Category Archives: Presentations

Changed and UnChanging

February 15, 2015
Transfiguration Sunday Year B
Peter Chynoweth

Let us pray: O God, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts and actions they inspire be faithful to you and faithful to your will for us, your people. Amen,

Eternal, unchanging, We sing to your praise – that’s the opening phrase of a hymn that we might have sung at the beginning of today’s worship service. Our God’s a Fortress strong and sure – is another one – echoing the words of the great reformer Martin Luther.

One of the themes of the scriptural record, and one that seems to have gained even more traction in the faith record, is that God does not change.

We can imagine many reasons for this theological premise.

It is reassuring to have something of stability in our lives, especially in a world which is changing faster than we can keep up with.

It is discombobulating to imagine a divine presence which cannot be pinned down, which can shift with the wind, which can be conformed to the hopes and desires of the believing heart and mind.

The premise of a God who does not change is important at a high level for all the other reasons that we resist change. In other words, if we don’t like change for some important reason (to us, at least) then it would be even more important to us that God would also not change.

What’s wrong with change? There are probably as many reasons and more to resist it as there are people here today. Change is upsetting, unreliable, and distressing. Change is distracting, time wasting and depressing.

And not only does it seem important to ascribe God with the characteristic of being unchanging, it appears equally important for the church – the body of God’s people – at least the body that claims Jesus and Jesus’ vision of what it means to be a God follower – to be equally unchanging.

There is not much in this world which appears to be as small “c” conservative as the church. We preoccupy ourselves with the angst of trying to figure out how to survive, to keep the faith, to keep the membership high by attracting new followers by incorporating them into the community as it is, without bringing too much change with them.

Yes, there are some pretty strong arguments against change – arguments which call on the importance of tradition, which cite the value of an unchanging, steadfast faith, which claim an unchanging God as a way to keep our vision forward looking, unwavering and single-minded.

And yet, one of the strongest arguments that s made for the continued existence of the church, the Christian community, is the possibility of transformation. That is the hope and the promise that we offer to those who would come to be among us.

Does that mean transformation from one way of life into a new way of life that is actually a life which feeds on tradition, old practices, ancient language. Is the transformation offered by the church community, by the community of God followers, a transformation into something old, rather than something new?

For a modern people, experiencing change at an unprecedented rate, there might actually be an attraction to something old, something that draws on ancient wisdom, something that speaks a language and involves movement that is built on generations, that is founded on centuries, not moments of practice.

Perhaps the historians and archivists among us are leaping up with joy to think that we might give a bit more respect to tradition, that we might hold in higher esteem the importance of how our ancestors did things.

If you are getting the idea that this is not an either-or, that the impetus toward change, and the attraction to maintain old and ancient, well-tried and true ways of doing things is not a easy choice, then you are correct.

There is something to be said for traditions and traditional knowledge, for traditional practices, and traditional understandings. And so the small “c” conservative nature of the church is not only important but crucial.

But we cannot be a community based on transformation without the recognition that change is also important and crucial.

There church itself is based on change. Some two thousand years ago, a profound change occurred and a new community began. It took some of the old faith practices with it, but it was based on something new – a new vision of what God wanted for the people, a new understanding of a God who was among us, as well as above us, a God who called us forward, who called us to new ways of seeing, new ways of being together, new ways of understanding each other.

I can remember this very debate from my seminary days. My good friend at the time was my classmate Julia. She was a bright and thoughtful person, maddeningly so – for she would ask questions that evoked strong reactions – probably because I was trying to convince myself that she was wrong and I was right, even though I knew that she was shedding new light on something I had always just assumed, and that even if she wasn’t completely right, I could not rely on my old assumptions, that the questions she asked had to be answered even if I ultimately ended up with the same view that I had before.

I can still picture us, I don’t remember whether we had just come out of the same classroom, or whether we had met in the hall, but we were heading towards morning chapel. Her question this day was the one of whether God changed or not. Her answer was yes. Of course God changed. Her analysis of the way the church had evolved, and the way it needed to evolve, were evidence enough for her that God changed (and I recognize that I am probably simplifying and mis-stating her argument) – after all it was more than twenty-five years ago – so when you hear this, just remember that the discussion had a profound effect on me, whether or not I am remembering the conversation correctly, it was enough to stay with me all these years, even if the details of the arguments have been lost. So, back to the discussion. I was not as convinced.

