And the Light Was the Light of All People
My least favourite day of the year is June 21 (apologies to those for whom this is a birthday or special anniversary). Why June 21? Because June 21 is the summer solstice, which means that the daylight of every day following until nearly the end of the year grows shorter and shorter.
My favourite day of the year is December 21. Canyou guess why? No, it’s not my birthday, and it’s not because Christmas is just around the corner. In fact, on December 21 I’m probably still scrambling with buying last minute Christmas presents, pulling liturgies together, and trying to come up with something profound to say in a sermon on Christmas Eve. December 21 is my favourite day of the year for a very similar reason that June 21 is my least favourite – because the daylight of every day that follows for the next six months grows longer and longer.
Our Christian traditions and holy days were established in the Northern Hemisphere of Europe. No one knows the historical birthday of Jesus, but it interests me that Christians in the first few centuries of the faith pegged December 25 as the day to mark Christ’s birth, almost the shortest day of the year. Perhaps it was because Luke’s gospel reports the angels coming to the shepherds “by night” to proclaim the good news of the Messiah’s birth. It is thought that those early Christians co-opted the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was a feast honouring the god Saturn from December 17 to 23. This may be from where Christmas traditions of overeating and gift-giving developed.
Another theory holds that Jesus died on the anniversary of his conception. In the third century, Passover was on March 25, which would make December 25 his birthday. How ever it developed, I like that Christianity has come to mark the Nativity of Our Lord so close to the winter solstice – the longest night of the year – and that I live in the Northern Hemisphere where I can appreciate the connection. At no other time do we long more for light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Of course, it need not be the actual date of December 25 when night seems darkest and our yearning for light is most keenly felt. Any time God brings light to our darkness; joy to our despair; wholeness to our brokenness; peace to our troubled lives, regardless of the time of year, Christ is born again.
Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas,
Dear Members and Friends of Faith:
A couple of Sundays ago we read in Genesis about how God was talking a walk in the garden “in the cool of the evening breeze.” With some of the hot days we’ve had to endure lately, I hope you’ve experienced a few cool evening breezes, yourself.
I’m just writing with a reminder that, beginning this Sunday, June 24 and throughout the summer, worship will take place in the church basement, which is generally so much cooler than upstairs (and there is air conditioning, if we need it!). Though still firmly grounded in Word and Sacrament, these services will be a little less formal than usual, and will normally include a time of coffee fellowship following the service. What a great opportunity to meet and talk to folks you might not normally get to know on a typical Sunday throughout the year.
Preparing for worship in the basement is a little more “hands-on” than when it is upstairs, so we welcome any help you can offer with setting up and taking down. Also, if you can host one of the coffee hours, that’s also very much appreciated. Please give Judy a call in the office if you can help in any way (519-753-3833).
See you Sunday at 10:00 AM, the usual time!
June 13, 2018
Dear Members and Friends of Faith:
We are so blessed at Faith to have a core of Youth who are active in the life of the congregation. They not only regularly attend worship, but they are actively involved in worship and worship leadership. They are eager to participate, they ask good questions, and they offer their many and wonderful musical and other talents. This is something to be thankful for and celebrate in our community!
This Sunday, June 17, the Youth will be taking over leadership of the service. I hope you will come out to show them your support and to be inspired by their energy and enthusiasm. It’s also Father’s Day, and what better way to mark this day than by worshiping with youth who have received the faith of their father’s and are exploring ways to live that faith in their own lives, as are we all.
The theme for Sundays worship is: We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7)
See you Sunday!
June 1, 2018
Dear Members and Friends of Faith:
First of all, thank you to Glen Willmot and all who helped out in my absence last week. I heard it all went very well. Thanks again.
Second, two statements are on my mind as I prepare for this Sunday. The first comes from something I read early in the week (but I can’t find where I read it, so my apologizes for not giving credit): “Sure you can worship God on the golf course; but will you?”
The second is a more familiar source (that is, Jesus): “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.”
This Sunday we are taking a look at the Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” as well as Jesus’ habit of challenging even the simplest and most straightforward of traditions, urging us to explore our faith and our practises more deeply in the light of his life, death, and resurrection.
So, on Sunday we are going to explore the Sabbath. I know, it’s kind of like preaching to the choir, but maybe there’s more to it than the obedient observance of one of the Ten Commandments, just as Jesus suggests.
