The mission of Squamish United Church is "To be an inclusive community serving God's world." As a church together we seek to love God and neighbour with all our heart, soul and mind. We hope this blog enriches you on your journey of life.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creation's Sanctuary

Squamish United Church September 14, 2014 Rev. Karen Millard

Psalm 19

Creation’s Sanctuary

When the worship committee came up with todays theme “Bubbling With Excitement” I loved the idea. The first verse that came to mind was Psalm 23:5 “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” And then as I leapt deeper into theme for this first Sunday of the season of creation I thought of the many verses where creation celebrates and praises like Isaiah 55:12 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

And I began to imagine creation as a sanctuary praising God.  According to Isaiah 6.3, “the whole Earth is filled with God’s glory, the visible presence of God pulsing through creation.”  And so in this season of creation I want to encourage us (just as we attempt to do every Sunday) to carry our worship into our daily lives.  What if we believed that all of earth was our sanctuary and on Sundays we “enter this sanctuary to worship and invoke the name of this God, Creator, Christ and Spirit, whose presence fills our planet.”

One author wrote “We need to commence with a theology that focuses on worship if we are to change our orientation to this endangered planet called Earth. We need to be conscious of the sacred place where we worship, a sanctuary called Earth. A sanctuary is a sacred or holy place, a location where the presence of God or the Other is experienced, a domain safe for flora and fauna, including humans, and a spiritual home where worship can be enjoyed.

