Food Sharing Memories – Joyce Sasse

I grew up in a context where quality of food and good cooking went hand-in-hand.  A recent radio discussion, about bake sales and (some) modern-day women, has brought memories to mind.

When I was a student minister in the 50’s, the wife of a retired lawyer told about being the “city girl” who was newest village bride.  Not only did she face a wood-coal stove for the first time, but she had to take her turn hosting the Ladies Aid.  “I started my baking a month ahead so I would have two or three things that were presentable for the meeting!”

I remember my family visiting my home on another student field: where the out-house was in the neighbour’s yard, water had to be carried from the village well, and you had to choose between using the two elements or the oven of the tiny electric stove.  Mother’s production of a good meal, while I was teaching Vacation Bible School, was quite an accomplishment.  Dad carried buckets of water.

There was one community where the ladies regularly sold everything at their bake sale in less than ten minutes.  Watch out for elbows!

Good strategy in another community was to have a bake-table for the men – and bring their favorites.  Grateful patrons offered somewhat larger “bills” and never asked for change.  They especially loved the samplers served at their tea-table!

How food fads have changed – in cook books, at bake sales and for lunch after church!  Young mothers bring health bars and carrot sticks.  But, as one mother confessed on the radio, when it comes to giving something to the Bake Sale cause, I hire my baking done.

What place does food have in our lives?  Is this something that is more important for rural people?  Do we see opportunity to twin with the “new bride”, the person from another culture, and with our own children?

Deep spiritual understandings can come in to focus as we exchange ideas and talk about our food practices.

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Change is Happening in Anglican Church of Canada – Joyce Sasse

When the Diocese of Calgary consecrates Sidney Black as an assisting Bishop on June 3, 2017, it will occur because important changes are happening in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Since 2010, the Primate, after listening carefully to Indigenous members, invited Canada’s Anglican members to help him review the church’s policies and programs.  The need was to see if they could discern the different gifts and potentials present among its members.  In a Denomination known for its hierarchical style of functioning (from the top down), this decision was of major significance.

Indigenous members long ago recognized there was more than one way to think about leadership and decision-making in all aspects of life.  With the permission of the National Church, they formed the Anglican Council of indigenous People (ACIP).  The Council focused on finding ways to identify and implement traditions handed down from the generations.

In 2016 the Primate, appreciative of the efforts brought forward, appointed a Council of Elders and Youth.  This group, reflecting the circular style of sharing, wanted to ensure that the church would abide by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  Also, by functioning in this way, they went on to demonstrate the depth of their ways of doing things.  The youth, for instance, are making outstanding contributions within the Council.

All of these initiatives have led to the way Indigenous members have now elected a bishop from among their own people.  Also, with the blessing of the full church, that bishop will be given full rights within the Calgary Diocese among Indigenous and non-Indigenous parishes.

Archdeacon Sidney Black has served Treaty 7 (Blackfoot) churches with his own unique style of gentleness and grace.  But now he has been called to the whole church.  “I want to continue being a servant of the Church for our Indigenous communities, our Metis communities, our Inuit communities and for the whole church at large.”

May God bless Sid and Melva in their ministry.

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In the Face of Death – Joyce Sasse

I feel badly when I hear that no funeral will be held for someone deceased.  If it is because that person made the family promise this, I think that’s a selfish wish.  Funerals are for the support of those left behind.

If it is because the family decided there would be no funeral on their own, I wonder if they talked with someone experienced in these matters to be sure their decision doesn’t haunt them for the rest of their life.

When traditions have evolved over hundreds (or even thousands) of years, versions of those traditions are usually there for a reason.  Rituals at the time of death reveal something of life’s meaning.

One woman, whose son died after a difficult life and six months in a coma, wisely advised his estranged wife “we need to put a period to what we’ve gone through!”  For the sake of the children, his loved ones and ourselves we gathered to name the hard times, recall special memories, give thanks for the support of the community, and acknowledge trust in a God whose care is eternal.  That said, each of us were able to  start to move toward a new day.

In rural communities, where our lives touch each other in ways we may not realize, when we see a name on the board in the Post office, we stop to remember.  Memories about that person come to the surface.  The way we treat death is a reminder of the value we place on our own lives.  “It God so cares for the grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, won’t God be all the more sure to care for you?”

Funeral remembrances, today, are expressed in in a great variety of ways.  It is with dignity that we acknowledge this one life, this death, and what lies beyond death.  As we have done for others, so may this blessing be given to us.

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The Sewing Circle – by Joyce Sasse

The Biblical story told in the Book of Acts is so simple.

“There was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha.  She was full of good works and acts of charity.  In those days she died …” (Acts 9:36f)

Look closer.  Tabitha (also known by her Greek name Dorcas) was a highly respected woman of means.  She was a faithful follower of Jesus (few other women of the time were called “disciple”), and she was a seamstress.

She invited widows from the community to come together as a sewing circle.  Can’t you imagine the chatter, the stories told, the tears shed?  By themselves, each woman knew only loneliness, and felt cast aside from life around them.  Now they not only shared companionship, they also learned how to sew.

