Sermon Mark Str June 18,2017 Bonnie Davidson In case you are wondering who this strange lady is in the pulpit today let me tell you a little about me – I am a retired teacher and now a lay worship leader at Norwood United Church and a member of Shining Waters Presbytery where I have…

June 11, 2017 A Song of Faith Ann Keys Illuminating the Light (adapted from A Song of Faith, 2006) We sing of the Creator, who made humans to live and move and have their being in God. (First Candle is lit) We sing of the Spirit, who speaks our prayers of deepest longing and enfolds…

Watering our roots May 28th Based on Matthew 5.1-16 The Beatitudes The day was cold, wet and slushy. The wool wrapped around my feet and calves was soaked from the pools of water that we had been trudging through for hours. Fishing had always left us wet to the skin, but then we were busy…

Sermon Mark Str June 18,2017 Bonnie Davidson
In case you are wondering who this strange lady is in the pulpit today let me tell you a little about me – I am a retired teacher and now a lay worship leader at Norwood United Church and a member of Shining Waters Presbytery where I have served in many capacities mainly to do with Pastoral Relations. Currently I serve on three committees at the Bay of Quinte Conference – chair of the settlement committee, the Staffing Committee and the Nominations Committee. My husband Alex and I have two sons Mike who is an OPP officer with the Peterborough detachment and Jeff who teaches in Mississauga – two daughter in laws – Rosemary and Heather and the best three grandchildren in the world complete our nuclear family. Some of you may know Mary Davidson and remember Russell Davidson who are part of this congregation. They are our aunt and uncle– Enough of that –
Just like the sermon topic – One Church many parts so is this reflection today. Today is Fathers day – it is a time when we remember church union and also a month where we recognise the First nation’s communities and their part in our Canadian Heritage. I know there is a service planned for the recognition of First Nations Sunday so I will only briefly comment on that.
I settled on the Corinthians scripture and more specific the verse that reads “Christ is like a single body which has many parts : it is still one body even though it is made up of different parts” so like our church and this reflection there are many parts but hopefully it will all come to be one in the end.
Just as we honoured the women in our lives on Mother’s day it is important to remember and recognize all the men in our congregations. Compared to Mother’s Day, the date for Father’s Day is actually a fairly modern tradition. The date is believed to have started being celebrated after a woman called Sonora Dodd, from Washington, attended a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 and wondered why people didn’t do the same for fathers.
Sonora’s mother had died during childbirth when she was only 16-year-old. Her father raised both her and the baby and so a day to thank him and other fathers seemed important.
She started a campaign that was supported by the Spokane Ministerial Association and the young Men’s Christian Association and eventually the city agreed to celebrate the date in 1910 on June 19. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June a day to celebrate fathers and in 1972 President Nixon made it a permanent holiday in the US.
I found this story while reading some “Father’s day sermons” on the internet – it was in a sermon from Rockwood United Church’
A farmer was out ploughing his field one spring morning. The spring thaw had just occurred and there were many muddy valleys in the field. Through one particularly wet place his tractor became stuck in the mud. The harder he tried, the deeper he became stuck. Finally, he walked over to his neighbour’s to ask for help. The neighbour came over and looked at the situation. He shook his head, and then said, “It doesn’t look good, but I tell you what. I’ll give it a try pulling you out. But if we don’t get it out, I’ll come sit in the mud with ya!”
I am sure that you can think of some of the men in our community who would do just this.
Like this farmer’s friend, we can help a hurting world by just being there with people who are hurting. Some call this a Ministry of Presence. Think of the times you have been with someone who is grieving over a significant loss — the loss of a job, the loss of a friendship, perhaps even the loss of a loved one. Really, there is nothing we can do for them… we can try to help by bringing food over, or bringing flowers or gifts to cheer them up, but in the end, often it is by simply being with them, by listening and just sitting in the muddy time with them that we are helping. To know someone is there with you is a huge gift… no words are even necessary sometimes… just a gift of presence.
There is a Father’s Day quote from Mark Twain that appeared in the Atlanta Monthly in 1874 and I quote – When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
Perhaps today is a day to reflect on all those things that we have been taught sometime by our Dads or perhaps by another man in our lives — how did they show us how to help others? Was it by being nice to those you meet? Was it helping out those less fortunate than you? Was it sharing stories of joy to other? Or was it simply being a presence of strength and love.
It is also a Sunday to recognise and remember the inauguration of the United Church of Canada that happened on June 25, 1925. As most of you know at this service the Methodist, Congregational and 70 % of the Presbyterian churches united to form the United Church of Canada, Discussions about this union actually began in 1902 and were suspended through WW1. – It took a group of courageous visionaries to know that together they were stronger that each one was individually. Through wars, a depression and declining membership – 92 years later we are still here and still discussing. Right now with remits and discussions we are discovering how to be the church that will prosper through the next 92 years.
We are all called to continue our journey of healing, reconciliation and embracing relationships with First Nations communities. Do we dare to live out the apology given by the United Church to the First Nations people? Part of that apology reads and I quote“We tried to make you be like us and in so doing we helped to destroy the vision that made you what you were.”
In 1986, at its 31st General Council, The United Church of Canada responded to the request of Indigenous Peoples that it apologizes to them for its part in colonization. The apology in its entirety can be found on several websites.
In 1988, at the 32nd General Council, the Indigenous church acknowledged the apology, expressing its hope that the church would live into its words.

