Ministry

Minister's Message: Mother's Day 2019

The prophet Hosea 11:3-4 describes God as a mother in these words:

“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I who took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.”

We know what it feels like to be at the receiving end of care and affection. That tucking in of the blanket, the unexpected meal you did not have to cook, being picked up at the airport after a long trip, a touch, call, card or prayer shawl.

Signs of love, care and belonging.

My children were taught that Mother's Day included their Dad. That what Mom and Dad give to them comes from a parent's heart: loving as an act of the will, a sacrificial love, putting children's needs ahead of their own. In the United Church an attempt was made to replace Mother's Day and create a Family Sunday, a thanksgiving for all parents and individuals who show us such deep care. I like the idea but feel that emotional pull to name and even idealize motherhood. Between the ideals and reality is where most of us live.

I enjoy the words of this hymn:

God made from one blood all the families of earth// the intimate networks on whom we depend//
Through families we've tasted the values of trust and felt what it means to be loving and just.
Yet families have also betrayed their best goals, mistreating their members and bruising their souls.

(Thomas Troeger, 1988, VU#554).

We all need what goes beyond gender and biology, what is essential to every human being: to be loved unconditionally and to love.

Faith community can be this type of family, united by shared kindness and committed to the ideals of the Gospel and authentic relationships. As of our baptism our family name is: Christian. We are there for each other: brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts...in a circle of love and care.

May our Mothering God hold us, love us, care for us and be the Love that pushes us to live deep loving relationships!

Happy Mother's Day!

Bonne fête des Mères!

 

Rev. David

My Grandmothers and Mom are relationships that taught me much about life and faith, they are a precious inheritance. I found this prayer from an unnamed source that blesses all mothers, including mine, and share it with you:

Gracious God, we thank you for adopting us into your family through the miracle of your grace, and for calling us to be brothers and sisters to each other. Today, loving God, we pray for our mothers:

• who cared for us when we were helpless

• who comforted us when we were hurt

• whose love and care we often took for granted.

Today, mothering God, we pray for:

• those who are grieving the loss of their mother

• those who never knew their biological mother, and now yearn for her

• those who have experienced the wonder of an adopted mother's love

• those mothers and families separated by distance, war or conflict.

Lord, give them all a special blessing this Mother’s Day!

 

Amen.

 

Minister's Message: Earthquakes

After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake. the guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men. The women left the (empty) tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy. (Matthew 28: 1-8)

You can read the same story many times and yet hear something new depending on your personal circumstances. Spirit spoke to my reality through these words of the Gospel. The changes in my life these months are profound and disrupting every facet of my life. I was tempted to go back to my former Notre-Dame-de-Grâce residence this week to see the sprouting of 200++ tulips and daffodils in the front garden. I resisted the temptation, there is no going back. I look at the new property and the absence of plants, trees and shrubs and realize I have so much work to do. I am in between what was and what will be, feeling more tired than excited by the prospects.

What does Easter joy have to do with earthquakes?

Joy will come to Jesus’ disciples after the horror and anguish of his senseless death. It is born out of the disruption and seismic shift in the fabric of how one understands endings and new beginnings. Resurrection power explodes into the cemetery where Jesus lay, rolling the grave rock away, bringing life where there was death and hopelessness.

Earthquakes shake up, destroy, unearth, and realign boundaries. They force a new emerging earth, new maps and paths through destructive changes. They are horrible to experience yet can lead to rebuilding stronger buildings on the ruins, up to new safety standard codes.

Easter Earthquake: a shaking up? a new world? a realignment and relearning? Sounds like a revolution and feels scary and unappealing.

Faith calls me to a deep spiritual shakeup this Easter season where there is fear before joy, tears and loss before being found and of senseless loss before new life.

The earthquake of Easter calls me to trust God in the realignments I am presently experiencing, that this powerful life force of resurrection will bring beauty and joy.