Hope to see you at church, 10:00 AM on Sunday!
May 17, 2018
Dear Members and Friends of Faith:
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday (May 20), which follows a Week of Weeks (49 days, with Pentecost landing on the 50th) since Easter. On this day, we remember the gift of Holy Spirit coming to the early church in the forms of fire, wind, and the ability to speak in the languages of all the people, as we read in Acts 2. In fact, the whole thing caused such a ruckus in the city, folks assumed the disciples must have been drunk!
Holy Spirit is the oft-neglected member of the Holy Trinity, especially in reserved Lutheran circles. But on this Sunday, Holy Spirit takes centre stage reminding us that God’s Spirit continues to move through the church inspiring prophetic action as well as visions and dreams for our church, our community, and the world.
One fun way to help mark this day is for lots of people to wear the colour red on Sunday as we gather. We only pull out the red decorations (paraments) a few times a year for great celebrations (such as Reformation Sunday). As we celebrate the movement of Holy Spirit in our lives this Sunday, we are invited to be bold, risk going over the top, and decorate not only our worship space but also ourselves in the red of Pentecost Sunday!
See you Sunday!
May 10, 2018
Happy Ascension Day!
Some of you will know what I’m talking about, but many others will not have a clue. Today (Thursday) marks 40 days after Easter Sunday. As I talked about last Sunday, biblically speaking, something big or something new always happens after 40 years or 40 days. The first chapter of Acts says that after Jesus’ death and resurrection “he presented himself alive to the disciples during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” And then we are told, “Jesus was lifted up as they were watching and a cloud took him out of their sight.”
This is Jesus’ ascension and has been celebrated as a feast day in Christianity since at least the 3rd century, possibly earlier. In Europe, Ascension Day is a national public holiday in many countries. (Ascension Day is even a public holiday in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world!)
In North America, Ascension Day hasn’t received quite the same attention, so this Sunday we will mark Ascension Day at Faith. In this modern scientific age, what does it mean for people of faith to say that Jesus’ “ascended?” Which way, cosmologically speaking, is “up?” And what does it mean for us to say that Jesus “is seated at the right hand of the Father” (Apostles’ Creed)? Does any of this part of the story inform or influence how we live as followers of Jesus today?
Also, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. Though not a liturgical day on the Christian calendar, it is an important day in our society, and so we will be praying, remembering, and giving thanks for mothers and all who mother in our lives in so many and wonderfully various ways.
April 24, 2018
A Prayer for Toronto
Dear Members and Friends of Faith:
I’m sure we all received the news coming out of Toronto yesterday with shock and sadness. I hope that you have been in touch with any friends or family who might have possibly had any reason to be on the streets of North York at that time, and that they have confirmed their safety for you. Nonetheless, at least twenty-five people will not be able to give their loved ones such assurance, and the knowledge of this moves us with anger and confusion.
It’s difficult, especially in these early stages of the investigation, to know what to do with that sadness, anger, and confusion. I was heartened to hear that many people in the city were making their homes available for those caught up in transit congestion. I’ve also heard many reports of extra acts of kindness and understanding throughout the city in the wake of the tragedy. Those of us further away have little to do, except possibly carry on with our days living boldly and confidently in the freedom and joy that God grants us.
In the hopes that it is a help to you, I offer this prayer adapted from the prayers of our hymnal:
God our creator, through whose providing care we enjoy all goodness and life, turn our eyes to your mercy in this time of confusion and loss. Comfort the people of Toronto; restore the injured to wholeness; bring consolation and peace to those who mourn the dead; shine your light on anyone whose only companion is darkness leading to violence like this; and teach us so to number our days that we may apply our hearts to your wisdom, peace, and love. Thank you for the work of the emergency workers who brought this event to a swift end without further loss of life. Through this tragedy, help us all to appreciate our freedom, our diversity, and our family, friends, and neighbours more and more, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen
March 15, 2018
Signs of Decline – Vision of Hope At the Annual General Meeting that was held on February 25, the decision was made to eliminate the 9:00 AM service and move the 10:30 AM service to 10:00 AM beginning Sunday, March 25 (Palm Sunday).
It has been a faithful group of people who have been attending the 9:00 service, but the numbers have grown very small in recent years. Many Sundays, the few folks who are there at 9:00 say to me, “There are so few of us today. If you’d rather not have the service this morning, that’s okay.” But, as Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered, there I am also.” So we have carried on with an abbreviated service of Word and Sacrament, none-the-less.
