Southpoint News – Week of February 17, 2019
It has been a month and a half now since I’ve preached, and there are a few dynamics about preaching I definitely have not missed! Like, the mental preoccupation that gets stronger as the week progresses, particularly when my thoughts just aren’t coming together. Or the weighty sense of responsibility I feel to do “right” by God, the biblical text, and our community. Or there is the nervous niggles of Sunday mornings, and the vulnerability hangover of Sunday afternoons.
Here is what I have missed about preaching, however. I miss the journey towards the light. I have observed that while I am curiously studying scripture, praying and pondering, observing and asking questions, seeking out other’s perspectives, listening carefully for the Spirit, searching for how all this intersects with lived reality, God is nourishing me. The Holy Spirit shows up within my pondering, nourishing me with some home-cooked soul food. Sermon writing isn’t the only source of epiphany in my relationship with God, but it is a source. This week, I’ve started to miss the vitality I feel when I am engaged on this inner journey, searching for the Christ.
My own love-hate experience with sermon-writing speaks to me of our human need for depth, meaning, and thoughtful engagement, as well as perhaps our propensity to avoid it.
Many of us are recovering from religious communities that defined being a good christian as adhering to a certain well-defined set of beliefs. The beliefs were clearly articulated, and the expectation was conformity. Some of you grew up feeling guilty for wrestling with these beliefs, falsely assuming that you were betraying your faith by asking it hard questions. Some of you tried to express your questions and concerns, only to have your voice shut down and corrected. Some of you even were told that your questions were a collusion with Satan, who was tempting you to doubt. Three rules that govern dysfunctional families are be numb, be dumb, and be silent. When churches operate according to these rules, people suffer spiritual abuse.
Baptist minister Charles Kimbal, in his book When Religion Becomes Evil, mentions 2 markers of an abusive fellowship: claiming to have the corner on absolute truth and demanding blind obedience to the church’s definition of “absolute truth”:
“In abusive churches absolute truth claims often reflect the personal views and opinions of a church leader that are expressed as divine dicta…Abusive church leaders expect to be obeyed because they have the mind of Christ and they know the Word of God. To disobey them is to disobey God.”
Those of you familiar with such systems know how easily it is to be triggered on a Sunday morning. I myself have triggers around reading the Bible, as the Bible was used to justify policies, procedures, and norms that were harmful to me as a woman, while silencing me from objecting to this harm. I think this is why sermon preparation helps me. It slows down my reading, giving me time to ask lots of questions, explore a multitude of perspectives, think deeply and slowly, pray and listen, and then define for myself what I think the text is saying. The thing that triggers me, the Bible, is also what frees me when I approach it with new tools.
Just as emotional abuse doesn’t mean we have to throw out our hearts, so spiritual abuse doesn’t mean we have to throw out our minds. We were born to wrestle, ask questions, search for answers, be curious, be intellectually engaged. If we avoid engaging God with our minds, we miss an opportunity to find healing. We worship God with our hearts, souls, strength, bodies, and yes, with our minds.
Every Sunday in our worship service, we have some kind of “content” time that engages our minds as well as our hearts. We listen to the reading of the word. We reflect on scripture passages. We listen to sermons, stories, and ask questions that give us food for thought. We make space for a process of reflection so that our hearts and minds can be expanded and our ideas about God can experience renewal. This is part of searching for the light. This too is epiphany.
When I share the fruit of my labor with you on Sunday, however, I am not asking for agreement. I don’t have the corner on truth. I am a pilgrim journeying to see the face of God. I have much to learn ahead of me. If you leave church troubled, doubting, and questioning, you haven’t failed me or God. For me, Sunday is the end product of a week of questioning and pondering. For you, Sunday morning may be just be the beginning of questioning and pondering. And that’s good. In a relationship, when you have concerns and questions, you talk about them, right? The temptation might be to shut down and close off your mind – to go numb, dumb and silent. But the relationship deepens when we make room for the hard conversations. In the same way, God loves our engagement and welcomes our struggle for understanding. If you doubt me, read the book of Job.
Epiphany is a life long quest, a way of being human that is rooted in paradox: we have SEEN something new – a brilliant light in the sky, breaking into our darkness. And yet, this seeing doesn’t satisfy us. It sends us off on a crazy search to know MORE and see MORE. Epiphany is a life-long journey of thinking, watching, wrestling, praying, reflecting, weeping, laughing, surrendering, struggling, labouring, loving, and living into new ways of seeing and knowing God. It engages ALL of us – our hearts, our souls, our strength, our bodies, and our minds.
