Register now for CAMP UNPLUGGED (Our 2019 congregational retreat)

We’re planning our congregational retreat at Camp Fircom on the weekend of May 24-26, 2019, and everyone is invited!

This is a weekend where all ages from our community can connect, relax, eat, partake (or not!) in recreational and spiritual activities, and just generally be together in a lodge-style camp on Gambier Island. Be restored in community away from the distractions of our busy city lives.

When: Friday, May 24 to Sunday, May 26, 2019

Where: Camp Fircom – Gambier Island

Who: Anyone in our community. All ages are welcomed

Check out our FAQs and lodging details, and then register online NOW! (No payment is required at this time.)

Note that you’re welcome to come to our office to use one of our computers to complete your registration. Just give us a call: 604-731-3101.

March 31, 2019: Giving Up Resentment by Rev. Beth Hayward (Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32)

This is a story by Teri Daly, an Episcopal priest in Arizona. She talks about her grandmother who could remember every single sin her grandfather ever committed.

She could actually construct a genealogy of them – telling you which wrong begat which subsequent wrong. Her grandparents help her move states one time using their motor home. They had owned it for several years but it had never before left the driveway, which Daly insists is a story all its own. And so this moving trip was both the motor home’s maiden and final voyage. All this is to say that her grandfather was not an experienced motor home driver and so when he pulled in off the highway to do some shopping along the way he drove into a parking garage not tall enough for the Winnebago, they got stuck.Immediately, grandma turned to grandpa and laid out in full the map of his sins. “It’s all your fault,” she snapped.

“If you weren’t so lazy you would have been out working on the rental property every afternoon instead of sitting on the stool in the restaurant drinking milkshakes, then you wouldn’t have gotten so fat that your clothes don’t fit and we wouldn’t have had to stop at JC Penny to buy you a new pair of pants, and we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with!”[1]

I don’t know if you know anyone like that? That kind of resentment, that takes years to build up!

The thing about a parable is that every time you come to it you find a new angle, a new entry point, and a glimmer of truth that eluded you before. This week when I sat with the prodigal son I saw so much resentment.[2] Resentment from the eldest that his hard work wasn’t acknowledged, that his younger brother was honoured after wasting his inheritance.

Resentment from the younger, that he had to ask for his fair share in the first place. Maybe he felt he was being held back by his father’s expectations. I even wonder if there was are all sorts of hidden resentments from the servants. Did they resent being relegated to the role of voiceless extras in a rich man’s story?

None of us sets out to carry a truckload of resentment with us in our lives.  None of us wants to be that person the one who can’t dare to enjoy a moment of grace, so bitter that it’s like as if we aren’t even living anymore. None of us sets out to be that person. Resentment is a long game emotion. It doesn’t just show up, it’s the sum of one small indignation after another. Those little bursts of judgment that we offer day in and day out. But over time as we keep keeping score, and those righteous indignations add up we end up with a sum total of deep-rooted resentment.

It starts subtly, one little righteous indignation at a time. You know what I mean, right? How did you get a better mark when I worked harder? Who don’t you ever empty the dishwasher, or clean your room, or pick up your socks when I’m working so hard?

You know it, the voice inside your head that starts asking questions like: why do I always have to remember to pay the visa bill, to call your mother, and pick up the bread and milk after work?

Righteous indignation, because he cut me off in traffic, and she gets paid more for doing less,

you name it, we know how to get angry about the small stuff, and the big stuff for that matter.

Indignation is an anger response and we are so good we often don’t even notice we’re doing it

There’s a political cartoonist base din New York who thought a lot about this when he was drawing cartoons during the Bush presidency. Tim Kreider says he was professionally angry for eight years! It feels good. He says it’s like a rush of adrenaline running through your body.

And when you realize that anger is a physical pleasure, you begin to understand why you have this “perverse obstinacy with which the mind keeps returning to it despite the fact that, intellectually, we knew it is pointless self-torture.[3]

All of this is to say that I am really very sympathetic to the characters in this parable who end up if not resentful at least a bit indignant. If God is represented by the father in this parable as is suggested with an allegorical read by many scholars throughout time, clearly God either doesn’t know right from wrong or chooses to execute justice without appreciation for the facts.

