Sunday Blessings: Peace

For the 2nd Sunday in Advent and the Week Following

Have you ever been so hungry for something that you can almost taste it? I have been told that I get a little grumpy or “hangry” when I am hungry. I have come to realize that it is also true of me when I am hungry for things like justice and peace. The problem with being “hangry” for peace is that eating a samosa or chocolate bar won’t take the hunger pains (or the resulting mood) away. In fact, being “hangry” for justice and peace is one of the costs of Christian discipleship. But in order to not be totally unbearable and to have the energy to persevere in the quest for justice and peace, I must eat something or the journey will become too long. I survive on a diet of faith (in God’s promises for a commonwealth of peace), hope (in God’s workers who are continually building this kin-dom), and love (for God, my neighbour, and myself). But until God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven, we who seek peace will always be hungry.

Prepare

Where do you find peace? As a symbol for peace, this Advent Unwrapped video for 2015 used the image of a nest that is built slowly by birds using small, interwoven pieces. The nest sits precariously on a branch. The branch is reminiscent of the prophecy in Isaiah that “a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). Our hope for peace hangs on that branch: the stronger our hope, the less precarious our peace is.

What symbol would you use to tell the story of peace? What is your understanding of peace? Who would you share peace with? And, if you were personally looking for peace, where would you expect to find it?

Play and Ponder

Select one of the following ideas to work with over the course of the week:

  • Explore the Advent Peace Box campaign.
  • Create a prayer map: Get a large map (of your workplace, your community, your surrounding area, or the world). Mark all of the places that you are connected to. Be creative; the list could include place of origin, family ancestor, where your dinner came from, where your clothing was made, where your favourite movie was filmed. Over the next week, add places as you hear, learn, or interact with them. Pray for all of these areas, and give thanks for the fact that we are global citizens whose lives interconnect.
  • We are told that it is the wisdom of a child that will lead us to peace. Watch the video “Lead India: The Tree”. Can you think of areas in your life where you are be being invited to follow someone’s lead? Are you called to take the lead yourself?

Pray

Choose one or more of these prayers for daily use over the course of the week.

Scriptural Prayer

Memorize this scripture:

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

Breath Prayer

(breath in) God of Peace, (breath out) guard my heart.

The Prayer of Jesus

Download the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish

Graces and Blessings

“God bless to us our bread” (More Voices 193)

(Note: Next week is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and we shall explore the theme of Joy.)

Waiting with you,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Peace

Video: Where Would You Search for Peace?

Download this video [MP4]
Download the video transcripts [RTF]

We hope you enjoy this video. Where will you search for signs of God’s peace this Advent season?

Check out some more engaging blogs on the theme of peace, or revisit our video playlists from 2015 and 2016.

Waiting with you,

Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Peace, Videos

Friday Prayers: Peace

“God…will speak peace to [God’s] people…to those who turn to [God] in their hearts.” (Psalm 85:8)

What is peace? It is simply the absence of war? Is it the sound you hear and the relief you feel when you walk into an empty room at the end of a busy day? Maybe…but what if it is more? What if peace is something that brings us just a bit closer to knowing the presence of God in our lives as individuals, families, churches, and communities?

Psalm 85, Prayer for the Restoration of God’s Favour, points to that presence by saying that peace is linked deeply to how we see the world and how we seek to live each day. Jesus, known as the Prince of Peace, brings this psalm to life for us, as he embodied peace and love, justice, and faithfulness. Peace might not always be easy to see or live, but if we seek it in ourselves and extend what we find to our families and friends, it is a small start that will make a large difference. We find peace when we are able to see the good in ourselves, and the earth.

Like hope,  peace takes practice. It takes courage to seek it because it may not always be easy or popular. When conflict or hatred seems easy, know that God is calling us to peace, to open hearts and deeper understanding, to the ability to see beyond the surface and ask more difficult questions. May you find peace in this movement prayer. May God’s peace be unwrapped in us this Advent.

Body Prayer: Peace

Download this prayer with illustrations [PDF]

Repeat the following prayer, using the actions to inspire movement as you are able:

Holy One (reach up and out)
May your peace (clasp hands over heart)
Surround me (circle arms in front of body)
May your peace (widen arms)
Work through me (use some force to push arms to sides with fingers up)
May your peace (clasp hands over heart)
Extend to the world (unfold arms in front with open hands)
AMEN (head down, hands at prayer with palms together)

The Rev. Catherine Stuart ministers at Bedeque United Church, Prince Edward Island.