The items they made had value.  They could be sold (for income), or given to favorite family members.  Also, the women had things they could add to the conversation when they met others.

Obviously Tabitha shared “Jesus-stories” with them, assuring them that God loved them; assuring them they were not alone; showing them, through example, what it meant to be part of a caring community.

Little wonder the old feelings of abandonment and fear surfaced in the widows’ hearts when their friend and mentor died.

But Tabitha had taught them there were ways to reach out to each other and to the Community of Faithful.  It took courage to be so presumptuous – but they heard that Jesus’ beloved Peter was in the vicinity.  They asked him to come and help them through their time of crisis.

What a wonderful example of The Church in action.  Tabitha, a faith-filled person, sees a need, assesses and directs her own resources to fulfilling the need, and shares the Gospel Story with the community assembled.

Tabitha and her ladies received God’s blessing.  So can we!

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Muslim Christian Dialogue Encouraged – by Joyce Sasse

In the 1st century, when many Christian churches became mosques, few changes had to be made in the sanctuaries.  Through the centuries Christian communities have existed within Islamic countries.  What, now, feeds distrust, fear and antagonism between some members of the two Faith groups?

While so much of our media covers the negatives, I’m glad to hear about Mustafa Akyol’s book “The Islamic Jesus”.  What can Islam learn from Jesus, he asks through the subtitle “How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims”?

In an interview, Akyol talks about how resentments are fed by those who are blind literalists.  “Those who want to dictate in the name of God”, he notes, make God an instrument of their arrogance and self-righteousness.  They do not see religious pluralism to be a good thing.

But for those “who leave the ultimate judgements to God and live and let live”, different religious traditions can exist alongside each other.  He quotes the Koran: “If God willed, He would have made you a single community.”

He suggests commonness with Jesus’ regard for sacred law, is an example – that law is not an end in itself, “but is a means to human happiness and flourishing”.  It is the intention behind the law that is its essence.  Sharia, for a Muslim, has to do with protecting the sanctity of marriage and the family.  And the commitment to the Caliphate should be about “that which is within you”.

He reminds his own people that medieval times, the “golden age of Islam”, was a time “when the Muslim world was more advanced than Europe” in many fields.  Their strength grew out of their interaction with the peoples around them.  Cosmopolitanism was an asset.  “When we become more open-minded”, his reminder is that a renaissance of Islam will again take place.

I look forward to reading more of Mustafa Akyol’s columns and books, for I believe he is respected for the way he tries to promote religious tolerance and understandings.  He searches for shared common ground.

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Paradise: God’s Garden and Ours – Joyce Sasse

According to the earliest stories, God created a magnificent Garden of Eden and turned it over to Adam and Eve.

However, because these humans were not prepared to handle the knowledge associated with Eden, they were separated from the Paradise that surrounded them.

Through the centuries, although Old Testament believers tried, they could not reconnect with what was lost.  The Prophet Amos, for example, longed to have his people “seek good and not evil”, but reality eluded them.

Finally God said “Let me show you!”  To illustrate how much he cared for what had been created, God gifted us with Jesus who reversed the earlier consequences associated with Eden.  Through as act of love, all the darkness that hung over the images of the Garden was wiped away.  It became possible that believers could again find meaningful life in the restored paradise.

Their hearts and minds and senses could be spiritually illuminated.  They (and we) could become grounded in love, justice, non-violence and wisdom.  They (and we) felt it was important to give expression to their love for one another, for themselves and for the creation.

The connection between the two eras was spelled out by John, the Gospel writer, who noted “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

That connection was affirmed by Jesus.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. And “I am come that you might have life, and have it to the full”.

Today those whose faith formation enables them to feel empowered by paradise are compelled to live generously, compassionately and justly – always governed by truth.

As participants in paradise, we become conduits for God’s endless love.

(For deeper understanding about the meaning of “paradise” see the historical-theological text “Saving Paradise”, written by Rita Brock and Rebecca Parker.)

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Let Loose in the World – Joyce Sasse

“Is he dead?” Pilate’s wife asked the soldier after he returned from the tomb.

She had taken notice of this Jesus of Nazareth when he was brought before her husband earlier in the week.  Now she’d heard strange rumours and wondered what the truth really was.

“No, Madame,” the soldier replied.  “He is not dead.”

“Not dead!”  She could hardly believe her ears.  “Not dead!  Then where is he?”

“Let loose in the world, Madame,” came the reply.  “Let loose in the world where nothing can corrupt his truth.”

“Let loose in the world.”  Those words, written by an unknown poet, have been most helpful to me as I try to understand the meaning of the resurrection and how it impacts my calling to ministry.

They were central to me as I ministered in a community where a 5-year-old was dying of cancer.  There was nothing more anyone could do except be there for each other.  Our strength resided in the strength of An-Other lifting us, carrying us.

