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, 23 July 2012

Show me your temple

"Show me to your temple"
July 22, 2012
by Robin Wardlaw

Pentecost 7, Year B
Readings: (2 Samuel 7:1–14a; Psalm 89:20–37); Ephesians 2:11–22; Mark 6:30–34, 53–56

There was a Truth and Reconciliation event in the city at the end of May. A United Church sharing circle teamed up with Council Fire to put it on. The goal was to encourage young people to speak for a change, about how residential schools have affected their lives. What it’s like when your parents, say, and perhaps your grandparents are survivors of this alienating experience. It was held at the Sheraton. As you may know the hotel contains a courtyard with a stream in it, a waterfall, gardens, and some trees. All behaving themselves in their concrete walls, and surrounded by glass and more concrete.
That’s where the sacred fire was lit for the event. A sacred fire has to burn all the time, twenty-four hours a day. And that’s what happened. With a permit for an outdoor fire from the city. With the fire securely contained in one of those metal patio fireplace things, brand new, right out of the box. With a security guard armed with a fire extinguisher sitting just inside the glass door where it was dry in case anything sacred escaped to threaten all that concrete. Nothing was lit from the fire. No torch was carried away from it. Nothing was cooked over it. It just burned steadily, reminding participants, some of them very deeply hurt by their thwarted childhoods, of light and heat, of cooking, stories and healing. Reminding everyone that the sacred glows and burns and cannot be contained, that the idea of a temple for the holy is a bit presumptuous.
Then the other day I was with a few friends at one temple when another one came up in conversation. We were on the golf course, a temple to many, and someone mentioned Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, the intense sense of awe that those giant trees had inspired in him. Take a moment to go to your temple, your sacred place.
Are there people there? Is it fire, a structure, a landscape, a piece of music? We need places to go, and time to go to them, thatallow us to sink deep into peace, into what is real, and primary for our lives, our souls. Just to be in or at or on our temple is to worship. The soul expands, gratitude swells within us, we connect with what it is that both thrills and calms us. Traditionally we have called this God. Some people are seeking other names for it, names that aren’t so loaded, with such strong associations.
Many of us have had moments of holiness, times of wonder or gladness in their lives. The memories of such times are strong. The tendency is to want to go back there, to recapture the experience.

Our scriptures today are all about temples. In the reading from 2 Samuel, one we didn’t hear, David learns that he is not the one to build a temple. The psalmist rehearses and celebrates God’s covenant with David, and how is it unbreakable. Paul deals with the delicate matter of a big division in the early church, between followers of Jesus who were Jewish, the circumcised, and those who were not, the uncircumcised, as they were known apparently. And the gospel writer is making clear that wherever Jesus is, on land or on the water, that is a holy site, a temple, a place where learning and feeding and healing take place.
What happens at your temple, the one you went to a moment ago? Healing? Feeding? Learning? Rejuvenation? Do you go there alone, or with others? Can you begin to put into words what happens for you at your temple? Is it a refuge, a place you need to keep private, or a meeting place, where you want to invite the whole world?
So much of our spiritual lives are private. Even if we want to share, it is just difficult to let others know the colours, the sounds, the feelings we have in the presence of the sacred. Even when we share a religious experience, such as the Justin Bieber concert coming up in the fall, we might find it easy to scream, but can be tough to talk about.
Paul is reaching for an image that changes our private spirituality into a shared experience, and he comes up with the image of the temple. You Gentiles, you used to be hopeless, because you were outside the covenant. That’s all changed. Now you have hope. That dividing wall is gone, the old animosity swept away. “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. The whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in Christ; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling‑place for God.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
This is powerful stuff. Without the foundation of those who came before and a cornerstone, the temple of right relations can’t be built. If some of the pieces are removed, the whole structure is in jeopardy. It takes all the believers in Ephesus to be a dwelling-place for God. A dwelling place for God. Did Paul’s letter work? Did the people there get over their divisions? Did a new person joining in find God dwelling in that congregation?
How are you with the image of a temple built out of stones? Perhaps we need an image that is not so rooted to one spot, a little more lithe and agile. More organic, maybe. A synchronized swim team. An orchestra. A rainbow.
When I have a worship experience in the midst of thousand year old redwoods, that’s one thing. It’s just me and the trees. When I come to a place like this, it’s different. A different blessing is extended: the other people who are here. That is the call, to experience the people around me as a blessing, as part of that orchestra. If Paul is right, it takes each of us bringing our openness, expecting to connect, to harmonize with the others, to allow a new person to find the holy dwelling here.
This is not a weighty burden, though. And you are not just another brick in some temple wall. This invitation is light as a feather,it’s a sacred gift, a gift that means feeding, growing, healing to us, and that a new person might find those things here, too.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Dancing in the street