 

Posted in Devotional, Family, Peace

Wednesday Chapel: Peace

Family Advent Time for December 6

Welcome back to Wednesday Chapel. We introduced this series of special ideas for Advent family time last week, and we’ll keep posting them on Wednesdays throughout December.

Peace

Gather around your Advent Centre or move it to a table or space on the floor. Add the second Advent candle, or write “peace” on the single candle. Have matches and your special symbol for peace on hand. Find out the names of the Traditional Indigenous territory and Nations/Bands connected to the area where you live or where your church is located for the “Showing Peace” section. Check out the website and the United Church’s guide, Acknowledging the Territory in Worship [PDF]. Decide who will do what in your Family Advent Time.

Gathering

We remember our first Advent candle, the candle that represents Hope. (light Hope candle, or wait if there is a single candle)
And now we light the second Advent candle, the candle of Peace. (light Peace candle)
In the light of the flame, we wonder about peace.
In the light of the flame, we wait for Jesus to be born.
In the light of the flame, we see one another and know that God is with us.

Storytelling and Wondering

Have you ever been ready to go out for a special occasion and then you spill ketchup on your white shirt, or you trip and fall in the snow and get your clothes wet? When we are getting ready for something special—like Christmas—we often hurry and get ourselves in a mess. We have to pause, turn around, and clean things up. A long time ago, there was a man who talked about getting ready for Jesus. The story is from the book of Mark (Mark 1:1–8) and it’s about getting ready for the grownup Jesus. The man was called John the Baptist, because he baptized people. He didn’t used a bowl of water; he baptized people in a river. Yes, he dunked them right under! John lived in the wilderness, wore strange clothes, and ate strange food. But he was God’s messenger, preparing the way for Jesus. John told people they needed to repent, come to the river to be baptized, and be forgiven. And many people did just that! The word “repent” literally means to turn around: to turn away from doing wrong and toward doing right. Repenting isn’t just saying sorry and forgetting about it. It is knowing that doing wrong is hurting others and even yourself, and making sure you don’t do it again. Repenting is about giving and receiving forgiveness. And it means fixing the wrong—like repairing something that is broken, or cleaning up a mess—whether it’s a thing or a relationship. I wonder how we can turn around toward kindness, compassion, generosity. I wonder how turning around can make peace. I wonder how we can turn around, build peace, and get ready for Jesus.

A Special Symbol

It’s time to get the symbol that makes us think about peace. What is it about this object that makes us think about peace? Let’s pass it around, talk about it, and then add it to our Advent Centre.

Showing Peace this Week

Print on a piece of paper: “We live on the Traditional lands of the ….” Post the paper on the fridge to remind everyone about the Indigenous peoples in Canada, the first peoples on this land. Look for age-appropriate children’s books about residential schools at your local library, book store, or online. Here are a few that were suggested the Lent/Easter 2017 issue of Gathering; we’ve added a link to those that are available through United Church Resource Distribution.

Picture Books

  • Arctic Stories by Michael Kusugak (Annick, 1998)
  • Kookum’s Red Shoes by Peter Eyvindson (Pemmican, 2015)
  • A Promise Is a Promise by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak (Annick, 1988)
  • Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell (Groundwood, 2008)
  • SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Kids Can, 2000)
  • The Give-Away by Ray Buckley (Abingdon, 1999)
  • We Feel Good Out Here: Zhik gwaa’an, nakhwatthaiitat gwiinzii (The Land Is Our Storybook) by Julie-Ann Andre and Mindy Willett (Fifth House, 2008)
  • When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton (Annick, 2013)

For Older Children

  • No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School by Sylvia Olsen (Sono Nis, 2011)
  • A Stranger at Home: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton (Annick, 2011)
  • Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens by Ruby Slipperjack (Scholastic Canada, 2016)

Singing an Advent Song

Sing the following to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” choosing whether to sing softly or loudly, slow or fast, smooth or bouncy.

Peace, peace, peace for you, peace for you today.
Jesus comes to bring you peace. Peace for you today.

Peace, peace, peace for me, peace for me today.
Jesus comes to bring me peace. Peace for me today.

Peace, peace, peace for all, peace for all today.
Jesus comes to bring us peace. Peace for all today.

Waiting Prayer

(Invite everyone to stand for the prayer and turn around at the end of each sentence.)    

God of peace, today we pray for peace for…. (Pass the Peace symbol to the person speaking. A person not wishing to speak will say “Pass.”)

While we wait, help us to get ready. Help us to turn away from wrong and turn toward your way of peace. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(All blow out the candle or candles together.)

