Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 14, 2010

Ah … a day of -8 seems balmy as I look forward to -17! So much of the reflective life is drawing a breath and living in the moment. It brings a sense of peace, I find. 

This month at church we are engaging a spiritual practice for Advent. Two weeks ago I invited you to think about the threshold of your home, and then last week, your living room: the place where you relax. I suggested you pray for yourself, and then bring to mind another household, blessing them at their doorway one week, and then where they relax the next.

This week, please visualize your kitchen: the place you nourish yourself, body and soul. It may be the kitchen where you currently fill a particular teacup out of habit and stick photos to the fridge. Or maybe it is a memorable kitchen from a favourite home in the past. Pray for the heartbeat of your day, the ordinary sustaining moments. May your routine tasks bring you joy and stability.

Then please bring to mind someone from church and imagine his or her kitchen – and pray for the everyday moments in that person’s life.

Praying for one another, I trust this practice will remind you of God’s presence. I hope you will feel connected here in your church.

Holy Peace of this season of anticipation to you,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 2010

We are well into winter and Advent now: the cold glow of the midday is breathtaking, as is the warm dark of the evening, safe at home.

Last week we began a spiritual practice for Advent. I invited you to think about the threshold of your home, and to pray for yourself and others in your coming out and going in. Then I asked you to bring to mind another household, and bless them: may their passages through their doorway be steps of hope, too.

This week, please visualize your living room: the place in your home where you relax and come to yourself. Ask God’s blessing on the essence of who you are. Draw breath in God’s peace. Then pray for those who share your living room: your household, family and friends. May they know that God loves them in the very core of their being.

Please bring to mind someone from church. Ask God to bring them the tranquility they need, and God’s peace that surpasses understanding.

Praying for one another, I trust this practice will connect you with God’s presence. I hope you will feel connected here in your church.

Holy Peace of this season of anticipation to you,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30, 2010

Sunday was the first day of Advent. Our lovely standing Advent Candle Wreath has been placed front and centre of the church. Moira Glerum chairs the Worship Committee, and her family lit the Advent Candle of Hope. Her daughter Thea read lines about having fun in the snow: don’t you think God wants us to enjoy this life? Beyond our trials and travails, there is God’s hope for us that we find pleasure. And we hope that for one another, too.

With that in mind, we began a spiritual practice for the season. It is a blessing on our homes, and a prayer for one another. You will find it in the bulletin insert. Please take the time to read it. 

I trust that you know you are indeed an essential part of St. Paul’s. I pray for you, and the prayer you will find on the insert is a prayer for your home. It centers on your doorway. You in turn can picture someone from the congregation and pray for them.

In the next three weeks of Advent, we’ll offer prayers picturing our living rooms, kitchens, and dining tables. These give us a visual image to offer blessings in our everyday lives. I trust this practice will remind you of God’s presence, and bring you a sense of being connected here in your church.

Holy Hope of this season of anticipation to you,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Friday, November 26, 2010

November 26, 2010

Recently I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days in Lamont County. Have you driven the roads there? In November you see russet fields and grey hardwoods. Off the road there are churches: Lamont County has 47 – more churches per capita than anywhere else in North America.
 There are Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic, United, Ukrainian Orthodox, Orthodox Church of America, and Russo-Greek Orthodox, as well as a Lutheran building, a Moravian, an Alliance and a Full Gospel.

We drove along for about an hour, and enjoyed the profile of each church against the clear sky and the grey trees. When we reached our destination, the sun began to set and we watched the dusk progress out of the trees and up across the sky. Have you noticed how the dark seems to seep out of the earth in the evening?

In the quiet of the morning, as the darkness was absorbed back into the earth, I saw a dusting of snow on the fields. The words of Psalm 19 came to mind:

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

I know that people in every one of those 47 churches see the wonders of God’s world all around them. And we all share awe. Despite the troubles of the world, natural beauty still moves us – and unites us.

Deep peace to you,
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 17, 2010

It’s a grey day. There’s a fall of snow in the lane outside my study window; Betty Dunn’s potato patch is getting covered.

Sunday was grey, too. Standing at the front of the church, I could see sky and trees through the clear windows in the balcony. It was as if the grey branches held the sky, and as though the sky was still: no motion of earth or cloud.

Yet the colours in the stained-glass windows simply shone, the warmth of the wood on ceiling and floor glowed, and the flowers beside the pulpit took on a luminous quality. Do you ever feel things more strongly by contrast?

Sometimes when I have a moment to ponder contrast, I am aware of the interplay between the needs of the world and the hope we hold. It’s like this: into the grey of despair and sadness comes the brilliance of hope and renewal. It seems impossible, yet it is true.

I hope that as you ponder these grey days, you feel the colour of faith. I hope that as you feel the cold of late November, you remember the warmth of Easter. I hope that in the quiet of your heart, prayer sings. 
Peace to you,

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10, 2010

Sunday we acknowledged a baptism. We held a wee babe and prayed for his family.

Did you know that churches recognize each other’s baptisms? If, say, your grandchildren are christened in a Catholic church and come here, or perhaps here and then go to a Presbyterian church, we all respect it.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of being part of the baptism of McKinley Baker Sharek at Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church in the west end. His parents, Toscha Turner and Jonathan Sharek, were married here a few years ago and Rt Rev Bill Hupalo from that church took part in the wedding. So it seemed fair to
move there for this sacrament.

