Archive - Dec 2009 - Oct 2016

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Colleagues List, July 21st, 2019

Vol XV. No. 3

Wayne A. Holst, Editor
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Dear Friends:

This week I share with you the message I offered  those
gathered at the church this Sunday, July 21st.

Last week, I introduced the theme of "hospitality" and
in this message I expand upon it as it pertains to my
home congregation. Hopefully this is of interest to others
as well since it relates, I believe, to many mainstream
churches in Canada today.




Message shared at
St. David’s United Church, Calgary
Sunday, July 21st, 2019


Texts: A Son is Promised to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18:1-10)
and Jesus Visits Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) NRSV.

A Son is Promised to Abraham and Sarah

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham[a] by the oaks[b] of Mamre,
as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  2 He
looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw
them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed
down to the ground.  3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you,
do not pass by your servant.  4 Let a little water be brought, and
wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  5 Let me
bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after
that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.
” So they said, “Do as you have said.”  6 And Abraham hastened
into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three
measures[c] of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”
7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good,
and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.  8 Then
 he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and
set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while
they ate. 9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?”
And he said, “There, in the tent.”  10 Then one said, “I will
surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall
have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance
behind him.

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village,
where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.
39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet
and listened to what he was saying.  40 But Martha was
distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked,
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the
work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  41 But the Lord
answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and
distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one
thing. [a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not
be taken away from her.”

Additional Text:                                                          
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels without knowing it. (TEV).


In the Ancient Near East, with its rugged terrain and inhospitable
climate, hospitality was a very important factor in human endurance.

Our scripture texts today focus on two circumstances where the
reception of guests had become part of the art of human relations.

Last Sunday, we revisited the parable of the Good Samaritan as
told by Jesus and related it to ways that biblical narrative might
speak to our experience of the Calgary Stampede as we
celebrated Pancake Sunday here at St. David’s. Indeed, last
Sunday was a day of hospitality as we welcomed up to 700
guests outdoors as well as others for our regular worship
service. What a wonderful way of letting the Calgary
community know that we exist!

“Warm welcome” was the phrase I used to connect the
Stampede to St. David’s and today, I’d like to unpack the
theme of “hospitality.” Thanks to Colin Outtrim and his team
for helping us make the first step that St. David’s people do
so well. I’d like to add to that a reminder of our history of
“welcoming the stranger” and our longstanding work with
refugees to Canada. A number of new Canadians have
found a home in his land because of our efforts.

Our Muffin Ministry people have developed a special
activity of reaching out to the university community as
well. I applaud these efforts, but now let me raise some
disconcerting concerns.

The challenge we face is not that we don’t know how
to welcome people. Our challenge is how to help to
transform at least some of the many who pass through
our doors each week into fellow-supporters of our
declining congregation. That decline is obvious in
our published attendance figures and financial statistics
over the years.

I am deeply concerned about this matter and I think
that many of you are concerned as well. In the past, we
have tended to draw from one traditional constituency.
Today, I want to propose that there are other
constituencies to draw from as well.

What distinctly Christian benefits can we offer people
that are not available elsewhere?

Our Abraham and Sarah text this morning reveals a
story in which three strangers visit. The old patriarch
welcomes them with a warm graciousness. He asks
Sarah his wife, and his household to provide these
guests with water for refreshment and the best food
and drink available. Little did Sarah and Abraham
realize that their guests were messengers from God
bringing with them a special gift and a promise.

Our Mary and Martha text relays the familiar tale of
how two women friends of Jesus welcome him to their
home in different ways. The first is focused on the
practical aspects of their hospitality, while the second
invests in what Jesus has to share with them –
“the better part” - according to the story.

In both Hebrew and Christian Bible accounts, the art
or ethics of hospitality is performed.  Each expression
is one of undiscriminating love, receptivity and
kindness and in both cases a special promise or
gift is given by the guest. That is why I added an
additional text:

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for
thereby some have entertained angels without knowing
it.” (Hebrews 13:2).Abraham and Sarah produce a child
in their old age. Mary and Martha discover the special
spiritual benefit of having Jesus in their midst.

