West Point Grey United Church
Aug 06, 2023

A Loving and Mysterious God

Good morning.  We live in God’s world and we are here this morning in God’s house with family and friends because we have or want to have faith in a loving God.

Each of us comes to this faith in a different way, but we all have “firm and reasonable confidence in the face of perplexity that is certitude without proof”, that there is a loving and mysterious God who rules over all.

I have not always known God as I do today but I came to my relationship with the righteous Creator over many years through trials in life that now don’t seem unusual.  Like many people of my age, who have more memories of things that have happened in the past, than plans and hopes for the future, I am here to share with you some events in my life that bring me here this morning and in doing so I hope they will trigger memories of your own.

I was born in a log cabin during the time of the Second World War and lived in a small town in Northern Ontario. This town had a population of about 35 people.  Our school had an average of 7-10 students from grades 1 to 9 during my first seven years of learning.  When I read “Little House on the Prairie” to my children in the 70’s I felt I was reading a version of my life story.  Google Goudreau today and what you will find listed is a Ghost Town.

And how does any of that relate to God.  Well those were different times and each school day started with everyone standing next to their desk with bowed head repeating in unison The Lord’s Prayer, closely followed by everyone singing   God save the King.  These were constant reminders that God, King and Country were of utmost importance in everyone’s life.

Each Christmas we relived the nativity in our one room school on a stage that was part of the classroom roped off and hung with bed sheets.  Everyone in class got to be in the play and most years I was one of the sheep although one year I may have been a wiseman robed in a dressing gown.  We celebrated annually our belief in the coming of the Christ Child and with a new teacher every year, we had many versions.  Easter was about chocolate, rabbits and new bonnets but Christmas was a time of Joy and giving.

The world entered our small town on occasion and two times remain vivid in my memory. There wasn’t a church in our town but every once in a while a priest or minister would stop for a few hours between trains on his way to the next town.  Though my family rarely entertained these visitors there was an Italian family who did and one day when I was about seven or eight, and after one of these visits, my little friend informed me that I was going to hell because I was not a Catholic.  I remembered that comment a couple years later when one spring morning the world went dark and we were sent home from school but not before the older kids spread the word that it was the end of the world.  As the day got darker and darker from the smoke caused by a fire in the Province of Manitoba my sister and I hurried home in fear.

Having a practical though not religious mother that day was to our benefit.  She came up with a solution.  We would make cream puffs, a special treat for a special occasion.  She kept us busy all morning and by afternoon the skies had turned red and the light was returning to normal.  To this day when conversation turns to end times I think of cream puffs.

In my early years, God was the Our Father of the Lord’s Prayer and as close to me as a father is to his children in a good home.

In the late 50’s our family moved to Jamestown, Ontario, now known as Wawa.  At the age of 14 God game into my life again.  The friends I hung out with went to a United Church Youth Group and soon I was attending Sunday School and singing in the choir.  In order to be Confirmed I had to be baptized and so I was and my first communion followed not long after.  But before I could become a member of the church there were things I had to learn such as the 23 rd Psalm, the Ten Commandments and the Apostle’s Creed (quite different from the New Creed).   Recently while going through our family treasures I came across a book given in 1918 to my husband’s mother by her Sunday School Teacher here in Vancouver for “repeating perfectly the Ten Commandments, the 23 Psalm and the Books of the Bible.”  Not everything changes with time.  Some people here today may remember the cross necklaces that had a small magnifying glass at the centre. For my effort and dedication I was given a King James Version of the bible and a necklace with the Lord’s Prayer.  

 God now became for me not only a loving father but a strict disciplinarian who commanded my obedience to his many rules of how I was to live. The God who revealed himself to the Hebrews as the God of righteousness was my God and as a child of God “I was under the obligation of the goodness that is enshrined in the law and imprinted in the conscience to which the law speaks.”  Easter and the resurrection became an important aspect of my faith.  Christ was now more than a child born at Christmas. Loving your neighbor included intentional acts of kindness and caring for everyone with whom we share this world.  But catholic still meant to me something other than universal or a way to identify oneself as a Christian as written in the Apostle’s Creed

It would be years later, once I was married and had a family who participated in many church related activities; Sunday School,  Church Camp and Youth Groups,  that I would find myself praying for my children’s welfare and for the strength I needed as a mother of four active youngsters. Before I knew it I was fully involved in our local church.  After being the church secretary for some time I felt drawn to greater service. With support from the clergy and congregation at Deep River Community Church I signed up for Lay Preacher’s Training.  This would involve a number of assignments and some weekend retreats at Stewart House in Pakenham over the course of two years. 

At our workshops , visiting clergy and published authors gave us lectures on church history and doctrine. One weekend the class began with a question for us to think about and answer.  We were asked “What do you think God looks like” I remember my answer clearly because for me God was still a kind and  older, gentle being  who sometime exerted his power to correct the wrongs that were happening in the world, and my fellow participants in the course laughed .  After hearing from everyone we watched a film about the many different world views of what Christ may have looked like and it was not only me who felt that I still had a static view in my mind from the past. We were introduced to the liturgy of many denominations and my personal liturgy became an important aspect of my faith journey.  

God had now become truly universal and was no longer only the child in the manger, the shepherd coming home at dusk with a lamb across his shoulders or the God of the Sistine Chapel reaching out to Adam, but all those images and more. I now looked towards such a God as I have come to know with reverence, trust, love and joy. 

So why am I here today?  Why are you here this morning?   Is it fear of our mortality, the need for fellowship, because we are creatures of habit, or none of the above but for another reason known only to us and our creator.

And we come back again and again to sing and pray and to hear the Word spoken, we celebrate communion, give thanks and seek forgiveness because Paul says,” these are our spiritual privileges and responsibilities “promised to us with the Patriarchs and fulfilled in the Messiah.

I also believe there is another reason we are here.  We rejoice with those with whom we share our faith in a loving God, and with those whose smiles confirm that we are not alone, we live in God’s world. We are the People of God and we have been called to love and to be loved.  

Thanks be to Christ.