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GIANT GARAGE SALE
SAT, MAY 12 - 9:00am - 3:00pm
Fort Garry United Church
800 Point Road
Furniture, good quality appliances, books, records, kitchen ware,
sporting goods, bicycles, tools, art work, linens, toys, plants, jewelry, & lots more.
All items are checked & cleaned in advance.
Donations welcome May 6 (12-3pm), & May 7-10 (9am – 8pm).
No TVs, computers/printers, magazines, or clothes.
Reasonable prices; everything must go!
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Fort Garry United Church / Rev. Min-Goo Kang
Third Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2018

Luke 24:36-49

Have You Anything to Eat?
The Humboldt Broncos bus crash, which killed 16 people and injured 13, affects so many people across Canada. We join the families and communities of the victims in grieving the unimaginable losses. We think about the unfulfilled dreams of those promising young hockey players, all the life events that they are not going to be able to experience as they have now died. Our hearts are broken, and our souls cry out in shock and grief. Words fail us in a time like this. Once again we find ourselves vulnerable, weak and powerless. We are reminded of the vanity and fragility of human life – how our lives can turn upside down in an instant. We find ourselves in the place of the unknown or unknowable, the mystery of life and death. Once again we are questioning about the meaning and the purpose of life.
Yet, our faith tells us that’s where God finds us. God searches the broken hearts. The place of confusion is not to be avoided but to be embraced. We hear the Spirit whispers “Stay there long enough. Hang in there.” We are reminded of Mary Magdalene, how she stayed by the empty tomb long enough to experience the resurrection. When the male disciples returned to their homes, after checking that Jesus’ body was gone, Mary was still searching for the body, demanding an answer, and engaging in a conversation with a stranger. She was not afraid of expressing her emotions – sadness, upset and despair. Not despite of but because of her emotional expressions, Mary was the first who encountered the risen Christ according to the Gospel of John.
In fact, all the Easter narratives in the four gospels openly tell us the emotional states of the disciples. They were fearful, frightened, terrified and depressed after they lost their beloved teacher in the most shameful way, the crucifixion. After they heard a report from female disciples saying Jesus was alive, they were astounded, perplexed, anxious, and doubtful. Hardly had they expressed pure joy, satisfaction, relief or peace of mind even after seeing the risen Christ. Their Easter experiences were rather mixed feelings – joyful yet uncertain, happy yet frightened, transformative yet still disbelieving. This ambivalence is at the core of the Easter experiences.
Notice how they reacted to the risen Christ who stood among them saying “Peace be with you.” It’s far from a happy reunion. The Bible says in Luke 24:37, “They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” Noticing their unwillingness to accept, Jesus said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch and see.” And he showed them his hands and his feet. Could anyone dare to touch any part of his body? Even in the Gospel of John, when Jesus invited Thomas to put his finger here and there, there is no reference as to whether he actually reached out and touched. And the following is my favorite part of the resurrection stories. The Bible says in Luke 24:41-43, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”
This image of the risen Christ who is eating is a profound one. Imagine the room where they gathered, the atmosphere, their facial expressions and body language. They were so happy to see Jesus again yet still were not sure if this was real. Imagine their reactions while Jesus was eating the food. Could anyone dare to talk while he was eating? Imagine the smell of the fish, and the sound of chewing or slurping water or wine filled in the air. The silence in the room must have been deafening. All they could do was to watch what was happening in front of them. They were invited to pay attention to this significant moment when the ordinary thing, food became extraordinary, when the mundane activity, eating became sacred. The boundary between what’s materialistic and what’s spiritual was dissolved. This was the Easter moment – not so much what happened to the corpse of Jesus as what happened to the hearts and minds of the followers. Through this most unashamedly materialistic way, eating food, they saw God at work. Their fear was real and so was their awakening.
Last week, I received a note from Nora Sanders, General Secretary of the United Church. In her email, she introduced Brody Hinz, one of the teenagers who died, and Brenda Curtis, minster of Westminster United in Humboldt where Brody was an active member. A huge sports fan, Brody was delighted when he was chosen to be the Broncos’ team statistician. As Brenda was preparing for his funeral, she told Nora that the notes, cards, Facebook postings, emails, and texts (more than she could personally respond to) that arrived over the past few days, were “a literal outpouring of love from our United Church right across Canada … and giving us strength here at Westminster United to keep going... to keep ‘being the church’ in our community and for our grieving families.”
Brenda was one of the clergy who led the vigil on Sunday night that was held in the Humboldt community arena. She invited everyone present to reach out and take the hand of someone next to them, explaining, “in a few minutes, when we go our separate ways, I want you to recall the touch, warmth, blessing of that hand, to remind you that you are not alone, that we are not alone…”
In times of tragedy when we see no way through the pain, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by our emotions. They are not to be avoided but to be embraced. Our fear is real and so is our awakening, to be able to see God at work even in the most painful places – as real as eating food, and as real as holding hands.
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Fort Garry United Church / Rev. Min-Goo Kang
Second Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018