It’s the kind of argument that seems to occur with alarming frequency in the hallowed halls of academia, and even more so, in the hallowed halls of theological academia. My argument, which I argued with a lot more sureness than I would today, was that just because change was all around, did not mean that God wasn’t unchanging. After all. I am sure I argued, we are on a search to discover the true nature of God, but we are humans, prone to make mistakes, prone to false assumptions and wrong paths. Just because we don’t follow a straight path and just because we make statements about who and what God is, statements that ultimately prove to be wrong headed or logically incorrect, doesn’t mean that God has changed, it only means that we have not perfected the search. Which in itself is reassuring, because we means there is still more to learn, there is still more to study, the quest is not over. I would argue today, that despite all we’ve learned, the goal of discerning who and what God is, is not really any closer. The more we learn, the more we discover that we need to learn.

And so the answer I am most comfortable with is this: I don’t know if God is unchanging or not. We are on a search to discover who and what God is – and we learn more about God as we go – in every moment, in every place. Sometimes new learnings will contradict old ones – but that could easily be about us, and not about God, But it could just as easily be evidence that God changes too.

Today we heard about transfiguration – which if you look the word up in various sources, will bring forward the word transformation – which in turn suggests change.

John the baptiser, preached change. Jesus showed a way of change – a way of understanding God from a new perspective, a more intimate perspective, a more grounded perspective, a more shocking and surprising perspective, a perspective that saw God in places where people would never have looked for God before. In the lives of people who would previously have been assumed to be separated from God.

Did God change in all of this? Maybe. The perception, the understanding, the place of God in the lives of people around Jesus certainly changed, and the ways that Jesus talked about, and related with God, have had lasting effect on all the generations of Christians who followed. They still have that effect. Transformation still happens. The way of Jesus still has power to change lives.

That’s why we are here – even if that translates into a desire at some levels to keep what we have going, to root ourselves in the ancient practice, to gather in ways that are reminiscent of the very beginnings of the community of God’s followers.

I want to end with a little coming soon….

In the cinema, the coming soons, the oxymoronically named trailers (even though they come first!) are shown before the feature presentation, but today I am giving them what I hope was the feature presentation….

This is the last Sunday before Lent. In this year of the three year lectionary – Year B – in case anybody wants or needs to know – the readings in the season of Lent tell the story of a series of covenants. I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling what those stories of covenant are, but I am going to suggest that those covenants, and yes, there are more than one of them – at least in the discussion that three of us had last week – bring forward the question about change – and whether God changes or just our understanding of God that changes. Stay tuned…as usual, the journey beckons…. Amen.

Looking for Christmas

Drama/Skit/Play written by Alison Mock and Elaine Stewart
Advent 3 – Year B – December 14, 2014

Setting: The One-of-a-Kind-Aurora-Traditional-Northern-Handmade-Caribou-Old-Town-Photography-GlassWorks-Recycled-Beaded-Ptarmigan-Community CRAFT SHOW

Messenger sitting at her table, bearing sign: “The Perfect Christmas”

She is sorting “photos” on her table. She looks utterly serene, and is maybe humming.

Each Character:

  • Enters
  • Names reason why they’ve come to the craft show – their task
  • Names and dismissed 2 ridiculous stalls where they won’t find what they need
  • Finds Messenger Booth: ‘The Perfect Christmas’ – “surely I’ll find what I need here”
  • Argues with Messenger: THOSE AREN’T CHRISTMAS PHOTOS
  • Conversation around “this is what Christmas looks like”
  • Resolves dilemma
  • Exits

Vignette #1: The Girls Searching for a New Jesus for the Manger

Sarah and Sarah enter. They are arguing.

Sarah 1: The One-of-a-Kind-Aurora-Traditional-Northern-Handmade-Caribou-Old-Town-Photography-GlassWorks-Recycled-Beaded-Ptarmigan-Community CRAFT SHOW. I guess this is the place!

Sarah 2: Do you really think that we will be able to find a new Baby Jesus doll here?

Sarah 1: We HAVE to! The one from the nativity at the church got broken! I TOLD you we shouldn’t have been playing floor hockey with him!

Sarah 2: Maybe, but he did make a pretty good hockey puck. So, what are we looking for? What does Jesus look like, anyway?

Sarah 1: Well, for starters, he has to be a baby. Everyone knows that Jesus is a baby who was born at Christmastime. He has to be cute. And just the right size to fit in our manger.

Sarah 2: With curly hair! And green eyes. And dimples!

