May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
This past Sunday, we celebrated Epiphany, and as has been our tradition in the past several years, we distributed Star Words - paper stars, each with a different word printed on them. Just as the magi followed studied the stars and followed a specific star to Bethlehem, we too can listen to the guidance of our star word. How might God be speaking to us through our word? Where might God be leading us through our word? Do we have the courage to follow where our word is leading us?
My word this year is "reassurance."
My first thought when I saw my word on Sunday morning was, "Isn't that nice?" My second thought, as I looked at my star on the side of the pulpit through the rest of the service was, "Oh no. What is 2023 going to hold for me if my guiding word needs to be reassurance?"
I've had time to ponder my word a bit more since then. When I shared my word on Facebook, the first comment was someone popping in to reassure me that everything would be OK. A colleague commented that I would be reassuring others of the enduring love of God.
I have also been wondering - what is it that I need reassurance of? The continual assurance (reassurance) of God's presence and of God's love is something that I think that we all need to hear always. In a world that seems to be going haywire, I think that I need the reassurance that God WILL have the final word (even when it doesn't seem like it in the moment). And maybe I need reassurance that the word "reassurance" doesn't need to be scary!
In the weeks and months ahead, as we are chatting, I would love to hear how your word is stimulating your thoughts and your wonderings. (And if you weren't in worship on Sunday and you would like a word, let me know - we will figure out a way to get it to you!)
In terms of announcements, this is what is coming up this week:
Worship on Sunday will be at Summerville (9:15) and at Westfield and on Facebook Live (11:15). This will be a communion service at both churches - if you are going to be joining us virtually, I invite you to have some bread/cracker and some juice/water at hand, so that we can feast together. We are going to be reading John 1:29-42 - I haven't written my reflection yet, but at this point in the week, I am intrigued by Jesus's question, "What are you looking for?" as well as the ongoing invitation to "Come and see!"
Sunday School will be resuming this Sunday as well, during worship, at Westfield. (Long Reach began their Sunday School last week.) The Christmas Pageant that you presented to us in December was fabulous, and I know that Ken has a Sunday School program that is designed to engage the younger members of our congregation in the bible stories we read in church using games and crafts as well as stories. All children are welcome!
Annual Report Reminder - thank you to everyone who has e-mailed their reports to Elaine in the church office, or has dropped them off for her. The firm deadline for reports is Sunday January 15 - anything submitted after that won't be included in the printed report and will have to be presented separately as an addendum.
Youth Connection will be resuming on Sunday after the Christmas break! Ken and Tatum are planning a bonfire (fingers crossed that the weather cooperates) so watch your e-mail inbox for details. All middle- and high-school aged youth are invited to participate.
Broadview Subscriptions - it is that time of year again, time to renew subscriptions to Broadview Magazine, or get your new subscription set up. Broadview is not a direct publication of the United Church of Canada, but the Board of Directors comes from the United Church, it reports on happenings in the church, and the articles are generally written from a United Church theological and ethical perspective. The cost is $25/year (8 issues) and you can subscribe by putting your money (cash or a cheque payable to "Broadview Magazine") in an envelope along with your name and mailing address - put the envelope in the offering plate with Joanne Yorke's name on it. The subscription deadline is January 20. For any questions, or to arrange for an alternate way to submit your payment, you can call Joanne at 757-8080.
Session Members - a reminder of our January meeting next week, January 18, at 7pm at Long Reach. I'm sure that Chris will be sending out our agenda soon (and if you have any items to add to the agenda, please send them to Chris).
Bible Study - we gather every Wednesday at 10 in the Westfield parlour as we are meandering our way through the Old Testament. This morning, we almost finished Exodus. We jump around a bit, trying to get a sense of the overall story arc, but the best part of these gatherings are the directions our conversations take us - today we spent a good amount of our time discussing church architecture (ie what physical spaces help us to best sense God's presence?), leapfrogging from the description of the tent of gathering that God instructed the Ancient Israelite people to build, summarized in Exodus 39:32-43. Everyone is welcome to join us!
And that is what I have for announcements today.
As a closing thought today, I want to share a couple of articles from the January/February issue of Broadview Magazine. We gathered on Monday to discuss this issue, and spent most of our time on the cover story and all of the issues and implications of the story. It was about a United Church of Canada minister who befriended a prisoner on death row in Texas, initially through a penpal program, and as his execution date approached she became his spiritual advisor. It is a heavy story, holding the balance of deep compassion for the victim and her family, along with deep compassion for the prisoner, but it is a story that led to a very good conversations as a group as we pondered all of the implications of capital punishment. You can read the article by clicking here. The companion article is written by the subject of the first article, Rev. Bri-anne Swan, as she explores the theological implications of the death penalty - you can read her reflection by clicking here. (And as a side note - there are always excellent articles in Broadview - see above for how you can subscribe.)
Blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."