How might these stories apply to us? I offer three
suggestions for turning hospitality in community that
I believe offer hope for our congregation today.
First, our church stands in a strategic location. We
are situated near a significant LRT station in our city.
People from many parts of Calgary can get to our
facility with or without a car.

We find ourselves across the LRT tracks from the
University of Calgary. What a marvelous resource
for people we have here – be they students, staff
or faculty! An actual city exists nearby our Capitol
Hill community and in close proximity to us. How
well are we taking advantage of the resources
available to us? Have we thought about what we
offer the university?

Some years ago we discovered that we could provide
economic parking spaces. That has proven to be a
mutual boon – and a major supplement to our church
budget. We have started to think about other services,
like muffins and conversation with students and their
friends. How might we build on educational resource-
sharing that so that the contacts we make will draw
others into our faith community? We already benefit
from an exchange of musical assets through Brent
and our Music Ministry; and that can be creatively
expanded over time.

That leads naturally into some serious thought about
the spiritual, intellectual and material resources that
even now we possess as a congregation –  and what
 we could offer in the future. We confine ourselves and
limit our potential when we continue to think inside boxes
that worked in the past, but which offer diminishing returns
today. We need to do more external reckoning to focus
on outreach, rather than self-preservation.

We can build on our strengths rather than feel negatively
and inadequately about our weaknesses. In time, previously
effective ministries can be restored, but guided in new ways.

A final suggestion is that of perceived challenges.  Many
of us are inclined to think of the difficulties we have been
encountering as problems. I suggest that a lot of these
problems may prove to be possibilities in disguise. A
personal example. When I first attended St. David’s I
couldn’t possibly get to know all the members here very
well. Now, I feel I can personally related to a much higher
percentage of our community, and community awareness
is the first step to community renewal.


Our strategic location. Our current spiritual, intellectual
and material resources, and our perceived problems
that are actually possibilities.

These suggestions are just the beginning. I offer them to
get us thinking about what the future St. David’s might be.

Some of our current programs are already demonstrating
creative possibilities. We still have a substantial base,
wonderful people and real achievements to celebrate.
But much more needs to be done. Attendance on a given
Sunday morning should not be the indicator of the over-all
meaning and effectiveness of our life together. St. David’s
has always been a weeklong as well as a Sunday morning
church service.

Even now, we are host to two new Canadian congregations
of Filipino and East Indian backgrounds. What do we know
about them? What can we learn from them?

Intentionally expanding ministries through the week like
pastoral care and living with respect to creation led by
Debbie Stockdale, can be great feeders for our Sunday
morning program. We know from past experience that
intentional ministries can build our congregational base.
We need to discover that again.

Our Sacred Service Ministry has proven that a vital
volunteer cadre can expand our impact and decrease
our costs.

Did you know that our ACTS ministry involved about
350 people last year – a half of whom were different

Did you know that ACTS Ministry gets no money from
the St. David’s program budget and a very small
proportion of our staff budget? Yet, we are currently
supporting up to ten activities including various studies,
book sales, the church library, spiritual and social justice

travel, seniors support and McDougall Mission Morley
indigenous reconciliation.

What has been happening in ACTS ministry can
happen in all our ministries!

Did you know that our Drama Group has a tremendous
community outreach among children and youth? Drama
is entirely run by unpaid support under the able leadership
of Janice Rider and her team. We don’t need paid staff
members to shepherd effective programs like this.

We need to be asking – what other gaps need to be filled?

To conclude:

HOSPITALITY means being good hosts and hostesses.
It means paying attention to the angels that pass through
our doors daily and weekly. That, I believe, is an important
lesson to be learned from Abraham and Sarah, from Mary
and Martha today.

I hope that, with these words, I have started some
productive thinking and conversation.



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