The prodigal son? How about the dad of questionable ethics? Just imagine the places you could take this: God – the parent who rewards both kids with an ice cream when only one cleaned their room. God the player who sees someone snatch $200 on the way to Monopoly jail and says nothing. God, the teacher who doesn’t just see the child in the back of the room cheat but takes the paper from the A student and gives it to the cheater to help. It just makes no sense why – doesn’t God keep score? 

As the youngest child in my family of origin, even I feel for the eldest brother. He’s loyal, hard working, conscientious and faithful. He is all the things a firstborn should be and what does he get in return for the years he stood by his dad and worked his fingers to the bone? He gets a slap in the face. Meanwhile, the younger brother wastes all he’s been given, comes home groveling and Dad throws him a party. Not just any party, this is a kill the fatted calf, uncork the good wine, bring in the band, party til the sun comes up party.

Meanwhile out in the field big brother finishes another grueling day, dragging his feet home

dust caked on to the sweat of his brow and learns not only has his loser of a brother returned

he’s the guest of honour at the party of the year, and the elder brother wasn’t even invited.

If those who work hard are treated like this and the high rolling, swindling ones are rewarded without so much as a please or thank you, what kind of God is this? 

What kind of God is this? We’ll get to that but maybe we should begin with what kind of people are we? Do you resonate with the younger today?  Wanting your fair share of whatever it is you think you’ve earned in life? What kind of people are that we dare to come back looking for mercy when we’ve wasted the opportunity put before us?  Or maybe the elder brother’s experience rings true today: What kind of people are we that we get bent out of shape because someone else seems to have been given a better break? What kind of people are we that we can’t even join the party that’s being thrown to celebrate the redemption of others?

In the face of all this resentment what does the father do? He welcomes back the one who is lost, brings him into a great big bear hug, lavishes him with grace. It’s interesting isn’t it that this has been titled the parable of the Prodigal Son. I mean it doesn’t say that in the scripture that’s just the title it was given somewhere along the way. As if the focus is meant to be on the foolish, wasteful son. As if those of us who waste our God given gifts should consider ourselves duly warned!. But prodigal, as it turns out, means both reckless and lavish. And so it could easily be titled The Parable of the Prodigal Father. The father who recklessly lavishes us with grace and love.

Which one was more reckless really: the young one who spent what was rightfully his or the, father who welcomes him back? The idea that the nature of God is so reckless, well, it stops us in our tracks, it confounds us. We keep thinking that maybe this Kin-dom of God is just a better version of our best versions of reality when in truth the way Jesus describes it, the Kin-dom of God is so counter to our resentments and score keeping that we can barely comprehend it,

in fact we don’t comprehend it, we mostly only catch glimpses.

What does it look like when we catch a glimpse of the kin-dom where no one keeps score?

where you have no idea who is winning or losing, where there is no tracking of billable hours,

no counting the days until school lets out, no ringing up debts on the balance sheet, no cries from the backseat of “are we there yet?” no counting old grievances or grudges, no dredging up past wrongs or unsettled scores. And more than that for some reason, people in this Kin-dom have lost track of all that; in fact, they can’t remember why you’d keep count in the first place.

We almost can’t even imagine such a place.[4]

The prodigal kin-dom of God is like the Shakespearean kingdom of King Lear. Remember Lear and his favourite daughter Cordelia. When he goes to divide his kingdom, her profession of love it doesn’t seem extravagant enough for him so he banishes her from the kingdom.

Later, when he’s completely lost his mind he awakens to find Cordelia at his bedside, but she doesn’t give him what he deserves no instead she offers total forgiveness. Lear asks if he’s in France, he can’t fathom that this is happening here in his own kingdom.[5]  And the fact is Lear may be physically in his kingdom but really he has left his world and entered another. A world ruled by forgiveness, grace and all encompassing love. A prodigal world.

What does it mean to give up resentment? How will that change us and change others?

it starts small. Not with a big step. It ‘s not, in the first place, about a sudden reconciliation.

