About Susan Taylor

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MARCH 15, 2020 – PLANTING SEEDS

Text:  Matthew 13:31-32

This story may be apocryphal, but its message is powerful. New College at Oxford was founded in 1379. It has a great dining hall with huge oak beams, as large as two feet square, and forty-five feet long apiece. In the 1860s, the roof beams were found to be full of beetles. The massive beams would have to be replaced. But where could they find wood of those dimensions in the diminished oak forests of the nineteenth century? It turns out that when the college was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetle-infested, because oak beams always become beetle-infested in the end. This plan had been passed down from one college forester to the next for over five hundred years saying “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the college hall.” So, when the college council finally called in the college forester, and asked him if there were any oaks for possible use. He said, “Well sirs we were wondering when you’d be asking.”

The foresters preserved the grove of oaks because they wanted to sustain the wellbeing of the building and the community of the college. They could have sold the trees in order to meet their urgent needs. Instead, they saw the needs of future generations. Learning from trees, the foresters were able to think long term.

When we are preoccupied with what seems to be urgent tasks, we may lose a bigger picture, how we are part of something more. On a personal level, I like to put myself into the larger context that have started with my great grandparents’ generation and all the way to my great grandchildren’s generation. Day by day I am living the legacy of my previous generations. Moment by moment I am also making an impact on my next generations. This sense of interconnection makes me aware of consequences of what I do today. Such awareness doesn’t necessarily make me feel stuck in the past or in the future. Instead, it makes me grateful for what I have received, and leads me into making conscious decisions.

The kingdom of heaven, Jesus proclaims, is like a mustard seed. It starts as small like a seed. He invites us to imagine what the smallest seed can do. Once it is planted in the soil, with proper care and nourishment, it can grow and grow, and it can become a tree, and the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. The point is not to make the seed grow as fast as we can – none of us can – but to trust that it’s going to grow and turn into something greater than anyone can imagine. Our task is to sow the seed of kindness and compassion day by day and moment by moment.

Trees’ sense of time is different from ours as humans. In our eyes, they grow extremely slowly. Thanks to slow growth, however, they can become strong. The woody inner cells are tiny and contain almost no air. That makes the trees flexible and resistant to breaking in storms, and more importantly they become resilient to injuries closing up any wounds by growing bark over them. Scientists have determined that slow growth when the tree is young is a prerequisite if a tree is to live to a ripe old age.

Trees’ long term perspective, however, doesn’t make them slow in producing seeds. For example, the mother poplar trees each produce up to 54 million seeds every year. For until the old ones hand over the reins to the next generation, they produce more than a billion seeds. Wrapped in their fluffy packaging, these seeds strike out via airmail in search of new pastures. But even for them, based on statistics, there can be only one winner. Tree seeds are extremely vulnerable. Chances are that they are always in danger of being eaten by hungry deer or dying of thirst. Seeds may germinate and young seedlings may vegetate for a few years or a few decades, in the shadows, but sooner or later, they run out of steam and eventually return to humus. What’s so amazing about trees is that despite the very low rate of success, they never stop producing seeds, because it’s in their nature to regenerate themselves.

The following prayer is attributed to Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. He was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived. He had always been close to his people, preached a prophetic gospel, denouncing the injustice in his country. He became the voice of the oppressed when all other channels of expression was crushed by the repression.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

________________

1 Wohlleben, Peter. The Hidden Life of Trees (p. 33). Greystone Books. Kindle Edition.

2 Wohlleben, Peter. The Hidden Life of Trees (pp. 29-30). Greystone Books. Kindle Edition.

 

KUDOS, CONGRATULATIONS AND SUCCESSES

SUNDAY, MARCH 8 – CITIZENSHIP PARTY
For AHMAD FAMILY
Thank you to everyone for their contribution to make
the party a great success. Special thanks to the Social
Action Team, Barb Douglas and Ian Mullins for organising
and decorating for this celebration!

 

 

 

 

JOIN US IN MORDEN


“The Latest and Greatest in Sustainable Energy”

Manitoba Sustainable Energy Association 2020 Conference & AGM
April 8, 2020 8:30 – 4:30
Access Events Centre, Morden

Curt Hull of Climate Change Connection will set the stage regarding the climate change challenges that we face with “The Greta Thunberg Effect: Manitobans have something to learn from a Swedish teenager.”