All creation is sacred. All that exists has emerged as an expression of God’s word. All of nature is sustained by God’s Spirit. The entire cosmos bears the design of God’s Wisdom. Everything everywhere has been touched by God, the Creator.
All creation is sacred, but Earth is sacred in a special way. Earth is a sanctuary, a sanctuary chosen by God. This sanctuary is pulsating with God’ s presence and open for all to worship. It is in this sanctuary that we invoke the presence of our Creator. It is this sanctuary we enter to celebrate a Season of Creation.
God’ s glory may have been seen in the past at certain times in certain sacred places on Earth, such as the tabernacle or the temple. This text, however, makes it clear that God’ s glory, God’ s presence, may be seen in all of Earth.
just as the tabernacle and the temple were sanctuaries of God’s presence, Earth is also a sanctuary of God’s glory, God’s visible presence. God, it seems, has chosen Earth as one planet in the cosmos to fill with a sacred pulsating presence. Earth is much more than a ball of water, dirt and air spinning through space. Earth is more than a speck of stardust that spawned life. Earth is God’s sanctuary. Earth is a sacred site in the cosmos.”
I believe The Holy must consider all of creation and cosmos sacred for it is a holy piece of work and art.  We as part of the Earth, and part of creation have the opportunity to be a part of that sanctuary, that sacred earth.
Martin Luther said “God’s presence is ‘in, with and under’ every atom and organism of this physical world.” The Apostle Paul said it is within God that we “Live and move and have our being” That is why I chose today’s scripture Psalm 19 because it is filled with beautiful images of God’s creation praising in the sanctuary of earth. 
“The skies keep announcing the glory of God, The firmament proclaims his creation. Day talks to day And night communicates with night!
There is speech, but no words, Their voice is not heard!
Yet their voice goes out through all of Earth
And their words to the end of the world. (Ps. 19-1-4)
According to this Psalm, the skies above are conscious of the glory of God, the silent shimmering presence of God in creation. Night and day echo their message about God’s presence, but all in silence. Communication is experienced throughout creation even when no vocal word is spoken. Creation is conscious of Earth as a sanctuary.
“Luther speaks of the masks of God (larvae dei) in creation. According to Luther, the face or presence of God is behind all creation. Earth is filled with God’s presence/glory. Nature is like a mass of masks—everything from lizards to lightning, from snakes to sunsets, are masks of God…
Psalm 19 suggests that …There is also an impulse in creation to reveal the very presence of God to those who have spirits that see or souls that hear. The skies are ‘proclaiming’ the presence of God. This impulse to reveal is more than the traditional claim that one can argue for the existence of a Creator on the basis of the wonder and majesty of creation. Earth is a sanctuary in which the sacred impulses of life are being revealed; God’s presence in proclaimed by the skies.
And, according to Isaiah 6.3, the whole Earth is filled with that glory, that impulse to reveal God’s presence. That means, I believe, that not only is Earth spiritual, filled with divine presence, but that Earth has a hidden impulse to reveal that presence to those willing to see, hear, feel or discern it.”
I think many of us here are nature people, so most of what I’m saying will come as more of a reminder than a surprise.  For me when I am out in the majestic creation, skiing the mountaintop, sailing the ocean, or paddling a dragon boat in the Cattermole Slough, out to Shannon Falls, or towards a backdrop of Diamond Head I am often in awe of the sanctuary of the earth.  I sense God and often worship in those places. 
“If our spirit becomes sensitive to this Earth as God’ s sanctuary, we can become conscious of God’ s glory in the soil as well as the sunset, the fronds of a fern as well as the eyes of a lion.
There may indeed be other sacred sites God has chosen in the cosmos. There may be other planets filled with life. And God’s pulsating presence is everywhere (Ps. 139.7-12). Wherever the mysteries of life may yet be discovered in the cosmos, we are assured that this planet called Earth is a chosen place, a sanctuary, a sacred site in which we are privileged to live and worship.”
“One of the problems we face as we seek to expand our spiritual consciousness and enter Earth as our sanctuary for worship, is our long history of worshipping in church buildings. Our orientation has been similar to that of Jacob. He had a remarkable dream one night and saw a ladder reaching up into heaven, with angels ascending and descending. When he awoke he was suitably amazed and called the place Bethel or the ‘house of God’ and declared it to be ‘the gate of heaven’ (Gen. 28.17).
Like Jacob, we have tended to view the church as a place apart from the rest of creation, a spiritual site where we can come closer to God in worship. Ultimately, however, the church has been viewed as a point of communication with the other world, with the domain of God, with heaven. Worship in such a sanctuary could become a place of escape from this world, a way of shutting out creation and all the curses it seemed to suffer, and making contact with the holy world of heaven.
A theology of sanctuary recognises the whole Earth as sacred, as a planet chosen to preserve all forms of life. Earth is not only filled with God’ s presence, but with an infinite number of living presences that God has selected to live here. Earth is a sanctuary where the sacredness of all life is to be revered.
The living presence was seen in Jesus Christ. What amazing biology! The impulse behind all life has become a single life, a single human being with a heart, an arterial system and a pulse. Here God is not some detached figure in the distant heavens. God joins the web of life. God is not present as a spirit in a body; God has become one of us, part of our biology. In Jesus we hear the heart beat of God and feel the pulse of God’s presence.”
And so as we enter into this season of creation together, as we celebrate the sanctuary of the earth and as we begin a new season in our congregation “Actioning our Dreams” and moving forward in new and amazing ways perhaps we too can be challenge to see God in new places and new ways.  Perhaps we can discover new forms of worship, faith, love and grace together.
May it be so. Amen.

Gratitude HD

Many asked me if I would please post the video that I showed last Sunday.  Here it is. 
This inspirational video was well responded at TED conferences and filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg motivates those around him as happiness is revealed. Spoken word and music montage created and composed by Gary Malkin. Narration written and spoken by Brother David

Friday, March 28, 2014

A wonderful Light by Matt Laney

The Natural Born Loser
Matt Laney

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." - John 1:5

The next time you find yourself with a flashlight, an empty cardboard box and a little free time try this simple experiment.  Bonus points if you get a child to help you.  

First, close up the flaps of the box so it's good and dark in there.  Then stick the flashlight inside and turn it on.  What happens?  Eureka!  The box is full of light.  Darkness has been vanquished!     

Now let's see if it works the other way around. Hold the flashlight outside the box and  turn it on.  Here comes the tricky part so pay close attention: reach into the box, grab hold of some of the darkness, pull it out and place that inky gloom on the flashlight to smother the light.    