Sarah 1: No, no, no. Everyone knows that Jesus has to have BROWN hair. And brown eyes. And wrapped up in a baby blue blanket. Aw, I love babies. So cute…

Sarah 2: Hey, listen, I had a baby brother, and let me tell you that they are not cute all the time. Most of the time, actually, they are pretty smelly. Where should we start looking?

Sarah 1: Hmmm… (looking around, surveying imaginary booths)… Crochet Your Own Snowmobile…. Ice Fishing Huts R Us…. Whoa, look at the lineup for Jalepeno Jam!

Sarah 2: Um, maybe this isn’t the best place to shop. We could try another craft show. There ARE 6 others on in town today. Or we could just use my brother’s old Cabbage Patch Kid instead.

Sarah 1: That gross thing? No way! Let’s keep looking. If we don’t find the PERFECT baby Jesus, Christmas will be ruined! A perfect Christmas needs the perfect Baby Jesus.

(they spot the Messenger’s Booth: “The Perfect Christmas”)

Sarah 2: Hey, what about her? She has photos of… (reads the sign) The Perfect Christmas.

Sarah 1: If she has the Perfect Christmas, there are bound to be photos of Baby Jesus. Maybe we can find out what he looks like, and then we’ll know what we’re looking for!

(They head over, start to leaf through photos)

Sarah 2: (to Messenger) We’d like to see photos of the Perfect Christmas, please!

Messenger: Absolutely! I have some right here.

(photos appear on the screen, visible to the audience. The girls’ conversation is focused on the table, the Messenger, and the imaginary photos that correspond)

Sarah 2: Hey, those aren’t Christmas photos! They have nothing to do with Christmas!

Sarah 1: There isn’t even a baby! Everyone knows that Christmas is the night when Baby Jesus is born. Where’s the stable? Where are Mary and Joseph? How can THESE be Christmas photos?

Messenger: These most certainly are Christmas photos. Look closer, you’ll see…

Sarah 2: That’s not Christmas. That’s a lady standing beside some groceries.

Sarah 1: That’s not Christmas. That’s us, on the Coldest Night Walk.

Sarah 2: That’s not Christmas. That’s me, planting a tree with my Aunt and Uncle. It’s not even winter, it’s SPRINGtime.

Sarah 1: How is this supposed to show us what Jesus looks like?

Messenger: Well, you say Christmas is about Jesus being born. You’re right, but there’s a little more to it than that. Christmas is about LOVE being born. The love that comes into the world on Christmas is born in you and in me, all year long. That’s what these pictures show. It doesn’t just happen for one night in December.

Sarah 2: Huh? What do you mean? Love isn’t born in me.

Sarah 1: Or me.

Messenger: Oh no? (to Sarah 1) What were you doing when you went on that walk?

Sarah 1: We were raising money to help people who don’t have homes. It’s too cold to sleep outside in Yellowknife when it’s wintertime.

Messenger: You were helping others. That sounds a lot like love to me.

Sarah 1: Hey, maybe you’re right!

Messenger: (to Sarah 2) And what were you doing when you planted that tree?

Sarah 2: There was a park that didn’t have enough trees. We need trees to clean the air, and keep the earth healthy. But they weren’t Christmas trees…

Messenger: You were caring for the earth. That sounds exactly like Christmas. Christmas is letting love be born to the whole world.

Sarah 2: Oh, yeah!

Messenger: If you want to make Christmas perfect, you have to let that love be born over and over again. Act it out in the world. Like that lady with the groceries who helps people get food, when you helped the homeless and when you cared for the earth. All those acts of love ARE Christmas. It’s not just about that cute little baby, you know.

Sarah 1: So, you mean, it doesn’t really matter what the baby looks like? He doesn’t have to be perfect? Jesus is born anyway? Every day?

Messenger: Exactly. Jesus looks like ALL these pictures.

Sarah 2: Maybe we COULD use that old Cabbage Patch Doll after all!

Sarah 1: Now THAT’s a baby that’s been loved! Let’s go!

(they exit)

********

Vignette # 2: The Lady Who is Shopping for the Perfect Christmas

(Kathy enters. She has several shopping lists, bags, a notepad, etc. She is fussing with something on her phone, and muttering to herself.)

Issues: how many shopping days left, the “it” toy is sold out at Wal-mart, Amazon wants HOW MUCH to ship to Yellowknife, have to have at least 7 back-up gifts in my closet for those irritating people who will insist on giving me an unexpected gift. How inconsiderate!