“Dancing in the street”
July 15, 2012
by Robin Wardlaw

Pentecost 7, Year B  
Readings: 2 Samuel 6:1–5, 12b–19; Psalm 24; (Ephesians 1:3–14); Mark 6:14–29

When you hear the word ‘power,’ what goes through your mind? What words go with ‘power’? Power outage. Power mad. Power to the people. Power suit. Power lunch. A power of good. In other words, a mixed bag of associations in English. Some positive associations, some negative. The power of a car battery can start the motor to get you to the hospital in time to deliver that baby. The same power in the same battery can turn an ordinary room into a torture chamber.
One way of looking at today’s readings is to see the bible comparing and contrasting different approaches, different understandings of power. Two kings, David and Herod. Two dances in the presence of power, David leaping around naked on the steep hill up to Jerusalem to celebrate the arrival of the ark, Herodias helping her mother satisfy a grudge against a stubborn critic by dancing seductively before her step father.
It’s hard for me to get in touch with the kind of power Herod wielded. Canadians have worked hard to disperse power, and subject it to the rule of law. Perhaps if I lived in some place like Russia, worked as a journalist, and criticized the current regime there, I would know the gut-clenching fear that kept me from sleeping at night, kept me looking over my shoulder on the street. Or as a woman in many parts of the world, where peril lurks for me every day.
Herod gave his word and he had no way to tell his step daughter and her mother, No, I cannot cut someone’s head off just because you tricked me into it. He believed he was the law. He could have quoted the sixth commandment to get out of his predicament, deferred to a higher power, but no.
The women in the scene can’t get what they want directly. Mother is hurt by John Baptist’s accusations, although it Herod who should be ashamed, the gospel suggests. Mother uses daughter to manipulate husband, who has the power. John pays the price. Another reason for Jesus to equip his followers to spread the gospel.
A thousand years before that sickening scene, David is dancing out of shear joy. Things are all coming together for him. He has been the golden boy, slaying the mighty enemy of his people, then a hunted terrorist, dodging King Saul’s attempts to take him out, then the new king, trying to unite all the Hebrew people. This day, he is bringing the source of power, the ark of the covenant, to install it in the new capital, the fortress he and his men have taken from the Jebusites, Jerusalem.
One of the men minding the ark as it trundled along on the ox cart touched it to keep it from slipping off and he died. The bible writers are impressed by the ark the way the Nazis are in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the old Indiana Jones movie–as a source of fantastic, dangerous power as an object.
The ark’s real power is as a symbol is even greater, and more dangerous. It is a symbol of a people’s escape from dreadful slavery. The ark at one time held souvenirs of the trek through the wilderness, and most importantly, the tablets with the law. Slavery is not good, and neither is the absolute power of a pharaoh, the bible is saying. This covenant between humans and the holy around freedom and power continues to be dangerous to that who want to concentrate power in their own hands. It continues to inspire revolu-tionary love all over the world. The great saying about dancing and revolution was supposedly said by the famous American anarchist, Emma Goldman. “If I can’t dance, I won’t join your revolution.”
What is the middle ground between zero power and too much power? Psalm 24 again.
The earth is God’s and all that is in it,
   the world, and those who live in it;
for God has founded it on the seas,
   and established it on the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of God?
   And who shall stand in the holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
   who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
   and do not swear deceitfully.
In other words, it’s not my planet, not yours. It doesn’t belong to oil companies or logging companies or fishing companies. A little respect, please. No, make that a lot of respect for earth, seas, rivers, the hills. They are all holy places. Who qualifies to be in them? Whose hands are clean, whose heart is pure enough?
Wangari Maathai died last fall. While she lived, she worked for the re-greening of her own country, Kenya, and of the whole earth. She said,"We are called to assist the earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own -- indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty, and wonder." “To heal her wounds and in the process heal our own.” A very different understanding of what power is, and how to use it.
One of the things we can learn from Africans is how to dance together as part of the healing process. Planting trees is good. Singing and dancing seal the deal. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if when we got together like this, to remember and celebrate the covenant, to explore creative ways to use all the power we have been given, we could talk and listen and sing...and dance? Maybe we can work on that.
Until we figure that out, dance in your own way. Do like King David, and Martha and the Vandellas, and dance in the street. Dance to celebrate the covenant, this wonderful revelation about how people can use power without smashing the planet or each other. Dance like sunlight on water, like leaves on windy trees. Dance like loons on a northern lake in the fall, when the busy season of raising young is done and its time to gather in circles and sing for joy.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Homily: Rev. Robin Wardlaw