Come learn about:
 The latest in biomass utilization for your community or business.
 Get up to date on Electric Vehicles in Manitoba and what we need to do to catch up.
 Practical examples & lessons learned in accelerating clean energy market development.
 Hear how ‘‘First Nations are Leading Canada’s Energy Transformation’
 The latest on ‘How the Social Finance Movement is Boosting Green Energy’.
 Maximizing geothermal Performance
 Optimizing power generated from solar panels

Come join us for this information packed event as we learn how we can reduce our carbon footprint in a sustainable manner.

For further Program and Registration information visit the Conference website at: https://sites.google.com/mansea.org/web/2020-annual-conference
Email: info@mansea.org #ManSEA2020Conf

Manitoba Sustainable Energy Association (ManSEA)
To promote the use and production of renewable, sustainable environmentally friendly energy sources within Manitoba

ECO-FRIENDLY TIPS TO PROTECT OUR EARTH

 

 

 

 

 

At Fort Garry United Church we are keen to do our part
in eco-friendly actions to protect our water, our health, &
our climate. As responsible citizens we are undertaking
and recommending that we all try to follow
these plastic reduction strategies and tips:

WEEKLY HINTS RE: PLASTIC USE:

1. The proliferation of single-use plastic around
the world is accelerating climate change &
should be halted.

2. Mother earth is the one thing we all share across
the globe & through the generations.
Please do the little things that make a difference.

March 8, 2020 – Falling in Love Outward

Text:  Exodus 3:1-15

The poet, Robinson Jeffers, said, it’s quite possible to fall in love outward without hating inward. His words invites us to expand our horizon beyond our limited boundaries. Falling in love with the world is not only good for the soul, but also fulfilling our calling as Christians. For, we believe in God who so loved, and is still loving the world.

One of the biggest mistakes Christianity made was to draw a distinction between what’s spiritual and what’s material. The well-known Christmas carol, Joy to the World, sums it up: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.” (I love singing good old hymns, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with the theologies behind the hymns.) It assumes that the earth is in deep trouble needing outside help. The God of transcendence comes to rescue the sinful world. The earth has a passive role to play – to receive the King as its ruler and saviour. In this theology, we don’t have to be participants in creation but to be spectators of what God does for us. Dualism begets a hierarchical structure, which accepts the power imbalance between God and the world, heaven and earth, human and nature, men and women, the rich and the poor, and the list goes on. It is here in dualism we can find a root cause of any form of oppression whether it’s sexism, racism, ableism, ageism or homophobia. In our relationship with the rest of creation, a dualistic worldview gave the church permission not to be concerned about earth, and what’s happening to it. Conventional faith has informed Christians that they are good to go as long as their personal relationship with God is safe and sound. A personalized spirituality, although it may bring comfort and peace on a personal level, can’t solve the global crisis facing all of us, economic inequality and climate crisis, both of which share the same root cause – individualism and capitalism. To put it more bluntly, any spirituality without a communal aspect can be a threat to our world because such spirituality still assumes the individual right to consume and to own anything – money, property, resources or land – without considering the creation as a whole.

The global crisis demands a new theology based on communal spirituality. We all belong to the earth which is the body of God. It supports, delights, nurtures and sustains us. Redefining our place in the grand scheme of things is like playing a jigsaw puzzle. When thousands of pieces remain as individuals we have no clue. But once we see how each piece is related to other pieces, we can begin to see a bigger picture, and we can put them back in place. Each piece has its own meaning and beauty in relation to the whole. No one can thrive alone. Spirituality is not about a one-on-one relationship with God, but about growing in relationship with others, including God and the natural world. Climate change proves that individualism is harmful, and that independence is a lie. We have learned that interdependence is much closer to our nature, and that interconnectedness – seeing oneness in all things – is our ultimate goal.

Stan McKay, Cree elder and former moderator explains a cycle of human life with a medicine wheel. From the time we were born and throughout the early childhood, we learned to depend on others completely. In this period, no one could survive by themselves. Gradually, we learned to say no, and we started to learn to be independent throughout our youth and young adult years. We then enter into a time when we learn to be interdependent. We live by giving and receiving. Eventually, we find ourselves in relation to everything else, and we learn the interconnectedness of everything.