Dilemma: Christmas won’t be perfect unless I buy all the right things

Sees Messenger Booth: “This is What the Perfect Christmas Looks Like” – She’s BOUND to have the perfect gift for everyone on my list…

Kathy: Oh, this looks Christmasy – a rentable choir! I’d like this – how much do I have to pay to buy that choir performance? I think one of the people on my list will like that.

Elaine: Yes, that choir sings beautifully. But you don’t buy them. They year-round for church worship services and at the coffee shop in the holiday season to bring joy to people.

K: So they sing for nothing and the people who come to listen pay nothing?! Well, I can’t BUY that then…. (looks at more photos and then selects the one of ptarmigan)

How about this? I love ptarmigan. But they are such silly birds to be sure. I saw one walk across the street in busy traffic as if it didn’t know it could fly. There’s something reassuring about the fact that there are still so many of them! How much for this picture?

E: I’m glad you like the picture, but it’s here to remind us of how many gifts there are in nature – gifts that surround us each and every day. The only cost is taking the time to stop and notice.

K: Well, what you say is true – (struggling / a bit irritated…) but I can’t gift wrap that, can I?!

I’m getting the feeling that there’s nothing for me here, but I have to ask about this one. These people all look pretty pleased about something. I’m a bit afraid to ask, but what are they happy about?

E: Oh, they are happy – happy that they accomplished something together. They cleaned up a church nursery on a weekend so that all the toys were organized and clean for the children. It took some effort, but sharing the task made the time fly and they were happy that the tidy nursery would be such a lovely gift for the children.

K: So, these are all gifts, but there are no bows or gift wrap. There’s nothing I can buy. And this is “a perfect Christmas”?

E: Gifts that come in wrapping can be fun, but more deeply than that, Christmas is all the ways that love is being born into the world. It’s about unwrapping your eyes to see the ongoing ‘circle of giving’. It’s like that circle game where you pass the squeeze – after a while you can’t really tell where it starts and where it ends – the joy of giving and receiving…. You can’t buy it or wrap it in paper. You experience it … here (points to heart).

K: (Touching her own heart while she cocks her head to sort this one out) So if someone surprises me with a gift that I didn’t expect, I see it as part of that “ongoing story” of giving. Sometimes I’ll be the one who gets to give, and sometimes I’ll just let myself receive. Oh, my! If that’s really true – I’m free! (tears up list and walks – very happily – away)

****

Vignette #3: The Husband Whose Partner is Trying to Create the Perfect Family Xmas Dinner

(Played by Sean D)

Issues: every year she does this, invites a whole bunch of relatives she doesn’t even like, and then works herself into a frenzy trying to make Christmas Day absolutely perfect.

– the kids are coming home from college, and she wants to make it just right for them

  • she’ll kill me if I don’t get the exact right hand-painted napkins that she’s going to fold into little ptarmigan. And she told me in no uncertain terms NOT to come home without the hand-carved Twelve Days of Christmas Centerpiece with ALL twelve drummers drumming
  • She seems to think that we’re not a proper family if we don’t do all this stuff

Christmas won’t be perfect unless we have the perfect traditional family table

Sees Messenger Booth: “This is What the Perfect Christmas Looks Like” – sounds like just the ticket. Maybe she’ll have everything my wife wants to make our home perfect.

Sean: Looking over all the photos muttering ‘Perfect Christmas, perfect Christmas, perfect Christmas… These actually look kind of messy to me. Picks up one – “Really?! Explain to me how washing someone’s feet is perfectly anything”

Elaine: Oh, that’s one of my very favourites actually. I can’t think of almost anything that is a more perfect expression of love. There are people who come together every week to wash and take care of the feet of people who are very poor – who have almost nothing. And these foot washers give gently wash their ‘street weary’ feet and care for them in the most dignity preserving way.

S: Wow! Not many people could do that.

E: It is a great gift.

S: What about this one – how is a muddy garden full of vegetables Christmas?

E: Oh, that’s a church youth group project. Planting pretty flowers and edible things for the people in community housing and for college students – and it’s funny that you say it isn’t Christmas, because one of the students really did actually call it an Epiphany! She said on her first day of classes last fall that seeing that garden was the most amazing welcome for her. She felt the presence of people that she couldn’t see who had given strangers like her this incredible gift.

S: Mucking in dirt, to feed and welcome strangers… (quick glance to list) That one won’t go over with her for sure.

(Keeps mulling over photos and picks up one) That’s not Christmas for sure – it’s just garbage

Well, accurately – it is less garbage. A whole group of people – led by those kids – cleaned up a lot of very messy litter. It’s kind of like the foot washing – it was restoring dignity to the earth.

