parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

September 2019

 

“Jumping In”

 

Some of you might remember the movie that was released in 1984 entitled “The Neverending Story”. It was a story written originally in German for adults by Michael Ende. It was made into a movie that quickly became a favourite among children and youth…well, and adults too.

 

The story revolves around a boy named Bastian who is about nine or ten. He is very shy and has retreated into books as a refuge from his neglecting father and rather painful and awkward interactions with his peers. It is while running from a bullying event with some of these peers that he stumbles into an antique shop owned by Carl. Bastian becomes engrossed in a book called Fantasia. He steals the book and takes it home to read in his attic. As he reads, Bastian is more and more enthralled but becomes terrified when he realizes that the story he is reading cannot proceed without his participation.

 

The protagonist in the book, Atreyu, is a boy about the same age as Bastian. However, Atreyu is a brave warrior who has been sent by the ill Empress to find a cure for her illness as well as for the Nothing that is slowly consuming the whole land. Atreyu – through a very imaginative literary move – asks the reader Bastian to help him and to enter the story. At first Bastian resists, but then with some trepidation he jumps into the story line and in effect significantly impacts the unfolding of the story. As he moves back and forth between these two “worlds” he discovers new courage and confidence, confronts his fears, learns to trust and all of this ends up diverting a plot line that was heading pell-mell into disaster. As a result, this partnership with Atreyu issues in a positive ending for Fantasia.

 

I believe that this story has something to say to us this September and beyond. It is an intriguing metaphor for the life of Christian faith. God is undertaking the work of mending, blessing, saving and stewarding the world. There are forces at work seeking to undermine the work of God. Jesus has come and has taught and modeled whom we are to trust and how we are to get involved in the story of this trustworthy God. For his faithfulness, Jesus was crucified. But God raised him from death and he is alive. The Spirit of God beckons us, like Atreyu, to also discover new courage and confidence, and to jump into the story of God’s mission to the world in this present time. For it is true that our faithful participation in this story of God’s love, God’s justice, God’s transforming grace for all, actually makes a positive impact in this neighbourhood and the world.

 

Parkdale United Church’s Vision/Mission Statement reads:

To form followers of Jesus in such a way as to transform our community and our world. Parkdale’s congregation will respond to God’s call and Jesus’ teaching by: uniting in joyful worship as an act of praise and gratitude, for inspiration and guidance; providing learning opportunities for the Christian way of life and to enhance Biblical literacy; supporting one another through pastoral care and concern; reaching out to people in need; promoting justice; and praying for guidance, wisdom and support.”

 

Over the past couple of years we have been in a discernment conversation with each other and with God, regarding our future as a congregation, and the physical space in which we gather and exercise ministry. God’s story for the world and for Parkdale United Church’s role in this story is still unfolding. By faith, I believe we are being invited and challenged to wrestle together in prayer, conversation, discernment, silence and courage to ‘jump into’ the story of God that is presently being written for us and by us.

 

Someone once wrote:

Nothing counts more in the way we live than what we believe about God.

 

I believe that God is with us all the way. I believe that deep down all of us desire to live authentically and in wholeness. Sure we have doubts and setbacks. However, as followers of Jesus we see in the life, testimony and teaching of Jesus the manner in which our true desires can be best fulfilled. September is upon us; that time of ‘post-vacation’ return to school and certain routines, as well as ‘signing up for this and that class or activity’. How about: let us together, “sign up” again to live well and faithfully in the way of Jesus.

 

In a daily devotional by Eugene Peterson, one of the offerings is entitled Living Well. His Message translation of Psalm 119:27 reads:

 

Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.”

 

He goes on to write:

What do Bible stories tell us about living this human life well, living it totally? Primarily and mostly they tell us that it means dealing with God. It means dealing with a lot of other things as well…but always, at the forefront and in the background of circumstances, events, and people, it’s God.”

 

I have become even more convinced that there is no more glorious journey than the journey of faith and spiritual questing. Risking with humility and courage and wisdom, engagement with the people and the things that matter to God. The witness of Jesus and ever-present power of God’s Spirit helps us enact together the blessing God intends for this world that God so loves. Let’s get on with it. Let’s deal with God together.

 

Anthony