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Join us for worship on Sundays at 10:00
- Please join us after the service in the Van Roon Community Hall for the HeBrews Café, refreshments and fellowship before continuing on with your day.
- Church School returns next Sunday, September 10. Children will meet Rosalie Finch upon entering the church and begin their hour of story, prayer, and fun.
- Senior Choir resumes in full compliment with rehearsals beginning this Thursday, September 7 at 7:30 PM. Newcomers most welcome.
- For news and events, please have a look at Life & Work on our website: Life and Work
Welcome to worship for Sunday, September 3, 2023.
In the traditional crest of the United Church of Canada there are three symbols meant to represent the three founding denominations who came together in 1925. The ‘open bible’ is to represent the Congregational Church and it’s emphasis on God’s Word as the truth that sets us free. At the top of the crest is a dove which symbolizes the importance of the Holy Spirit as the means of transformation in Methodism. And on the right hand side there is a burning bush. This was intended to represent Presbyterianism and according the UCC website was thought to cause reflection on the indestructability of the church. That may be a little overstated but seems to fit nicely with the Scottish tendency to exaggerate (The Presbyterian Church was originally the Church of Scotland).
When a stained glass window for the Van Roon Community Hall was commissioned from Manitoba artist Judy Jennings, Judy found inspiration in the UCC crest but added some artistic licence. The four frames now also reflected the four seasons. The burning bush became the leaves of a maple tree in the Fall whose bright red, orange, and yellows found resonance in a bush that burned but was not consumed. (To see the Van Roon Hall window and Judy Jennings’ account of her inspiration please look here: https://charleswoodunited.org/pf/van-roon-hall/ )
Of course, the burning bush is by no means exclusively a symbol of Presbyterianism nor is it universally thought of as an icon for the indestructibility of the church. But it is a stunning metaphor for a theophany (lit: appearance of God) found in Exodus 2 and as such can be interpreted in a variety of ways. In the story Moses has found a home and perhaps some peace of mind in the territory of Midian following his exile from Egypt for killing an Egyptian overlord who was beating a Hebrew slave. He has been brought into the family of his loving wife Zipporah and is tending the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro near the holy mountain of Horeb/Sinai. While alone on the mountain he is drawn to a miraculous sight, a bush that ablaze but somehow not consumed by the flames. When Moses turns away a voice calls out to him and lets him know that is he is the presence of the God of his ancestors. In a phrase that is among the best know in all of scripture, the voice tells him to “take of your shoes for you are standing on holy ground”.
That burning bush is an iconic image. Not only is it endlessly evocative but it represents one of the very few times the God of Israel is portrayed as something more than a voice. With so few images for God in Judaism to choose from is it any wonder it is so beloved? In the story of the road to Emmaus in Luke the travellers who had met Jesus ponder how their hearts were on fire as Jesus spoke to them. In the account of Pentecost in Acts the Holy Spirit is said to have descended on the believers like tongues of flame.
When we stare into a campfire, as some may have had opportunity this summer, there is a mesmerizing presence. The flames dance and move and change colours and position. It is all so random and mysterious yet there seems an unmistakable rhythm, even pattern to it. it is a wonder and we can get lost in the beauty of it all.
Moses at the burning bush is a moment of transformation. Moses is not only made new by the presence of God before his eyes, he is about to find the purpose and meaning of his life. It will involve risk and journey and courage. It will be rewarded in renewal, liberation, and covenant. And it will all be for the sake of freedom. Not just for himself but for an entire people whose prayer God has heard.
May all our hearts burn so brightly.
Grace and peace,
- Did you know you can support this ministry by e-transfer, automatic withdrawal (PAR), and gifted securities, in addition to weekly or monthly cheques? For Offering Information please visit: https://charleswoodunited.org/support/ Thank you for your generous support.
- Michael Wilson’s book “A Pastoral Pandemic: Remaining Connected in a Time of Disconnection” is available in store and online through CommonWord Bookstore (Canadian Mennonite University). For more information visit: https://www.commonword.ca/go/3408.
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- The reading for this week’s service can be found at: Exodus 3:1-15