripple effect of a love radius like Jesus did.
2014 has been a year of trying to imitate Jesus…who was the master of listening to people’s stories and be willing to enter into them. Stories of pain and hurt and exclusion are difficult…but Jesus walked into them. Accepting Affirm United’s invitation to journey to ask ourselves how we welcome one another and the stranger in our midst has been challenging…a labor of love you might say. But a journey that is so needed today. In a world of kill radiuses…we need more love radiuses…and this I feel is what we as a congregation have undertaken. Time and time again we listened to stories and were touched by them. Stories of what it was like to live as an adult on the Autism spectrum and be married. A story of Addiction and abuse and finding AA and us as support. Stories of First nations struggling against Fracking and standing up for their treaty rights. Stories of Pikangigum and people living with no indoor running water or sewerage. Stories of what is was like to live as a transgendered person in the LGBTQ community. Stories of homeless youth in need of a place of safety. We heard stories of pain from our Muslim sisters and brothers at Pickering Islamic Centre who did not wish to be painted with the same brush as such groups as ISIL or Boko Haram. And we reached out to them as friends and came together for a wonderful benefit for Footprints sharing an evening of food and entertainment. And it was the further binding of our friendship. And these stories are but a few shared. It made us look around us at one another differently with gospel eyes. It challenged us to ask “what was the radius of our welcome?” It led us to embrace our Mission statement.
With the passing of our new Mission statement we have proclaimed that we are a radius of safety and God’s love. But proclaiming it and actually living it are two different things. The tough part is the daily living out our discipleship…but that is what it all about…making that love radius happen.
Interesting that someone asked me “What is in it for you if we become an Affirming ministry?” I replied…”nothing more than simply the fact that the church congregation will say…we are willing to not only go into the water to be baptized…say all the right words…but to come out the other side like Jesus and walk the walk…and let the ripple of our love radius reach out and change the world.
I believe 2014 was a unique year in our congregation and one to build upon. I believe incredible things will happen in our congregation in 2015 if we are willing to embrace this love radius. We have had a number of new families begin to walk with us…and you can feel their presence already and their impact on us. There is a new Spirit I have had people tell me…yet there is so much more to do. And as our creed says: We are not alone! Thanks be to God!
Thank you for the gift each and every one of you are to this congregation. We are stronger because of it. As Rev. Michael Blair once told our Bay of Quinte conference annual meeting…”God is up to something!”
|Posted by jeffdoucette on January 3, 2015 at 8:30 AM|
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
Over the Christmas season, Kandy, a former member of one of congregations from back in new Brunswick sent me a most wonderful gift…the picture above. It is of her husband Kevin dressed as Santa Claus talking to my friend Joseph who is homeless and a biblical character come to life. I often thought of Joseph as a cross between John the Baptist and a Magi. Joseph lives with mental illness, schizophrenia to be exact and always told me that he was on medication and would never harm anyone. I was never afraid of Joseph. I came to embrace him as a gift in my life.
I first met Joseph on a stormy day in a small rural church in Melrose near the PEI bridge. He had been sleeping on the porch and someone saw him and called the cops worrying he would freeze in the frigid temperatures. Rather than take him away in the police car…members of my congregation opened the doors of the church and let him sleep inside, brought him sandwiches and hot coffee. He greeted me as I entered the building that morning for our service. He stayed for the service, joined us at table for communion and stayed for another coffee after. He asked if I might give him a ride. I of course gave him a ride and this began our friendship.
Joseph managed to find me in ministry when I moved into the city and often came and visited me. By times he asked for $20 to buy food, coffee and never for alcohol he said for he knew how it would affect his medication. Often I would invite Joseph into the house where I lived for a coffee and he would sit and regale me with stories of working in the mines out west and would by times sing me some of the mining songs. He shared his story of faith intertwined with his mental illness and work history.
Often during the winter like clockwork Joseph would show up Saturday evening asking if he could sleep in the church as he was afraid of the local men’s shelter where others would take his medication or threaten him for his money. I always opened the door and let him sleep in the side chapel. In the morning he would take off for his coffee at the local Tim Horton’s but always return for our 10:30am service. And he would be there welcoming and offering hugs and handshakes and his “Good Morning Madame!” with his French accent. He sat in with folks and always came to the table for communion eating and drinking deeply of bread and cup. He always stuck around after for coffee to chat with people.
What touched me deeply about this picture above is how as I mentioned to begin this blog that Joseph touched me as a John the Baptist/Magi image in this Christmas season. He also challenges me in how I live my own ministry. Joseph when first looking at him, could be taken for John the Baptist…wild hair, long fingernails, wild eyes, clothes dirty like he had lived and journeyed through the desert. But when you stopped and talked with Joseph and looked deeply into his eyes you saw a Magi…one who bought within him the gift of the Christ child. He was filled with hospitality, love, laughter and a desire to be loved and nourished. I often said I should pay Joseph to give a workshop on how to be ministers of hospitality on Sunday morning…for it was natural for him.
