The Chickens Build a Wall
Join us for a special adaptation of The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean Francois Dumont. The Sunday School kids will be performing the adapted play on February 26th, 2017 during the service starting at 10:30am.
Leaside United Church has magnificent stained glass windows. On Saturday, February 18, the Spirit Alive group undertook a tour of the windows, reflecting on the artistry of each window and its significance in the history of Leaside United Church. Most of the windows date from the 1950s and 1960s and were developed according to a plan prepared under the ministry of Rev. Charles Murray, Leaside’s Minister from 1949 to 1964. These sixteen windows depict the life of Jesus in a clockwise arrangement around the sanctuary. Many of these windows are dedicated to parishioners who were active in the congregation at that time. More recent windows are dedicated to former Leaside United Church ministers, Orville Hossie and Norman Mackenzie and their wives Greta Hossie and Dorothy Mackenzie. The most recent window is dedicated to the memory of Patricia Fitzpatrick by her family.
Of particular note is the spectacular Memorial window overlooking the chancel. This window lists the names of nine very young men from Leaside United Church families who perished in World War II. This window was dedicated at Leaside on November 6, 1955 – the Remembrance Day service that took place ten years after the end of the Second World War. Also of note is the large window at the back of the church acquired from Eglinton United Church when that church building was closed following its merger with St. George’s United. The window depicts Christ as “The Light of the World” and replicates a famous 1854 painting by the British pre-Raphaelite artist Holman Hunt.
The tour by the Sprit Alive group gave us a greater appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us at Leaside United Church. For those who are interested, there is a very informative book in the church pews about the windows titled “Windows of Leaside”.
Spirit Alive meets to explore matters of spirituality, meditate, and reflect together. Save the second Saturday morning of the month to meet at 10:00 to noon. Spirit Alive begins with coffee, snacks and fellowship followed by a period of led meditation, music, quiet time and reflection to deepen the sense of the spiritual at the center of one’s life. For more information contact Bea Lawford.
On Sunday the official sermon title was “Finding Home in Forgiveness and New Relationship” but the key word was forgiveness. You might want to listen to my sermon to hear some discussion of the “old story” idea of sin, and whether the concept is still relevant when we no longer believe the old story.
Rev. Emily Gordon Sermon Sunday February 19, 2017
You might also want to listen to my sermon to hear a few thoughts about what forgiveness is not (staying in harmful situations, for instance) and what it is (a gradual process, about remembering what is most important, finding opportunities to grow, etc.) I also mentioned a website called The Forgiveness Project, which has many real stories related to forgiveness.
After the service, I had several different conversations with members of both Leaside and Presteign-Woodbine – and I’ve had a couple emails as well. One of the emails pointed to an article that just came out in the Toronto Star related to forgiveness.
A few thoughtful and important questions that emerged in our conversations after the service are:
How do you forgive someone who has betrayed you? What if they are not sorry for what they did or are no longer in touch?
How do you forgive someone who is no longer alive? What about forgiving someone for dying?
Sometimes we want forgiveness to be a matter of the head. We know that holding onto anger is hurting us. We know usually people do not control when they die. We understand someone has to move for work or that relationships cannot always last forever. And yet, even when we can understand something at an intellectual level, we can still feel hurt, angry, betrayed… Forgiveness requires the movement of both the head and the heart. It requires finding a way of letting go of the space of hurt or anger in our thoughts as well as in our hearts, in our stomach, and all the other places our emotions reveal themselves. This is one of the reasons that forgiveness almost never happens instantaneously. It takes time, reflection, and emotional work. Since each situation is different, the time and work needed will be different as well. Often an important part of the work of forgiveness, is sharing your story. You might want to find a time to drop by and talk to me about a situation where you are struggling to forgive someone, or forgive yourself. Just let me know.
YOU ARE WELCOME
to join us at the
2016 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
of Leaside United Church
When: Sunday March 5th, 2017
Time: 11:45 am following the Sunday Worship Service
Where: LUC Sanctuary
Please bring your own sandwich or lunch. Coffee, tea and juice will be provided.
We look forward to your participation and attendance.
Last Sunday, we had a guest speaker during our service – Diana Farrar, author of The Door of the Heart. For those of you unable to make it to the church because of the snow, don’t worry, you may not have been able to attend the wonderful discussion with Diana and her wife Charlotte after the service, but we did record her sermon, and will be posting it on the website soon. Our thanks to both Diana and Charlotte for sharing their story with us. We have a couple of copies of Diana’s book that people can borrow, so let us know if you’d like your name added to the list.
One of the themes that Diana spoke about during the service is vulnerability. There is a vulnerability in the demands of our faith. Here are a few verses from one of our scripture readings: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5: 43-44, 46). Often tax collectors represented those taking advantage of others. At a time when the Roman Empire was in power, tax collectors worked for the Romans to collect taxes from their own people. Tax collectors could also take advantage of their power by demanding higher taxes and keeping the extra for themselves. They represent those who are greedy or self-interested rather than concerned about others, and aligned with worldly power rather than an instance of spiritual example. If even the tax collectors love those who love them, in other words, that’s not saying much. As an aside, it’s worth noting that Jesus connects and eats with tax collectors too – such as Matthew (Matthew 9:9-10) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).