So I pray:

God, shake me from my placidness and comfort.
Meet me in my darkness, chaos,
and in the changes I do not understand.

Lead me from fear through the earthquake of faith into new life and joy.
From deep within I call to you:
Be my resurrection earthquake.

 A blessed Easter season!

Rev. David

 

God of power, God of people,
you are the life of all that lives,
energy that fills the earth,
vitality that brings to birth,
impetus in making whole
whatever is bruised or broken.
In you we grow to know the truth
that sets all creation free.
You are the song the whole earth sings,
the promise liberation brings,
now and forever.

 (Celebrate God’s Presence, UCC, p.193)

Farewell to Rev. David

Rev. David Lefneski’s final Sunday service at SouthWest is on June 2nd at 10AM. All are invited to join the congregation in sending him off with the pot luck to end all pot lucks!

Rev. David has been in Verdun since 1998 when he took over as Minister of both Verdun United and Crawford Park United. He oversaw the amalgamation of those two congregations in 2007 and the transformation into SouthWest United. It was his vision that created and sustained SouthWest Mission for twelve years.

Rev. David has been a minister not just for his congregation but for the whole community. His vision for SouthWest was of a radical hospitality. When it came to baptisms, marriages, and celebrations of life, all were welcome. There was no judgment based on past religious affiliations or lack thereof. He actively sought ties with our Muslim and Sikh neighbours.

Rev. David will be missed by a broad range of people, some of whom never attended a service at Southwest United, but knew him as a partner in community organizing, as Padre to the Legion, or as a comforting presence in their time of grief . We hope as many of them as possible will come by the church on Sunday, June 2nd, to share our table and say goodbye and good luck to David.

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Where?: Southwest United Church, 1445 Clemenceau, Verdun

When?: Sunday June 2nd, starting at 11:30AM

What should I bring?: your best dishes and your best wishes!

Minister's Message: Easter Joy

One: This is the day that God has made,

All: Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118: 24)


Over the last few Sundays, this Psalm has been read in worship. In it are the palm branches of Palm/Passion Sunday waved in praise to God (v. 27-28) and the affirmation of the rejected stone (Jesus) becoming God’s kingdom cornerstone (v. 22-23).

It affirms for all who would hear: 

Give thanks to the Lord, because God is good, 
God’s love endures for ever! (v. 1-4, 29).

This affirmation of love is one that I am grateful for. It is present in moments of joy but also in those times of loss, distress and fear. It weaves together our relationships, including our interconnected-ness with all of Creation. It speaks of love as greater than death, the heart of the message of Easter. 

In my imagination I hear the whisper of God in the coldness and darkness of the tomb early that Sunday morning: 

It is time. 
You did well my Son.
Come home!!

These last few weeks are very emotional for me as I live a profound personal goodbye to SouthWest: the final Good Friday service and community meal at the Mission, confirmation and Easter celebration, preparing to move the office to the church and transitioning programs to the local Community center. Twenty years have flown by and I live such profound gratitude for so many blessings and so much love. This love sustains me in these deep transitions. 

“This is the day that God has made” is not only for the joyful times. It resonates in the sadness of death, in the coldness of the tomb and the inevitable goodbyes that occur in our lives. It is an affirmation of a constant for us: that God is in our midst, that love is everlasting, that we are created to live in relationships and not in isolation. 

An Easter hymn says:

Because you live, O Christ, 
the garden of the world has come to flower,
the darkness of tomb is flooded with your resurrected power.
The stone has rolled away and death cannot imprison.
O sing this Easter Day, 
for Jesus Christ has risen, has risen, has risen!!

(Shirley Murray, 1984, VU 178)


I affirm love and wrap myself in its warmth like a hand stitched quilt, and am calmed and held in its grace. 

May the stone be rolled from our hearts, our anxieties and fears. 

May the whisper of God be life and hope to our lives. 