We don’t start on this path by calling up that person from whom you have been estranged for a decade and saying, “I’ve decided this is over, let’s get along.” No, I’m not suggesting that you drop your bags full of resentment and get down on your knees.

So what do we do? What’s the point of this prodigal story, this gracious reconciliation, this overflowing love that touches us in the angry, resentful places of our lives? Is there something about just learning to see things differently? Like a continued evolution of consciousness where we must break free of our quick reflexes, our desire to sort things into categories, and instead practice quieting our minds enough for another voice to enter, another possibility to be imagined?

I can’t explain it, but the gospel points to, invites us into this foreign land again and again, where not only are all welcome but grudges aren’t held and resentments don’t take root,

because no one is keeping score. A gospel land of no one-up-manship, no score-keeping, A gospel land where inner peace seems to be the starting place.

Jesus paints a picture of a world in this story of a foolish son and an even more foolish father. It is a world of unmerited grace. Some people, especially in our desperate world today,

some people won’t understand. Pulled down by the weight of their own claims, they can only sputter, “All these years, I’ve done all this, I’ve worked so hard, and this is what I get …”

But this is – as Lent is – about the story that makes no sense and is ours. This brother of yours, this co-worker of yours, this partner of yours, this child of yours, this one who was dead has come to life… And in that life there is such graciousness and such love, such peace, such hope, that we can never be the same again.


[1] https://www.openhorizons.org/why-is-it-so-hard-to-forgive-are-baby-steps-alright.html

[2] https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5307#comments With gratitude to Karoline Lewis for the angle of resentment this week.

[3] https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/isnt-it-outrageous/?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Opinion&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=Blogs

[4] https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1513 These thoughts and phrases are borrow graciously from David Lose.

[5] ibid

“Beloved Child: The Initiation of Jesus” as told by the kids of the Burrard St Story Guild

Join us at church on Sunday, May 5 as our children and youth of the Burrard St Story Guild lead the service and offer us a theatrical telling of the baptism and temptations of Christ.

Service starts at 10:30am. All are truly welcome.

Our church is at the corner of Burrard Street and W 15th Avenue.

ABOUT THE BURRARD ST STORY GUILD: The Burrard St Story Guild had its inaugural launch at CMUC in the spring of 2018 with its storytelling of the prophet Jonah. Story Guild uses theatre arts to invite children (ages 4+) and teens into the stories of the Hebrew and Christian traditions. Participants are given lots of options as regards the extent of their involvement on the stage (depending on confidence and skill levels), yet regardless of experience or training (none required) all the participants work together to build a storytelling event that touches the hearts of young and old alike.

March 24, 2019: Giving Up Superiority – Lent 3 by Rev. Beth Hayward (John 4: 4-30)

“Us and them.” That is our biological inheritance. Our survival as a species was made possible by our fine-tuned ability to recognize threat and avoid it at all cost. Which is why it’s not the least bit surprising that the woman at that well is identified simply as Samaritan, different, other. We are wired to see the world as us and them, black and white AND Christ calls us to love anyway, to dare to press through this ingrained biology and live more deeply into a consciousness that transcends. The unnamed Samaritan woman reveals something about this transcendence.

When she returns to her village after the most extraordinary experience she says to the others “come and see.” Come and see someone who knows me inside and out, can he be the Messiah, she asks? It’s a strange paradox, this human need to be seen and known while at the same time, doing everything in our power to ensure we protect ourselves from really being seen. We want to be known, valued, and seen as unique and at the same time we go to great lengths to mitigate the risk of people seeing who we truly are.

One of the riskiest things I’ve ever done is keeping a journal. All through my teens and well into my twenties, I recorded my inmost thoughts and fears, my every success and regret. Though the volumes don’t contain anything that could convict me of a crime they do contain details that could blanket me under so many layers of shame I might never uncover. What if people knew, not just my inmost thoughts but my every action, the missteps, the bad choices, the betrayals, all of it. What would people think?

