Many of us desire to spend more time in spiritual practice than we do, but often find it challenging to make space for it in our lives. In Lent, we are especially encouraged to make sacrifices or ‘fasts’ to help draw us into the deeper meaning of the story of Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
In the spirit of our previous Lenten and Advent online devotional projects, Lutherans Connect invites you to make space for reflection every day. To assist you we will offer (in a daily blog that will be linked to Facebook and Twitter) a daily meditation, bringing together scripture readings, poetry, music and reflections, from a range of ecumenical traditions.
Our theme for this Lenten project comes from Psalm 90, which ends with a petition that God’s work may be manifest in us. “Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands — O prosper the work of our hands.” How do we prosper the work of God’s hands with our own, in a world that seems more broken than ever? How has God equipped each of us to serve God’s world with our gifts and talents?
One part of our exploration will look at the occupations of Scripture. From the carpenters and stonecutters of the temple to the makers of bread and wine, how does the ‘work’ of people in the bible live in God’s world?
As well, we live in a time when we have become aware of the power of physical touch to both harm and heal. Another part of our exploration will look at the ways in which Jesus engaged others in his ministry. From the hemorrhaging woman to the blind man of Bethsaida how does Jesus act in respectful relationship to the bodies of others?
A final part of our exploration will see how the people of Scripture uphold and assist each other. What happens when we choose to live as the body of Christ, in love and service with our neighbours and the world?
Let’s find out together. Join us February 14th for forty-seven days of exploring God’s call to live faith in the world. (This year we will be going through Holy Week to Easter Sunday.) And may God’s nourishing love bless you this day and always.
~ from the Lutherans Connect facebook page
The devotions can be accessed from the Lutherans Connect facebook page or their blog.
Annual Congregational and Parish Meetings Coming Soon!
For our Parish, there is an additional season that happens within the time of the liturgical season of Epiphany and, this year because Easter is early, Lent. The two congregations and the Parish all hold annual meetings.
Alleluia!! The 2017 Annual Reports of the North Thompson Ecumenical Shared Ministry are now available. They form the core of how we celebrate and reflect on the life and work of our two congregations and the Parish. Thanks go to all those who wrote reports and prepared the financial statements and to Leslie Stirling who put the report package together and then printed and collated it. Be sure to pick up a copy and bring it with you to your congregation and the parish meetings.
There will be three gatherings (note that food is always involved!):
The Trinity Shared Ministry congregation will meet on Sunday, January 28th following worship at Sandra’s. A potluck lunch will follow the meeting.
The Church of St Paul congregation will meet on Sunday, February 4th after the service. The meeting will be at the Church of St Paul following a potluck lunch.
The third gathering will be the third Annual Meeting of the entire North Thompson Ecumenical Shared Ministry or the Parish as we now call it. In the past, only the North Thompson Pastoral Charge Board met to discuss the annual reports and to make plans for the coming year. The NTESM Agreement that was signed September 24, 2015 and is now our primary governance document calls for an Annual Congregational Meeting of the entire NTESM. This year’s meeting will be held at the Church of St Paul on Sunday, February 18th following a potluck lunch after the Church of St Paul’s service. Hopefully, there will be a good turnout from both congregations!
“Your right hand, O Lord,
glorious in power” (Exodus 15: 6)
January 18th – 25th
The theme for the 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to us from the Caribbean region: “Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power” (Exodus 15:6).
The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation. In their aggressive pursuit of mercantile gains, the colonisers codified brutal systems which traded human beings and their forced labour.
Today, Caribbean Christians of many different traditions see the hand of God active in the ending of enslavement. It is a uniting experience of God’s saving action which brings freedom. The Caribbean ecumenical team chose the song of Moses and Miriam (Ex 15:1-21) — a song of triumph over oppression — as the motif of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
~ by Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate on December 20, 2017
At many Christmas Services, there is one carol that is sung by candlelight and most often it is “Silent Night! Holy Night!” But this year I invite you to consider “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
In the opening verse of this much loved carol, Phillips Brooks takes us to that “little town” of whom the Prophet had written,
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
And he shall stand and feed his flock
in the strength of the Lord,…
And they shall live secure,
For now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.”