John 20:19-31

The Locked Door
I once lived in one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Vancouver. The Vancouver School of Theology, where my family and I built our nest, is located on UBC campus, near the University Endowment Lands. The place is absolutely gorgeous, and the scenery is breathtaking. I remember watching the sunset in the balcony of the fifth floor of the school – how the sun shone radiantly on the snow-covered mountains. No matter how much I felt worn down at the end of a long day, just watching this spectacle was good enough for me: the medicine I needed to carry on.
Sometimes, however, I wished there was something more. I needed a community. Surrounding the school were private houses, boasting some of the most expensive properties in Canada. Some of the houses were like castles with fancy landscaping, high walls and long driveways, which contrasted with the less than 200 square feet student housing where we lived. I often wondered what kind of people lived inside the fences. It’s not so much the size of those luxury houses as the lack of interactions that made living on the campus intimidating. We didn’t know them, and they didn’t know us. Nobody even dared to bother each other as if we meant to be strangers forever. It was equally hard to find a sense of community even in the same building where we stayed. The distance between us and the next door neighbour was just one wall – less than 5 inches apart, but it felt like we lived miles away from each other. It was like living in a cell with useless freedom. Once the door was closed and locked from the inside, nobody knew or cared about what’s happening inside, nor did we know or care about what’s happening outside.
Social isolation is one of the most pressing issues we face in Canada. Research has shown that social isolation has damaging impacts on health, well-being, and overall quality of life. John Cacioppo, an expert in the field of isolation, put it this way. “Social connection is to humans what water is to fish: you don’t notice it until it’s missing and then you realize it’s really important.” Low-income people and seniors are among the most vulnerable to social isolation. The other groups that have been identified as being at greater risk of social isolation includes Indigenous people, newcomers, LGBTQ people, and those with poor physical and mental health. It’s important to differentiate between loneliness and isolation. Loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself. It’s possible to feel lonely even when surrounded by people. Isolation is the condition of being separated from other people and your environment. You have the desire to connect, but have the inability to do so.
I would add one more factor that contributes to social isolation: weather. The long and harsh winter in Winnipeg makes it difficult to stay connected; it affects the whole being - the body, mind and spirit. A friend of mine posted on her Facebook the other day, “Welcome to Winnipeg where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet at – 40.” It’s rare to see any moving figures outside in extremely cold weather. Even if we go outside, we can’t even recognize each other because everyone bundles themselves up. Here it is absolutely necessary to shut the door tight to keep ourselves warm. During this time, it’s hard to see the faces of our next door neighbours except when we are out shoveling snow. It’s not the cold climate itself but a consequence of it that affects us more: social isolation.