I am so glad that my journal writing has been replaced by social media posts, where I obligingly play by the unspoken rule of offering a polished version of myself to the world, not troubling anyone with the messy stuff below the surface. Likewise, I’d preach a sermon from a well-rehearsed text any day over having an unscripted conversation. Nicely protected behind my well-chosen words, no risk of people seeing the full complexity of the perfectly imperfect me. Please tell me you can relate!

The more we try to push down, hide, silence the missteps, the regrets the shame we’ve accumulated, the bigger it all becomes. It’s as if we take our bad deeds and poor choices, which are in and of themselves a tangled web of genetics, social circumstances, free will and external expectations, we take all of that and push it down until we become our deed. Think about it, what is the noun you fear most being used to describe you? If people really knew you, they’d understand why you can’t let go of the shame, why you aren’t truly worthy of your birthright identity as a child of God. Is it infidel? Traitor? Liar? Coward? Gossiper? Thief? Cheater? Imposter? Who is the you, that you’re hiding?

That day the Samaritan woman approached the well in the heat of the noonday sun; there were no pages, no screens, no masks to hide behind. She tried at first to protect herself by naming her otherness. She admits to being a Samaritan and a woman, two very good reasons for Jesus to not engage. Samaritans were seen as half Jews, half rate followers of the faith, to be loathed and feared. And being a woman, enough said. There was absolutely no social obligation for Jesus to acknowledge a woman in public. But he knows there’s more. He knows these are just the surface wounds, and he wastes no time going to her deepest wound. He reaches out and exposes the thing she has worked so hard to hide. “Go get your husband,” he says. He may as well have said: “I see you Whore.” Because that’s what she’d been named by her community, by biblical interpreters throughout time and most certainly by herself. 

Whether she is daughter, mother, friend it’s all overshadowed by this all-encompassing identity – Whore. We know she feels it. Why else would she go to fetch water in the heat of the day? The honourable women would have been long gone by then. To avoid their judging stares, she went to the well at noon. Jesus knew she had internalized the self-judgment and loathing. He knew too that she lived in a time when the system was set up for her to fail. Maybe she was married off young, maybe as each husband died her choices narrowed. Maybe it was a case of: be destitute of be whore. Shame is never simple, never black and white.

This is about so much more than a shamed-filled, unnamed woman confessing her sins. It is about being seen, truly seen, perhaps for the first time in her entire life. Being seen in the full complexity of her existence, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, seen as a person tied up in a system that shamed women and left her little choice, seen as one who had judged herself. In her own words he saw her inside and out.

As much as I love a good biblical story, the fact is this is nothing more than interesting narrative unless we uncover in it something relevant to our lives. Is there a truth here that can inform how our identity in the Christian tradition will be shaped? There are two things that matter here. The first is: we are not defined by what people say. You are not defined by your bad choices, your guilt, regret or failures. One negative noun can never define you. And the second thing that matters is community – we cannot be followers of Christ without community.

Let me explain. Something happens in this scene. This unnamed woman at the well has her heart broken open to the truth that she’s not defined by the labels imposed on her, not defined by what people say she is, or by what she’s done. When she realizes this about herself she knows it’s universally true. She sees that she is a child of God and if it’s true for her it must be true for others. From this place, an “us and them” mentality slips away, it’s transcended, it’s impossible to hold on to.

Think about how difficult it is for us to really embrace this sort of truth. Go back to your deepest secret, your “if they only knew” this thing about me. Can you entertain the idea that you are more than that noun? What about others? Can you get your head around the idea that no one is defined by one label? Our biological inheritance really wants to box people in. We want to categorize and determine where everyone fits in the scheme of things. It happened to my sister in law countless times in hospital before she died. The first thing people saw in her last years of life was alcoholic, not wife, sister, certainly not beloved child of God. And that noun, it impacted the care she received. We do it all the time: mentally ill, drug addict, racial minority. I appreciate that it’s easy enough for us to begin to see that these labels are too limiting. But some labels are harder to shake. What about murderer, terrorist, evil person? The temptation to explain much that happens in our world today is to label those who do terrible deeds as just evil, an aberration. But do we limit the capacity of humanity to evolve in our consciousness when we do this? I ask that with all seriousness knowing that we can’t answer that one easily.