Donalee Williams is in ministry with the congregation of Fort McMurray First United Church and she enjoys delightful and creative ways of sharing God’s good news. 

Posted in Family, Peace

Sunday Blessings: Hope

For the 1st Sunday in Advent and the Week Following

Happy New Year! Today marks the beginning of the Christian Year. Why is the Christian year different from the calendar year? Because the Christian year revolves around Jesus. It starts with preparing for Jesus’ birth (Advent and Christmas) and is followed by a time of learning and growing (Ordinary Time) before a period of spiritual preparation and cleansing (Lent). This, in turn, prepares us for the death (Good Friday) and resurrection of Jesus (Easter). Easter is a 50-day celebration that ends with Pentecost (from pentekonta, Greek for 50). Another season of learning and growing follows that ends with today—the 1st of Advent.

Prepare

Where do you find hope? Use the 2017 Advent Unwrapped Hope video to help you reflect on where one would look for hope. The video uses seed and sunrise imagery since both are traditional symbols of Christian Hope. The symbol of the seed is so engrained in the Christian story that our preparatory schools for ministers are called “seminaries,” which literally means a seed plot or nursery. Likewise, the notion of hope coming with the dawn is resonant with a common name for Jesus, the Morning Star.

Play and Ponder

Select one of the following ideas to work with over the course of the week:

  • Make a hope jar: fill a jar with images and symbols of hope. Check out the book of Isaiah, which has many evocative images of hope, e.g., flowers blooming in the desert, wolves lying down with lambs, swords being beaten into ploughshares.
  • Research symbols of hope in other cultures. For instance, I am Jamaican Canadian, and for me, green is a symbol of hope because it is the colour associated with agriculture on the Jamaican flag. The sun is also a common symbol of hope. We have a proverb: “When cloud shado cum, sun nu set.” (When times are rough, there is always hope.)
  • Watch this video about the Paris terrorist attack. At Rendez-Vous 2017, preacher and Christian educator, Rodger Nishioka, shared this video and said “Flowers and candles are more powerful than guns because each flower and each candle represents a person who is saying no to violence.” What brings you hope in times of uncertainty, and what can you do to bring hope to others?

Pray

Choose one or more of these prayers for daily use over the course of the week.

Scriptural Prayer

Memorize this scripture:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Breath Prayer

(breathe in) I am not alone, (breathe out) I live in God’s world.

The Prayer of Jesus

Download the Lord’s Prayer in Tagalog

Graces and Blessings

The following Hot Cocoa Prayer can be used individually or in a group.

  1. Measure two tablespoons of cocoa powder. Taste it (it’s bitter). Pray for some of the things that are bitter in your life and a little hard to take on their own.
  2. Measure and add 1–2 tablespoons of sugar/ sweetener. Taste it (it’s sweet). Offer a prayer of thanks for all the things that are sweet in your life and are perhaps best in small doses.
  3. Add a pinch of salt. Taste it (it’s salty). Offer a prayer for moments of grace and clarity, experiences that bring out the flavour of life.
  4. Warm some milk (or milk beverage) while reflecting on when you have experienced the Holy in the past day or week. What has warmed your heart?
  5. Mix warmed milk beverage with hot chocolate mixture. Taste it (it’s yummy). Give thanks to God and enjoy.

(Note: Next week is the 2nd Sunday in Advent, and we shall explore the theme of Peace. Sunday, December 10 is also the United Nations Human Rights Day.)

Waiting with you,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Hope

Video: Where Would You Search for Hope?

Download this video [MP4]
Download the video transcripts [RTF]

We hope you enjoy this video. Where will you search for signs of God’s hope this Advent season?

Check out some more engaging blogs on the theme of hope, or revisit our video playlists from 2015 and 2016.

Waiting with you,

Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Hope, Videos

Friday Prayers: Hope

“Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:7)

How do we find hope when all around us is sadness, despair, and lament? When we hear words of pain, when we see images of violence, we wonder where hope has fled. Psalm 80, Prayer for Israel’s Restoration, reminds us that hope is found when we join together, rather than be split apart by difference, hatred, and anxiety.

We are not alone when we seek a common answer to sadness and fear. That does not mean that we all have the same experiences, but it affirms our common human feeling. Hope is found when we are courageous and bold in finding community, in working together for the common good, when we intentionally seek an alternative to quick fixes, alternative news, and fear. It does not mean that we ignore pain and suffering, but it does acknowledge the strength that gets us through those times.

Hope is real when, like the Israelites, we give our trust to God and extend that trust to each other. In this world, the God of hope calls us beyond disappointment and fear into compassion and love. We find hope when we help each other, when we are kind to neighbours and strangers alike, when we care for the earth.

