May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
I had a great vacation last week, but it is good to be back in New Brunswick and back at Two Rivers Pastoral Charge. (This is a pretty great place to hang out!) My time away was relaxing, and also good re-connecting time with my family, so I come back with energy and ready to launch into the busy-ness that the last 6 weeks of the year always brings!
But while I was away, the world news continued to be grim. The conflict in Gaza has intensified rather than resolved. A new seismic event in Iceland means that many people there are out of their homes. Winter's cold weather means that more people are struggling to make ends meet, and people without homes are even more vulnerable.
I know from conversations that the war in Gaza is troubling so many of us. The news today brought us the story of soldiers entering a hospital... a hospital where patients are already dying because access to supplies (and water and electricity) has been cut off. And my heart breaks.
I shared a quote on the church Facebook page from a Palestinian Lutheran pastor, Munther Isaac who, in a sermon last month, asked, "Where is god in war? God is under the rubble."
I have to believe that God is present in Gaza right now. God is present with every parent who has lost a child. God is present with every child who has lost a parent. God is present with everyone living in fear. God is present with everyone who is hungry, everyone without water to drink, everyone whose house is falling down around them, trapping them in the rubble. I have to believe this, because if I didn't, I would despair.
And I can believe this because God chose to become human in the person of Jesus. God knows what it is like to be hungry and thirsty. God knows what it is to feel afraid. God knows what it is to have a child die. God even knows what it is to feel God-forsaken. (Remember that Jesus cried out on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!") And so God is under the rubble, because God has been there before.
This morning, on CBC Radio's "The Current," I heard two women being interviewed, one Palestinian and one Israeli, who are both actively working for peace, who are both actively working to build relationships between the two sides. Towards the end, the interviewer asked, "How do you avoid becoming despondent?" and one of the women answered, "We cannot afford to lose the hope. If we were to lose the hope, we cannot live here any more. Today, more than ever."
Hope is about trusting that a better world is not only possible, but is coming. Hope means trusting that God is present under the rubble, but that rubble isn't the world that God dreams of. Hope means trusting, especially when it seems the most unlikely, that this world that God dreams of will some day become a reality. And this hope then spurs us to action.
And so as we pray for peace, we also allow hope to inspire our actions. Amen.
In terms of announcements this week:
Worship on Sunday will be at 9:15 at Summerville and 11:15 at Westfield and on Facebook Live. This week, we will be celebrating the Reign of Christ which is the last Sunday in the church year - the following Sunday we begin a new church year with the beginning of Advent. Our reading this week is one that may be familiar to you - Matthew 25:31-46 - and I'm likely going to be developing that theme of hope that I explored earlier in this e-mail, and how it is because we trust in God's vision for a better world that we can act to make the world a better place.
I know that you are probably going to be reading this late in the day (or tomorrow), but a reminder to Session and Official Board members that we have our meetings tonight - 6:30 for Session and 7:30 for the Official Board, both meetings at Westfield United Church.
We had a great second Coffee House last night in the Westfield Sanctuary! (Thank you to everyone who helped and/or shared their gifts with us all.) If you are looking ahead, our next one will be on Tuesday December 12 at 7pm.
Our next Board Game Night is coming up on Friday November 24 (last Friday of the month) at 7pm in the parlour at Westfield United Church. As always, bring your favourite board game to play with others, or come along and play someone else's favourite. (Snacks will be provided!) All ages are welcome.
Christmas Letters are ready - thank you, Elaine! They were at Long Reach and Westfield last Sunday, and will be at Summerville this Sunday. Please help us to save on postage by picking yours up, and if you see one that you can hand-deliver (e.g. to a neighbour), that is also very much appreciated. As always, the back of the letter includes the full schedule for the Advent and Christmas season which will let you know what is going on and where.
Finally, thank you to Tracy Friars for leading worship last Sunday, and to all of you who welcomed her so warmly!
And I think that's it for announcements this week.
For my closing thought each week, I often share something that I'm reading or watching or listening to - something that has touched my heart or tickled my brain. When I was in Florida last week, every morning before breakfast my stepmother and I would walk over to the pool and join my aunt there to swim laps for half an hour or so. Swimming has always been a very meditative activity for me - there's something about the repeated movement and the rhythm of the breath that make it very easy for me to lose track on time and place. Last Saturday (which was November 11), as I swam, my brain decided to add a song to the movement and the breathing, and swam along to a haunting song from the movie Passchendaele - you can listen to it by clicking here.
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."