Such awareness doesn’t come to us overnight nor does it come to us naturally with aging. I believe, however, anyone can achieve this stage of life with love as defined by Iris Murdoch, the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Such love is born out of I-Thou relationship. Nothing or no one exists as an object. Instead, all are welcomed, celebrated and affirmed as they tell of God. In this encounter, we stay open to the mystery with endless possibilities for transformation. That is, even the bunnies I see in my backyard and the stray cat in my neighbourhood tells me something of God.

For Moses, it is the burning bush that is telling him of God’s glory. The bush is not a commodity. It manifests God. I am particularly interested in how they meet. It’s like two lovers finally find their partners. The bush start sending a sign of love by burning but not being consumed. Moses doesn’t miss the sign. He stops what he is doing, tending the sheep, and comes close to the bush to pay attention. The bush depends on Moses’ curiosity in order to communicate. Moses depends on the mystic beauty of the bush in order to change his life. He has come to realize where he truly belongs – it’s not the geographical location but his relationship with God and creation. Moses experiences conversion from isolation to community, from confusion to clarity, from indifference to compassion. This encounter enables Moses to find a path to interconnectedness. That’s why the place he is standing is holy ground. The Bible doesn’t give us details as to how this encounter made an impact on Moses throughout his life journey. But I like to imagine that Moses treasured his experience of the burning bush so much so that even facing his mortality he remembered how his journey was unfolding from the mountain of God. Though Moses was never able to enter the land God promised to give his people as he was only able to see it from a distance, his legacy has continued to live on.

The life of Moses reminds me of a nurse log I saw when I was on the West Coast. Nurse logs are lying-down trees that having lived several hundred years as standing trees and are now into a second career as homes for other trees. The body of the nurse log provides a warm, nutrient-rich birthplace for young saplings of all sorts to grow. It is not just seeds from the nurse tree that grow on it, but anything and everything. All are welcome! The nurse log can live another several hundred years as the giver of new life from its body. A new tree stretches its roots around the nurse log and still retains this odd position after the nurse log disappears. With the hole between its roots, it is a visible sign of the invisible tree that nurtured it. What is living and what is dead? Life and death are intertwined.

The way of a nurse log was the way Moses lived his life, and has continued to live even after death through the next generations. That is the way of Jesus and of the life he calls us to live. We are called to live like a forest. No one can ultimately own anything. We are to live off one another, and to support and care for each other. Turns out, falling in love outward is our highest calling.

__________________

1 “RJ to Frederic I. Carpenter” from The Collected Letters of Robinson Jeffers, with Selected Letters of Una Jeffers: Volume One, 1890-1930.

2 Sallie McFague, “Eath Economy: A Spirituality of Limits”, 2010 Reflections, A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry from Yale Divinity School.

 

AN EVENING OF MUSICAL EXCELLENCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22 – 7:00 pm
A fundraising concert at FGUC organized by the FGUC Choir.
This evening will showcase an all professional program of performers:
Charmaine Bacon – flute
Rachel Dyck, piano
Andrew Erikson – guitar
Deena Greer – piano
Marlise Ritchie – soprano vocals
Leandro Saltarelli – cello
The Divas – choral

There will be a “meet & greet”
and refreshments after the concert! Tickets for this amazing
musical evening are $20. Call the office at 204-475-1586
for tickets, or email fguc@shaw.ca.

LEAP DAY PARTY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEAP DAY PARTY – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 5 – 7 PM
at FGUC, cohosted with Spirit Path and Family Dynamics.
Bring your friends and neighbors! Come out and join us for a
fun filled evening of food, games and activities in the upper hall.
All are welcome to this interfaith, intercultural and
intergenerational event. ($15 suggested donation per family,

SNOW SCULPTURE ON CHURCH LAWN!


We are grateful for the artistic talents of Daniel Friesen
for the snow sculpture on our church lawn! This is the
second time he has created a snow sculpture for us,
utilizing the materials of nature!