The church of Christ, in every age beset by change, but Spirit led, must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead. – Fred Pratt Green, ELW # 729
I believe that the decision to end this service was made with sad and heavy hearts. It’s another sign of decline in the church as we see congregations closing and their buildings deteriorating or being turned into condos. At the end of the meeting, I joked that I would be working very hard in the coming months and years to reverse this decision – that at the 2019 AGM I hoped that we will be saying, “The 10:00 service is too packed every Sunday. We have to go back to two services!”
I was only half joking.
I remain committed to the belief that people in our society are yearning for communities where faith is explored and lived out in open and creative ways; where they will be loved and accepted for the children of God that they are; where children find a welcome and a home away from home; where voices are lifted up in music both traditional and contemporary; where our theology is not judged as right or wrong, but only by whether our vision contributes to God’s dream of peace (shalom) for all people; where those who have been hurt by church in the past will find healing; and where Jesus’ plea that “even as you have fed, welcomed, clothed, and visited the least of these my sisters and brothers, you have done it to me,” takes precedence over, “that’s not how we do things around here.”
Few in our society look to churches any more to satisfy this yearning, and often for very good reason. Only our willingness to be reborn as a people of God, and our invitations to family, friends, and neighbours to join us in that challenge will ever turn this declining trend around. Maybe I’m naive. Or maybe, just maybe, at an AGM not too far down the road, someone will be making the motion that church is too crowded every week, and we need that second service back!
Peace, Pastor Brian
February 14, 2018
Dear Members and Friends of Faith Lutheran Church:
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day our society sets aside to celebrate romantic love. It’s also Ash Wednesday, which seems about as far from Valentine’s Day as one could get. And yet… even Ash Wednesday is really all about love and relationship between us and God, us and one another, and us and the earth.
I thought today would be a good day to check in with you and to let you know about a couple things coming up this Sunday.
First of all, this Sunday (Feb. 18) will be the first Sunday in this Season of Lent. Lent comes from an old English word meaning ‘length,’ which recognizes that our days are getting longer and longer and soon spring (and Easter!) will be upon us. It is also the tradition period of time – 40 days, not counting Sundays – when the church formed new Christians, teaching them the basics of the faith before they would be baptized on Easter. For us, it is a time to think about the reality of our lives and those relationships mentioned above. How do our lives reflect the hope God has for the world, how might they be falling short, and what might we do about that?
So, this Sunday those who were unable to participate in an Ash Wednesday service will be invited to come forward and begin your Lenten journey with the imposition of Ashes. Also, our Sunday School has prepared a calendar to help the children mark their Lenten time, which is also a good tool for adults. You’re invited to pick up one of those, as well.
This Sunday will also feature a blessing of new purple vestments that will be dedicated to the glory of God in loving memory of Michael Byron who passed away a year ago.
Easter is always so much more rich and meaningful when intentionally prepared for throughout the 40 day season of Lent. Hope to see you Sunday!
February 1, 2018
Starting From the Beginning
Today is the anniversary of my baptism.
That doesn’t mean much to most people. Birthdays and wedding anniversaries take a much higher priority in our culture, even among Christians. But I’m glad that I know my baptismal story. It helps me understand who I am as a Christian and where I come from.
I was baptized on this day a long time ago at Trinity Lutheran Church, Sebastopol (Tavistock), Ontario. The pastor was Forest Mosher, and my godparents were and remain to this day very dear friends of the family. I was surrounded by the love of family and a wonderful community of faith. I’m fortunate to have some pictures from the family gathering after the service. And even though Trinity was not my home congregation (it would be about 10 years before my family started attending any church regularly), I spent many happy hours there throughout the years when I would visit my grandparents who served as custodians and groundskeepers at the church, and I would accompany them and help them in their duties.
That’s my baptismal story.
Some of the details may be similar to yours. Some will be very different. I know and have a relationship with my godparents. Many people don’t. I have a history with the congregation I was baptized in. Many families never darkened the church door again after that one occasion.
If you have been baptized, you have a baptismal story – as story that has shaped you as surely as stories of dating your spouse shaped your marriage, or the stories of our country’s history have shaped and continue to shape our development as a nation. (Think about how the recent acknowledgement of the reality of Residential Schools is re-shaping who we are and our relationship with the indigenous peoples of Canada.) Our stories shape us.
