Every Sunday morning our Community of Faith Gathers to join together in worship. Our services are contemporary offering time for prayer and reflection and reflections that address biblical texts in today's context.
Everyone is welcome! We would love to see young people too. We will resume fellowship time immediately after our services in the future.
Our Worship Services are still suspended at this time. However we are developing plans to reopen for worship and hope to do so soon! In the interim, please do join us for Sunday worship on Zoom.
You can join our broadcast via phone, computer or tablet. We will post the appropriate link here each week. Just click on the link to join! This is a free service. Worship begins at 10 AM
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Roll the Stone Away
Based on Mark 16:1-8
I can remember some incredible times at the beach in Vancouver when I lived there as a young boy. In the summer we would often go down to Lumberman’s Arch, or Third Beach to swim and play all day. And I learned some important lessons.
One, the sun can give you a nasty burn. I don’t know how many times I went home redder than a Spartan Apple. Of course, Sun Screen was not really in vogue then.
One of the other important lessons I learned was what incredible life existed in the tide pools. Underneath the barnacle coated shoreline rocks were some amazing things. Roll a rock over and the first thing that happens is several small shore crabs scurry for cover. I used to pick the odd one up once I realized they didn’t bite. Looking closer I could usually find two or three small minnows darting around in the shallow water left under the boulder. You could also catch small centipede-like things or find the spot where a clam had just been. If you were unlucky, you could get clam spray right in the face. You just never knew. It was always an adventure and provided hours upon hours of enjoyment.
There wasn’t much enjoyment, at least initially, when the women visited the tomb where Jesus was laid. They had intended to perform a ritual blessing through the anointing of Jesus body with spices and likely fragrant oil too. To their horror, the body of their Lord has been removed, presumably stolen.
One can well imagine their reactions, both “terror and amazement” as we heard from Mark’s Gospel account. The young man in a white robe sitting inside the enclosure likely didn’t help. Folks in those days were no less surprised than any of us would be, to see such an image whether or not it was angelic. And to hear it speak? Would you not flee in terror too?
It is interesting though when you think about it, that behind that stone, as beneath a stone on a rocky beach, there was the offering of incredible promise. New life had emerged. The foretelling of the resurrection would be realized. The promise of Jesus’ return would unfold in visions. Accounts of his appearances with Mary and the disciples would be reported and remembered.
Although the resurrection was prophesized, we wonder I expect if any of Jesus’ followers at the time of his death actually believed it would come true. The last few chapters of Mark suggested there was doubt among the disciples. But amazing transformations can occur in our midst when stones are rolled away. Jesus lives today in the hearts and through the spirit of all that believe what he taught was truth. He lives in the discipleship work we are all dedicated to.
Of course, discipleship work can be challenging if not uncomfortable, and unpleasant. Stones can be stubborn.
In her Lenten Study, Lent in Plain Sight, Jill Duffield suggests that “When others see insurmountable barriers, boulders impossible to move, people of faith see the possibility of God’s glory revealed in life-giving ways.”
It can be that way in arenas throughout the world. In far away Myanmar, formerly Burma, the military coup continues to be resisted by civilian protesters who insist on a return to democracy. They face at present what seems be an immovable boulder of authoritarian rule by a corrupt military. Yesterday alone over 100 protesters perished during the struggle for their voices to be heard. We pray that a return of civil rights comes to fruition, and that hope for transformation lays behind the stone of oppression.
Many of us our praying that the monstrous stone of Black Racism might be irrefutably moved, as the trial surrounding George Floyd’s death continues. Another tragic and unnecessary death of an unarmed black man by brutal police force, seems to have become a catalyst for transformation. “Black Lives Matter.” What will be behind the stone remains to be seen, but there is opportunity for an incredible resurrection. Perhaps racial discrimination will be revealed and finally recognized as a societal reality and a way paved for real change. Transformation is possible when stones are rolled away.
Easter people like you and I believe in transformation through resurrection. It may not be in the form of a physical bodily resurrection as was observed by the disciples in the Gospel times. But the resurrection promise is alive no less today that it was then. It comes when seemingly unmovable challenges are faced head on by regular folks like us who know something better is possible and try to make it a reality.