Mrs. Edith Memnook, a representative of the All Native Circle Conference, responded –
The Native People of The All Native Circle Conference hope and pray that the Apology is not symbolic but that these are the words of action and sincerity. We appreciate the freedom for culture and religious expression. In the new spirit this Apology has created, let us unite our hearts and minds in the wholeness of life that the Great Spirit has given us.
— 1988 Record of Proceedings, p.79
Some of you may have read that our moderator Rev. Jordan Cantwell and a group of United church members visited Curve Lake about a year ago to listen to the concerns of people from Alderville, Hiawatha and Curve Lake. In an interview Rev Cantwell said “ there is a long road ahead as the United Church moves forward with First Nations communities but the fact that so many are willing to speak is a good sign.” In response a Curve Lake resident Dan Whetung said “I think that if the Christian churches follow her example and help us educate the people, we have a fighting chance.
The second reading today is a parable that is familiar to many of us. It is one of the many stories of Jesus used to illustrate a point – but when we stop to think about it there are several meanings that one can make.
In literal terms it is the story of a fig tree found in a vineyard – which in itself sounds peculiar why would anyone plant a fig tree in a vineyard? – apparently in Israel at the time is was quite common to grow fig trees and grapes in the same garden so that the grape vines can use the tree as a stand letting the vines grow up the stalk – much like the “Three sisters” planting that was common many First Nation communities many years ago and perhaps still is used. The three sisters are corn, beans and squash. Corn is the stalk for climbing beans and squash leaves hold the moisture in the ground.
I am not an expert gardener so I rely on the internet and friends to explain terms to me. But to most gardeners whether expert or amateur there is an expectation that when you plant a tree or a seed that it will grow and produce a crop and prosper. As with any garden this takes patience, perseverance and a little luck.
The owner of the vineyard in today’s story grew impatient with the barren fig tree. – after three years of no figs he said “Chop it Down” – why waste good soil on a tree that bears no fruit. But the ever patient gardener says no – let’s prune it and give it sustenance and care – if it grows and produces fruit- wonderful – if not them we will cut it down.
What can we learn from this parable beside the obvious –
The fig tree isn’t expected to do anything impossible – like growing apples or pears
You and I have different gifts – some of us have musical talents – lovely singing voices – some of us have creative talents writing, crafts or artistry, some of us make and serve the most delicious food and some of us have little snippets of several talents. Perhaps many of us don’t even realize what talents we have until we are asked to do something new – like preach a sermon. The secret is to use our God given resources to the best of our ability. That is what is most important. When we call someone a genius we mean that they give maximum effort to the area of their lives where there is natural ability.
I read that Beethoven’s music teacher said “as a composer he is hopeless”
Also that before she wrote the book “Little Women” that Louisa May Alcott was told she could not write anything that people would want to read.
And apparently Walt Disney was once told he “had no good ideas” but tell that to the millions who have watched the movies he inspired
Perhaps these three talented people had to take time to hone their God given talent to the maximum.
God is not asking of us that we win a Nobel Prize. We are not asked that we be better than anyone else – or better than our brothers and sisters in Christ – but he does expect us to do our best with the time and talents that we have.

Another analogy of the fig tree is that of supporter – supporting the grape vines. This seems like a secondary reason for leaving the fig tree in the vineyard – one that perhaps the gardener realized but perhaps not the owner of the vineyard. To me this can be compared to many people in our congregations and life in general. Those people who make things work. Often they are in the background calmly and quietly doing their thing but vitally important in the total picture. An example might be the ladies who make sandwiches for funeral lunches – where would we be without those sandwiches – a group of ladies going about their business – calmly – not always quietly but without any fanfare. We have lots of those people in our church and community.

Each one of us is gifted by God with the ability to produce what the Scriptures call in some places “the fruit worthy of repentance” and in other places “the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the fruit that is described in the fifth chapter of the Letter to The Galatians as consisting of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control”

In the verses before the parable Luke writes about the Galileans and how they had been killed and persecuted and how eighteen were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them. They were victims of a cruel leader Pontius Pilot and his ambition to have more power and to convince people to listen to and obey him rather than follow their own conscience. There is a parallel between this scenario and present day acts of cruelty, violence, shootings and bombings. It is so bad that perhaps we don’t empathize or even listen when every morning the Toronto news reporter tells of yet another shooting in the city. These incidents make no sense at all – people going about their everyday life and everything is suddenly upset. It is important that we listen the violence in the world and do what we can to help our fellow man. I remember hearing a person say that no one person can do much to help those in need – the response was that perhaps no one individual can make a difference to the whole world but you can make a difference to one person and that is a start.

Each of us in some way can relate to this. While most of us have not witnessed or been part of shootings and bombings we have all faced or are facing trials and tribulations in our lives.
I promised I would pull all this together and it is simple – as the reading from Corinthians stated we are all part of the whole. It is important that we as members of the United Church of Canada realize the importance of being part of the whole church. – that we look for the risen Christ in each other and that we continue along the pathway of support and understanding illustrated by the parable of the fig tree. . Whether you are a newly baptised infant, a Dad, a First Nations person, or any other of God’s people you are welcomed and treasured by our God and our church.

© 2017 MARK STREET UNITED CHURCH