If your box of darkness is anything like mine, you're having a bit of trouble getting the darkness to comply.  Don't worry, this is very typical behavior.  It's difficult to coax darkness out of the shadows.  Try giving the dark the upper hand.  Go into an unlit closet and close the door.   

Surely there's more than enough darkness in there to overcome one measly little flashlight.  


In fact, if you somehow mustered all the darkness in the world to surround you, this little light of mine will send it scurrying away.  Here's why: darkness is only the absence of light.  When light and darkness square off in the ring, darkness loses every time.  

Every time.  

Remember that as Jesus gets closer to the cross. 

Remember that when the darkness gathers in your life. 

And that's why we all need church. 

God, we praise you that you are light, and in you there is no darkness at all (1John 1:5).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Eternal Life

"Very truly I tell you whoever believes has eternal life."  John 6:47

A few of us were reading through our devotional book "Calmly Plotting" and this piece by Matt Fitzgerald really stood out for some.

"You might be apprehensive about believing in heaven.  It feels naive.  And the church has certainly been stung by well-meaning critics who charge that Christianity's historical focus on the great pie-in-the-sky allows us to ignore the great misery here on earth.
But whether we're comfortable with his promise or not, Jesus keeps on insisting that "whoever believes has eternal life."  He doesn't define what the house of many mansions looks like.  So we get to speculate.  What is heaven like?
My favourite guess comes from old Reverend Boughton in Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead.  "Mainly I just think about the splendours of the world and multiply by two."
What would you multiply?
I'll take the sound of a cello, the smell of garlic sizzling in olive oil, the hum of my bike tire against the asphalt, the pleasure of a good haircut, the weight off my shoulders when I lean into my wife's embrace, Thursday at 5:00 on a three day weekend, the jolt of coffee, the smooth fold into a glass of wine, the ping of the radiator while snow falls outside, the leap into the lake and the feel of floating, the surprise in an infant's eyes when the baptismal water rolls slowly down her forehead, the sage embrace of home.

What would you multiply?"

This lead us into a conversation about how we need to appreciate what we have here on earth now as well.  That is what eternal life is.  It starts now - not when we die.  How do we live into God's kingdom now?

Happy Spring

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Planting for the long term

I read this devotional the other day and it spoke directly to the conversations we have been having of late.  May we continue to plant trees in the orchard.

Taking the Long View
Richard L. Floyd

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." - 1 Corinthians 3:6

I drove over to see Ralph at his hilltop orchard a week after I had presided over his wife's funeral and burial. He was well into his nineties and they had been married for seven decades. I was all of twenty-seven. It took me awhile to find him, because he was out planting apple trees.

He seemed glad to see me and said, "You may wonder why I am planting trees that I will never live to see bear fruit. But it's what I have always done, and I am not going to stop now. There were apple trees in this orchard when I came here that somebody else had planted, and there will be apple trees here after I'm gone."

Ralph was taking the long view. His words reminded me of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in response to complaints of factions in the congregation around different leaders. Some followed Paul, who had founded the church, while others followed a charismatic iterant evangelist named Apollos. But Paul chides them for this cult of personality. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

As I was retiring I worried aloud about the future of the congregation I had served for over two decades, and one of our Conference ministers said, "Rick, it was Christ's church when you got there, and it will be Christ's church after you leave."

When we watch the vast sweep of the Christian story from creation to consummation we see the various players in the drama of redemption walk on and off the stage. They play their part, they do their thing, whatever thing God has called them to do, and then it is time for the next person. Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote, "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope."

Hope trusts God to finish the project. In the meantime, which is our time, we take the long view, like Ralph with his apple trees, like Paul with his beloved Corinthian congregation, like all of us with those projects to which we have given our life and labor.