Hope takes practice. It is a spiritual muscle to be developed. May you find hope in this movement, in this prayer, in the knowledge that you join others in this prayer. May God’s hope be unwrapped in us this Advent and Christmas season.

Body Prayer: Hope

Download this prayer with illustrations [PDF]

Repeat the following prayer, using the actions to inspire movement as you are able:

Holy One (reach up and out)
May your hope (widen arms)
Encircle me (circle both arms from one side, over head, to the other side)
May your hope (widen arms)
Grow within me (hands on heart)
May your hope (widen arms)
Reach beyond me (stretch arms in from of body)
AMEN (head down, hands at prayer with palms together)

The Rev. Catherine Stuart ministers at Bedeque United Church, Prince Edward Island.

Posted in Devotional, Family, Hope

Wednesday Chapel: Hope

Family Advent Time for November 29

Advent, which begins this Sunday, is a beginning time; it is the first season of the church year.

Advent is a getting ready time; we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Advent is a waiting time; instead of instant gratification, we embrace the experience of taking it slowly.

Advent can be a special family time. Often, younger members of the family observe part of their worship in Sunday school while the older members observe their worship in the sanctuary. But families can do “church” at home with everyone staying together. On Wednesdays throughout Advent, we’ll be posting Wednesday Chapel ideas to get you started.

Getting Ready

Choose a place for the family’s Advent Centre, such as the living room, where there is space for everyone and where your Advent Centre can remain visible and accessible throughout the season. Designate a time for your gathering.

You might wish to change where and when you gather each week, and different members of the family could take turns choosing.

Spread a blue cloth on a flat surface for the first two weeks and the last week of Advent, and a pink cloth for Joy (the third) week. The cloth can be any size or shape; it might be a tablecloth, scarf, or blanket.

The candles can be blue for Hope, Peace, and Love weeks, with a pink candle for the third week, Joy. Or use four white candles and with blue crayon/pencil/marker write “Hope,” “Peace,” and “Love” respectively on the sides of three candles and write “Joy” in pink on the other candle. Or use one candle and begin by printing “Hope” on the side, adding the other words each week. You could do the same with a flame-less candle.

Each week, add something to your Advent Centre that helps people think of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. A symbol of Hope could be a candle or a baby blanket. A symbol for Peace could be a dove or an origami peace crane. A symbol for Joy could be a party hat or bubbles. A symbol for Love could be a favourite stuffed animal or a family photo. Decide who will choose the item for each week, or everyone can choose together. You can also use your special symbol during the closing Waiting Prayer, passing the symbol to each person as they say who or what they are praying for.

Hope

Prepare your Advent space by laying the cloth and setting up the Hope candle or writing “Hope” if you are using a single candle. Have ready matches and the item selected as a symbol for Hope. Have a paper and pen to write down your “random acts.” Decide who will do what in your Family Advent Time, making sure everyone has a role.

Gathering

We light this first Advent candle, the candle of Hope. (light candle)
In the light of the flame, we wonder about Hope.
In the light of the flame, we begin to wait for Jesus to be born.
In the light of the flame, we see one another, and know that God is with us.

Storytelling and Wondering

In our Family Advent Time we hear stories from the Bible, but not about the baby in the manger. Not yet! These stories are like another member of the family who teaches us and waits with us.

Waiting can be frustrating, even boring. However, our first Advent story teaches us something about waiting. It’s from the book of Mark (Mark 13:32–37), and Jesus is in the story—not the baby Jesus, but the grownup Jesus. He is in the city of Jerusalem teaching and answering questions about God, and three of his companions want to know when everything he has been talking about will happen. First of all, Jesus says no one knows when these things will happen—only God. Imagine how his companions feel about that! What would you think? And then Jesus tells a story. There is a person who’s going on a journey and this person needs people to stay behind to take care of the house, including someone to watch the door. But the owner of the house doesn’t know when he will be back, so the doorkeeper has to watch and stay awake the whole time. If the doorkeeper falls asleep, and is sleeping when the homeowner returns, there will be trouble! “So,” Jesus says, “keep awake!”

What can we learn about Advent waiting from this story? Of course, we know how long Advent is and when Christmas will come. And we can’t stay awake for the whole time! But I wonder if our waiting can be watchful. We can be on the lookout for hopeful things, like kindness and sharing. Sometimes we don’t notice hopeful things unless we are watching for them. So let’s watch!

A Special Symbol

It’s time to get that special symbol that makes us think about hope. What is it about this object that makes us think about hope? Let’s pass it around and talk about that. When we are finished we will make it part of our Family Advent Centre.