“What to say”
July 8, 2012
by Robin Wardlaw

Pentecost 6, Year B 
Readings: (2 Samuel 5:1–5, 9–10); Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:3–10; Mark 6:6b–13

What to say? The first thing I can say is Thank you. Thank you for your confidence that I have some part to play in your exciting ministry here in the heart of East York, in this wonderful and wounded world. What to say to Rev. Jong Bok Kim for the strong and gentle leadership he has given? You’ve already said Thank you, and Goodbye. You may find yourself discovering more reasons to say thank you to God for him months or years from now. Why? Because the spiritual growing you’ve been doing with him may continue to reveal possibilities for this community of faith over time. What to say to the new minister? Relax on that one. You’ve already said it with your warm welcome last Sunday. But if there are other things you need to say, please tell me. I want to know what’s in your heart.
What to say to our neighbours here, or those who walk in the door of a church, possibly hurting, possibly seeking? What to say as a community of faith to very poor people? To very rich  people? What to say to those taking a pounding from increasingly wild weather, or from their own governments? To the Bashar al-Assads of this world, people who seem capable of great cruelty? Wouldn’t we love to know what to say.
The story we heard about Jesus sending out the disciples in pairs on a short internship to work on their skills as bearers of the good news comes right after the curious incident in Nazareth where people reject his message and toss him out of town because he seemed uppity to them. Jesus doesn’t seem to know what to say to his former neighbours. If you were there when he was getting a rough reception from the hometown crowd, what might you say to people? Would you sing them Joni Mitchell’s refrain, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone?” What do we say to people whose minds are all made up, who can’t change even with the evidence of their eyes?
Maybe this scare at Nazareth helps Jesus make up his mind: this movement for the reign of peace and justice can’t depend on me, on just one person. I need to equip the others to carry on. You notice the gospel skims over what preparation the disciples had as they went out on their internships. Jesus gives them authority over demonic forces, according to Mark. Then what? Did they have to present to one another as practice? Did they go away by themselves to work it out?

If Jesus were sending us out into the world to tell good news the way he sent those first disciples, what would we say? When you think about it, that is exactly the challenge we all have. We do things because of our faith, many things. We hope others will notice our acts of service, the times we forgive or forebear, the way we work and pray to build a circle of love and acceptance here. But we can speak, too, as scary as that might be. “Use your words,” we used to say to our children when they were young and giving evidence of their strong feelings non-verbally.
It’s just as well the bible doesn’t say exactly what instructions Jesus gave the disciples away back when, if any. We get to figure out for ourselves what to say about the faith and hope that are within us, what kind of practice we need to find our voice. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, that might the last thing we want. Paul, talking to the tiny congregation in Corinth about his painful chronic disability, says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” He has prayed and prayed to be freed from his ailment, and in response he hears this powerful assurance instead, the one we all wait to hear: “My grace is all you need.”
Doing the gospel is so important, and beautiful. Let’s keep doing it here. And these days we need to be able to use our words, too, to account for what it is that brings us here, keeps us doing the gospel here, sends us out into the world with holy love burning inside us. Or if the flame of love is burning a little low these days for us, how this community helps us tend the flame within, and nurse us back to strength. What to say, and how to say it. Because others in this neighbourhood, this community need and want what you have–what you have worked for, and been given–here. Our calling is to go out to confront that which is oppressing people, to tell good news about the peace bringer, the hope giver, the liberator we call the Living Word.
Let me end with some words, a very few words, from Shirdi Sai Baba about speaking. Sai Baba was a holy man in the town of Shirdi, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. He was famous during his life, and remains a very popular saint for Hindus, Muslims and other faiths. He had no love for perishable things and his sole concern was selfrealization. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God and guru. Sai Baba's teaching combined elements of Hinduism and Islam.
Sai Baba is really an affectionate nickname. We don’t know his real name, his birthplace and his birthdate. He was probably born in the 1830s, and he died in 1918. Sai can mean “holy” or “poor,” so Sai Baba can mean "holy father", "saintly father" or even "poor old man".
As we continually decide what to say, together or separately, we could do well to follow his four short criteria. You may know them already: “Before speaking, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? It is true? Does it improve upon the silence?”             

