Scripture Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4
Contemporary Reading: Messenger, by Mary Oliver
This morning, we are of course celebrating our Annual General Meeting as part of our gathering. I spent this past week reading through the Report for 2019 and was struck by the commitment and dedication of so many of you to the life and work of this congregation. You have invested and committed yourselves in so many different ways t o the life and work of this place. It’s not about the amount of time or the size of the offering you’ve made this past year. It is about bringing all those contributions together to make a change.
We know that communities of faith are on the decline, not only in our denomination but across mainline Protestantism. I saw a statistic on social media the other week that stated 50 United Church congregations will close this year alone across Canada. That statistic is likely to exponentially increase. This seems like a harsh reality to be delivering on an Annual General Meeting Sunday but perhaps it makes what we honor today that much more meaningful and precious. There have been deep and meaningful conversations in our community over the past months and most recently the past couple of weeks about what directions we want to take with respect to attracting the un-churched on the fringes of our community. Eat Play Love has been at the centre of this discussion. How do we remain relevant to a culture and context that doesn’t beat a path to our door?
But what if perhaps we need to re-frame the questions? What if we got intentional about looking at the joy we experience in our life together? What if raised up the things that we are really good at and celebrated ourselves a bit more. As United Church folks, we are so very good at pointing out the downfalls of our denomination and the things we have failed at and the mistakes made. Making mistakes is a fact of life. We strive to be good decision-makers. Because folks, the church’s future is in our hands. It always has been. And I passionately believe that the Church is still a vehicle for social change. We only need to look at our Annual Report for evidence of such. We have the Thrift Store that addresses not only environmental issues with respect to recycling clothing and household items, it also provides the social benefit of reduced prices when buying second-hand. We have a small but dedicated Refugee committee that works tirelessly to help emotionally and financially support new families so they can reclaim their sense of independence, of family, and security. We have a pastoral care team, a spiritual nurture team, a worship planning team, property, M&P, Trustees and Council members all who want their contributions to add up to change. Will everything we try be successful? Will we try new things that aren’t familiar or comfortable? Will we fail and try again? I think Yes is a very probable answer to all those questions.
In the poem Messenger by Mary Oliver, one of our readings for today, Oliver writes of her life’s work…to stand still and be astonished at all the intricate and intimate relationships around her in the natural world. My work is loving the world….my work is loving the world. Is this not too our undertaking? Here in this time and in this place with this magnificent responsibility we call Church….we can ask are our boots worn, our coat torn? But is our work not to love the world and to be astonished at all the beauty around us. It starts here and goes out there…through those doors into a world looking for meaning and a sense of place and belonging. Gathering up our joy from being in this place, in making it all that it is and then taking it with us to share with others. The world maybe isn’t beating a path to our door. But that doesn’t stop us from going to them. This is evangelism….and the definition I love the most is one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.
Just yesterday, we had two events here in our building that spoke to looking at present realities in new ways: the Israeli occupied territories of Palestine ; and climate change and how we need to create new ways of having conversation about this. Both topics called me to use a new lens, to approach them with new perspective through both theoretical and active participation. We have different points of views; we agree to disagree. Diversity is a sign of a healthy community. Because when we challenge the way things are or were, we will not become complacent. Shout out to us, Lady Wisdom. In all your humanity, your beauty, your imperfections…get our attention, with some old boots and a torn coat.
Wisdom…she’s calling us here this morning. Wisdom is not an intellectual understanding alone. Its practical and active as well as theoretical and contemplative. Wisdom orders our Everything. She is the Divine Energy at work all around us…she was there in the created order of the cosmos…before the beginning. And she is still here, standing at our crossroads of life. Is Wisdom the answer to our questions….or might she be the question to our answers…?
Amen and Amen.