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Scripture

Matthew 18: 18 – 20

18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


Reflection

So we received a message, the other day, from someone asking to borrow an item from us. Now, we know that we have this item, but do you think that we can remember where we put it after we used it the last time. Nope! We have no idea where it might be, but we know it has to be somewhere. I wonder how many of us have had this same experience. We know that that we have something but we just don’t know where it is so we embark on a search to find said item.


I have been wondering a lot lately about the idea of searching. I think that there are many, today, who seem to be searching for something in their lives, whether it be meaning, companionship, relationship, or something equally as important. And we as Christians are also searching, we are searching for meaning in our lives, as well. Many of us might be asking ourselves what does our faith mean? Some may be wondering if their faith is purely personal, or is it larger than just our personal experience, or journey. What does it mean to live as a Christian in the world today? What do we search for in our lives as Christians? I have often wondered if we are searching for community, togetherness, people who believe the same things that we believe, so that we share a common understanding of faith and the world. Maybe, we are searching for something deeper, some deeper meaning, or an encounter with the divine. It could be said that we might just be searching for the presence of God in our lives, sometimes we are searching for answers to questions that tug at our hearts, questions that don’t seem to have any answers, or where we can’t seem to find the answers anywhere else.


I have been thinking about where we go searching for God in our lives. I believe that there are many who come and hope to find God within the walls of the church. And yes I do think that God is present in the ‘church,’ but I also believe that there is more to this presence of God than just the church. I think that there are those who would say that they would journey up to mountaintop places because in that way they would be closer to God and they we would be able to find God in those places.  Others might say that they go to the forest and trees to find connection to God amid nature in those places. Yet others might say that sitting beside water, whether it be the ocean, a lake, a river, or a stream is where they find God, within the movement, or stillness, of the water.


Is God to be found in the quiet of sacred places like a sanctuary of a church, or a mountaintop? Is God to be found in nature, with the trees and the water? English Theologian and poet John Henry Newman stated, “I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed to the topmost steeple, and God declared: “Go down again – I dwell among the people.” This in many ways echoes the passage from Matthew, because God is not found in a building but rather God is found in a community of people. The presence of God is found in the midst of those who journey with us and it is in these communities we find meaning, we find relationship, companionship, and we find wisdom.  


But I think that God is not only found in those who are part of our community, but rather those who are a part of our larger world. We are challenged, called, to look for God in the people around us, not just the people who are like us, the people that we know, but those who might seem very different than we are and who we might dismiss as never even having the possibility of being the presence of God. I believe that God comes to us through many people in our lives but we need to be open to finding God in our world. This means that God might be found in nature and the natural world, but God is also found in the what might seem like the most unlikely places, and to be honest God is not found only in the safety and comfort of our church buildings and our church communities. God is found in the challenging places of the world. “Where two or three are gathered in my name,” as people who follow God we are called to find God in all places, in all people, and to follow where God is leading each of us in the world.


Prayer

God of all places, you know that we are searching, searching for meaning, searching for relationship, searching for you. Help us to open our hearts and our minds so that we might find your presence in those around us. Help us to remember that we might find that which we search for, that which we long for, you, in those around us.  We ask this in the name of one who came to be with us, your son Jesus. Amen.

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Scripture

Isaiah 58: 9 – 11 

9    Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;

    you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

    If you remove the yoke from among you,

    the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

10    if you offer your food to the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

    then your light shall rise in the darkness

    and your gloom be like the noonday.

11    The LORD will guide you continually,

    and satisfy your needs in parched places,

    and make your bones strong;

    and you shall be like a watered garden,

    like a spring of water,

    whose waters never fail.


Reflection

We have just finished celebrating Canada Day. It is a day when many celebrate the pride that they have in being Canadian, and the pride they have in our country. I also think that it is a time for some honest reflection about ourselves and our world. I have been wondering lately about the state of the world in which we live. It almost seems as if we are on a downward spiral these days. We know that things are challenging, but it is almost as if they are becoming more challenging. There are so many struggling and it seems as if those in power are only concerned about keeping that power and playing to the fears and prejudices of their bases. That leaves many marginalized to become even more marginalized. Yet that seems to be where we are right now. What are we to do?


I chose this reading from Isaiah because it gives some hope in the midst of the challenges of the world. In this particular section of Isaiah the prophet is addressing a community that finds itself in the midst of conflict. The people of Israel have forgotten the promises that they had made to God and were not fulfilling those promises. Isaiah is reminding them of who they are supposed to be and although this scripture was written almost 700 years before the birth of Jesus we, 2700 years later, still need to hear these words. How often in our world today has there been the pointing of fingers and the speaking of evil? One just has to look at the news or social media and we see many who immediately point the finger at others, speaking evil, hurtful things about those with whom they disagree. 


