2 Corinthians 4:1, 7, 13-5:1 Our inner nature renewed – day by day.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Eternal in the heavens … As a denomination, the United Church of Canada is not given to gazing heavenward – waiting for pie in the sky when we die by and by. So how is it that we spent an entire weekend looking at this strange little bit of scripture that seems to focus on that very thing?
Well – just a reminder that last year’s theme at BC Conference was `How big is our tent?’ We had a wonderful meeting hearing stories from different leaders in the church – those who felt called to encourage a personal relationship with the risen Christ, those who felt called to teach and study scriptures, those who felt God wanted them to work with those most vulnerable in society by way of soup kitchens, shelters, and yes, Thrift shops. Others felt God was calling them to work with other denominations and agencies for justice in the world, and still others felt called to a contemplative life of prayer, and discovering the sacred in all things.
So, the leaders for this Conference wanted to use the theme of the tent again, knowing that the tent known as the United Church of Canada continues to shift in some significant ways. We also leaned in to the imagery of treasure in earthen vessels, or clay jars.
If we looked at this church as our clay jar or earthen vessel, what treasure has it held for us, and how might that treasure continue even in clay pot is broken or broken down to be reshaped?
For some the treasure was deep welcome and acceptance of who they were. Carman Lansdowne, currently in ministry at First United Church in Vancouver, whose ancestry is Heiltsuk First Nations, spoke of her ancestors sitting down with Thomas Crosby to read the Bible to see if they wanted to accept this new faith. They felt it was not in conflict with their teachings, and in fact brought a new teaching – forgiveness. This was a deep treasure in the vessel of the church. Mind you, when World War One came along, and the church encouraged people to sign up, Carmen’s great grandfather said, “Why are you people so crazy – you don’t have to go to war, the answer is right her in your book. It’s called forgiveness.” Ah, sometimes we do not recognize the treasure we have.
Twice in this passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he says that despite all the trials and tribulations he’s gone through, that because of God’s mercy and presence, he does not lose heart. We all have times when we are disheartened. And… we’re still here. So a question I would invite you to reflect on, and share is; what helps you to not lose heart?
*For me – seeing a woman in the TS I’ve connected with a number of times during my ministry here – and seeing her full of joy and hope and knowing that for her, it is God that has seen her through times of heartache and disappointment.
It’s knowing that next Sunday I get to baptize Lakai – who has longed to do this for 4 years at least, and now gets this opportunity.
(Another congregant mentioned the feeling of security she had as a child in big family. When we can’t fix all the problems of the world, we can still care for those around us.)
On Saturday afternoon we got to hear from the 11 people, 7 to be ordained and 4 admitted from other denominations, about their reasons for responding to the call for ministry in the United Church at this time. As they say “Yes” to the unknown and unfolding future, what gives them the courage and conviction to do so?
Some words from the new ministers:
Kirstin Autio – in our Presbytery (PLURA Hills) “I’m not dedicating myself to a dying church, but to a loving courageous denomination. I am here because of the ambassadors in this room. Jesus not only calls us, but accompanies us. ’’
Another –My ministry is to practice radical hospitality – so when I meet someone it’s not “how can you help us (keep the church alive), but how can we help you – without expectation or judgement.”
Nam, a Korean woman had a dream in 2010 – in her dream she saw fields of gold and yellow. With the support of her congregation, she went to VST and studied for her Master of Divinity. In 2017, she did an internship at Hardisty, Alberta, which she said was a bigger culture shock that moving to Canada 20 years ago! But remember those fields of gold and yellow? As she drove to Hardisty – she saw what she had dreamed of seven years before.
Then there was Curt, born in Greensboro, North Carolina who grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church – (no, he wasn’t Southern Baptist – those where the liberal heretics!)
He discovered all too well the struggle and heartbreak that LGBTQ people of faith experience when coming to terms with their sexuality in non-affirming communities. He is incredibly grateful for the United Church of Canada that offers him a place to say “here am I send me” to the LGBTQ community to proclaim God’s love and affirmation in their lives, particularly those who have been harmed by religious communities.
So, my friends, I believe we will be well served by these new ambassadors for Christ, and I believe each of you have a role in bearing witness to God’s love – just by being who you are, living with intention to be kind, open, and welcoming. As someone at Conference said, “The kingdom of God is built at the speed of relationships.”
For more info on BC Conference –
or check the live streamed video