“Let loose in the world” echoed through the seven years of prairie drought we faced in Saskatchewan.  We realized our repeated phrase “Next Year Country” was a Statement of Faith.

The affirmation of our belief in the land and in each other, in the stories we share and the prayers we offer are testaments to the way the Spirit, let loose in the world, helps us find purpose and hope.

Now, as I reach my Senior years, I’m challenged to better understand the mysteries of life, and accept the reality of death.  The Creed says it so well – “In life, in death, in life-beyond-death, we are not alone.”

Easter Blessings are ours because the Spirit had been “let loose in the world”.  Thanks be to God.

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Words Matter – Joyce Sasse

At any time, our choice of words can make a difference.  I’m thinking, today, of our new minister’s use of the word kin-dom – like in the prayer “Thy kin-dom come”.

For me “Kingdom”, when referring to our Christian Faith, has always been too harsh a term.  In Biblical times the term best fitted a description of the wealth, power and corruption of the Roman Empire.  Wasn’t Jesus speaking about the very antithesis of this?

In our time, as we listen to political rancor gone amuck we witness the work of those obsessed with establishing hierarchies of power – where “good journalism” is scoffed at and “truth” is treated like a bargaining tool.

Kin-dom!  Hearing the word takes me back to Grandma Sasse’s prayer “Kleine Kin-der …”  (Little Children …).  It has to do with relationships – rudimentary relationships sealed with a hug, a handshake, a respect for trusting one’s word.

The Gospel writer John put it well when telling about Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.  It’s not about being physically re-born, but about a renewal of one’s Spirit.  Further on we find that familiar passage about God sending his Son not to judge the world, but to say “Here, let me show you an alternative way!”

God’s reign is about having relationship with each other, with the creation and with the cosmos.  Awareness of this inter-connectedness is an awesome experience.  It gives  us access to the full richness of true wealth.  We have kin-ship with a complex, diverse, wondrous Creation and its Creator.

The warm vibrancy of spring reveals a world pregnant with hope.  We can shed the dark heaviness that weighs us down, and feel ourselves enveloped in a kin-ship that is like no other.  Thanks be to God.

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Not Ready to Become Old Fogies – Joyce Sasse

We act with such caution when it comes to accepting change, I marvel that we aren’t still driving Model-T Fords.

As the world swirls around the Church, it is evident we have to move beyond what was.  Many of our practices and activities have failed to keep up with seismic shifts in social outlook and scientific reality.  Young people and many of their parents are no longer church focused like their grandparents were.

For church leaders, the poor attendance and tepid involvement in the life of many faith communities is frustrating and challenging.  Christopher White wrote about this in his United Church Observer column (March 2017).  But he pointed out “there is an emerging generation of church leaders who are refusing to be defined (by this frustration).”  They “are simply getting on with creating our emerging church”.  They are giving us “models of healthy communities of faith” which all of us can learn from.  They understand “it’s time to focus not on what is being lost, but on what is being born”.

In a world where an incredible number of people are spiritually hungry, churches need to remain open to ways the spirit can speak through the inquiries of the sojourner, the challenges of the youth, and the direction being sought by the retiree who still has 25 years of living in which to find meaning.

We need to remind ourselves, also, that the faith-dimension has as much to do with re-visiting the wisdom accumulated and shared from the past, as it does by dazzling us with new technologies speculating about the future.  The truths we have gleaned thus far from the great pieces of literature are still but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to daring to look beneath the surface.  The Living God isn’t finished with us yet.

“Growth is not an end in itself, but a by-product of health and vibrancy.”

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Resilience Readiness – Joyce Sasse

If we had to face dust-bowl conditions like the 30’s, crop scientists shake their heads and admit we are woefully unprepared.  Technology, the great provider of our Age, has made incredible advances in farming techniques and plant-breeding for maximum yields.  But we remain vulnerable to the weather because we’ve ignored plant “variance (difference) and resilience”.

Is this same inadequate focus also evident in our personal and spiritual lives?  Are we more geared to insuring we are living well (more luxuriously) than to equipping ourselves for resilience to the situations we encounter?

Are these decisions based on the expectation that we should be immune to the stormy seas that come with everyday living?  Are we like ships that are fearful of embarking on a journey because we might encounter bad weather?

Disappointment, pain, death, despair, failure – all are part of the package when it comes to living in the everyday world.  There’s an old poem that says “God did not promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain”.  It concludes, “God did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way”.

Plant breeders could search how to make their seeds more resilient to the weather, and their cropping techniques less vulnerable to the extremes.  We humans could do the same.  Not only can we develop resilience readiness, but as we work our way through various situations our changing expectation could help us become more resilient than ever.

Having realistic expectations, learning coping skills, strengthening ourselves as we pass through the dark channels, seeking after the glimmers of hope that lie before us – it is up to us to make our preparations.  What values have priority – riches of affluence or riches of the spirit?  The ability to satisfy our physical needs or the ability to nurture our soul?

What is the legacy we would like to pass to those whose lives touch ours?

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