Jesus’ return to those he was known too on Easter Sunday many years ago is something we experience today when we push against rocks barring the way to right relationship, truth and reconciliation, equality regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Christ’s resurrection is not just possible, it is probable.
Yesterday I had a phone call from my five-year-old Granddaughter Athena. She asked me if I knew who was coming tomorrow. I replied, “Santa Claus?” She said no, “The Easter Bunny. “And so, I asked her, “what is so special about that?” Well of course she replied, “because the Easter Bunny leaves chocolate eggs and stuff.” “Are you excited,” I asked her? “Yes.” It was a most definite yes.
This Easter morning Athena and millions of other children will be very excited when they hunt around their homes for treats. They will move things around looking besides, under and behind them, to see what surprise might be there. It reminds me of my time at the beach when I would look under rocks to see what exciting critters were waiting for me.
As an adult, moving stones aside is more difficult, but it sill excites me. It excites me because I am never sure what I may find. Miracles are not always there, but I am convinced they are always possible. With your help, I am convinced if we keep at it, rolling stones away gives Jesus a chance to break through again and do something new.
Quoting author Jill Duffield again, “All of us encounter seemingly immovable stones. We face loss or illness, disappointment or depression, oppression or exploitation, grief or separation. Circumstances unimaginable become all too real and we feel the pain of slamming into a boulder that refuses to budge. If we remember Jesus’ resurrection, and all he taught and lived, angels whisper, “Jesus is risen. Transformation happens. Death does not have the last word.”
On the individual level another promise awaits. Facing our own boulders can be terrifying and exhausting. The struggle can leave us raw, wear us down. There appears to be no way out of a suffocating fog surrounding us.
Eastertime however reminds us that rolling the stone away can let God’s brilliant light into the darkened tombs we find ourselves in. In that light our own rebirth can begin.
The resurrected Christ is a powerful antidote to the pain and suffering we witness and experience all too often. Stones are no match for unconditional Love which comes our way in resurrection’s promise.
Thanks for listening this morning,
Jill J. Duffield, Lent in Plain Sight, A Devotion Through Ten Objects, p. 163
 Ibid., p. 164
Files coming soon.
A Time to Wear Shoes and a Time to Leave them Behind
This past Friday I had the honour of facilitating a Celebration of Life service here in our sanctuary. While it was a small service given the limitations of Covid protocols, it was a very meaningful service as we reflected on the life of a very special individual. After listening to some wonderful sharing, I mentioned, as I frequently do, how much I would have loved to have met the deceased. She brought a lot of light into the world. It was obvious to me how blessed the family felt in so many ways. There are incredible memories that will help dispel the grief of loss and in time memories will be wonderful celebrations.
I was asked to share two Scripture readings, one of them, the well-known Ecclesiastes reading from Chapter 1. Beginning at Vs. 3., you will recall the words, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” This reading offers not so much comforting words of God’s presence in our grief, the words are more practical in their observation that life has its phases and this is a natural and unavoidable truth.
As I considered our readings for today that Mary shared, I thought about Moses taking his shoes off before God, and it seems to me we were metaphorically doing that last Friday. We took off our shoes and were steeped in the Holy. We sat and wondered. We shared, we contemplated, we grieved, we had quite time to listen to music and scripture, and we had time to pray. We were supported and nurtured by God working in and through us in our gathering. This was a time to take off our shoes and listen to the still small voice of God saying, “It is good to be here with you. “Rest a while in my care. You are safe here. You are held here. You are loved here.”
There is certainly a time to take off our shoes and pay attention the many gifts that surround us and give thanks for simply being.
In 2016 while working in Kamloops as a student minister, I had the honour of helping to organize a “Spirit Circle,” which was led by author and poet Richard Wagamese. When we gathered for the first time one evening, there were probably 50 people in a large circle. We were asked to take off our shoes to honour the circle, our elders, the tradition of sharing and to honour the Creator.