The death of Colten Boushie didn’t happen in the middle of a gathered community, where everyone was seen and heard. It happened in a very isolated rural community where it was rare to be seen and heard. It breaks my heart every time I think about what kind of world the farmer and his family, Colten and four of his friends were living in. What led to the shooting incident on the farm, and the aftermath of the shooting are far more complicated than anyone can understand: the systemic racism in Canada, and how it has isolated Indigenous communities, separating them from their lands, the flawed and inadequate police inquiry, the judicial system which failed to serve justice, just to name a few.
Why couldn’t the five young Indigenous people approach the farmer for help when they had a flat tire 57 km away from their home? Why did the farmer have to fear them so much that he had to get his gun from his shed and fire it? What could have been an opportunity to show a random act of kindness turned out to be a tragedy. It’s hard to blame only certain people because what the incident shows us is how our way of living, how we treat strangers, those outside of our circle of family and friends, fails to serve humanity. When we let the culture of isolation prevail, it is literally and figuratively killing us. The real enemy in this story is isolation. Isolation is dangerous; it can change the way we look at ourselves and others as if we meant to be strangers forever.
When the door is locked from the inside, it’s almost impossible to open it from the outside. The doors of the house where the disciples meet are locked. They hide because their whole system failed. The religious and political authorities failed to see God in and through Jesus. The people of Jerusalem failed to maintain their enthusiastic welcome. The disciples failed to protect their beloved teacher, and God failed to save the beloved Son. Nothing and no one seems to be able to open the doors. There is no reference in the Bible as to how the risen Christ comes through the locked doors. Instead, the followers find themselves already in the presence of the risen Christ who says, “Peace be with you.” And then he asks his doubtful friend to put his fingers into the wounds that Jesus bears from the nails and swords that destroyed his body.
What does this story teach us about our faith? The risen Christ appears when peace is shared, and when life’s wounds are honestly acknowledged, even in the most isolated place we can think of. May we live the resurrected life by sharing the peace we received, and sharing the gift of the Spirit we received. Blessed are those who keep their door locked from the inside, for they will encounter the risen Christ.
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We are getting ready for our "Spring Fling" fundraiser concert on Saturday, April 14th! Thanks to the wonderful cooperation of the Wpg Male Chorus, the New Horizons Jazz Band, The Wild Homes Band, and the Fort Garry United Church Choir for providing the music! It will be a great evening, so reserve your tickets now! Call or email the church, 204-475-1586 or fguc@shaw.ca. Last minute tickets at the door. ... See MoreSee Less