I often think of Joseph and wonder how he is and often ask my friend Phil about him. Joseph taught me that you can never judge someone by their outside…but that you had to sit with them, stare into their eyes to see and hear their story. He taught me the importance of always opening your doors wide to those who were most in need. What I loved about my congregation in Riverview was that no one ever told me it was a bad idea or dangerous to let him sleep there. They knew the gospel demanded we provide a safe space for Joseph and that we did.
And so for me this weekend it is the meeting of the Advent Season and Epiphany head on. Even though we do not speak of John the Baptist…for me they pass one another in the shadows lit by the star. One who announced the arrival and others who searched for the arrival. Joseph embodied for me the best of both worlds. And Joseph embodied both for me…for he could never settle down but was always on the road…as John the Baptist announcing the coming and as a magi bring the gift of the one who had arrived.
Travel well my friend Joseph and continue to proclaim the story that is deep within you!
|Posted by jeffdoucette on January 2, 2015 at 8:45 AM|
This is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,
“I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
John 1: 19-28
I want to follow up on my blog from yesterday of taking a New Year’s resolution to become a Magi. Today how about taking a New Year’s resolution to become more like John the Baptist?
Don’t panic…I am not asking you to change your wardrobe. Don’t go buy a new coat made of animal fir…start a new diet of honey and locusts and let your hair grow into the style of Hagrid from Harry Potter. No I am inviting us to explore John the Baptist from the inside.
Now I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel that we have given John the image of someone being so scary and crazy that I would never ever want to listen to him. But what has intrigued me this morning is the words which stand out having John saying “I am not the Christ…but rather one pointing to him…inviting you to remove all things that would keep you from him in your life”.
Now I have heard these words over and over and over and preached on them. But today they seem to jump out off the page and shout at me to listen. I immediately had the image of football players blocking one another from moving forward. This is kind of funny because you would think I spent New Year’s day watching football…but I HATE football and did not watch football. Instead I spent New Years with Sandy’s family and welcoming a guest from Korea around our table.
But this image of the football players blocking sticks with me along with the words of John the Baptist. John could have become very stubborn when Jesus came into the picture. He had his own followers…own way of doing things. But something in the words of John might have been the catalyst that made Jesus decide now was the time for him to enter into ministry. We have no knowledge of the dialogue or relationship between Jesus and John other than they were cousins. We do not know of the conversations they might have had…but John’s gospel has John and his movement step to the side not blocking Jesus…but preparing the way.
John for some unknown reason deep down saw it was the time to change his dialogue to promote Jesus to the world and allow him to do what the Scriptures proclaimed. John could have been like a football player blocking Jesus from advancing…maybe out of jealousy. But John instead moved aside and allowed Jesus to move the ministry football up the field to use football terminology. And the story began to play out for Jesus entering into ministry.
One of the toughest things to do in life is to look hard at ourselves and our words and actions by holding a mirror up to ourselves. Church is supposed to be different by we are a church of human beings, flawed, imperfect but inherently good. But to be brutally honest we can end up by being too much like football players trying to protect our turf, our ways of doing things, our way of thinking. And when we do this we can block the message of the gospel and seem to others like a football player in the crouch with the look of “Not gonna happen…no way forward”. And when we do this we can block what God wants to do in our lives and in the lives of others. We block ourselves and others the chance to move our spiritual lives up the field.
John gives us the example that the goal is always to let the light of Christ shine, to make a path straight…a path which leads us to freedom for ourselves and others. And in the end is that what we want for ourselves and for others? If so what needs to change in us to let that happen?
May John the Baptist show us the way…
|Posted by jeffdoucette on January 1, 2015 at 8:40 AM|
"The Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? Gospel of Matthew
Today is January 1st and the official start of the annual ritual of empty promises we call “New Year’s resolutions”. Sandy and I have made our own…and hope to follow through on them.
But often do we hear New Year’s resolutions about our faith life? Not often in my line of work as a minister…at least not many people come out and tell me. I don’t hear “I want to get closer to God, my church family, resolve to heal broken relationships, look at workshops, pray more, return to church etc…”
And I find it a shame because studies show that a healthy church life results in a healthy life in general. And the tough part as a minister is that I cannot push anyone to do this…it has to come from a deep place within.