Here’s to the journey:)
*For more on spiritual abuse, here’s food for thought:
An email with the AGM report went around on Tuesday, so check your inboxes, and if you have any questions that could be answered in preparation for the AGM, contact Anne or Theresa.
Hello Southpoint church family, I am excited to share with you that I am co-facilitating a Saturday Lenten retreat focused on finding God in the dark on March 2. The day retreat offers stories, input and opportunities to engage with helpful prayer practices ( collage, colouring, journaling, or simple stillness) and reflective sharing. Just click on the link to learn more. Thanks for considering this event and passing the word along to your friends and networks. Hope to see you there. Cheers, Brent
A Rocha Spring Break Day Camp
Monday, March 25th – Friday, March 29th
Join us for our Spring Break Day Camp (Ages: 6-12). We will spend every day (9am 3pm) outdoors exploring the signs of Spring in the wetland, forest and farmland at Brooksdale Environmental Centre. Children will have fun singing songs, making crafts and playing games.
Bring your own snack (morning and afternoon) and lunch; bring a water bottle. Come dressed warmly for rain or shine. Boots required!
Cost: $190 (*financial assistance available)
Craig and I have really enjoyed going to the LIFEAPP events. The next one is Friday, March 15th @ 7:30-9:00 at the Chief Sepass Theatre in Langley. We’d love to gather a mix of youth and adults to meet at the theatre for this event. Are you interested? The topic is “Shame on You”
“Shame, fuelled by secrecy, silence and judgement, is something we all experience to one degree or another. At times it shows up through people around us, communities we’re part of, or cultural expectations imposed on us. But more frequently it is the judge within, that internal voice that tells us we are not good enough….that we are flawed and ultimately unworthy of love and belonging. Too often shame convinces us to serve sentences in prisons built out of lies. So how do we stop it? How do we free ourselves from the judge within? How can we silence the voices that make us feel small, flawed, and never good enough? This month we want to start a conversation around shame-resilience: understanding our vulnerabilities and cultivating the kind of empathy, courage, and compassion that will put a stop to the shame that holds us back.”
Interested in Baptism?
We have baptisms at Southpoint when a youth or adult expresses a desire to be baptized. Two youth have expressed a desire to be baptized. Are there any other youth/children/adults interested? If so, please communicate with Anne so she can follow up and explore this with you.
Epiphany 2019: “In Search of Light”
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who set their hearts on pilgrimage.”
– Psalm 84:5
Throughout the Sundays of Epiphany and up until Lent begins, we will listen those in our community who have set out on a journey this year and returned with stories of epiphany. What would it look like if we too said yes and set our hearts on pilgrimage anew this new year? What if we began to listen, seriously listen, to our own holy hunger? What if we began to seek for the manifestation of God wherever our feet take us? Where would we find Christ?
Sunday, Feb. 17th: Stories from Australia – Jarret’s Epiphany
Monday, Feb. 18th: Roots @ 8:30 – book discussion at Anne’s
Sunday, Feb. 24th: ALL OUT – Gathering Groups
Monday, Feb. 25th: Roots @ 8:30 – hang out time at Anne’s
Wednesday, Feb. 27th: AGM @ 6:30
Sunday, March 3rd: Traveling Stories: Adam’s Epiphany
Monday, March 4th: Roots @ 8:30 – book discussion at Anne’s
Have an Announcement?
If you have an addition you would like included in this newsletter, please send a prepared announcement as you would like it to appear to: firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday and we will get back to you.
It is with great sadness that we announce that Ruth’s daughter, Rachael, passed away after her journey with cancer on Saturday, February 9th. Please keep Ruth and her family in your prayers at this incredibly tender time. Rachael’s memorial service will be Feb 23rd at 2 pm, Fairview Baptist Church, 1708 W 16th Ave.
Please continue to pray for Katie and Sara as they spend precious time with their father. We also can be praying for Kate’s mother, Ryan’s father, and Janet and Gerry’s son, all of whom are facing very challenging health situations.
And we pray for Chris and Anne after an emergency room visit on Sunday for Chris’ heart.
Emails, prayers, meals…how can we come close and walk with one another in our vulnerability and our sorrow?
If you have a need for prayer that you would like to pass on to the prayer chain, please contact John Hardy.