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Fort Garry United Church / Rev. Min-Goo Kang
April 1, 2018 / Lenten Series 8 / Easter Sunday

The Practice of Coming Home
Luke 24:13-35

Coming Home
What does home mean to you? What images come to your mind when you hear the word, home? When I hear the word, home, I picture a dining table, the Korean style dining table where people can sit on the floor. I see the faces of my family. I see my father, my mother, my sister and brother. I also see the faces of my own family, Ha Na and the boys. There are some guests or strangers that I can’t recognize around the same table. I see how we enjoy the food. It’s a feast. There should be my comfort food, rice cake soup with homemade dumpling. There is much love and care in the room. They don’t talk much while they are eating. Solemnly they are savoring the holy moments created by this ancient ritual, eating together.
I’ve been searching for home, and I know that I will continue to search for it. The journey of my 11 years of living in Canada taught me that my home is not on the map. It’s so much more than a particular place, culture or upbringing. My home is a longing I have deep in my heart, or it’s a relationship I miss. It has something to do with what I am lacking right now. It can be something I used to have but have lost, or something I’ve never had, and I know that I will never have but there is always a possibility to experience it. For example, the image of my home, the dining table, never happened and is not going to happen in a real life. I was growing up with an absent father, and my brother died 1 year after I came to Canada. So, eating together as a whole family is something that has never happened to me, and I know that it’s not going to happen in the future. Yet, whenever my family and I invite our friends or guests to come over to our house for dinner, or whenever I find myself communicating heart to heart, soul to soul, I can experience my home which is bound by genuine love and care. I am never going to be able to arrive home, but I can always experience it.
The nature of home – unobtainable yet accessible - makes us search for it. We never stop looking for it. The pain of lacking something makes us move. For pain is the agent for change. It motivates us to do something about it. The joy of finding home, however, is very rewarding. Home is not about arriving but about becoming. It always resides in our hearts. Our home, our deepest longing shapes who we are and what we do. We get to know why we do what we do when we understand our home. And when we know our why, as comedian Michael Jr. says, our what becomes more clear and more impactful because we’re walking in or towards the purpose. The difference between knowing and not knowing our why is almost like before and after experiences of Easter.
Two people walk to Emmaus. Their hearts are heavy and their legs are tired. We can hear them sigh. We can hear them talking and discussing. They sound helpless, hopeless, saddened, confused and upset because things didn’t turn out the way they expected. They are heading home, but will they find home? A stranger comes near and talks to them. This stranger doesn’t seem to understand what’s been going on. He is, however, persistent and patient. He takes time to listen to their story while walking together. And he continues a long and deep conversation, opening the scriptures for them. Now they almost arrive at the village they were going to. Now it’s their turn to be persistent. “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So, the stranger is invited to the table where he takes bread, blesses and breaks it and gives it to them. Then their eyes are opened and recognize him. “It was him.” Without delay, they get up and return to Jerusalem where their community has been waiting.
This is how the early Christian community continued to encounter the risen Christ by sharing the word of God, and by breaking bread together with a stranger. The church has always met and will continue to meet Christ as the other, a stranger. It is when we meet Christ as a stranger that we come to know our why, turn around, and return to the community which has been waiting for us. A stranger always comes to us unexpectedly, and has been walking with us before we recognize the presence. A stranger makes us uncomfortable. It is the unknown or something different from us that makes anyone a stranger to us. That’s exactly the spot we need a stranger to challenge and to bless. If we admit the unknown, the unknowable, or something strange within ourselves, we can admit that the stranger also exists in ourselves. A stranger outside is a manifestation of a stranger inside. Aren’t we all strangers to ourselves? We never know ourselves as we are known to God. We all have journeyed with the stranger in our lives. We love ourselves by welcoming the stranger. We feed ourselves by feeding the stranger. It is the stranger who can bring us home which is not bound by any particular location, culture or upbringing but bound by genuine love and care.
We have been searching and we will continue to search for our home. We are never going be able to arrive at our home, but we can always experience it when we embrace the stranger, the unknown, the unknowable and something strange within us and in others. Looking back, we will say to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while the stranger was talking to us on the road?”
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Fort Garry United Church / Rev. Min-Goo Kang
March 25, 2018 / Lenten Series 7

