Prologue: Any Dream Will Do

~Cheryl Perry

This week we begin a 2-part saga of Joseph and his brothers. Although the lectionary breaks this into just two Sundays, it is a great long story that stretches some 13 chapters in Genesis.

If you are someone who likes to “read the book before seeing the movie,” the main part of the story is found in Genesis chapters 37-45. In preparation for Sunday, I encourage you to read it!

Over the last nine weeks we have been hearing the stories of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants. These are some of the most well-known characters and stories in the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah.

Stories of sibling rivalry, jealousy and parental favouritism are themes in our own stories today. These famous names and faith-history shapers had the same banal, complicated relationships that play out in our own families—sometimes in very significant ways.

This week we pick up the thread of the story in Chapter 37. And what a thread! Indeed, if we know anything about this Joseph it is the story of his fancy jacket, immortalized by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in their musical Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

We hear that Joseph is the favoured son because he was born to Jacob “when he was old” and that because of Jacob’s outward displays of his greater love for Joseph, his brothers hated him and “would not speak to him in a friendly manner.”

In the wonderful Webber & Rice musical one of my favourite songs is “Joseph’s Dreams.” It tells the part of the story that this week’s lectionary passage leaves out—that describe Jacob’s sons’ real reason for despising their brother.

As the song goes:

“Joseph’s coat annoyed his brothers,
But what makes us mad
Are the things that Joseph tells us of the
Dreams he often had.”

(Here’s a link if you want to listen!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9Lp8GsfFsI

I love this musical, and this song in particular, that ends with the lines: “But one thing we are sure about. The dreamer has to go!”

Joseph is a dreamer. Not a head-in-the-clouds daydreamer or an angle-spinning schemer like his dad Jacob. But rather, someone who paid close attention to his dreams and saw them as divinely sent—as a way God communicated.

When Joseph awoke from his dreams there was a sense of curiosity, it seems, to interpret them – to attach meaning to them – and figure out what they might be telling him about himself and the world around him. Joseph believed dreams provided such insights.

What do you think? Have you ever had a dream that helped you make a decision, clarified an issue, or warned of something?

Because Joseph was curious about the meaning of his own dreams, he also became someone who could help others interpret theirs. In fact, in next week’s lectionary story we learn that Joseph becomes sought after by Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, when Pharaoh has a series of puzzling dreams. But that’s getting ahead of myself!

Join us, this Sunday, as we begin exploring the story of Joseph the dreamer.

Response to Covid-19 in the Okanagan’s homelessness and support sector

~Shirley Piedt, Outreach committee

One of the challenges during COVID has been providing housing and programs for people who live outside. It goes without saying that preventing an outbreak of COVID-19 among those living outside is prevention for all of us.

You may recall that First United hosted a film called Us and Them over a year ago to help us understand how it is that folks become homeless, and the complexity of providing supportive housing.

The Journey Home Society became the backbone organization tasked with moving forward with strategic goals which were established after a lengthy consultation with many groups and citizens including churches, businesses, and people with lived experience of being homeless.

The following link provides background to the main report and strategic goals https://www.journeyhome.ca/

As Cheryl has adapted Tuesday and Thursday Outreach services to accommodate safety and hygiene, so have other housing and outreach services pivoted to continue to meet the needs of folks living outside.

It has become even more obvious that all people are best served when they have housing especially as so many of the usual services were either closed or reduced with physical distancing requirements in place.

To better understand the challenges and successes to date with the response to COVID in the homeless and support sector, the following summary was completed by three researchers from UBCO; Dr. Jordan Barbando, Dr. John Graham, and Kyler Woodmass who comprise the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative.

CHALLENGES FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS: • Building and maintaining close relationships with service users • Social distancing within existing spaces and between service users • General safety (for all), and violence against women • Delays in mobilizing infrastructure and technology areas that service providers found challenging are: • Building and maintaining close relationships with service users • Social distancing within existing spaces and between service users • General safety (for all), and violence against women • Delays in mobilizing infrastructure and technology

SUCCESSES: Local support and sector collaboration • Mobilizing housing and hotels • Remote channels for connectivity • Circulation of public health guidance • Implementing hygiene centre and plexiglass

OPPORTUNITIES TO SCALE UP: There was a long list of suggested practices and infrastructure that included: medication delivery systems, alcohol management program, mobile isolation trailers, increased access and supply of safe substances, tent and cart storage, providing teddy bears, information boards, and service user cellphone allocations. The focus areas for further collaboration revolved around access to food services, water and hygiene stations.

NEEDS FOR SUMMER/WINTER: One of our main goals was to identify priorities in sustaining the response into colder months and through a potential second wave: • Continued communication • Mental health supports for providers • PPE / sanitizer cost and availability • Maintaining and increasing housing • Funding for additional costs

What this summary illustrates is that needs for people living outside and service delivery is different in this time of pandemic. As a church involved with outreach to this vulnerable group, we continue to ponder what our role can be moving forward to fall and winter. If you have questions or are interested in being part of next steps contact Shirley at [email protected]

Welcome to August 16 ,2020 Worship

A Glimpse of God

~Cheryl Perry

I am so looking forward to seeing some of the children and families of the congregation out under the stars this week when we watch a movie in the Seethaler’s backyard at the top of Dilworth Mountain. Doing just about anything under the stars can be breathtaking.

Maybe some of you have seen the Perseids meteor shower this week that is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity between August 9 and 14. While we were at the cottage in July we were able to spot the Neowise comet, which appeared at the bottom of the handle of the Big Dipper in the night sky, and won’t pass this way again for another 6,800 years. Sometimes we have to get away from the light pollution of the city to see such phenomena, but not always.

