“A Mother is one
who can take the place of all others
but whose place no one else can take.”
~ Wise Old Irish Words
Did you know that celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals to honour the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. In the Christian church the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the festival known as “Mothering Sunday, which is still celebrated in the UK.
A precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe (an American who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic) in 1870. Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 she campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.
The official Mother’s Day holiday that we celebrate in North America began in the 1900s in the US when Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, wanted to create a special day for mothers as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
More recently Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.
No matter what you do for your mother, grandmother, step-mother, mother-in-law or the mother figures in your life, do it with gusto and exuberant love. It will mean the world to her. You may want to give her this blessing:
“May you always know… The fragrance of flowers, The feel of the sun on your shoulders and always – the warmth of your child’s love.” An Irish Mother’s Blessing
In the gift of this new day,
In the gift of the present moment,
in the gift of time and eternity intertwined
let me be thankful
let me be attentive
let me be open to what has never happened before,
in the gift of this new day,
in the gift of the present moment,
in the gift of time and eternity intertwined. Amen
(J.Philip Newell "Sounds of the Eternal")
"What has never happened before" is happening right outside my window. Yours too. Yes, in previous springs in my backyard, the daffodils have bloomed and the rhubarb has sprouted. But not exactly like this year. In this spring of new life, everything is new. And I don't want to miss any of it.
It's not that the differences are "good" or "bad". That's not what it's about. The differences just are. And we are called to engage as we are now, in this moment. We are called to be present, thankful, and attentive.
Go outside to your garden, or on your balcony and notice what is new. Around you and within you on this spring day. Then offer the prayer above.
God bless you!
As St Paul told his friends in the church at Ephesus "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
The next time you find yourself angry with someone, or frustrated, or annoyed - stop for a moment before you let yourself react. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Chances are they are not trying to annoy you or hurt you or dismiss you. Chances are they just look at things differently than you do. And that's okay. Chances are they are just trying to do their best. Just like you.
I have found in such situations that a little reflective time before responding out of anger leads to a lot more understanding. And that understanding leads to an altering of my perspective. And that altering of my perspective usually leads to something better. For example an even better idea, or way forward.
And that new or better idea leads to gratitude. Gratitude for the other person's thoughts and the way they look at things. Gratitude that together we are better. Gratitude for our differences and the many gifts that we offer each other. Gratitude that we are all made uniquely and we all have something precious to offer each other. Gratitude for God's great wisdom in blessing creation with so much variety.
So the next time it happens - that you find yourself at odds with someone in your family or community - practice appreciating their unique gift - their different opinion, their different way of doing things.
Then offer a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving that God delights in the great diversity of God's creation. And that you - as well as that other person - are God's beloved ones and bring God great delight because of that diversity.
It's not always easy, and it's not always fast. But it is the best way forward.
With gratitude and thanksgiving for the great diversity in our church community,
Earth Day is on Sunday. This makes it extra special to be at church to thank God for our earth.
I am Stephanie and I live in Luskville, Quebec approximately 20 km out of Aylmer. I enjoy walks and being able to observe the beauty of my surroundings.
However as the snow melts I feel discouraged as I see a trail of plastic bottles, cans and other litter thrown out of car windows along Route 148 and the side roads. Recently there are many articles and media feeds about plastic pollution floating in the oceans. This is wreaking havoc with fish and other ocean life. Here in Canada I see the same damage in my own 'backyard' and I want to do more to fix this.
Let's all do something about this and start cleaning up the damage. First we can do this by using reusable/refillable bottles. Next, let's continue our work by organising groups to pick up litter on the side of the roads, parks and beaches in our own neighbourhoods .
Celebrate Earth Day by taking care of our earth.
Read more about how we can end plastic pollution.
Stop for a moment. Close your eyes. And listen. Just listen.
If you are like me, it can take awhile to tune into the sounds around me. There is so much chatter in my head. So many thoughts cluttering the spaciousness of my surroundings. But when I can settle into the listening, that's when I might hear God.
Prayer has two parts. The talking part, and the listening part. We are really good at the talking part. We are good at words. Good at getting our point across and listing our requests. There is much to pray for in our world. We want God to know what is on our hearts. We want God to know what we celebrate and what we yearn for. What grieves us and for whom we desire peace and healing. This is important, but I dare say that God wants us to know what is on God's heart too. This is why we need to listen.
It takes practice. But it is worth it. It brings our hearts closer to God's heart. It makes our relationship stronger. And when our relationship with God is strengthened, our relationship with all Creation is made stronger. Compassion and joy overflows.
Stop for a moment. Close your eyes. And listen. Do this for 5 minutes every day. And see what happens. You may be surprised!
Many North American churches are resurrecting an old Easter custom begun by the early Greek Christians --- "Bright Sunday" or "Holy Humor Sunday" celebrations on the Sunday after Easter. For centuries in all Christian faith traditions, the week following Easter Sunday was observed by the faithful as "days of joy and laughter" with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus' resurrection
The custom is rooted in the writings of early church theologians (like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom) that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. "Risus paschalis - the Easter laugh," the early theologians called it.
God smiles, this much I know
for God created laughter
so that we might join in the enjoyment of Holy creative energy
those wonderful colour schemes of bird butterfly and flower.
The shapes and expressions on so many creatures and insects
These weren't created by a boring God
they were drawn by a God with a sense of humour
and that's a comforting thought! (John Birch)
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
This wonderful old African-American Spiritual tells the Good Friday story with profound simplicity. With it's questions it not only engages us in the drama of the ancient story but calls us to examine how and where we fall short of our participation in the life of the resurrected Christ - the post-Easter Jesus.