On my first Sunday here at Faith, Brantford, I invited the congregation to join me in making a public affirmation of their baptism. “Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”
This is how we are called to live in our baptism; but like any experience in life, living in fullness now is so much more rich and satisfying when we know where we have come from.
So, start from the beginning. Find your baptismal certificate, or ask around. Where were you baptized and when? Who presided? Did you have godparents or sponsors? What’s your relationship with them today? Why were you baptized? What did your parents think baptism was all about? What do you think it is about, now? Were there special family gowns involved? Do you have pictures? How does it feel thinking about and remembering your baptism? How might this ritual have formed you into the child of God you are today, and hope to be tomorrow?
Dear Members and Friends of Faith:
My name is Pastor Brian Wilker, the new pastor serving Faith Lutheran Church, Brantford. I am writing to you today for a couple of reasons. First, I’d like to introduce myself. I have already met some of you, but many of you I have not. I began serving here just a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got a few worship services and a couple committee meetings under my belt now. Prior to serving at Faith I served three different congregations in Toronto and I began my pastoral career in the village of New Dundee. I grew up in Fergus, and I have fond memories from my youth of coming to Brantford to visit family on my mother’s side (that is, the non-Lutheran side). I’m very much looking forward to working with you to revitalize the ministry of Faith as well as exploring and becoming involved in life of the community of Brantford. If you are interested, you can find more information about me on our new website at: https://faithlutheranbrantford.com/staff/
The second reason I’m writing is to get your help in developing a congregational email list. I’m sure you can appreciate how important this communication tool is these days. Every couple of weeks or so I will be sending out an email telling you something special about Sunday worship or an upcoming event in the life of the congregation. Therefore, it is important that the congregational email list be as up to date and accurate as possible.
If you would rather not be receiving these emails for any reason, please let me know and I will remove you from the group.
It would be helpful to know if you received this email multiple times at different email addresses, if there are family members or other people you know who should be on the list but did not receive this email, or any other information you can provide to make this email list as efficient as possible.
Finally, I’d like to invite you to contact me if you would like to talk for any reason at all. You can reach me at this email address, by phone at the church office (519-753-3833), or on my cell phone: 519-209-1333. I’d be happy to arrange a visit with you to talk about your participation in the life of Faith Lutheran, or about any issues of faith or life that might be on your mind.
I’m so looking forward to meeting you and working with you as together we explore what it means to be children of God and the Body of Christ in this time and place. Remember, worship is Sunday morning at either 9:00 AM or 10:30 AM. Hope to see you there!
The Rev. Brian Wilker
Pastor’s message – October 2017
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18-21 King James Version (KJV)
I believe it was Meister Eckert who said that “if the only prayer you said was ‘thank you’, that would be enough”. In this season of bounty and harvest, we have plenty of time to say “thank you”. Not only on Thanksgiving Sunday, but on each of the Sundays in the Autumn. As I said in my Oct. 9 homily, every Sunday calls us to be a “eucharist” people. The word Eucharist is from the Greek for “thanksgiving”. Even though it’s a word that specifically relates to the service of Holy Communion, its very usage calls us to make our whole life one of thanksgiving.
In addition to the formal “Day of Thanksgiving” we have the opportunity to give thanks for the Reformers of the Christian faith on Oct. 29 with our “Lutherfest” celebrations. The foundation of those on whose shoulders we stand allow us to continue to seek ways to share the faith that is in us. We give thanks for the paths that have been laid for us to follow and for the new paths set before us!
On Nov. 5 we pause and give thanks for all the Saints who have died in the past 12 months. They too have inspired and guided us to this time and this place. We have not gotten here without the guidance of those who now lie beyond the thin veil of death. On Nov. 5th we will acknowledge that AND give thanks for that reality.
Finally, we give thanks that The Rev. Brian Wilker has answered your and God’s call to come and be with and among you as your Pastor. Every indication is that Pastor Wilker will start near the beginning of January 2018, therefore I will conclude my Interim Ministry on Dec. 31, 2017. We will have plenty of time to reflect on our time together AND to give thanks for this time in our lives!
May God grant all of you and all of us times to give thanks for all the blessings of this life.
In Peace & Thanksgiving,