O God of time and history, who holds the future securely in the palm of your hand, remind us that nothing we do that is good and loving and true will ever be lost, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Birthing Hope

Our scripture on Sunday was a familiar one.  John 3:1-17.  Nicodemus asks Jesus.  "How can I be born from above?"  "How can I be born again?" If you didn't get a chance to watch the video from yesterday go back and do it today.
Where is God desiring to break through in new life for you?
What new thing is being birthed within.
Take time this week to notice the places of hope in your life.
Who are the people, what are the things that keep you going?
Jesus offers eternal life.  What does that mean to you?
Is the hope of God's kingdom here and now birthing new life in you?  If not what is holding it back?
John 6:47 "Very truly I tell you whoever believes has eternal life."

Monday, March 17, 2014

A story of Hope Submitted by Judi

Hello All,
If you missed worship on Sunday here is an amazing story of hope.  Our verses spoke of being born again.  Imagine if we all were transformed like this when we followed Jesus.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hope found in the Garden

The joy of the crocuses might happen for me every year but this year it has brought a particular strength and hope.

On Sunday take time to look at our little garden plot out front.  I know for years many have worked hard at it but as with everything there is a season and for the last couple years that little garden has started to look tired and worn out.  Recently Kayla discovered a desire within her to work on that garden with the youth.  We have looked at it many days with its dead leaves and branches over pouring.  We have thought about how sad, dead and desperate it looks.  We have wondered if there is any possible way it could become beautiful again.  People have laughed at us telling us we can't make anything of that garden, and then something happened this week.  Suddenly one afternoon I glanced at that garden and it beautiful, spectacular really.  Stunning crocuses making their ways through the deadness. I have spent many moments breathing that garden in this week.  Others fell in love with it's story of hope and promise too and have begun to spend some time there...and if you come look at it now, it tells a very different story.

O God, open our hearts to discover hope in your creation.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Super Human Hope

I found this reflection filled with the kind of relief that gives hope and promise.

Super Human Christians
Tony Robinson

"When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, 'Where are we to buy enough bread for these people to eat?' He said this to test him . . . Philip answered him, 'Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.'" - John 6:5-7 

"I can't do this!," protested a young woman about whom I care a great deal. Tears of frustration welling up at the corners of her eyes.  

The "this" in question was a little vague but clearly overwhelming. Something like a hungry crowd thundering in your direction, expecting you to feed them when you've nothing, or next to nothing, left to give.  

"This" could have been the young woman's insistent, into-everything not quite two-year-old. It could have been her job, where she was tasked with managing the unmanageable. Maybe it was being a wife and trying to have something like a "relationship" with her husband when both were stretched to their limits. Likely it was "all of the above," and more besides.  

"I can't do this," she exclaimed. To which a wise mentor (that would not be me!) responded, "No, you can't; you can't do this." Pause. Then, "but God can."  

Is that a glib, an "easy" answer? Or is it profound wisdom? It could be the former, but it strikes me as the latter. Sometimes -- often -- we take too much on ourselves. Sometimes we imagine that what it means to be a good Christian is to do it all -- to perfection -- without breaking a sweat. Christians as super-humans. Then when we find we cannot do it all we get angry with life or with God or those closest to us. In frustration we protest, "I can't do this!"  

At which point God doesn't call us "failures," or "worthless." God says, "Right, so glad you've come to your senses. Let me help. Let me be God for you. You just be human -- that's plenty." 

At least sometimes, Holy One, when we find ourselves at the end of our rope, there's a reason we're there. Grant us grace to let go and let you be God for us. Amen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Temptation of First World Problems

We are so tempted to feel hopeless even in the most mundane moments and experiences of our lives.  What if we changed the lens from which we view the world to one of hope?

First World Problems 
Vince Amlin

God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." Then the Lord said, "…And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" - Jonah 4:9,11 

Recently, a friend told me she'd had a meeting cancelled at work because the person she was supposed to meet with had a flat tire on his jet. The internet has given us a term for such trouble: first world problems. Slow wifi connection? Lousy in-flight movies? No Trader Joe's in town?! You've got first world problems. 