Showing Hope this Week

Discuss and then choose random acts of kindness to pursue this week, at least one act of kindness for each member of the family. Write them down and decide when to carry them out.

Singing an Advent Song

Sing the following to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” choosing whether to sing softly or loudly, slow or fast, smooth or bouncy.

Hope, hope, hope for you, hope for you today.
Jesus comes to bring you hope. Hope for you today.

Hope, hope, hope for me, hope for me today.
Jesus comes to bring me hope. Hope for me today.

Hope, hope, hope for all, hope for all today.
Jesus comes to bring us hope. Hope for all today.

Waiting Prayer

(Pause for at least 10 seconds wherever “silence” is indicated. A person not wishing to speak will say “Pass.”)
God of Hope, today we are hoping for… (Pass the Hope symbol to the person speaking. Silence follows.) Help us to wait. (silence) Help us to watch. (silence) Help us to know how we can be part of your hope. (silence) We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(All blow out the candle together.)

Donalee Williams is in ministry with the congregation of Fort McMurray First United Church and she enjoys delightful and creative ways of sharing God’s good news. 

Posted in Family, Hope

Resources 101: Advent for All Ages

Advent starts this Sunday, December 3. Are you ready?

Here’s a good way to engage a family at home: print out our Advent Calendar [PDF] and place it on the side of your fridge. Then you can count down the days to Christmas with a thematic all-ages activity for each day.

Looking for engaging resources? Here are some more ideas:

  • Check out the new At Home offerings on our Resources page, or scan for old favourites from previous years.
  • Be sure to visit Stories Unwrapped for stories and activities—including new colouring pages—featuring the characters of the Christmas story. Congregations might print these off as a children’s pew pack for use during the service.
  • Check out our Advent Unwrapped Pinterest page for crafts and DIY projects, as well as worship inspiration.
  • Stay in touch through the season on Twitter and Facebook using hashtag #AdventUnwrapped.
  • Subscribe to Advent blog posts by scrolling to Connect with Us at the bottom of the page.

Waiting with you,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Family

Sunday Blessings: Reign of Christ

For Reign of Christ Sunday and the Week Following

Today marks the end of the Christian year. The new Christian year starts with the 1st Sunday in Advent. Each week, Sunday Blessings will invite you to Prepare, Play, Ponder, and Pray using a particular theme.

This week’s theme is Jesus. In Advent we wait and prepare for Jesus’ birth. In order to wait and prepare well, we start by defining who Jesus is for us. Our understanding of Jesus will change how we engage with the Advent Season.

Prepare

What does Jesus the Christ mean to you?

“Christ” is the Greek word for “anointed one” or “messiah.” It is not Jesus’ last name. Many in Jesus’ time believed that God would send a Messiah to protect and to liberate the people, similar to how Moses had saved the Israelites from oppression and slavery by leading them out of Egypt. Saying “Jesus Christ” is a declaration that Jesus is a special messenger sent from God to help us—that Jesus is the Messiah.

Play and Ponder

Select one of the following ideas to work with over the course of the week:

  • Create a digital or paper collage using different images of Jesus. Which images resonate with you? Why?
  • Research the Great Antiphons—the seven different names/attributes for Jesus. Which do you find the most intriguing and why? Which do you find particularly challenging?
  • Watch the following videos to learn about
    • the Liturgical Year
    • the Season of Advent
    • the Advent Wreath

      (Note: Most United Churches use Advent candles that differ from the tradition followed by the United Methodist Church, and that’s okay. The only rule is that the 3rd Sunday of Advent should celebrate Joy. Many United Churches use a deep blue (think night sky and the colour for Mary) for the liturgical colour for Advent rather than the older tradition of using purple. This is to put some space between Advent and Lent. Both blue and purple are cool.)

Pray

Choose one or more of these prayers for daily use over the course of the week.

Scriptural Prayer

Memorize this scripture:

“And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7)

Breath Prayer

(breath in) Jesus Christ, (breath out) have mercy on me.

The Prayer of Jesus

Download the Lord’s Prayer in Polish

Graces and Blessings

Give us Lord, a bit o’sun
A bit o’ work and a bit o’ fun.
Give us all in the struggle and sputter,
Our daily bread and a bit o’ butter.
Amen.

(Traditional Irish Prayer)

(Note: Next week is the 1st Sunday in Advent, and we shall be exploring the theme of Hope. December 1 is World AIDS Day, and December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.)

Waiting with you,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.

Posted in Uncategorized
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