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hello and Farewell...

Welcome to the Rev. Robin Wardlaw who joined us July 1st as our new minister.

Farewell and thank you to Rev. Jong Bok Kim who was our Intentional Interim Minister leading us through our transition journey over the past two years.

Rev. Malcolm Spenser, our Voluntary Associate Minister conducted the service on Sunday July 1st.  Here is his homile...

July 1 2012 5th Sunday After Pentecost

The times of a holiday always reminds me of my mother’s generosity. In the small prairie town where we lived, she enacted what her mother taught her in the centre of London. It started even before the Second World War that they began to take in people they met to their home even though they had little and apparently my grandmother ran programs for kids in the neighbourhood. So when we came to Canada we found out that was a rural practice by some. When we left the farm to live in a small village my mother took up her practices of hospitality right away. Kids in a small village know everyone and so when she invited men who were known as the town drunks and non-relatives that had nowhere to go on a holiday we kids had to accept that attitude. Generosity is often learned at home.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, spoke of the generosity of Jesus who became poor that we might become rich; He reminded the new believers in the city of Corinth that all the eagerness and excitement they had for their new faith had to result in something.

In our nation Canada this debate goes on. We are a rich nation they why are there food banks, high tuition fees, lack of action on the environment and why so much measly aid for the poor here or abroad? Most of us know the reason for this and that is that we love our country but don’t ask us to give too much.

Paul addressed this question and said he did not stress deprivation “relief for others and pressure on you” There is a fair balance that can be set. Do we set a fair balance? Does the Country? This is the real question for Christian love, is it real, does it strike the fair balance. Perhaps many of us need to start in ourselves and see how much balance there is between care of self and care of others. Often in congregations there is little room for self-care as we work often for others. So balance is important in our Christian life.

I would hesitate to ask the country to dwell on self-care because the balance is often way off in another direction.

I was first aware of the role of healing in faith as I looked at the history of medicine. There was no other medicine and healing arts in the ancient world that those tied in with religion. Whether it was the priestesses who were in the Greek temples who welcomed and prayed and sang with the sick or the women in earlier time who sought in nature the wonders of berries and leaves that could cure and relieve pain. Or the men who were shamans or priests who practiced healing as part of the religious life. What was left for the church in the modern world was to either set up hospitals or hire others to run them or tend the sick through visits and support.

As a chaplain I soon became aware that there is a healing in listening and caring and taking another seriously. I remember one visit I made on an elderly woman who asked me to see here in the nursing home when she went home. Since it was close to the hospital I agreed. She was quite ill and concerned she had lost contact with the united church. She was sure God was not looking out for her. I asked her to take my hand if she wished and she took my hand and said There we are you are reconnected. After that we had a prayer and I stayed awhile longer and later he brother thanked me. This was a simple act which any of us could do to reassure others. We can heal others. We can often practice our own healing ministries with those we know or come to know. We know healing is not necessarily the same as cure but it is very important part of the health of any of us.

Jesus was often besieged by persons wishing healing, our story in Mark showed one mother who called him to come to her daughter who was at the point of death and when he was on his way another woman saw him and courageous made up mind to touch his cloak and found her hemorrhage stopped. He felt power leave him and asked who it was. The woman told him the story and he said, “ Daughter, your faith has made you well –go in peace” For Jesus he was only the opportunity the decision is ours to take to seek a wholeness in our lives.

When he finally got to the house they had started the mourning for the dead but he went up to the 12 years of girl and asked her to get up and she did and walked about.

The simplicity of our saviour and his warm human touch is for us today even now for our country.

Today let me offer all of you a happy and joyous Canada day and festive and celebrative Pride Day.

Loving and God we pray for the ways of a love that makes us more fully human and caring. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Saviour Amen