Experiencing the Blessing

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Epiphany 4
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 15 and Matthew 5: 1-12
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5: 3 (NIV)

THE METHODISTS

I’ll warn you in advance that this might be the shortest sermon you’ve ever heard me preach. I mentioned that to Andy last night and he assured me that you one would complain. Thanks for the pep talk Andy and everyone else please hold the applause. There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that it sure has been a busy week planning and preparing for last night’s dinner. I really rather took over my week and the weeks of a few others as well.

And this afternoon, I’ll be preaching at my son Andrew’s covenanting service at Charring Cross so I had two sermons to prepare for today. So, if you feel you’ll missing out with a short message this morning, you can always come to Charring Cross cause they’re betting the full meal deal there.

It’s just two weeks until our Annual Congregational Meeting on February 12. We’re hoping to get a good turn out at the meeting because we have some important things to do. The last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about one of the key goals for 2017 which is to begin the process of enacting our new constitution that was ratifies by Essex Presbytery last year. It will mean some changes to our structure and the way we do things.

This week, I want to talk briefly about another goal that you will see in the Annual Report when it comes out next week. It is that we really want to do a good job of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of this congregation. Way back in 1867, the English settlers in the area decided that they wanted a Methodist Church in the village of Cottam just like they had back in England. The Anglicans had built their building the year before just down the street. It’s the very same building that they’re still using. Clearly the Methodists didn’t what to be shown up and so they got to work. As a result, the first Methodist Church in Cottam was built on the corner of what is now County Road 34 and Clark Street right where the Poplar Inn once stood. The congregation was officially formed in 1867 and immediately got to work erecting a building that was completed and dedicated on March 11, 1868 as the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Back then, there was more than one Methodist denomination in the area and so, in 1869, the Canada Methodists, a different Methodist group, began holding services in Cottam which competed with the Episcopal Methodists for  church members. Soon, they both went to work building new and larger buildings. In 1878, the Canada Methodists purchased the land on which our church sits today for the hefty sum of $50. On it they built a building and called it by the lofty name of the Cottam Tabernacle of the Methodist Church of Canada. I’ve seen pictures of it and I don’t think it would have fit more than 100 people but it was a tabernacle alright. The Episcopal Methodists, not to be outdone, also built a new building just down the street of about the same size and the two groups were, once again, in competition with each other.

It was in 1884 that the various Methodist denominations in Canada came to their senses and decided that it was better to cooperate than compete. At a conference in Belleville Ontario, a number of Methodist groups decided to join forces and share resources. And so the Canada Methodists and the Episcopal Methodists united.

But the problems did not disappear. There were now two relatively new Methodist church buildings in Cottam and only one was needed. The people of the day chose to come together in the building that was located on this site and continued to worship in that building for the next thirty-five years or so until construction began on the sanctuary in which we are now worshiping.

But you might ask why this is a United Church and not a Methodist Church. Good question. The answer is that in 1925, all of  the Methodist, two-thirds of the Presbyterian and all but five of the Congregational Churches in Canada joined together to form the United Church of Canada. And here we are today at Cottam United Church but if you look at the stones in the exterior walls, the Methodist name is still all over them and we have certainly carried some of those Methodist traditions on throughout the generations.

There is lots of history to this congregation. Many changes have happened since those first settlers constructed that first log and frame structure on the other side of Belle River Road. We have deep roots in the area and the work of Christ had proceeded through it all.

ABUNDANT BLESSINGS

Not only do we have deep roots and history, we also have abundant blessings. But then again, I believe that blessings are what faith and ministry are all about. That is Jesus’ promise to us. That’s what we read in Matthew 5 this morning when we read the Beatitudes.

In that well known and beautiful passage Jesus gives hope for all times of life. He speaks to those who are going through tough times. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he says. And blessed are those who mourn. Jesus talks about those tough times but with each of them, he offers a promise and a reason for hope. Blessed are the poor in spirit… Why?… for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That’s a good promise. Blessed are those who mourn… Why?… for they will be comforted. That’s what is needed by those who mourn. They need comfort and support

Jesus then moves on from the tough times that people face to some of the characteristics of faithful Christians. “Blessed are the meek,” he said. And blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers and blessed are the righteous even if they are persecuted for their righteousness. Those are the blessings of God and there are lots more where they came from. These are the blessings that Jesus offers us.

We have been blessed in so many ways and it is those blessings that we are celebrating this year. 150 years ago, when our Methodist ancestors first met in the village of Cottam, they would never have guessed where this congregation would be today.

But do you know who did know? God knew. God who sees all and knows all, who can see all of time in a moment, for whom past, present and future are one, knew back in 1867 that we would be standing here today in this place praising him and giving him glory. He saw where we were going even when our ancestors could not. And do you know something else? He also knows where we are going from here even though, like our ancestors, we have not clue. The path of this congregation is already known to God. God sees it. God understands it. God knows it.