May God bless endings with new beginnings for this is the day that God has made. 


Rev. David 

Easter material for families/ feuillet pour familles à Pâques

The story of Easter – Luke 24

After Jesus’ death, early on Sunday morning, the women who had followed him went to the tomb carrying the spices they had prepared… But, O surprise! the tomb was empty!!!

The body of the Lord Jesus wasn’t there anymore.

Le récit de Pâques – Luc 24

Tôt le dimanche matin, après la mort de Jésus, les femmes qui l’avaient suivi se sont rendues au tombeau en apportant des huiles parfumée. Mais, ô surprise! Le tombeau était vide !!!!

Minister's Message: Easter Life

The Greening of the Earth and our Spirits 

Christ is risen! Alleluia, He is risen indeed!

'Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome...ran from the tomb, distressed and afraid. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.'  Mark 16: 1-8

One could say it is slow in coming each year, the interplay between the ending of winter and the arrival of spring. More sunshine, then cold, gardens starting to sprout then wind and snow. Back and forth like a tug of war. 

The resurrection story in Mark's gospel is profoundly human. It is not the full blown Easter joy of the other Gospels but rather the slow greening of the spirit. It is a story of encounter with the emptiness of both the tomb and the spirit. 

The women who go to the tomb find it empty, hear the angelic proclamation “he is not here, he is risen,” then run away 'distressed and terrified!' And instead of sharing joy they say nothing to anyone because of their fear. 

This is not the more regimented religious version that accommodates the need for full-on certainty and explanation: the one that goes so quickly from death on the cross to resurrection joy and leaves one with whiplash. 

There is progression in the greening of the spirit just like in the greening of the earth. There is room for fear, distress and disbelief. There is not always an immediate turn around, but the slow converting to the light of each place in our hearts, minds and spirit. Resurrection may be an immediate moment but letting the stone be rolled away from my heart takes time. 


When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
your touch can call us back to life again,
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
love is come again, like wheat arising green. 

(VU 186, John Crum, 1928, to the tune of Noël Nouvelet.)


May I let the Resurrected One touch my fears, questions and distress. As the earth is renewed this springtime may I be slowly greened in my faith. 

Let the greening begin in me o God! 


A blessed Easter to all of you. 


Rev. David 

Message du Pasteur: Pâques

Joyeuses Pâques!!

En cette fête de Pâques - la fête de la renouvellement de nos esprits et de la terre - nous sortons de l’hiver avec un profond besoin de crier: Alléluia !! Pendant le carême, nous avons suivi les traces de Jésus sur un chemin qui mène à travers le désert, chemin qui implique des sacrifices et des choix difficiles à comprendre pour nous qui vivons en 2019. Une nouvelle vie vient après la souffrance, la joie après la longue nuit de larmes, la résurrection après la croix. Il y a la célébration, mais seulement à la suite de périodes durs.

Que Pâques soit remplie de vie, de joie et de résurrection dans vos cœurs et vos relations, et à travers vous, qu’elle brille dans les dures réalités des gens qui vous entourent. Quand on vous dit: Christ est ressuscité, criez: Alléluia !!

Pasteur David

Palm/ Passion Sunday April 14

Worship this Sunday, led by Beryl Barraclough, will take us through the Passion story, from the Last Supper to the crucifixion and burial. Versions of the Passion can be found in all four Gospels, but this year we will be hearing readings from Luke.

 Volunteers are preparing a bake sale to take place directly after the service. There will also be sandwiches available to buy and raffle tickets for various prizes.

Beryl will also lead a Women’s Circle in the sanctuary at about 11:30.

Minister's Message: Learning How to Die

Holy Week begins this Monday and the darkest days of the Christian pilgrimage will begin. The Passion story is one of heaviness, betrayal, sacrifice and violence. The seven last words of Jesus spoken from the cross invite us into the intimacy of his last hours. They are a living testament to his life, faith, and the relationships that sustained him and speak to the complexity of believing even when senseless death makes a mockery of good people whose life was focused on selflessness and generosity. We cannot make sense of the senseless and need to accept that shadow, injustice and darkness are a part of living. Following Jesus into his last days and listening to his words from the cross may give us insight as to how we may both live and die.