February 16, 2020 – Life Commandments

Text:  Deuteronomy 30:15-20;  Matthew 5:21-37

Have you ever wondered why you keep repeating certain phrases whether they are your own mottos or someone else’s? Even if you don’t express them verbally, they can still drive your behaviour. They are called life commandments. John Savage, a United Methodist Minister and author of Listening and Caring Skills defines Life commandments as deep inner belief systems that act as the integral guidance gyros of your mind. A life commandment is possible because the human mind is capable of believing anything! That’s very scary yet hopeful at the same time. Our life commandments work as long as we believe them. However, they are not our ultimate commandments. We can break them. Sometimes we must break them, however difficult it may be to do so, and make new commandments.

In my 20s and early 30s, I had this thought that there was no one in the world I could trust, and that I was all alone in the world. The real problem was that I believed it. So I did my best to be independent, and I barely listened to anyone’s advice. I tried to be the director of my life, making my own path and future without getting any help from others. Later I learned that the life commandment I had was my coping mechanism for rejection I experienced in my infancy.

When my mother was pregnant with me, she already had two young children, 4 and 6 year old. She was raising them while my father was away from home. He put his business over his family, leaving all the responsibilities, including looking after his parents and siblings, to his wife. My mother was under extreme stress, worried about adding more burden to her already full and impossible task. One day, my mother decided to abort her baby, and her mother-in-law agreed to go along with her. On the night before they were going to the hospital, my mother went to the church to pray at 10 pm. It was her regular daily prayer time alone in the sanctuary. For some reason, she couldn’t pray. It was as if somebody was interrupting and stopping her. And she heard the voice of the Spirit saying, ‘Don’t do it.’ She realized that the Holy Spirit invited her to reconsider her decision. So, she decided to deliver me.

What a life-giving story for me! I thank God that my mom changed her mind. Actually my mother told me the story last week. In preparation for my reflection, I wanted to find out what exactly happened regarding my birth and infancy. Through all those years I knew a much simpler story that my father wanted me while my mother didn’t. I grew up with confusion that how come I was raised by a parent who didn’t want me, while the other parent, who wanted me, actually left me before I was born. Some life commandments must be checked out.

Another life commandment began when I was in grade 1. The academic year in South Korea begins in March. Those who were born in January or February can start going to school one year earlier than those who were born between March and December in the same year. Born in February, I was one of the younger ones in my class. My mother worried about me. She wasn’t sure if I was ready or if I was smart enough to catch up. One day, after school, I was walking down the street along with my grade 1 teacher and my classmates. My mother was also walking alongside the teacher. They were talking about me! I was able to overhear her concern asking the teacher, “Do you think he will catch up with his peers? Or should I have him drop out so he can start school next year?” The teacher assured my worried mother that I would be okay, but she wasn’t convinced. Pointing at my shoes, she said, “Look at how he put on his shoes! They are on the wrong feet!” I was embarrassed. The real problem was that I believed that I wasn’t smart enough. I believed the commandment for the next 20 years until I was finally able to find my voice and academic achievement in the seminary.

Some life commandments are harder to break especially when our shame is involved, and we try to mask or numb our painful feelings. Fritz Kunkel, one of the earliest psychiatrists, believed that we, as adults, carry on our backs a shell like that of a turtle. That shell is made up of lies that we still believe are truths, and the function of adult life is to rid ourselves of that shell, so that we come to the end of life knowing only the truth for us.

When we hear people say ‘I can’t sing’, ‘I can’t dance’, ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I am not good at this and that’ we can feel not only the pain they carry, but also the truth they haven’t expressed yet. Everyone has their own life commandments. They make us unique. No one else believes what you believe. The question is how we can help each other to rework or disobey our life commandments so we can live our lives as God intends us to live?

Jesus knew our need to break the old and to live the new. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” In today’s gospel reading, three times we hear him say “you have heard that it was said, but I say to you…” He invites us to reorient our lives by giving up what is no longer true to us, and to embrace what gives us life.

A few Sundays ago, I was inspired by a fresh perspective when a congregant told me after church “You’ve got a life-giving congregation.” Her point was that most of the people in the congregation come on Sunday without any agendas. They have time to listen, and they know how to care for anyone who walks into the building. And that is a gift we can offer to the wider community. I was thinking, ‘what a great way to live and share the good news we have been given!’ That can be a new life commandment for our church. This new life commandment of ours requires no sacrifice. Instead, we can taste and participate in the life abundant Jesus promises to give us all. It works as long as we believe it.