As long as we keep labeling one another by our otherness or our worst deed, as long as we say she is whore, or he is adulterer, whatever it is, we strip people of their humanity and indeed their spirituality. Christ calls us to get real about who we are and to love anyway.

I want to move on to the second take away from this story: community. The moment it all comes together for her she drops her pail and goes running back to her community, to the people who no doubt named her whore in the first place. She invites them to come and see. I am not talking about returning to communities of abuse or violence. I’m talking about community being the place we test and practice being people see one another differently. Community is where we practice reminding one another that we are not defined by our shame our guilt, instead we are all expressions of divine love.

She brings back to her community this thing called living waters, and you don’t carry it in a bucket. The living waters of Christ flow when we are seen, fully known, flaws, regrets and all. Living waters enable us to loosen our grip on our evolutionary inheritance of us and them. Our oneness, begins to come into focus.

Living waters could also be named Christ consciousness, it’s like that thing that made Jesus the Messiah, that thing that made him fully human and fully divine, that thing that made him one with God, flowed right into the very heart of the woman. That thing that makes Jesus the Christ, is not stationary, it flows though us. She saw this and brought it back to her people. Living waters, Christ consciousness doesn’t offer us escape from the world, but entry into it, the whole mess of it. 

We gather in this way week in and week out to practice being people who are ever more open to the living waters of Christ in our midst. You might come to that awareness of the oneness of it all in the woods or through meditation, contemplation but it will always draw you back into the trenches of community where you see that the spiritual is not escape from the world but entry into it.

This following Jesus is risky business, and it does not provide immunity to the stuff that happens, to the labels that get thrown at us, but it does and it will and it can keep us in the noon day sun long enough to see a glimpse of the dazzling sparkle of living waters.

Will you dare to drop the bucket you’ve been using to carry around those shame filled nouns, to carry around the quick judgments you place on others? Will you dare to drop what you’ve been using to fill up that fear inside and run and tell the others that there is more, that we are more, that every one of us is an inheritor of the Christ’s living waters? When that starts to flow we lose our thirst to press others down so that we can feel buoyed up.

When you find yourself the recipient of living waters, you become a channel through which these waters flow. The world will call you crazy, say there isn’t enough living water to go ground, that you’ll run the well dry if you invite everyone to it. Invite them anyway. People will say you’re crazy, that there isn’t enough hope to go round in times like these, hope anyway. They’ll say the future is so uncertain you better stock pile your water and let the chips fall where they pay. Drop your pail anyway and run back to community to be reminded that living waters

Holy Week & Easter services

Holy Week and Easter are arguably the most important days in the Christian year. In the span of a week we travel with Jesus from triumphal entry into Jerusalem through to defeat on the cross on Good Friday and then to resurrection on Easter morning. But this season is so much more than commemorating historic events – Holy Week and Easter bring together the full scope of our lives with the bold assertion that love triumphs over hate, life over death.

You are so welcome to join us for any of the following church services as we commemorate and celebrate this time of year:

PALM SUNDAY

Sunday, April 14 at 10:30am: Join in the nostalgia as all ages wave palm branches in the parade!

GOOD FRIDAY

Friday, April 19 at 10:30am: A quiet service to reflect on the places of brokenness in our lives. Join us for a time of singing, reflection, and nailing your prayers of lament to the cross. All ages welcome.

EASTER SUNDAY

Sunday, April 21 at 5:50am: A 30-minute Sunrise Easter morning service at Kits Beach (meet at the far north end of Maple Street – look for the signpost at the corner of Maple Street & Ogden Avenue). Bring a folding chair if you like. A light breakfast will follow at the Centre for Peace starting at 7:00am – bring fruit to share if you’re able!

&

Sunday, April 21 at 9am or 11am: Easter morning services featuring an Easter Choir and Orchestra – We’re offering the same service twice to accommodate the crowds. Coffee will be served from 10am to 11am, and parking in the Centre for Peace lot will be reserved for the elderly and those with mobility issues. Bring cut flowers if you’re able – we’ll be covering the cross with them!

The church is located at the corner of Burrard St. and 15th Ave. in Vancouver, BC. All are truly welcome.