Deuteronomy 26:1-11 – “Wilderness Times”
February 14, 2016 – Year C – Lent 1 – Annual Meeting
When you have come into Penticton United Church, a sanctuary that God has given you as an inheritance to treasure, and you care for it, and look after it; you shall welcome the newcomer that your God is giving you, and you shall wrap them in a hug and invite them to sit near you. You shall go to the Minister who is called at this time, and say to her, ‘Today I declare to God that I have come into the place that God swore to our ancestors to give us.’ When the Minister takes the bread from your hand and sets it down on the communion table she will make this response before God:
‘A wandering Jewish carpenter is our Redeemer; he went into Israel and Palestine and lived there as a faithful follower of God’s way. We are people who are choosing to follow in the pattern of the Holy One. We have a history of joyful celebration as well as pain and hurt, and yet we believe that the path of justice, compassion and love is our call. Even though we have faced years of financial restraint and broken relationships with close friends, we cried to the God of our ancestors. The Creator heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our hurt. God brought us out of the pain of despair, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. With a great display of power, and with signs and wonders, our God brought us into this time and gave us this place of worship, a sanctuary that is sacred. So now we bring our tithes, the first one-tenth of our resources, as a thank offering for all that you have given us, O God.’ We shall set it down before God and bow down in thanksgiving. Then we, together with the neighbours and friends who use this building, we shall celebrate raising our voices and announcing “How Great thou art!”
Such is my re-telling of the creedal statement of the Hebrew scripture text for today. Our confession of faith acknowledges the wilderness times when we as a congregation have gone through some extremely difficult times. Some people would say that 2015 was one of those years. It was a year where our Council functioned without a permanent Chairperson or a treasurer. Like many years, we had a deficit of over $14,700. It was a tough year for our conscientious and hard working council and committees. They worked with small committees and ensured that the various projects were completed.
With all this said, we are faced with opportunities for 2016. It will be a year to intentionally plan our course with your guidance. After lunch today we will gather in table groups and will begin conversations guiding us toward a path of concrete action. And then on Saturday February 27 the entire congregation is encouraged to attend a day of “Looking to the Future.” Rev. Richard and Joanne Simpson from our Wise Elders group will be leading us in conversation and exercises to map out a plan for 2016 and the next 5 to 10 years. It is important that we have as many people of the congregation in attendance. For without your input, our church is facing a serious leadership and financial crisis. But both of these can be overcome when we work together with awareness and determination and prayer.
We are in a place that God has given. Each week we gather to worship and be empowered. Our spirits are nourished. Our hearts are fed with companionship and warmth of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the bounty that God has given us. And we are thankful.
May our Annual Meeting celebrate and honour the faithfulness of you – God’s people. Amen.