Back to vulnerability. It is a vulnerable place to offer love to those who are your enemies, to push yourself to understanding and compassion for those who you disagree with, or who have hurt you. (We’ll be able to explore the idea of forgiveness a little more next week – what is it? What is it not?) Vulnerability can mean risk – risking being hurt or risking being transformed. Vulnerability can mean openness – not allowing yourself to be closed off, even when that seems safer. Vulnerability can mean honesty – revealing who you are, even the imperfections.
There is a book by Jean Vanier that I return to frequently, called Becoming Human. In it, he names “seven aspects of love that seem necessary for the transformation of the heart in those who are profoundly lonely. They are: to reveal, to understand, to communicate, to celebrate, to empower, to be in communion with another, and, finally, to forgive.” Listen to some of what he says about being in communion with another: “Communion is mutual vulnerability and openness one to the other. It is liberation for both, indeed, where both are allowed to be themselves … To a certain extent we lose control in our own lives when we are open to others. Communion of hearts is a beautiful but also a dangerous thing. Beautiful because it is a new form of liberation; it brings a new joy because we are no longer alone. We are close even if we are far away. Dangerous because letting down our inner barriers means that we can be easily hurt. Communion makes us vulnerable.”
“Camp Scugog is a recreational camp near Port Perry. Offering an outdoor camping experience for children, youth and mothers. Scugog’s safe, fun and diverse community is specifically designed to address the needs of those affected by poverty and other barriers. We believe that the development of positive attitudes and values is paramount to building a strong sense of self and community.”
On Sunday, during our sermon, we began exploring our theme for February of “Finding Home.” I suggested three ways we might think of home – our own personal/private home, the home of our congregation, and home in a larger sense such as national identity. We had a chance to think about what it means to try to find home in the sacred. What does that idea suggest? You’ll have to listen to my sermon.
Here’s a little something I had thought about including, but didn’t have time for: While I was in India, we spent a night in Udaipur and while there we visited a Hindu temple. To get to the temple, we walked up a long flight of stairs. Once inside the walls and having taken off our shoes, there was another flight of stairs to climb in order to enter the main temple building. It’s not just in Hinduism that heights are associated with the sacred. We see the same idea within Judaism (Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to be close to God), Christianity (i.e. the soaring spires of Cathedrals), Islam (it was on a mountain that Muhammed received the Qu’ran), Greek mythology (the gods and goddesses lived on Mt. Olympus)… Again and again we associate high places with God, the sacred. For anyone who has stood at the edge of a cliff, or looked out at the view from a tall building, it might simply seem natural to associate heights with the sacred. Just think of how much further you can see. And our very being feels different when we are higher up – it gives a certain perspective.
As humans, we seem to have a natural tendency to associate “higher” with better. We talk about “looking up to” someone we admire, or say someone is “moving up in the world” if they are promoted. Our language easily falls into a hierarchy of high and low (upper class or lower class, higher principles or the lowest common denominator). Even when we see the problems with this model, we don’t necessarily challenge the model itself – we talk about a glass ceiling instead.
When we talk about faith, associating high places with spiritual things can be moving, but it can also be problematic. For one thing, it separates us from the world we live in. One of the reasons high places can feel “spiritual” is because we are “above it all” rather than being caught up in the everyday of living. The problem is that our faith tells us this everyday of living matters deeply, and is a matter of our faith. In the stories of Jesus, we hear that he would go up on a hill to pray, but then would come back down – to heal, to teach, and to eat with those who followed him. Another danger of associating high places with spiritual places is that it supports a world view built on a hierarchy, with notions of heaven (up) and hell (down). It’s a simplistic way to represent the varied choices and relationships that fill our daily lives. It also presents God as something distant, needing to be approached through our actions (whether climbing steps or a mountain, or through our good behavior) rather than representing God as present with us, always.
So, as we find home together, we might climb some stairs – or we might make our way down to a basement or two. Let’s look beside us rather than up or down, and see where the pathway leads.
Youth at Leaside United Church made a difference this past Sunday, raising approximately $800 for local and global projects that the church supports. The group, known as LUCY, (Leaside United Church Youth) sold 37 tickets to congregation and community members to enjoy a meal at Chez Lucy, a fine dining experience held at Leaside United. The group transformed the auditorium into a magical space and spent Sunday afternoon chopping, caramelizing, roasting, grilling and steaming. Guests arriving at 6 p.m. enjoyed a delectable three-course meal and were treated to top-notch service as well as a number of live acts performed by the youth. It was a spectacular evening filled with food, laughter and most importantly, community.
After more than one year of waiting, our church-sponsored family of mom and dad, plus their three delightful young sons have finally arrived.
They are settling well into their apartment in Thorncliffe Park. The boys have started school. They are in three different classes and enjoying making friends and learning.
The parents are busy setting up their home and getting all their federal and provincial documents.