(Micah 5: 2, 4-5)
Brooks speaks of the town’s stillness and its undisturbed sleep above which “the silent stars go by”. Then he speaks of the beauteous light that shines in its streets, as the birth of the Messiah becomes known. As we hold our candle, and focus on this lovely text, we might think of how far a cry the Bethlehem of today is from the stillness and peace of which the carol speaks. Stark images of the massive Separation Wall come to mind, as do images of the heavily guarded check point through which people must pass in and out of the city. In many respects, Brooks’ words “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” are a fitting commentary on the circumstances in which people live there. They live with hope for the peace God intends, however elusive it may be, however challenging to negotiate and secure. They live with fear that developments such as the world has witnessed in recent weeks will escalate political tensions in their city, in Jerusalem, Gaza, and throughout the Middle East. So as we hold our candle and sing, we think of all those for whom this “little town” is home, all those who know its history and cling to its destiny in the sight of God.
In the next verse, we are taken right into the manger where “Christ is born of Mary”. As we hold our candle we remember the song of the angels and the adoration of the Shepherds. We remember the ancient Church of The Nativity to which thousands and thousands of pilgrims have flocked for centuries. We think of all those who will gather in Manger Square this year awaiting greetings and messages from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, attesting to the loving purposes of God in Christ. So as we hold our candle, we pray for all for whom this “little town” is a point of departure or destination in pilgrimage, and for their safety and spiritual enrichment.
In the next verse, we are carried into the realms of heaven itself and then swiftly back down to earth again. As we hold our candle, we are reminded of the mystery of the Incarnation.
“How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given
as love imparts to human hearts
the blessings of God’s heaven!”
The words of the Prologue to John’s Gospel come to mind. “And the Word was made flesh, and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) His coming as someone once said is “disguised”. It is quiet and kindly. It befriends and redeems the world. It reconciles us with God and with one another. It sanctifies and makes holy our lives and our work. As we hold our candle, we are blessed in hearing yet again this wonderful truth.
“Where meek souls will receive him,
still, the dear Christ enters in.”
That we be ready we pray (with our brothers and sisters in Ghana), “Oil the hinges on the doors of our hearts that they may swing gently and easily to welcome him.”
And what a lovely segue that is to the final verse of this carol. It is a prayer to the Holy Child that he might indeed “be born in us” and “abide with us” all our days. It is the prayer of all those who in every generation come to know and love Him. It was the prayer of all those now numbered among “all ye citizens of heaven above”. It was the prayer of our loved ones who are now in His nearer presence. As we hold our candle and remember them, we pray for ourselves that we may embrace his Gospel of love for the world and endeavour to fashion our manner of living in accord with its truths and promises.
Well dear friends, I have made my case for choosing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” as the carol to be sung by candlelight this year. If you take up my invitation, I hope your experience like mine, helps you to focus more closely on the text and the story it tells, and the reflections and prayers it summons out of you.
With blessings for a Holy and Peaceful Christmas,
Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate
Angels in Adoration (detail) by Benozzo Gozzoli (Source: Wikimedia Commons http://bit.ly/2AfxaGE)
The following is how Lutherans Connect has described this year’s on-line Advent daily devotions:
Many of us wish we could spend more time in spiritual practice than we do, but often find it challenging to make space for it in the day-to-day challenges of our lives. During the weeks leading up to Christmas it can be especially difficult to imagine a peacefulness in which we can experience God’s presence.
In the spirit of our ongoing seasonal devotional projects, Lutherans Connect invites you to make space for reflection and prayer this Advent by joining us in daily online devotions. As we have done in the past, these daily meditations will bring together scripture readings, poetry, songs and reflections, from a wide range of ecumenical traditions.
Our theme this Advent is ‘watchers and holy ones’. Inspired by the encounter of Mary and Gabriel in Luke 1, we will follow the path of the divine beings who profoundly impact and alter the lives of key figures in Scripture. Known more popularly as ‘angels’, these heavenly messengers bring news, instruction or just accompaniment as an expression of being ‘watchful’, ’awake’ and very present to the dilemmas of the biblical figures they encounter. Is there a path from the wilderness experience of Hagar to that of the adult Jesus? How do divine beings help to shape the biblical story?
In addition, we will also explore the ‘watches of the night’ in Scripture. These watches, or units of time from dusk to dawn, derive from the military exercise of keeping guard in times of battle. In Mark 13 Jesus also uses them as a metaphor for how we can learn to wait for His coming again. In the story of the nativity, the image is transformed to foreshadow Jesus the Shepherd, as shepherds themselves keep watch by night. What does it mean to each of us to be awake and prepared for new life?
Join us daily from December 3rd to December 24th as we reflect together and anticipate a dawn of hope. And may you experience the peace of the coming Saviour this Advent and always!