For Jonah it’s the death of his favorite plant. (Really he's pouting about having to save his enemies. Plus, his clothes still smell like the inside of a fish.) God uses Jonah’s pain to teach the prophet a lesson: If you care this much for a shrub, how do you think I feel about the Assyrians? 

God’s response helps us put our problems in perspective. Dissatisfied with that soy latte? Consider your neighbors without access to clean water. Heated car seats not warming up fast enough? Imagine what it's like to be sleeping outside. When we become too absorbed with ourselves, God refocuses our attention. 

When we suffer, it can remind us that the same spirit is within the stranger and the enemy. Our pain becomes a point of connection with those we have fought with or forgotten. The death of a beloved plant or of a beloved cell phone battery can send us out, looking for others with problems (sometimes just a little worse than ours.) 

Refocusing God, in my pain and discomfort reveal my connection to the stranger and the enemy.t

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tempting Hope

I wonder if there are some things in your life that simply feel hopeless.
I wonder if at times all of life and the human condition feels hopeless.

When we are without hope we find ourselves in despair.  Most of us have known that feeling a time or two before.  That is where faith comes in.  Imagine how it was for Jesus in the wilderness of temptation.  Imagine how different our lives would be if he chose to give in, if he gave up hope in the promises of God.

Recently I have been reading a book my Max Lucado.  In this book he repeats the lines

"You'll get through this.
It won't be painless.
It won't be quick.
But God will use this mess for good.
Don't be foolish or naive.
But don't despair either.
With god's help, you'll get through this."

Lucado uses the life story of Joseph to remind us that even though you may feel like you are in the darkest pit (in fact you have been stripped beaten and thrown in there by people who are supposed to love you) God is still with you, and you too may one day become someone who people turn to for help in desperate situations.  You may even find yourself a leader in the most unlikely of places and circumstances.  

If we refuse to loose hope we will come through.
So if you find yourself despairing, lost, alone, confused, angry or...  turn to the light of hope.
Join us on the journey of planting hope in your life and the lives of others this day.
And in the meantime most of all know you are not alone.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hope is Here

This is the video that we watched in service yesterday.  Many people appreciated it so I thought I would share it here today.  May you find hope in unexpected places and circumstances today.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Seed

Here are some words to reflect on as we begin Planting Hope in this season of Lent
Where is it that you need to be broken open in this season so that new life and hope might present itself?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Calmly Plotting the Ressurection

"E.B White, the famous writer of Charlotte's Web and more, found his wife, Katherine, a brilliant editor at the New Yorker, in the last year of her life, placing daffodil bulbs gently into the Maine ground in October.  She was "calmly plotting the resurrection," according to White.
She knew she was sick, she knew she didn't have long, but she did have hope.  Surely she was afraid. But she wasn't afraid enough to resist planting.
She reminds us of those women at first discovery of the empty tomb.  They were surely afraid but not afraid enough to preclude their hope or joy.  We begin Lent with a destination in mind.  We too want to find the tomb empty or at least some tomb empty.  We are willing to weep as long as joy comes in the morning, or to the next generation of bulbs or people."  (Calmly Plotting 2014 Lent Devotionals "The Sillspeaking Writers Group")

This is the reading that created our lenten theme "Planting Hope"
As we head into lent I invite you to walk with Jesus in the way of Hope and love.  As we walk through the wilderness towards the cross may we not despair, may we see the Jesus Way.  May we plant hope in the gardens of our lives and in this congregation.

"This Lent may we calmly plot the resurrection, on bulb, one congregation and one day at a time."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ash Wednesday Sermon On Truth, Dust, Babies and Funerals

As we enter into this season at times we need to be reminded of it's purpose.  This sermon not only reminded me of the purpose of Ash Wednesday but more importantly, this sermon reminded me of the purpose of life altogether.

Lenten Blessings to you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Beginning the Lenten Journey 2014

I saw this link on a friends page.  These are the kinds of things I always consider giving up for lent.  As we plant hope in this season consider what keeps you from fullness of life.