The Practice of Embracing the Unknown
Mark 14:22-42

Embracing the Unknown

We continue to explore the eight spiritual practices for the journey within based on the book, The Soul of a Pilgrim written by Christine Paintner. We are almost getting to the end. Today we explore the practice of embracing the unknown. None of these spiritual practices is easy. We wouldn’t call it practice if it were ever easy. This particular practice is especially challenging because it is counter-cultural. We praise certainty not uncertainty. We say that knowledge is power. We like to be informed so we know what comes next. Any unresolved mysteries make us feel creepy. The unknown, whether it’s a thing or a person, makes us uncomfortable. So, we try to reduce the pain of not knowing by asking questions or talking to the unknown.
We make a mistake when we think we know what’s best for the person we speak to. I don’t know how many times I have made mistakes in my relationship with my family when I thought I knew what’s best for them. We can reduce unnecessary arguments when we start embracing the unknown not just in others but also within ourselves. We fail to honour the gift of diversity – a unique gift that each of us brings to the whole - when we fail to embrace the unknown. The church has made huge mistakes by drawing a line between what’s sacred and what’s mundane, what’s acceptable and what’s not, what’s good and what’s bad, and who’s in and who’s out, according to their view.
The church tends to learn the hard way. We have heard how our indigenous sisters and brothers have suffered because of that. We also have heard how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two spirit and queer communities have suffered because of that. I remember an awkward moment right after I revealed what I did for a living in a conversation with an Indigenous person at the feast that a local First Nation community was hosting on Vancouver Island. Turned out, he was a residential school survivor.
I also have seen how people suffered because they lost their trust in the church as an institutionalized religion. The abuse of power by individuals and by the church bureaucracy have caused irreversible scars on so many. I heard a twenty year old young man crying out “How come the church did this to me?” It was after the higher courts – the Presbytery and the Conference his church belonged to – decided to sell his beloved camp. To him the camp was never a property. It was the sacred place where he had experienced God in his entire life. He not only lost his place of worship, but also his community because of the decision made by the church leadership, who seldom used the camp.
When we fail to embrace the unknown, it’s not just a few but all of us who suffer, because as a wise teacher, Stan McKay said, “The shared life is mystery, not management.” When we embrace the unknown we enter into a right relationship with everyone and everything else.
Karen Armstrong, in her book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, talks about the importance of knowing how little we know. She says, “When we cling to our certainties, likes, and dislikes, deeming them essential to our sense of self, we alienate ourselves from the ‘great transformation’ of the Way, because the reality is that we all are in continual flux, moving from one state to another.” Quoting from Zhuangzi, ancient Chinese Scripture, she continues, “An unenlightened person is like a frog in a well who mistakes the tiny patch of sky he can see for the whole; but once he has seen the sky’s immensity, his perspective is changed forever.”
The problem is that most of us don’t even know that we are in the well because it’s all we can see. It’s extremely hard to admit how little we know. We use whatever defense mechanism we have to try to protect ourselves from being so vulnerable. That’s what the disciples did every time they herd Jesus talking about his suffering and death.
According to Mark, the first time they heard, they showed a strong reaction. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. The second time they heard, the gospel says, nobody said anything because they were afraid to ask him. The third time they heard, they started competing against each other; James and John asked for the place of greatest honour, and the rest of the disciples began to be angry with the two. All of their reactions – anger, silence and rivalry – show how much they were in shock. So they chose to deny, deny and deny. What they denied was not only the sad news that they were going to lose their beloved friend and teacher, but also the grace which enabled them to follow the way of Jesus.
Simon Weil points out the meaning of the denial of Peter when he said “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” What seems to be the most faithful response turns out to be the most careless answer. According to Weil, Peter’s response, ‘I will never deny you’ was to deny him already, for it was assuming the source of faithfulness to be in himself and not in grace. That is, Peter did not deny Christ when he broke his promise, but when he made it.
So, instead of reacting right away, whenever we face unfavorable circumstances our most faithful response will be to embrace the unknown so we can remain open to grace. The church has learned the hard way. We can’t pretend that we haven’t heard people’s cries or haven’t seen suffering of the creation. People have suffered and God has suffered. Thankfully, the reverse is also true. We can give glory to God by loving and respecting the whole creation. It all begins when we honour the great mystery in everyone we see, and everything around us.
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“SPRING FLING”
FUNDRAISER CONCERT
SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2018, 7:00 pm
Fort Garry United Church
800 Point Road
Come out and enjoy the sounds of
Our FGUC Choir,
The New Horizons Jazz Band,
The Wpg Male Chorus, &
The Wild Homes Band.
Great listening; choirs, jazz & pop!
free refreshments, ticket draws,
Get your tickets in advance or at the door $15,
children under 12 free. Bring your family/friends/neighbors!
Call the office 204-475-1586 or email fguc@shaw.ca
to reserve your tickets!
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Fort Garry United Church / Rev. Min-Goo Kang
March 18, 2018 / Lenten Series 6