Don't rush through these last days of Holy Week. It is not that I want you to wallow in the darkness of the events of Good Friday. It is that we cannot truly understand what Easter is all about if we do not accompany Jesus and his friends through the events of the days that proceeded Easter: The bond of love that surrounded this company of friends at the Last Supper. The subsequent betrayal by many of those friends. Jesus' arrest and sentencing. And finally his violent beating, then crucifixion and his death.
These are hard stories. They are hard because they uncover parts of ourselves that we do not want to recognize, and that we want to leave deeply buried. But these things - these traits - are part of what makes us human. They are our teachers. When we recognize within us the same behaviours as Jesus' disciples at their worst we are able to learn from them. We see how to move through them just as Peter, and Mary and the rest were able to do. It was not easy but these friends eventually became Jesus' best champions, working tirelessly for the same things that Jesus had (and through them continued to do so). For compassion. For peace. For justice. For love. For the Kingdom of God among us. This is the work that gave them new life. This was their Easter.
What "Easter" waits for you this year? What "Easter" waits for Aylmer United Church? How will Jesus' ministry come alive within us in these next weeks and months?
For Christian people, Holy Week is the most important week of the year! It is the week before Easter beginning with Palm Sunday. This year it starts this Sunday. It is a time when we celebrate in a special way the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember his actions, reflect on his messages, and recommit to living as faithful disciples in the world today.
On Palm Sunday we remember the gospel story when Jesus was welcomed by the people with cheers and palms - a symbol of victory and sign that "all is well". Palm-bearing date trees were valued for their dignity, beauty and shade and were used at special occasions to welcome heroes and royalty.
Maundy Thursday takes its name from the latin Mandatum (commandment) in reference to the "new" commandment that Jesus gives disciples (all of us!) at the Last Supper. This is the time when we remember the story of Jesus washing the feet of his friends, offering them the love and compassion of God. We celebrate a simple eucharist (communion) and leave the church quietly and reflectively as we prepare for the events of Good Friday.
Good Friday is when we remember the story of the Passion of Christ. All the events from Jesus arrest and betrayal by his friends and the religious authorities, his trial and proclamation of the death sentence, the long journey to the place of crucifixion, the sounds of the nails as he is put on the cross. The story culminates in Jesus' death witnessed by the women who were his closest friends and loved ones. This is a day for introspection and deep reverence. This is a day when our hearts are laid bare. This is a day when if we remain open, we sense the mysterious Spirit of God deep in our bones.
If you stood at the cross on which Jesus hung, what would you say to him? How does it feel to touch the cross? What does this mean to you?
Holy Saturday Before we get to the happy celebrations of Easter Sunday we still have Holy Saturday. In some churches it is known as Easter Vigil. Some churches stay open the whole day and night as people come and go to pray or read the Bible. Traditionally a fire was lit but now we usually use a candle. This is where the tradition of the Christ Candle came from.
I hope you will join us for our special observances of Holy Week. Come Thursday night at 7:00 for a reflective Maundy Thursday Communion service.
Gather at 11:00 Friday morning at St Paul's Church with hundred's of your neighbours from various churches in Aylmer to carry the cross, to hear scripture and to pray together.
I offer this prayer from the Celtic tradition as a companion through Holy Week. Keep it with you and pray it often.
O Christ you are a bright flame before me
You are a guiding star above me
You are the light and love
I see in other's eyes.
Keep me O Christ
in a love that is tender
Keep me O Christ
in a love that is true
Keep me O Christ
in a love that is strong
Tonight, tomorrow and always. Amen.
(J. Philip Newell in Celtic Prayers from Iona)
God of love,
as in Jesus Christ you gave yourself to us,
so may we give ourselves to you,
living according to your holy will.
Keep our feet firmly in the way
where Christ leads us;
help our lips speak the truth
that Christ teaches us;
fill our bodies with the life
that is Christ within us.
Amen. Voices United #110
As you journey through Lent remember to follow the "Count Your Blessings" Lenten Calendar that the Sunday School prepared for us. Boyd and I have been having some fun with ours. It is on our fridge in the kitchen where we post all our important reminders along with pictures of special people. I was amazed by all the words Boyd found in the word "water"!
If you can't find yours ask Trudy for another one. Then count your blessings everyday by doing the activity and putting aside a donation.
The Sunday School will receive your donations to support a project in the United Church Gifts Wth Vision catalogue. Thanks Sunday School people for inspiring us!
A prayer for being half-way through Lent:
God of the journey,
we wander through the wilderness,
thirsty and in need of nourishment.
As we search,
sustain us with your loving presence,
lift us by your grace, and
save us from our time of trial.
—a prayer from Why I Believe: Daily Devotions on Faith & Discipleship (UCPH, 2017)
We are half-way through Lent. Half-way through that season of the church year when we remember the story of Jesus on his 40 day spiritual retreat in the wilderness, having been "driven" there by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12).
Where is the Spirit "driving" you during this Lenten time? Where is the Spirit
driving" Aylmer United Church? How do you know when the Holy Spirit is around you? Engaging with you? Pulling you? Prodding you? Leading you? Pushing you? Inviting you?
Sometimes it is through the voices of other people. Sometimes it is in the quietness of prayer. Sometimes it is in the silence of simply being. Sometimes it is when we least expect it.
I have discovered that there is nothing more surprising than the Spirit of God. Just when I think I have her pinned down, she blows a new thought, and new challenge, a new blessing right into my life. I can resist, but I know that in the end there is no point. I will be unsettled and restless until I work through my resistance and commit to working in partnership with this new thing I am called to do, or this new way I'm called to be. Sometimes I resist for a long time. You would think that by now I would have learned.
Thanks be that the Spirit's persistence is greater than my resistance!