October 22, 2017

I’VE BEEN THINKING…about the visible & measurable change brought by the passage of time. Jesus’ church adapts and evolves with the realities around it. I’m aware of this because this Sunday I am in Dashwood, a little village near Lake Huron, between Grand Bend & Exeter. I grew up there, while my Dad was the minister, back in the 60’s.  It was a great place to be a kid – the baby-boom meant we had others to play with all the time.  But we’re all grown & gone, and the farms around town are now run by corporations, and the one industry (Dashwood Windows) moved their plant down toward London.

The world of my childhood is gone. The village has shrunk, and the church is closing at the end of this year. The old folk will drive to Exeter to go to church. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s the evolving of a society and a population group. Happens all the time. So Jesus’ team has to be smart and strategic, and know the trends and understand who they are serving, and how to respond and adapt. That’s why ENVIRONICS can really help us at Wellington Square to serve our Burlington community. ENVIRONICS is a research group who have polled and analyzed the cultural, social and economic landscape for the United Church of Canada. Burlington and W. Square were one of their prime subjects.

A small team of Wellington Square’s volunteer leaders have been living with this data & info, and preparing to share it with all of us. This Saturday morning (Oct 28th) they will share the research findings so we can discuss together what it means, and how we might adjust and adapt to serve the community in Jesus’ name. I hope you’ll be curious enough, and committed enough to come, listen & participate. The coffee & muffins will be out at 9:15a.m. Today in Dashwood we’ll tell stories, laugh & remember, and celebrate 165 years of faithful ministry in that village church. Then get ready to move on to the new reality. Here in Burlington it’s different. There is so much potential and hope for a splendid future of faithfulness in service and ministry.  If we’re willing to be smart & strategic, to listen & learn, and be guided by God’s Holy Spirit, then this faith family can continue to transform to meet spiritual needs of the community around us. The Lord be with us all. See you Saturday?   ORV



October 8, 2017

I’VE BEEN THINKING……about how to handle the information overload we’ve been facing. One trauma after another. Crisis, death, sensationalism multiplied.  The hurricanes and earthquakes of September were enough; then the massacre in Las Vegas. Senseless carnage. And in other regions of the world there is more – ethnic\religious cleansing in Myannmar, floods in SouthEast Asia with thousands drowned… as I type the list I want to stop – I don’t want you to be bombarded by this anymore. And that’s my point. We don’t need to be crushed by constant news of disaster and death in the world. Rather, be selective and protective of how much you allow your senses to receive. While we don’t ‘turtle’ and pull in and ignore, we choose to keep balance in what we let our spirits receive. The News media will tell you every disaster, in glorious detail. Their motto is, “If it bleeds, it leads” meaning the bloodiest story will lead the news in priority and air-time. They will broadcast on-scene video from cell phones and police body-cams. For you to see that is not helpful or healthy – in fact it is diminishing and destructive to your spirit. So what’s the alternative? Well, Limits and alternatives. Limit how much time and detail given to broadcast news. Limit drastically. Then give your spirit information to maintain your inner spiritual balance. I believe we can fill our mind and heart with God’s presence – in a mystical yet very real way. “Christianity has hardly contemplated the possibility that the consciousness of Jesus might be the consciousness of the Christian, that the whole point of the Gospel is that everyone may experience union with God in the same way as Jesus himself.”—Alan Watts

That’s a helpful insight. Rather than fill our brain with images of destruction & disaster, or numbers and descriptions of death, we feed our spirit on the heart of God. Far fetched and far-out? According to Jesus, this is exactly what we can and should do. “Those who love me…my Father will love them , and we will come to them and make our home with them… On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”  John 14:23, 20. Tony Campolo explained when he was here that he spends 20-30 minutes at the start of his day ‘Breathing in the Spirit, and whispering Jesus, Jesus, Jesus over and over”, until his inner soul and his outer consciousness are steeped in, and radiant with, Christ’s peace, wisdom, compassion, and hope. And so I say, very simply…The Lord be with you… ORV


October 1, 2017

I’ve been thinking…about a medical research headline I read recently: “Power Causes Brain Damage”. Really?  Yes!  The clinical evidence from neurological researchers at Cambridge, McMaster, Princeton and beyond suggests that “Subjects under the influence of power… acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury – becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, critically, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view”.   YIKES! A British neurologist who went into government, wrote a book about this and described it as ‘an acquired disorder that the medical literature doesn’t recognize, but should.”  He called it Hubris syndrome: a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” Another researcher said power is ‘a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.”  The end result is a hard heart, a blind eye, a cold shoulder to the needs of people and the world around us. Right away in this I see the value of worship. Attending a church service should give us a gentle, joyful ‘reality check’. In worship we acknowledge a ‘Higher Power’ and that only God is great’.  We are reminded that we are all, at times, mistake-prone and sinful;  we have much to learn;  and we are still and always, in need of guidance and growth in our personalities and lifestyle. Worship, at its best, should help us to be humble. That’s healthy.  All of which is a bit of a preamble to next Sundays sermon theme, the benefits of Worship. Over my 3 month summer sabbatical I pondered the question ‘Why do people go to church? Why should they?  What’s the value of getting involved in faith and spiritual practices?  It was a great refresher\reminder for me. And it caused me to say to myself:  I Love this God Stuff”. So as we start the fall, on three Sundays, I’m suggesting WHY we can love this God stuff. Some of you already heard me make the case that ‘We learn & grow together’ (Sept 17th);  Today I’m suggesting ‘We serve & give’, and next Sunday, on Thanksgiving we can focus on the benefits of thanks & praise in worship. So well done you, for being here – on any given Sunday, good worship should help you avoid getting too big a head, or too hard a heart.

The Lord be with you…  ORV


September 10, 2017

I’ve been thinking…about how the proper perspective makes all the difference. I recently read interviews done with soldiers who had been involved in the D-Day invasion, as allied forces landed on the shore of Nazi occupied France in 1944.  A U.S. Marine who had landed at Omaha beach lived through the horrific battle scenes of landing craft being blown up, and soldiers cut to pieces as they ran for cover. He said, “As I huddled on the beach, there were bodies and body parts everywhere. The sand was red, and the air was whistling with Hot metal – shells, bullets. We couldn’t move and everywhere the carnage and destruction was around me. And I thought to myself, “we’re going to lose. We can’t get set up on shore. We’re going to lose.” They interviewed another man, this one an air reconnaissance flyer for the British. What did you see? What were you thinking? “I was flying at 8,000 feet, and I could see the coast, I could see the Canadians pressing forward at Juno Beach, and I could see the American paratroopers who had dropped behind the lines, and they were moving back pinching the enemy against the shore, and the tanks were being unloaded in places and Allied Forces breaking through and bunkers being over-run, and enemy positions destroyed, and I thought to myself, “We’re going to WIN. We’re actually going to WIN!!” Perspective. “I had nearly lost confidence; my faith was almost gone…until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood…” (Psalm 73:2, 17) Life can seem confusing and disheartening at times. But something happens in church – we get God’s perspective – the big picture, the long view. Over my sabbatical weeks away I was able to worship in 7 United Churches, 2 Anglican, 2 Free Methodist, and an Evangelical Missionary congregation. A diverse mix: from small & rural, to large, vibrant, metropolitan. There was always a God-moment for me… something the preacher said that clicked, a line that was sung that inspired me, a whispered prayer that moved me. Something happened in church. So welcome! …and welcome back!  May the Holy One raise you up to see all of life clearly and accurately from the divine perspective. The Lord be with you.   ORVILLE