The story of the Magi from Matthew’s gospel is a wondrous story of stepping out in faith…of being stirred by something…of being moved by something. It is not always easy but it is important. Look at the Magi from Matthew’s gospel. We know nothing of why they did what they did…there is no background to their story…no elements of what was stirring inside, of what was happening to them. But something made them step out in faith…when others around them would find them crazy or make fun of them…say things. But regardless…they stepped out in faith because they followed their hearts.
As we begin this New Year of 2015…I can only invite you to embrace the journey of the Magi we will encounter this coming Sunday. I can only invite ourselves to look at how much room we make in our lives for our faith journey. If we have been away from church and feel that people will look at us differently…make comments…make the journey of the Magi anyway. When we have filled our lives with a busy spirit and placed our faith life second…make the journey of the Magi and look at ways to nourish ourselves spiritually. If we are fearful of what lies ahead, of what is happening around us…take the journey of the Magi anyway. Everyone has the manger in sight…maybe in the far distance…but let the light lead us home where our hearts can be nourished like the Magi did.
The story of the Magi is not a neat tidy packaged story…but a super messy journey…but remembering that we bring with us the gift our ourselves to be given to another…and to meet someone on our journey waiting to share their gift.
And remember that Matthew’s gospel never said the Magi were men. This could mean we never know who we will meet on our journey that will bring us deeper into our faith. It may be from the most unexpected person.
But it requires us to let go of fear, of hurt, of anger, of something that has taken too much energy and space in our lives and let ourselves be engulfed by the stars…the journey…the gift awaiting.
That is my wish for us this day…and every day.
|Posted by jeffdoucette on November 21, 2014 at 1:00 PM|
I was a stranger and you welcomed me…
I was a child and some images you just don’t forget. It was Sunday and I was in church and we were getting ready for our Sunday mass. In came a couple of long time and long standing members (names withheld) who made their way to their seats. To their horror SOMEONE WAS SITTING IN THEIR SEATS. Did they simply move on and find another seat? Nope!!! ? They stood and GLARED at the family sitting there. The family looked uncomfortable. Finally someone tapped them on the shoulders and said “This is their seats where they always sit!!!” Of course the family moved…I do not remember who they were but I am guessing they never came back.
All are welcome here!!! Unless you are in my seat…unless you are in my spot where I always was at the church bazaar and dare try and tell me how to do it differently…unless you challenge me on this committee…unless you try and change how things have always been done…unless you suggest something new…unless you agree with me…unless…unless…unless.
A recent article which was wonderfully done by the “OverwhelmingJesus” blog on the use of the phrase “All are welcome” which can be read here at http://overwhelmingjesus.blogspot.ca/2014/10/why-all-are-welcome-is-hurting-church.html for you to read.
What I love about this article is that it is a challenge for us as a church family of Dunbarton-Fairport look closely at our recent decision on Nov 2nd to embrace our revised Mission Statement. In it we use this slogan “All are welcome!” but we have added by being specific by naming some groups. Now the problem is that we can never fully name all the groups…and some wanted us to stick with “All are welcome” in a blanket statement. But I think the fact that we began to identify groups as a start challenges us to look at our attitudes of welcome. How do we live with people who are different from us on various levels? How do we live with people who disagree with us? How do we make space for new people coming in who might hear about our Mission Statement. Are we willing to welcome their gifts, their talents, their ideas, their life situations? Are we willing to re-think our own positions, our well entrenched ways of doing things?
“All are Welcome” is meant to be more than a catchy slogan, more than an advertising pitch. It is meant to be a gospel call to walk in the midst of people’s life stories and to respond in bold new creative ways. We can start by not sitting at the end of a row but move to the middle….that makes space for people…that says…come on in to my row…there is lots of space. We can start by asking others their opinions on how we do things presently and find wisdom in fresh eyes and ears and hands. We can start by not marking our territories and opening ourselves up to new voices. We can start by walking over to people and saying “Hi, my name is N., I see you are new…come sit with me. It can start by saying at the end of service, come have a coffee with us….let me introduce you to N. It can start with small talk, getting to know people and widening our circle.
“All are Welcome” in the deepest sense of our mission statement will be hard work…but rewarding in every way possible. And so as the song says:
Let us build a house
where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
A place where
saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;
All are welcome, All are welcome, All are welcome in this place.
Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God's children dare to seek
To dream God's reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God's grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:
All are welcome, all are welcome, All are welcome in this place.
|Posted by jeffdoucette on November 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM|
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Hi, how are you?”….”I am fine”….”well actually…do you really want to know?”…”Um…nope I was just being polite saying hello”…”Of course I want to know that is why I asked”. It is a common greeting and if we are not careful can be answered in a way we are not ready.
I always joke (but it is more true than not) that I do not go into the church to work….but rather to meet people. I am an early bird so I am usually up getting things done on my computer and sent into the office or to various people/groups and organization. But there are those moments when folks are coming in either for various church events or for other non church events/meetings. I often get a chance to chat with people.