To begin, Richard lit a smudge consisting mostly of cedar, sweetgrass and sage. (pic) He then came around the circle and offered us all a smudge as we stood in silence. We were bathed in sweet smoke aroma, breathing in the essence and letting it waft over our bodies. It was an incredible honour to experience this indigenous tradition. I am sure it was different for everyone but I believe we all felt moved by something we had not experienced before. The Creator’s spirit permeated each one moving us profoundly as we stood bare foot or in stocking feet.
There is a time to leave our shoes behind, be quiet and listen. Listen for what cannot be easily described in words, the spirit of the living God, that fills every space, nurtures every soul and rests in every heart.
Some of you might know that my first student ministry placement was in Enderby. As is customary in the United Church, when a community of faith has a new minister, a “Covenanting Service” is conducted. This is a time when the congregation and the minister exchange vows in a formal way to recognize and celebrate their partnership. You might remember that we did one here too.
As part of the service, there is a reflection time. The new-comer is asked to organize a guest preacher. I asked my former minister Carolyn Ronald if she would do me the honour of preaching and she agreed.
Carolyn was called up to the lectern and the first thing she did was place a pair of tattered and worn shoes in front of us all. (pic)
I expect you can imagine what she spoke about during her homily. I can’t remember exact details but she spoke to the congregation and to me specifically, indicating that in ministry we have incredibly awesome experiences. But she also said, looking at me, that ministry is not for the weak at heart. “You have to get yours shoes dirty,” Carolyn said. “Some times you will be very frustrated and sometimes you might be disillusioned. Sometimes you will be exhausted.” She was telling me that being a servant is not the easiest thing in the world. And I am sure she said something like, “be prepared to make trips to the shoe renew store because you will need new soles for you shoes.”
Carolyn’s advice was that being a servant in ministry for God and travelling the journey with Jesus is tough stuff. You need a good pair of shoes for that. So as Jesus told his disciples, one can leave a lot of “stuff” behind, but it is essential to have your sandals on.
The other thing Carolyn said, and I remember that well, is that doing ministry work was part of her being, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. That is something very affirming.
I have found Carolyn’s expressions of ministry and her remarks to be very true. It can be a test whereupon the soles of your shoes can be worn out (and perhaps a little more than the soles of one’s shoes)! It can be challenging and frustrating too. (pic) “What the heck, what happened to everyone during the zoom broadcast?” “Ooops, I forgot to unmute, sorry about that everyone, would you like me to say that prayer again?” “Oh dear, the budget is going to be a bit short and the board is a bit tense about that. How will we handle that?” “Oh dear, Mrs. Black is upset with me because I missed her phone call and didn’t get back to her.” Oh dear, oh dear, my feet are sore, my shoes are falling apart.
But like Carolyn, I wouldn’t have it any other way. That is because I often take off my shoes and listen to the voice of the Holy. It is encouraging, renewing and life giving.
That voice says, “look at these incredible people, they are kind and generous, they care about one another. And they care about their community. You can tell that by their actions, you can read that through the eyes of their volunteers.” In that I am growing, learning and being nurtured too.
In those times with my shoes off, I feel the Holy Presence affirming my call to ministry. It also reminds me to slow down, rest for a while and breathe. I am reminded not only to appreciate what is in front of my eyes or what I hear, but to appreciate that I am a Child of God, held and loved.
That is so important. It is what we experienced last Friday during our celebration of life service. We were reminded that while there is a time to lace up our sandals and answer Jesus’ call to action, there is also a time to take off our shoes and walk on the damp green grass with God. (pic)
When we sit, contemplate and listen we are nurtured, sustained and encouraged. Like Moses on Mt. Sinai, we have an opportunity to know that God is near.
Thank you all for putting on your shoes and walking in faithful witness in this community of believes that we call Peachland United. Thank you for the hours you spend phoning friends, sorting clothes and goods, standing out in the cold to oversee shoppers, taking turns at the cash counter, attending meetings, sweating over bank accounts, completing reports, organizing events, helping with worship and countless other duties.
Thank you, but remember to take off your shoes once in a while. Sit and visit with God. Appreciate who and what you are. Know that you are gifted and cherished. Breathe in deeply the essence of creation, the source of life, the spirit of God.
Thanks for listening this morning,
Files coming soon.
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