The holy week hymn, Go to Dark Gethsemane (James Montgomery, 1820, VU 133) has this verse:

Calvary’s mournful mountain view;
there the Lord of glory see,
made a sacrifice for you,
 dying on the accursèd tree.
“It is finished,” hear his cry:
trust in Christ and learn to die.

 I have accompanied many people at their end of life. The idea that trusting Jesus helps me learn to die is one I like. As I hear his anguish, his letting go, his forgiveness and ultimate hope I want to both live and die in these values and faith Jesus inspires.

Read his last words in a moment of meditativeness.
Begin with a prayer:

Help me God to follow Jesus even to his death on a cross.
Teach me the meaning of living and dying in hope.
May I trust in Christ as I live into the darkness of death.

Pray for those who are experiencing violence, hatred and torture, for those who are dying alone and those who need hope and grace.

1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
2. Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
3. John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother
4. Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
5. John 19:28: I thirst.
6. John 19:30: It is finished. (From the Greek "Tetelestai" which is also translated "It is accomplished", or "It is complete".)
7.    Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.

 Let us listen to Jesus in his dying words.

Let us follow him into darkness and learn how to die.

 Rev. David

image: BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA, URHOBO, NIGERIA.

Minister's message: Couch Surfing Like Jesus

Where did Jesus sleep during his three year nomadic, public and prophetic ministry? The Gospels tell of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus where he would stay when near Jerusalem. Did their hospitality include a guest bedroom or did they share a straw-filled mattress on the ground? I am thinking of accommodations as I no longer have a home in Montreal. I spent a night on my son’s Verdun couch this week. Although a bonding moment, it was not my bed! I walked to and from the Mission, a healthy choice, and lived from a small knapsack. The couch was a step up from an air mattress.  

Listen to this story of Jesus’ sleeping habits.

As they were walking along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.” The man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

(Luke 9: 57-59)

In another gospel, Jesus was sleeping in the hull of the boat when the storm came (Matthew 8: 23-27). He must have been tired and slept where, and as, able.

I imagine that Jesus knew what couch surfing was about as he had no place to call his own. Interesting to remember that when he responded to Spirit’s call, he gave up everything: home, address, carpentry career, family responsibilities… he became an itinerant preacher - staying where he was welcomed or under the open sky, living in the moment and with what he could carry. 

For someone who has a few thousand books this is a hard word to hear: How many books can I carry?

My mother and sister come to visit the new house today. Garden plans, the placing of quilts and the enjoying of this new space will be part of this weekend. My mother said that I am not downsizing but rather upsizing (like at McDonald’s?) and living in my dream house. It is true that I now enjoy an attached garage with an electric door opener and a central vac, just like my mom! (No competition there.) 

These are change-filled days with so much to do. 

Living the balance between Jesus’ call and the reality of our lives, in the preciousness of each moment life offers us, following as a disciple, willing to give up everything or at a minimum to not be consumed with possessions is our challenge. 

I enjoy the Iona Community song that says:

First-born of Mary, provocative preacher,
itinerant teacher, outsider’s choice;
Jesus inspires and disarms and confuses whoever he chooses to hear his voice.

 (John L. Bell, 1998, MV 110)

 I pray in this Lenten season to lessen my hold on things, to accept changes that, while challenging, are for my well-being.

I pray for those whose only option for sleeping is a couch, or under the open sky or in a refugee tent.

I pray to hear the call of Jesus to live life fully, to love deeply and to appreciate the travelling companions and hospitality offered along the way. 

I pray that Jesus inspires, disarms and confuses me.

Amen.

 Rev. David

 

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