The Practice of Beginning Again
Luke 15:11-32

Beginning Again
Beginning again is hard. It’s more difficult than beginning something new. When we begin something new, we have a beginner’s mind, an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions. We don’t take anything for granted. We pay attention to everything we see. We embrace new experiences as we go along. Beginning again, however, is a different story. We experience lots of ups and downs, gains and losses, and successes and failures. We accumulate not only blessings but also pains as time goes by. Sometimes those pains are too much to bear, so we develop ways to protect ourselves from the pains. Sometimes we become numb thinking it is what it is. Sometimes we try to bring about a change, but instead we blurt out negative words we have been repeating in our mind unconsciously. We feel guilty because of what we have done or left undone. Or we feel ashamed of how we have failed to be who we meant to be. The enemy within us knows how to successfully sabotage our best intention. Most of us would rather choose to begin something we’ve never done before than to begin again. Worse yet, we would rather choose to sit on the fence, doing nothing, resolving nothing, as if that’s the way it is. This kind of complacency is doing more harm than good. We must begin again, not just one time but many times throughout our journey. We must renew every relationship we have every day and every moment.
The story we heard today, the parable of the prodigal child, teaches us how to begin again. The younger of the two brothers demands his inheritance. The father divides his property between them. The younger one gathers his wealth, leaves home and travels to a distant country. It doesn’t take long for him to be in need; he spends all that he has excessively, and a severe famine takes place throughout that country. He finds himself eating what pigs are eating because no one gives him anything. The life at the bottom turns out to be a turning point: he turns around and is heading where he always belongs, his home. He has to be away from home to find his way home. He has to experience nothingness – the vanity of material wealth, and the fragility of his own life in order to appreciate the abundant life he used to take for granted. It is all of these negative experiences, including facing his own mortality as he is dying of hunger, that help restore him to life. The difference between the two brothers is not whether they obey or disobey their father, but whether they have ever been to the bottom where the only option available is to begin again.
Stephen Jenkinson, a teacher, author, spiritual activist and the founder of Orphan Wisdom School points out that we people in North America live in a death phobic society. For five years, Jenkinson headed the counselling team of Canada’s largest home-based palliative care programme. Working with hundreds of dying people and their families, he witnessed a “wretched anxiety” around the end of life. He suggests that we hold dear the fact that nothing we hold dear lasts. The following is an excerpt from a video, The Meaning of Death.
“Life does not feed life. Life is always on the receiving end of life. It’s death that feeds life. It’s the end of life that gives life a chance. It’s a hurtful kind of comfort that the dominant culture of North America is in some kind of beginning stage of a terminal swoon. I think the world whispers ‘All we need of you is that you be human. That’s it.’ What has to die is your refusal to die, your refusal for things to end. If that dies, life can be fed by that.”
That’s what happens to the prodigal child. He has come to a realization that nothing he holds dear lasts, so his refusal for things to end dies. It is when he is able to see through to the end that he is able to begin again.
The good news is that we don’t have to be away from home to find home. We don’t have to lose everything in order to find what really matters to us. We don’t have to reach the bottom in order to turn around. We can begin again when we live each new day as if it’s the first and the last day or our lives. We can begin again when we realize that nothing we hold dear lasts. We can possess nothing. Even the air we inhale must be exhaled. We can begin again when we know who we really are in the grand scheme of things. Jenkinson also says, “Life has to continue, not we have to continue, because Life is not our lifespan or our children’s lifespan or the lifespan of what we hold dear.” In the meantime, we know how blessed we are to be part of something much bigger and older than any of us, the gospel, God’s love story for the beloved whole creation. We, like the prodigal child, take time to come home, but God, like the parent, sees us first, and filled with compassion, embraces us and kisses us, celebrating this very moment with us even now. So we can begin again and again.
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Fort Garry United Church / Rev. Min-Goo Kang
March 11, 2018 / Lenten Series 5