The Ukrainian Catholic ritual is gorgeous, and deeply symbolic. The icons are gold, and a cantor leads responses. McKinley was immersed in warm water in the baptismal font. We blessed him with the oil of gladness on his forehead, breast, back, ears, palms and feet. Isn’t that marvelous? The whole of his being, blessed with gladness.

I trust you know that the whole of your being is warmed, loved and blessed. I hope you cherish all your parts. Look at your palms for instance: aren’t they wonderful? Think of the wear and tear they sustain to keep you going, and to share what you have: wonderful.

Enjoy this week, and take time to acknowledge that you are blessed.

Peace to you,
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 3, 2010

Monday was All Saints’ Day. That means that Sunday was Hallowe’en, and that means costumes!

At Sunday morning worship we had two princesses, the Queen, her driver, Gypsy Rose, Harry Potter’s teacher and, yes, a little red devil. We also had a windmill and a tailings’ pond. Humour and politics both showed up! The choir had witches’ hats that they doffed in the middle of my sermon – on cue.

A little levity is a good thing – actually, a lot of levity is a good thing! I believe deeply that God intends us to enjoy the pleasures of life. Laughter, costumes, pretending to be someone else: these are pleasures we can enjoy in the sanctuary of our spiritual home, and in good company.

We honoured our ancestors in faith through prayer, prayed for the saints who love us now, and blessed the generations who will follow us.

We are good company. This is a blessing we inhabit, a calling we live. Good company: your community. And we bless you.  

Please know that I hold you in prayer. Enjoy the levity you find in these lovely November days.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Friday, October 29, 2010

October 29, 2010

Sunday we enjoyed the third Literary Evening. These events are an opportunity for authors in our congregation to read from their published works. Musicians play between presentations, and tea and sweets are served. Literary Evenings provide a way to get to know one another, and to learn something! It was a wonderful night.

Marion Brooker was the first reader. She is working on a new book, about her uncle James Henderson Fargey. She showed us the Bible in which his mother inscribed on July 23, 1915: "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth". He took it with him into the trenches in World War One. From there Jim wrote to his mother, “I try to read a passage every night when possible.”

What a treasure.

I look forward to holding Marion’s new book, reading the words and looking at the pictures. Family stories are the crucible in which we live. I hope the letters, photographs and Bibles in your home tell you stories of faith and courage.

We live and move and have our being in God’s love. This is our faith; this is our courage. This is the hand that holds the crucible in which we live. This is the love that takes us through, and beyond, those family stories into the Presence which cherishes us no matter what.

Blessings to you,
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October 21, 2010

I hope this note finds you in good spirits.

This week I had the privilege of speaking at the Queen’s School of Religion Annual Theology Conference. It is a glorious season to be invited to Ontario: the maples were red and the oaks golden.

The alumni asked me to lecture about preaching. I talked about preaching what we believe, and in particular I addressed two traditional doctrines, sin and regeneration. Sin: truly, everything is not well in our world, our lives, our souls. There is a cure for sin: regeneration. (Isn’t that a marvelous word? Literally it means rebirth.) We are renewed through the Holy Spirit; sin is not the last word.

This may seem a little dry. It’s important, though, isn’t it, to be honest and recognize that all is not well. But it’s critical to acknowledge that God’s intention for us is peace, and that God restores us. We are not left to wallow in the distress of our lives or the unfairness of our world.

Sometimes the church gets a reputation for hammering on people about sin. It’s a terrible thing when people feel diminished, put down or pushed aside. I’d like to see us be able to acknowledge sin without that awful judgment that isolates us from one another and God. After all, we are one another’s keeper, not one another’s jailer!

The lecture was well received. It led to deep conversations about how we make our way in the world, leaving it a more grace-filled place, as individuals and as communities of faith.

You make this world is a better place. Thanks for being you.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

October 12, 2010

It is a beautiful day. The sky seems to go on forever in blue, and the river is simply sparkling with autumn colors. I drove across the Groat Bridge this morning as I do every time I come to St. Paul's, and as always, I drew a breath looking at the trees along the riverbank.

Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, but the gratitude of our hearts continues. Even though our culture has moved past thanksgiving into Halloween or whatever the next thing seems to be, you and I can still lean into the spiritual practice of gratitude. Even through grief, we are grateful for the one we have lost. Even in wonder, we are reminded that we are but part of God's world. Even in a single chair in a solitary window, each of us is a significant part of God's love.

Enjoy this beautiful day. Draw a breath at the view you have; marvel at the changing light; bless the people going by. We have so much to hold in thanks and prayer.

The Rev. Dr. Catherine Faith MacLean

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Prayer from Table or Window

Here, in this moment,
  there areyellow leaves still on the cottonwoods
  scarlet berries on the mountain ash
  green grasses along the roadways.

Soon, in another moment,
  there wll be blue-green waves on the river
  grey branches holding the sky
  cobalt skies gathering dark.

Once, in an earlier moment,
  there were seeds sprouting
  grains bursting
  fruit straining
     against summer heat.

Here, in this moment,
  we hold it all in our minds:
     season & time, then & now.
Here in this moment,
  we hold it all in our hearts:
      friends & family, departed & among, far & near.
Here in this moment,
  we hold it all in our bodies:
     courage & strength, forgiveness & compassion, tears & laughter,
           memory & hope.
Here in this moment,
  we hold it all together in our spirits:

We bring gratitude, Holy Spirit, for the pleasure of these sights.
We bring hope, Christ who is our Light, for the world.
We bring thanks, Creator and Provider, for all who tend the earth.

Here, in this moment, we pray with awe. Amen.

                                                                        Catherine Faith MacLean  14/10/10