Not only is there finger pointing and in many ways scapegoating, where all of society’s problems, the world’s problems, are blamed on an already marginalized, identifiable group, but people are always blaming others for the problems we are facing. Add to this the world’s call that everything needs to be about “me.” This leaves the world in a state of disconnect and brokenness. That does not even begin to recognize the number of people in this world who find themselves lost, alone, and hungry. Isaiah spoke to the people about a light rising in the darkness, we are called, as Christians, to be that light in the darkness, to be the light which arises in the  midst of these challenging times.


We are called to follow God so that we can become those that bring water to the parched places of the world. Isaiah was challenging the people of this time to do something new, to repair that which separated people from each other and from God, to be repairers of the breach and the call echoes through the ages to us today. This is the time, as we each journey in our faith, walking with Jesus, that we begin to embody our faith in our actions and in doing do we become those who repair the broken places in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Let us find a new way of being community, where we can bring water to parched lives, both our own and those in the world around us. This is the work of Christ, this is holy work, and it is work that we are called to each and every day. 


I wonder if we will journey with God on a journey to repair our lives and the world, will we answer as was answered in Isaiah 6: 8 “8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”  One of my favourite hymn in Voices United is number 509 “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky” which speaks to me today deeply “I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry. All who dwell in deepest sin my hand will save. I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?” Who shall God send to repair the brokenness of our lives and the world? Will it be you?


Prayer

Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? Loving God help me to hear you call to me to be your light bearer in the world. Lead me in the holy work of repairing the brokenness of not only my own life but also the world around me. You know that there is so much need, help me to rely on your strength, your love, your mercy, and your compassion as we do this work together. We pray in name of the one with whom we walk, your son Jesus. Amen


Peace and blessings,


Rev. Patrick Woodbeck

Minister

Gordon-King Memorial United (The Big Red Church)/ Grey Street United

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Scripture

Isaiah 40: 31

31    but those who hope in the LORD shall renew their strength,

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

    they shall run and not be weary,

    they shall walk and not faint.


Reflection

I have been wondering about hope in our world today. I think that it is a rare and challenging commodity these days. What gives us hope? What might we actually hope for, or in? What does it actually mean for us to hope? I sometimes wonder about some or all of these questions. Our world seems to be so harsh and it appears as if so many don’t have hope.


The verse from Isaiah is an interesting verse of scripture because in one translation it is written as I posted, “but those who hope in the Lord” while another translation has this verse written, “but those who wait for the Lord.” To hope in the Lord, or to wait for the Lord, are these the same things? In some ways author Lemony Snicket actually pulls these two concepts together when they wrote, “Strange as it may seem I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” In this quote, from Lemony Snicket, we see that it could be hope which we wait for in our lives.  As I asked previously, what does it mean to hope for something? What is it that we hope for in our lives today? In some ways to hope for something is really to wait on that something and this is a very difficult place for many of us in today’s world. To hope is to know that that which we hope for has not yet come and we wait for it to arrive in our lives. For someone like me that is a challenge, to wait, to not really know when that which is hoped for, that thing which we are waiting for will ever come to us. I like to know when things are going to happen and living in the midst of the unknown can be challenging and can be a difficult place to live, yet in many ways that is what we are called to do.


We place our hope in God, and in doing so we know that we are challenged to wait for the coming of God to our world today, but it is not just a passive action of waiting, it is a challenge for us to live into that hope. We often understand that this concept of waiting is something that we passively do in our lives. We might sit and wait for a bus, or for a ride to arrive. We might wait for the mail or for a package to be delivered. It all sounds very sedentary to us. But what if the idea of hope and waiting have an active component that we might not have considered.


I wonder if this idea of waiting can become an action that one takes and it becomes a process whereby one waited for something, or hoped for something, by living as if that hope has been realized. I know it sounds challenging, but this reading from Isaiah speaks to me deeply of this idea. We are to hope in the coming of God’s world, of God’s presence in our lives, and yet how do we actually do that? If we look at this same passage from the other translation we might say that we are to wait for the coming of God’s world, we are to wait on God’s presence in our lives. So, I wonder if we are called to live as if that hope has already been realized, and when we do, we find that this hope in God’s presence can and does lift us up. We find that in the midst of that hope for God, that waiting for God, we might just actually find the presence of God, that presence that sustains us when things are challenging. That presence of God that comforts us in our sorrow. That presence of God that has and continues to journey with us in times of joy and times of sorrow. It is in the hoping, the waiting, that we might actually find that which we hope and wait for in our lives.


Prayer

God of Hope, we come before you today knowing that sometimes waiting is not something that we do well. Help us to see that in waiting for you, we enter into a place of hope and in that place we might just find you. Help us to open our hearts, our souls, and our minds to your coming into our lives and the world. Help us to be present in this day and in waiting and hoping for you, feel you coming towards us in those small ways that we sometimes miss. We ask this through Jesus, God with us. Amen.

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