A week or more ago…one of the folks who calls every so often and I were chatting. I said “Hey N. where have you been? How are you doing?” To which he responded “Well at least I am not in Jail”. I immediately said “Do you want to grab a coffee and chat?”
I have also seen members of the congregation who have come in and when I asked the question and they responded “fine”…I said “Really? I am not sure about that…” and it led to another conversation. Sometimes people respond “I didn’t want to bother you…” to which I respond “You are not bothering me….that is why I am here. What is happening??
We also have requests like we have had over the past couple of weeks from Joanne’s House for help for a young girl pregnant and in need of everything. I sent out the request and so far some of the families are coming forward with baby items. We had a request from Durham Rape Crisis Centre to help out with a family for Christmas…with all the stories of violence against women over the past month I agreed to help right away.
The passage above is a wonderful moment of Bartimaeus the blind man who cried out to Jesus for mercy. Despite some of the disciples trying to keep him away from Jesus…Jesus calls him to him and asks him what he wants him to do for him. It is kind of like the exchange of “How are you?” When we ask the question…”How can we help?” We must be prepared to respond to the answer.
This will be different according to different situations. But as a Christian people, as followers of Jesus, this is more than an act of charity…this is about responding to the basic need to be heard, to be loved, to be welcomed and to be validated. Jesus was wonderful at that response and left the person transformed.
Do we ask “Hi, how are you?” Are we willing to hear the deeper answer that may come our way? It may take a coffee, a bit of our time, a call to some connections we have, a deep listening to the person. It will cost us…but it will transform them…and us.
|Posted by jeffdoucette on November 19, 2014 at 9:40 AM|
While people were listening to Jesus speak,
he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem
and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately.
So he said,
“A nobleman went off to a distant country
to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.
He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’
His fellow citizens, however, despised him
and sent a delegation after him to announce,
‘We do not want this man to be our king.’
But when he returned after obtaining the kingship,
he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money,
to learn what they had gained by trading.
The first came forward and said,
‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!
You have been faithful in this very small matter;
take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported,
‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said,
‘You, take charge of five cities.’
Then the other servant came and said,
‘Sir, here is your gold coin;
I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,
for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man;
you take up what you did not lay down
and you harvest what you did not plant.’
He said to him,
‘With your own words I shall condemn you,
you wicked servant.
You knew I was a demanding man,
taking up what I did not lay down
and harvesting what I did not plant;
why did you not put my money in a bank?
Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’
And to those standing by he said,
‘Take the gold coin from him
and give it to the servant who has ten.’
But they said to him,
‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’
He replied, ‘I tell you,
to everyone who has, more will be given,
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
So often when we hear the word “risk”…we tend to step back and assess what it means for us. We can engage in risky behavior but often we might end up on the short end of the stick. We risk our lives on bad roads, in stock choices and financial situations.
The parable above in Luke’s gospel is a mirror story the disciples would have found familiar. This may have reminded his hearers of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, who went to Rome in the year 4 BC to get himself appointed king. On his return, he succeeded his father. It may seem a rather unusual procedure but the Herods used to go to Rome in order to get appointed as rulers over the Jews.
I believe the parable is about risk. Similarly, we know that Jesus is soon to depart and the disciples will be tasked with handling the work of Jesus. This will involve great risk. But they would have known about risk. Each day they followed Jesus, they followed a man who risked everything to preach God’s love. Jesus wanted nothing in return, no political seat, no power, no prestige. He wanted simply to follow his heart and spread God’s love. But each day Jesus risked his life but it did not matter.
So this leads back to us and the question…how much are we willing to risk as Christians? Will we back down when it seems too risky? What are we willing to let go of in order to preach God’s love? Will we go silent and not voice our opinion? Will we stop and say that is my line I will not cross? Will we put reputation in front of the gospel? Will we speak for the voiceless? Will we let go of the safety nets we cling to at church? Will we forgo risking for the kin-dom because we are too tied to old ways of doing and thinking?
We saw those who risked in the gospel were rewarded and those who did not lost out. It is not about money or power or prestige. It is about how we risk to allow God’s kin-dom to break into our world through our words and actions.
The message is clear: the more we invest, the more we will gain. We cannot stand still or just cling to what we have. The only way to gain is to let go, to give and to share. And that is risky…and that is what Jesus did and calls us to do.
This Sunday we celebrate the Reign of Christ…not a King, not a powerful man. We celebrate Jesus of Nazareth, a man who risked everything for God’s love because at the end of the day he was at peace in his relationship with God, himself and neighbor. Reign of Christ sets us up as kind of a year end self review…and gives us a “to do better list” as we begin Advent the following week and a chance to start fresh.