The Practice of Being Uncomfortable
JOHN 4:1-10, 27-34


Becoming a Stranger
Give me a drink. Only a stranger can ask for a drink of water. Strangers don’t have a choice but to ask. They are not strangers if they already knew how to get what they were looking for. Not just one time, but many times strangers have to ask where things are, and why things are the way things are. Imagine that it’s your first day of your new job. There are so many things to learn and so many faces and names to remember. You carefully observe how others behave, and you try very hard to adjust to the new environment. Imagine that you just moved to a new place where you don’t know anybody, or worse yet, you don’t know their language or culture. Do you remember the very first day you came to this church for Sunday worship? How did you feel? Did you have a clue when to stand or when to sit? Did you feel like all the eyes in the congregation were fixed on you just because you were a newcomer? Was there anything or anyone who helped you to feel at home? It’s uncomfortable to be a stranger. Most of us would rather be welcoming a stranger than to be welcomed as a stranger.
Becoming a stranger, however, is an important spiritual practice. To be a stranger is to be vulnerable. A stranger must know how and when to ask for help. Walking in a foreign land, a stranger must accept the discomfort of getting lost, and finding the way by asking throughout the journey. It’s not a local but a stranger who appreciates a surrounding more than a destination because she sees everything with fresh eyes. Unexpected gifts, such as a smile and a random act of kindness can bless the solitary heart of a stranger.
I remember the very first time I set foot on Canadian soil. I arrived in Vancouver on Remembrance Day of 2006. I didn’t have a clue why people at the airport or on the street were wearing the same kind of flower. ‘They must love it so much,’ I thought. ‘Does it represent some kind of national pride?’ I wondered. Two days after my arrival, I went downtown to check where my English school was, and to explore the city. There is a benefit to not having a good sense of direction. I walked and walked and walked on almost every street in Downtown Vancouver, and found so many treasures, like an organic grocery store, Stanley Park and many other places that I had to visit again with my family later. It took me 8 hours to finally listen to my aching feet, and return to where I stayed. I was walking without a destination, wandering around aimlessly, and seeing everything for the first time. I remember how tired my body was, but I also remember how happy my soul was; it was nurtured by the firsthand experience, and my heart was expanding like Alice in wonderland with endless adventures.
Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist Way, believes that everyone is creative; there is no such thing as a non-creative person. “Creativity is God’s gift to us,” says Julia, and “our using the creativity is our gift back to God.” She suggests that in order for us to nurture our creativity we keep the practice called, an “Artist Date.” It is a once a week festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests us. She suggests that we don’t take any of our significant others with us. We go out by ourselves and we do something that pushes our comfort level. When we say a date, we mean wooing, so an artist date is wooing our own consciousness. Julia says that an Artist Date is something most people have enormous resistance to, because we adults are reluctant to go and play. And yet playing is absolutely necessary because when we make a piece of art we are drawing from an inner well. It’s like fishing from an inner well. And unless we refill it with images and experiences, we go to fish and there is nothing there. So with an artist date we are refilling our consciousness.
I really appreciate Julia’s wisdom. An Artist Date is something we all need to start practicing. Many of us are so used to working hard. I don’t need to tell you to work hard. You don’t need to tell me to work hard. I don’t need to remind my colleagues in ministry to work hard. I find that hardworking is part of our culture in the United Church. No wonder we are tired. No wonder we are frustrated while expecting different results by doing the same thing over and over again. The problem is that when our ministry becomes all about work, we forget about refilling our inner well. Ministry is never meant to be about maintaining, managing or controlling. It’s meant to be about living with mystery, finding God in the midst of unanswered questions. Through ministry we are meant to create something beautiful with God. Perhaps it takes artist dates for us to do church differently. We need to step back from our routine acknowledging how empty our inner well is. We must be willing to be strangers, learning to ask for help, and to accept unexpected gifts from others.
Give me a drink. Only a stranger can ask for a drink of water. This is how Jesus, the stranger creates a new relationship in a foreign land. Jesus first acknowledges how tired he is by the journey. He then uses his fatigue to connect with the woman of Samaria, an outsider in his community. The unlikely conversation between the most unlikely people happens not when they work hard, but when they find themselves alone away from their routines. I like to think that they, pushing their comfort level, go on their festive and solo expeditions to explore something they have never done before. Notice what they can create together. She becomes a messenger brining her entire community to the stranger. Together they breathe a new life into the whole community. It all begins with the simple yet profound need of the stranger. Give me a drink.
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