It is an absolute gift to see the smiles on the children’s faces as they play with their toys, witness Mom say joyfully, with outstretched arms, “ My kitchen!” and hear Dad say “It feels like a dream.”
Once they get more settled, they look forward to meeting and thanking the community and Leaside United Church families.
Thank you to all who have supported them on their journey to safety and opportunity in Canada.
Bob and Lis Lister
on behalf of LUCCRRC (Leaside United Church Community Refugee Resettlement Committee)
Well, I’ve now had the chance to respond to most of the questions we received at our 7pm Christmas Eve service, and hopefully all of the ones with different themes. Here are the last couple of questions:
How can we do better?
How do we free ourselves to be able to live knowing Love is born in all of us – that it is always in us – in the moments that happen as we encounter each other and the wonder of nature?
Let’s start with the question of how we can do better. I think this requires paying attention, practice, and forgiveness. First, we need to pay attention. Think about what you have done or not done, said or not said, that has contributed to suffering for yourself or others. What has been the cause? Where do you contribute to suffering most often? What were you feeling before speaking an angry word? When are you unkind to your body, your emotions, or your spirit? Where might the lack of knowledge contributed to not being informed? As we recognize the places where we long to be better, we can start to find strategies to do so, as well as becoming better at recognizing the times we might need to use these strategies.
The second part is practice. It is not going to be enough to want to do better. It takes time to change our habits and personal patterns. When we recognize what we want to change, we can practice recognizing when we need to make this change (what is the feeling that warns you that you are going to do or not do something that causes harm to yourself or others – is it a feeling of anger or of fear? Is it a feeling of indifference or laziness? How does your stomach, your shoulders, your hands, the rest of you, feel? Then we practice whatever needs to improve. Here are two small instances from my life. Some years ago, when I was angry or upset I would send emails or text messages to express those emotions. These messages did not contribute towards greater understanding or ending the conflict, and often increased the problem. Recognizing this, I have worked to control this impulse, to wait and reflect before sending anything out. While I am by no means perfect, the number of messages sent while upset has significantly decreased, and I know I will continue to improve. As another instance, when my friend came out as asexual a few years ago, I didn’t understand what it meant. I began reading articles and stories about the experiences of people who identify as asexual, which allowed me to modify my own thinking, and hopefully mean that I will not cause unintentional harm in the future. For each of us, the places where we long to do better will be different, but we also need to remember what we are trying to do better at. It is not about doing better financially, or about personal satisfaction, but about sharing love and not causing harm.
The third point is forgiveness, both of ourselves (we can’t be perfect, so we need to forgive ourselves for getting things wrong) and of others (when we hold onto our hurt and anger, it causes us greater harm). Of course, forgiveness requires its own practice. More on forgiveness one Sunday in February.
How do we free ourselves to live knowing that love is born in all of us? I think it has the same three steps, paying attention to ourselves and others, and all the places love is expressed in our world, practicing sharing that love ourselves, and living in its embrace, and forgiving ourselves and others in the assurance of that unconditional, unending, inexplicable love.
Here is our second last set of questions from the 7pm Christmas Eve service:
Why are we here?
Why are human beings so cruel to animals?
How do you become satisfied with life when you also feel so disappointed in it all?
What rich and significant questions – ones engaged with the existential questions about our own existence and human nature, as well as practical questions about how to live in a world that is marked by suffering in many forms.
Why are we here? Is this asking why are we gathered in worship Christmas Eve, celebrating the birth of an infant two millennia ago, whose story has transformed history, and changed countless lives? Or is it asking why humans are here, why we exist at all? If you think about it, either one points to the same miracle, the miracle of life. Somehow out of the explosion of time and space, the eons of formations of galaxies and star systems, the cooling of planets, somehow from this start of stardust, life emerged – the realization of the creative impulse, life in all its rich, complex variety. What a miracle. Somehow out of the union of two people, the inexplicable hope for the future, the longings and giving that comes from the very bones, life emerged – a child is born, life in all its rich, complex variety. Why are we here? As an embodiment of divine love, a celebration of the miracle that is too great for us even to imagine, a moment within the dance of the divine life that swirls about us.
And yet, caught up in a wonder that is so familiar we can barely see it, we turn hearts and thoughts to the missteps, the discordant notes, the way as human beings we so easily turn to hurt. Hurting animals and our environment, hurting creation and other humans, hurting those who are distant and so unseen as well as those nearby and seen every day in our communities, our friendships, our families, ourselves. Sometimes that hurt is active, sometimes passive, sometimes born of intention, sometimes indifference. We hurt our planet, our animal brothers and sisters, each other and ourselves for many reasons: indifference, self-absorption, a desire for power, the familiarity of pain. It is disappointing, discouraging, overwhelming, and yet it is not everything. This is the promise of our faith, the seemingly impossible, the unexpected hope: love is stronger than hate, hope is stronger than fear, in our weakness and vulnerability we can reach greater connection, greater strength, greater love. I do not think we should aspire to feeling satisfied, but that we should be inspired by love.