We celebrated the first Sunday of Advent, for which the traditional theme is Hope, with the confirmation of Keira, Lilia, Ben, and Lauren as adult members of our Harrow congregation, and the United Church of Canada. We also shared in the sacrament of communion for the first time since mid-March. We also introduced the congregation to our newest online effort, Gift Bag Sunday School.
Here is a link to the video of the service.
Here is the text of the Learning Time:
This spring, while we were all learning how to live under lockdown, a highlight of my week, for almost two months, was the Thursday afternoon confirmation class. Ben and Lauren, Lilia and Keira and I got together via ZOOM. We worked through the chapters of a book called Jesus 24/7, which raised questions to talk about.
Is God real? What does God have to do with me? What do we know about Jesus? What does it mean to say that he died, and was resurrected from death? How do we follow the way of Jesus?
It will be of great comfort to you that we sorted out all those questions, and have all the answers. I am of course, kidding.
When I was confirmed, the process involved learning a catechism, made up of those kind of questions, with formal answers, using a lot of big words, that we were required to agree with, in order to become a confirmed adult member of the church.
The historic statements of faith are interesting, and worth knowing about. I shy away from the idea that people who wrote them actually knew more about the mysteries of God, and Jesus, and life and death than you or I.
Reading the creeds, like the United Church Creed, allows to see what has seemed to make sense over the centuries, but when it comes right down to it- Christian faith is not just about getting the words right. It is about doing the best we can, to follow the way of Jesus, and placing our trust in God, and having hope. It’s about loving God, and loving others as we love ourselves.
I said at a church board meeting a few weeks ago that I think there are 2 kinds of people- or at least two basic world views- maybe they are opposite ends of a spectrum, and we find ourselves at different places on the continuum, at different times.
At one end are the nihilists, who believe there is no meaning, nothing good, no point, no God, and if we are smart, we will be selfish, and live and scheme and do only for ourselves, and those close to us. Take care of yourself, load your weapons, and to hell with everybody else. We can see that way of thinking at work in politics, and in business, and in some people’s daily lives.
At the other end are those who place absolute faith and trust in God as they understand God, believe that life is about giving all we can to help others, and trust that God will take care of us in life, and in death. They believe that everything broken can be fixed, all injustices will be corrected, and all illness and pain can be relieved. We love people like this for their ideals, but also worry that they are not realistic, and will end up getting hurt.
Whatever statements of faith make the most sense to you, and whatever you have been taught about God and Jesus and all the rest of it, most of us live somewhere between these extremes. We try to navigate in the world- to take care of those close to us, and also do some good for others. We pray things can get better, and try to live as if they will. We can’t fix all the problems in the world, but we look for ways we can help, and we do what we can, nearby, and farther away.
A community of faith, like ours, is important, not only because together we can do more good in the world than we could on our own, but because we encourage each other, we inspire hope in each other. When Jesus sent out his disciples to share his teachings, he never sent them alone. He sent them out in pairs.
We need each other. When Keira and Lilia and Lauren and Ben were baptized, a community of faith promised their families they would support them, and encourage them.
Today we welcome Keira and Lilia and Lauren and Ben as full members of the church. We need them, and are delighted to have them. They are with us in the holy work of helping others, encouraging others, inspiring hope, and making a difference in the world.
Thanks be to God. Amen