I remember sleeping under the stars at Lumsden Beach Camp in the Qu’Appelle Valley of Saskatchewan; listening to the sound of crickets, watching the northern lights and the sky filled with more stars than I could count, and feeling an all-encompassing sense of stillness and peace. At this time when we are living through a pandemic, when we are longing for that feeling, what a gift it is! And it’s free! It’s just outside your door—in your yard, from your deck.

I am reminded, when I look at the star-filled sky, of the stories we have been exploring this summer in worship—which began with the promise to Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would be more numerous than the stars or grains of sand.

I catch a glimpse of the truth that we are all connected—you and me—to those faith ancestors who lived long ago. And we are connected to everything—galaxies, comets, meteors, stars.

I hope you have had some moments of peaceful reflection this summer, wherever you are. I hope you have been captured by a sense of awe and wonder in nature at some point during these weeks of warm weather.

As the warmth of the summer turns
To the coolness of autumn,
And leaves turn from green to
Brilliant shades of crimson, gold, and orange,
May we know your presence, beloved Son of God.
As the planting of the summer turns
To the abundance of our harvest,
May our hearts turn with gratitude to you,
Creator of All. Amen.

(Prayer written by Susan Girard, Riverview United Church, Atikokan, Ont. Used by permission from Gathering magazine.)

Worship on August 9 , 2020

The Power of Words

~Bob Wallace

Over the past few weeks we have been following the stories of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of our faith – men and women who heard a promise spoken from beyond their everyday lives and who committed their futures to the fulfillment of that promise.

That promise has been transferred from generation to generation through what the text calls a “blessing” – words spoken, accompanied by specific actions, transferring the promise from one generation to the next. And once spoken, those words cannot be recalled. There is, then, a power in words … a power to shape and define, to create and destroy.

This year’s encounters with racism reminds us again of the power of words – words used to deny, to hurt, to enslave, to harm. The old adage: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” is a lie! Words can hurt. Words can destroy, words can deny futures. Words are powerful.

In fact, from a biblical perspective, the power of words lies in the capacity to share (or deny) future. Such power lies in the spoken words and accompanying actions of blessing.

Walter Brueggemann writes of these stories we are reading:

(they) offer a fresh discernment of the nature of power. … (they) understand that power, the capacity to shape the future, lies not in weapons and arms, but in the use of language, gesture, and symbol.”

[Interpretation: Genesis, p. 228]

As we continue our journey through these stories, look for the way in which the stories talk about the power and use of words and the gestures that accompany those words. It is my belief that these stories, heard as promises not only to those who have gone before, but as continuing promises spoken to us, empower us to discover our new future, a future filled with promises of life in all its fullness rather than despair.

More than anything, then, these words empower us to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that “God is with us. We are not alone.” And in that power, we are claimed once again as beloved children of our God.

And, from a world before we were concerned with gender issues in language, here’s a quote from Sigmund Freud.

Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.

Sigmund Freud

Worship for All August 2 , 2020 with Rev. Bob Wallace

Remembering August 1: Abolition of Slavery in Canada

~The United Church of Canada E-ssentials

August 1, 1834 is the day the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect, ending slavery throughout most of the British Empire – including in the colonies that would become Canada. It is estimated that on that day, 800,000 enslaved Black peoples were freed, as it became illegal for anyone to be a slave in the British Empire.

There is a grassroots movement happening in the United Church and beyond to proclaim August 1 as one way to support the fair treatment of all humans and affirm that all persons are made in the image of God. The commemoration of August 1 reminds us that the fight against systemic and anti-Black racism is far from over, and that we need to continue the work for the creation of a more just society. It is one way to continue the work of becoming an anti-racist church.

Join with people across the church in remembering August 1 and use the day to further the honest dialogue about the deconstructing of racism in our country. You are invited to join in a “silent witness” activity by wearing a T-shirt commemorating the end of slavery in Canada on August 1. There are two T-shirt designs available on the United against Racism website that can be iron-transferred onto T-shirts. There are also a number of blog posts to read on the United Against Racism website.

17th Sunday Worship with Rev. Sarah Wallace

Just Eat It

~Jocelyn Smith

The inside of Jocelyn’s fridge

I grew up in the golden age of the video game console. But in my house we had very little screen time and no video games. As a result, I am one of the only people my age who cannot pass the first level of a traditional Mario game. I always run Mario into a hole!

My parents decision to limit our screen time continued to impact my life after I moved out. In the 20 years since I lived at home, I have never owned a television. That’s not to say that I don’t watch shows and movies. But for two decades now, I’ve consumed my media via my computer. In the current era of Disney Plus, Netflixs and Youtube, that’s not too hard to imagine. But 10+ years ago, it was not easy to find good shows online from a legitimate source. Imagine my delight when I discovered Knowledge Network online. A whole repository of great viewing, all free.

I started watching shows on Knowledge.ca and became a knowledge partner. One day, an email arrived in my inbox. Knowledge inviting us to an advanced screening of an Agatha Christie Christmas mystery. I may or may not have whooped in excitement but I did immediately rsvp.

Several weeks later I sat in the Queen Elizabeth theatre and felt right at home. The audience members closest to us in age had at least three decades on us. It felt like attending Queens United. 🙂 I enjoyed the show and the whole experience.

Aside from Agatha Christie mysteries, Knowledge hosts an excellent selection of murder mysteries online. They also host a lot of great documentaries and feature many made in BC programs. Recently, I came across Just Eat It. I watched it and now I find myself looking in my fridge a bit askew.

Just Eat It follows one Vancouver couple as they eat only waste food for 6 months. The results are surprising and somewhat confronting. Have a watch. https://www.knowledge.ca/program/just-eat-it

And now please excuse me, I need to go. I’ve got some saggy parsnips and a browning apple in my fruit bowl that can’t go to waste.