The devotionals can be found on the Lutherans Connect blog post or their facebook page. You can also ask to have the devotionals e-mailed to you by writing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jordan Cantwell Reminds Us That God Is Always With Us
Using a discovery found during the renovations at the United Church office, Moderator Jordan Cantwell offers insight for the Advent Season. In her Advent Message, she explains how “sometimes we need to break away from the old to tear down the walls so that we can allow God’s light to shine through.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, General Secretary of The Lutheran World Foundation (LWF), was today awarded the Augsburg Peace Prize for 2017 in Augsburg, Germany. Speaking at the ceremony in the ceremonial room of the Town Hall, General Secretary Junge underlined the peaceful character of religions and opposed any instrumentalization of faith.
In his tribute, César Carcía, General Secretary of the Mennonite World Conference, praised Junge as someone who “does not keep his distance but actively calls for reconciliation.” He deserved this acknowledgement, Garcia stated, in view of his untiring work for reconciliation among the denominations and on behalf of justice and peace. Dr. Kurt Gribl, lord mayor of Augsburg, presented Martin Junge with the award, a sculpture entitled “Paxible”.
In his response, Junge said: “Religious communities, including Christian ones, must remain alert and recognize when their potential for conflict is being mobilized instead of their fundamental peace-building orientation. I regard it as one of the prime tasks for us religious leaders to take responsibility for ensuring that the negative potential of religions can neither develop nor be instrumentalized politically.”
Signs of peace in a polarized world
The LWF General Secretary pointed out that, with the 1555 treaty known as the Peace of Augsburg, the City of Augsburg stands for the efforts to make peace between Catholics and Lutherans. At the same time, he added, the date reminds us of the wars of religion and Christianity’s potential for violence. The joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration on 31 October 2016 in Lund had sent a clear signal “that dialogue pays off, that conflict can be overcome.” Churches should also oppose current social developments with this message, he underlined. “A mindset of withdrawal can be observed that endangers communities, including communities of states, and even threatens them with division”.
“Worship and world service belong together”
The Chilean theologian issued an appeal not to regard the church as an end in itself: “Worship and service to the world belong together,” Junge stated. The Lutheran World Federation is also one of the biggest Protestant organizations for emergency relief and development assistance. With respect to the worldwide refugee movements, he recalled that caring for the suffering neighbor is an inalienable part of Christian identity. “Those who claim that Europe must close its borders to preserve its Christian identity do not understand the meaning of Christian faith at all.”
Mennonite gives laudatory address
César García remarked on extraordinary fact that he, a Mennonite, could now make this speech of tribute: “Centuries ago it would have been inconceivable for an Anabaptist-Mennonite leader to speak in honor of a Lutheran leader in this city. The years of religious violence, of martyrdom and persecution are over – through the miracle of reconciliation in which Martin Junge played a major role.” He was referring to an event at the Eleventh LWF Assembly in 2010 in Stuttgart, Germany. In a historic plea for reconciliation, the LWF asked the Mennonites for forgiveness in view of the persecutions their forbears had suffered for their beliefs. Soon afterwards, the LWF, the Mennonites and the Catholic Church began a still ongoing trilateral dialogue on the understanding of baptism.
Augsburg Peace Festival
The Augsburg Peace Festival has been celebrated every year since 1650 on 8 August. And every three years since 1985 the Augsburg Peace Prize “for special achievements promoting areas of interconfessional agreement” has been jointly awarded by the City of Augsburg and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. The jury is chaired by Regional Bishop Michael Grabow. Former prize-winners include Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria and Richard von Weizsäcker. The prize is endowed with €12,500. Before the award ceremony, the LWF General Secretary participated in an ecumenical service in Augsburg’s St. Anne’s Church. There he joined the head of the Ecumenical Department of the Bavarian Church, OKR Michael Martin, in a dialogue sermon.
The Voices United Community Choir started warming up their voices October 4th as they begin the preparation for this year’s Cantata performances. A new cantata has been chosen: Pepper Choplin’s Go Sing It on the Mountain.
Practices occur on Wednesdays starting at 4:30 pm and run for an hour. They are held at St. James’ Catholic Church. All who enjoy singing in harmony are welcome to be members. There is a $10 membership fee that is used to help purchase the music. Part dominant CDs are available to help individuals learn the songs. As well, there are section practices.
This Choir is sponsored by Trinity Shared Ministry. It is ably directed by Louise Weaver. The Cantata will be performed in mid-December.