S: Those are good gifts – but they’re a bit messy. Rather ‘imperfect’ then, aren’t they?

E: Christmas is the way that we say thanks for a perfect love that was given to us. But none of us are perfect – as humans, our reflection of God’s perfect love will always be somewhat imperfect. But that’s also what makes it beautiful. It’s like God’s gift is this perfect song that we hear, and then we sing it back.

S: (taking this in) Christmas is like song that we hear….

(Sharon plays the introduction and Fiona will sing v. 1, 2 and 4 of # 44 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – slide show rolls showing congregation members in volunteer work – one slide for every “line” i.e. it came upon a midnight clear (switch) that glorious song of old (switch) – Sean joins Fiona on verse two.

(when song concludes, Sharon will go back to the chorus once more and the first bit will be only music – first three skit players use this time to come back to stage and ‘gather’ at the front with Sean and “messenger” and then sing at the right time –

“and the whole world sing back the song, which now the angels sing”

All: Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Finding Faith in the Rainbow

It seems as if our world is pre-occupied with lines in the sand. We have all been aware in the past weeks of the shifting lines in the sand surrounding the war in Syria and the global reaction to the use of chemical warfare there. It seems that American and British citizens, chastened by a war in Iraq that turned out to be based on false premises, is very reluctant to engage another repressive leader.

I mention this, partly because it is all over the news, and partly because it represents the way that attitudes and opinions can change depending on circumstances. We are all products of history, with choices from the past influencing the choices we make in the future and the present.

We are also people who draw lines in the sand on many different issues.

I would like to propose that we as a Ministerial Association have our own lines in the sand. Over the eight years I’ve been in Yellowknife and have been attending these Ministerial meetings, I have been both encouraged and discouraged by the line in the sand that we draw around what is appropriate to discuss at our meetings. I have been encouraged when the norm for our group has been to draw upon the things that unite us, and use them as a basis for our common goals and support of each other and the ministry we each are called to do. I have been discouraged when assumptions have been made about just what those common goals are, and when my line has been crossed by someone who unwittingly makes comments that assume that we share a particular point of view or outlook.

With that in mind, I would like to tell you a story, but first let me read a story.

Luke 18: 35 – 43

A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

This story of a healing miracle can be taken as it is, as an example of the way that Jesus was able to bring about healing for people. But we also know that blindness and sight are biblical metaphors for awareness and insight. The blind don’t get it, while others see clearly. The story also requires us to consider the means by which this man was healed. Jesus doesn’t say “I have healed you”, or “God has healed you.” He says that it was the blind man’s own faith that brought about the healing.

Now to the other story. Twenty five years ago in August 1988, the General Council of The United Church of Canada met in Victoria, British Columbia. In the United Church of Canada the General Council consists of an equal number of lay people and ordered ministers (ordained, diaconal and lay ministers working in pastoral ministry), elected by the conferences of the church – which are more or less geographically defined areas of Canada. In 1988, the General Council was highly anticipated all across the church because it was made known that one of the issues that would be discussed at this General Council was the ordination of people who were of self-declared homosexual orientation. I was there, not as a commissioner, but working for the Small Computer Committee – which may sound like a technical kind of job, but really it was a committee that had tasked itself with an early attempt at blogging – although it was decades before that term was coined – but that is what we were doing, sharing the story of the General Council with people across the country and around the world who were following what happened on their computers. We were doing that as an example of the importance of the use of computers as communication devices for the church community. It was an honour for me to be there to attend this most momentous of meetings of our General Council. It was also a bit of a relief not to be there as a voting commissioner. The struggle and pain, anger and sadness, were palpable as the commissioners struggled with an issue that threatened to wound us to the core. As it turned out, my mother was a commissioner from the Bay of Quinte conference in Ontario. She had been elected and carried with her the great weight at least as she understood it, of representing the wishes of a great many people and congregations that had contacted her before she travelled to Victoria. It is fair to say that most of the people who had contacted her were very opposed to the ordination of people who were self-declared as gay or lesbian. I think it is also fair to say that while she was at the General Council she was moved to change her own position on the issue. Her conscience was such that she felt she had to vote according to the wishes of the people she represented, but in her own mind and heart she wanted to vote the other way. For reasons that I still do not understand, except that my mother never did anything without a great deal of determination, not only did she vote against the resolution that forever changed the course of our church, but she made sure that everyone knew she had voted against it by having her name recorded (as was her right and as was requested by certain opponents of the resolution).