But do you know one thing that God doesn’t do? God doesn’t tell us where we are going. God doesn’t give us the long range plans. He doesn’t normally allow us to see way up ahead. Usually he only shows us enough of the road in front of us to take the next step. He only shows us where our feet need to land with each step but that’s ok. That’s because we really don’t need to know where he is taking us. We don’t need to see the long range plan or the distant future. All we need to see is the next step and it is by taking those next individual steps that we learn to trust God to guide our feet into the way that we should go. And along the way, we will discover the blessings of God.

150 years of ministry in this place. Last night we had our first anniversary event. We held our first ever Robbie Burns Supper, celebrating the bard of Scotland. Our very own Angus MacNeil was our honourary Chieftain for the evening. We shared a delicious meal of traditional Scottish cuisine. We immersed ourselves in a bit of Scottish culture with highland dancers. And we listened to the bagpipes. We sang songs about Scotland and Bonnie Prince Charlie and beer. Some of you even had haggis for the very first time and many of you discovered that you actually like it. Although one person did say that it must be an acquired tasts. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only red meat worth eating but that’s my blessing to you.

We have a lot more planned over the next year. We have our anniversary weekend coming up in May when the Rev. Bob Beasely, host of the daily Back to Bible radio broadcast will be coming to share an anniversary message with us. We’re also considering creating a prayer garden on our property beside the church. We’d like to create a place where people from the community can come and sit if they’d like. We’d like to hire a landscaper to give us some ideas and do it well. We’ve talked about building a gazebo so people can sit in the rain. If we do a nice job of it, it might also be the perfect place for brides and grooms to have their wedding pictures taken after the ceremony. There are some other plans too, more than I can name in right now.

We have been so blessed. During this anniversary year, we’d like to share those blessings with our community. And we’d like to invite others in Cottam to come along and share this journey with us. We are excited about where God is taking us. We may not know exactly where that is but we are willing to go and see where the path leads one step at a time.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Heavenly Father, our hearts speak in grateful praise for all that you are and all that you have done. Your mercies are many and your blessing bountiful. We give thanks for your touch in all of life’s situations.

Although we have received our salvation by faith and not by works, it is a comfort to know that you care about the things that we do for others. Enable us to always do all that we can for others, taking full advantage of every opportunity to be an example of your love and character. Thank you for your unconditional love and unfailing promises.

We give you thanks for a very successful Robbie Burns dinner, the first event in our 150th anniversary celebration. Thank you for the work of many hands. Even in the fun of lat evening, we glorified you.

Be with us, O God, as we prepare for our Annual Congregational Meeting in two weeks. There are many ideas to consider. There are many dreams and many visions for the future of this church. Help us to discern yours and your way of doing things. Bless us with such a measure of your Spirit that we will be able to boldly go forth to do that which you are calling us to do, no matter what that is.

We pray, also, for those who are sick this day. We lift up in prayer the names of those people who we keep close in our hearts, especially Millicent Wormald, Helen Upcott, Jacqui Seguin and Anna Arner. Keep all those who are ill in your special care. Heal us and sanctify us from all our unrighteousness.

Once again, we remember our soldiers in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world. Keep them safe as they carry on their duties with courage and professionalism. We pray for peace in that shattered region of your creation. We pray that the communities may be rebuilt and families re-established that life may return to normal according to your justice.

God of Grace and Glory, hear our prayers, remind us of our blessings and lift us up above our weariness. Shine you light upon us so that we may shine your love to others. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

January 29, 2017 / Epiphany 4

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 15; Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

CALL TO WORSHIP

Come, let us worship God in the beauty of holiness.

Come, let us worship God in the silence of the heart.
Come, let us worship God who comes to us in Jesus Christ.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Loving God, you have welcomed us into your house of worship and we sing our praises to your name. We welcome you, God of Grace, into our hearts to do your mighty work. You have within you the power of transformation. Draw us towards your light. Lead us along the paths of righteousness to stand before the mercy seat according to your promises.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of Israel, you call us to holy living but our lives are far from blameless. We turn from your way and fall short of justice. Our mouths are filled with malice. We injure our neighbours and betray our friends. The Good News is on our lips but we fail to speak it. Encourage us, O God, to walk a straighter and more narrow road. Fix our minds upon Jesus, our hope and our salvation.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The sinfulness of the world is overturned by Jesus Christ. He paid the price of our sins so that we can walk before God and be called daughters and sons. When we confess our sins, God always forgives.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

These offerings we bring, O God of Creation. We lay them before you asking for your blessing and grace. Inspire us to use them for your purpose.

COMMISSIONING

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are right with God. It is a message that the world needs to hear. We are the bearers of that Good News, the stewards of the Gospel. As we leave, let us live it and share it.

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