Inspiring one another

Text: John 15:5, 7-15 (vine and branches)

Friends, today I have two questions for you. What first drew you to Mill Woods United Church? And what has kept you here?

In a minute, we are going to re-arrange the chairs, which are in chains of six. You will be asked to form these chains into semi-circles. I will then offer about 10 minutes for you to share with five others your responses to the two questions.

In this sharing, I hope we will come to know one another better; and that we will inspire each other by sharing how our love for our neighbours expresses itself in this community of faith. Is it by singing in the choir? Volunteering at the clothing bank? Engaging in justice projects like reconciliation with Canada’s First Peoples? Growing our spirits in times of worship or discussion? Building community through fun and fellowship? What is it for you?

I request that each person speak in turn. These ten minutes are for sharing and not discussion. Now, questions or comments may form in your hearts and mind as you listen or as you speak. And I hope these questions will inspire conversations later. But for now, our task is to share why we are part of this community, and to listen to five other people share the same.

So please take a moment to rearrange yourselves and the chairs. I will then bring us back together in about 10 minutes.

. . .

Thank you for engaging in that exercise. I hope you enjoyed the sharing. In particular, I hope it inspired you to deepen your commitment to a life of faith within this beloved community.

People come to spiritual gatherings and get involved in a church for many different reasons. None of us are identical to anyone else, and the intentions and activities of the people in this church are manifold.

But one thing we have in common is how we are stronger together than on our own. As individuals, we can pray, sing, learn, seek justice, and help our neighbours. But when we gather with others in these activities, our work yields greater fruit.

I sing in the shower. But I like singing in the church choir much more. In moments of distress or joy, I often find myself praying. But I come closer to the Spirit of Love when I pray in this community. As an individual, I try to act to make Canada a more just and loving place. But when we work together to welcome refugees, fight for acceptance of queer people, or reach out to our neighbours, our efforts take flight. Similarly, we can mourn and celebrate significant events in our families, but when we also mourn and celebrate in a community of faith, the flame of God’s Love often burns brighter in our hearts and minds.

Friends, having focused today on why we gather and what inspires us to be part of the life of MWUC, I now remind you to take your Stewardship envelope home at the end of the service; to examine its contents; and to ponder what commitments you might make to this community next year.

Making the church thrive requires the sharing of our time, talent, and treasure. All three are important, and I don’t want to overstate the importance of money.

But like most churches, we have almost always struggled with finances. And anxiety about money has been heightened this fall with the imminent departure of our biggest tenant, Weight Watchers.

But despite these anxieties, I am confident we will make commitments that will keep this church humming into 2020 and well beyond. We have new people. We have renewed spirit. We have a community of love and justice that we value for many reasons.

And so, with hope in our hearts and with yearnings for healing and peace in our bodies, may we conspire together to sustain the life of this church and its mission of justice and love to this neighbourhood and beyond.

May it be so. Amen.