By her actions when she returned home, you would never know that she had voted against it. She began reading up on the issue of homosexuality and even more importantly began making connections with gay and lesbian people – many of whom in the church were heartened by the decision that the church made that summer. She began attending special worship services on Sunday evening that were for the gay and lesbian community and straight people who were supportive of their struggle for justice and recognition. Through these contacts, my mother’s heart became full of compassion for people who had continually been spurned, condemned, and cast out – many times violently. She also was consumed by compassion for many people she met whose lives were being devastated by the AIDS epidemic. She began visiting one such friend whose name was Keith, as his health fluctuated between illness and near death. She made the trip to Toronto – which if you know my Mother, was about as close as my Mom would get to putting her own life at risk – to visit him after he had moved into an AIDS hospice and she conducted the funeral for Keith when he died. She didn’t stop with Keith though, she had dinner parties at her house – to which she had invited most of the people she had met at the Sunday evening worship services – and reported back to me about the joy and fun they had had together. My mother always did enjoy entertaining people at dinner parties, but these dinner gatherings seemed to bump up her joy and enthusiasm for the enterprise even further.

All of this was reported to me, a newly ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, humbled by the fact that while I had been a vocal supporter of the vote to include people of homosexual orientation and had pushed Mom to vote with her heart at the General Council, that when it came to putting words into action, my mother had far surpassed anything I had done.

Yes, after the decision in Victoria, a few congregations left the United Church, and yes there continued to be many heated arguments but with the benefit of a quarter century of hindsight, our denomination has never looked back. Subsequent General Councils ratified the decision of the 1988 General Council with ever increasing majorities and now there would be many in our church who would wonder what all the fuss was about. While the decisions made in 1988 and at subsequent meetings of the General Council left congregations with a great deal of local autonomy with respect to same gender marriage and other issues around the greater issue of homosexuality, an increasing number of United Church congregations have become “affirming ministries” – churches that are expressly welcoming of gay and lesbian people and as our understanding of sexual identity has grown, this has expanded to include people who identify as trans-gender, bisexual and encompassing other terms, such as the aboriginal understanding of two-spirited.

When I was called to Yellowknife United Church eight years ago, I recall one make or break question in the interview that would seal the decision about whether I would be called or not. It was a question about my attitude to same-gender marriage. A supportive policy had just been adopted by Yellowknife United Church and the search committee wanted to be sure that I would support the policy. Of course I could. In fact I rejoiced that this policy had been adopted. I guess the fact that I am addressing you here indicates that indeed I was called.

So, back to the line in the sand. If you have a particular point of view that is shared by other members of a group, it is natural that comments that come out of a shared understanding can be uttered without even a recognition that others might not feel or think the same way. So, I expect that some of you who’ve been here for as long or longer than me will perhaps not remember at all any times when the issue of homosexuality has been spoken of in our meetings, but I do – enough of them that they caused me to consider very carefully how I could or would make my opposition known. Should I speak up and cross a line in the sand, or should I just stop attending the meetings when it was obvious that some of us could not agree on some pretty fundamental issues.

Perhaps it wasn’t the most courageous thing to do but I bit my tongue, complained about it to people who I knew would support my perspective and opted to take what I hope was a high-road of being committed to the organization and committed to the principles of unity and acceptance that we at least say are an element of our organization.

You might be able to imagine how my heart sang when Brad – at our last meeting, and the last meeting before a long summer break – closed the meeting by making reference to the LGBTQ community. Is the tide turning? I wondered.

LGBTQ issues are an increasingly common and normal part of our world. Many hours and lines of newsprint have been given to the issue of participation of gay and lesbian athletes at the Sochi Olympics this coming winter and the repressive laws enacted by the Russian government. A breakthrough in the professional sports community was made when Jason Collins came out as a gay man who has been playing in the National Basketball Association.

I firmly believe that society is ahead of the church. I firmly believe that in decades ahead, we will look back as a Christian community and wonder how we could have been so blind.

Yellowknife United Church is on the way to becoming an affirming ministry. We’ve already decided that we are affirming – but we need to have that affirmed by the organization which checks us out to make sure that our actions match our words.

Yellowknife United Church was a visible and active participant in last month’s Pride Festival.

I have no doubt in my mind that the LGBTQ community is a part of the community of faith. I have learned so much about faith through the many people I know who are part of the community.

That’s my line in the sand, and I am relieved to have revealed it to you this day.