Acknowledging the Territory
Often when we do something over and over again it becomes something we don’t think about, we simply do it. But it is important, as we once again acknowledge that the land upon which we gather is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people that we take time to think about what this really means, and to respectfully express our gratitude for this land and those who have tended it before we arrived.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. And we commit ourselves to allow that light shine through us in all that we do.
Call to Worship
Why do we come to worship? What is it we need?
Laughter and joy so that we can rejoice in God.
Song and prayer so that we can praise God.
Scripture and words so that we can listen for God.
Silence and contemplation so that we can respond to God.
Challenge and direction so we can act for God.
What does our worship need?
It needs you, it needs me, it needs God.
So together, let us worship our God.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Invisible God, give us hearts to see the things our eyes overlook. Give us hearts to feel the things our hands cannot touch. Give us hearts to hear the still, small voice which sounds like only silence to our ears. Teach us to see you, to feel you, to hear you and to know you in both the extraordinary and the ordinary experiences of life. As we gather here today, teach us to be open to all the many ways in which you reach out to us so that we, in turn, may reach out to others. Amen
Gift of Music God Who Touches Earth With Beauty #310
Sirach 3:17-24, 29
Our first reading today come from a section of the Bible known as the Apocrypha. It is generally located between the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and is not included in all translations. It is from the book of Sirach that we read this passage which encourages humility and offers the advice that “Intelligent people will learn from proverbs and parables.”
Matthew 13:10, 13-17
After Jesus tells a parable about a sower and the seeds that he scatters, his disciples come to him and ask why he chooses to teach using parables. According to Matthew, this is Jesus’ answer.
What Alice Learned in Wonderland
Years before establishing Disney Studios and moving to Hollywood, Walt Disney and his brother Roy created a short silent film titled Alice’s Wonderland. It featured a real life six-year-old girl interacting with a cartoon world. It caught the attention of a New York distributor who commissioned the Disney brothers to create a series of short features called Alice in Cartoonland.
Later, Disney also created several animated shorts featuring Micky Mouse and Donald Duck titled Thru the Mirror and Donald in Mathmagic Land. Given all of this it seemed almost inevitable that eventually Disney would make a full-length feature based on Lewis Carroll’s story of Alice in Wonderland.
The movie was released in 1951. It was considered a disappointment on its initial release, but when it appeared on television as one of the first episodes of Disney’s TV series Disneyland, it proved a huge success. It was eventually re-released in theaters where, this time, it was a massive hit. The film became even more successful through merchandising and subsequent home video releases.
The story begins on a beautiful day in an English garden where Alice’s older sister is tutoring her by reading to her from a history book. Alice is obviously bored by the lesson and tells her cat Dinah, “If I had a world of my own, everything would be non-sense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.”
Suddenly Alice spots a large White Rabbit running as fast as he can on two legs. He is wearing a waist coat, and from the pocket he pulls an enormous pocket-watch, which he looks at and then declares in obvious dismay, “I’m late!”
Having never seen such a thing, and terribly curious about what the rabbit might be late for, Alice follows the rabbit until he disappears into a rabbit hole. Alice attempts to follow and soon finds herself falling into a very different world. When she finally lands, she sees him disappear through a door that is far too small for her to enter. Despite the fact that she knows she can’t fit through the door Alice tries the door knob. When she grabs a hold of it, the door knob begins to speak. It advises her to try drinking the contents of a mysterious bottle that sits on the table beside her.
Despite knowing better than to drink something when she has no idea what it is, Alice drinks from the bottle. Immediately she shrinks down to the desired size. She rushes to open the door only to discover it is locked and the key is on the table which is now far beyond her reach. The door knob now advises her to try eating a cookie, that ends up enlarging her far beyond her original size. In total frustration, Alice bursts into tears.
When she eventually calms down, she spots the bottle that she originally drank from and decides to try it again. This time she shrinks so small that the tears she cried while big have created an ocean on the floor. However, it turns out that she is so tiny that she is actually washed right through the key hole and doesn’t need the key after all.
Once through the door Alice meets a Dodo who convinces her to join a group of characters who are running in circles around a huge rock in the middle of the sea, try to get dry. Each time a wave comes in, it washes over them soaking them all again. But when Alice spots the White Rabbit, she leaves the group and tries to catch up with him. Before she can, she encounters Tweedledum and Tweedledee who delay her by insisting they tell her the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter.
When Alice spots the White Rabbit again, she follows him to his house where, mistaking her for someone else, he sends her into the house to fetch his gloves. Once inside she decides to tastes another biscuit that she finds there and ends up growing until she fills the entire house. The Dodo, who with many other characters has come to observe the unusual site, declares that she must be a monster and advises that they burn the house down with Alice in it. Before this can happen, Alice manages to pull a carrot from the rabbit’s garden and eat it, which returns her to her smaller size.
She escapes from the house and this time follows the White Rabbit, into a garden where the flowers tower over her. They ask what type of flower she is and when she cannot provide the answer that they are looking for, they decide she must be a weed and they dismiss her from their garden.
And here, is the first thing that Alice learns in Wonderland. There will always be people who judge you according to your size or appearance. When Alice was tiny, the flowers judged her to be a weed. When she was huge, the Dodo judged her to be a monster.
We live in a world that too often seems to judge people by their size or appearance. A good friend of mine who was a teacher, told me a story about a young girl who was very large for her age. She was also dressed in cloths that were not “fashionable” or what most people considered, “age-appropriate”. She was often teased by people who never stopped to realize that fashionable and age-appropriate clothing was simply not available in her size. She became very shy and self-conscious. She wouldn’t speak up in class or volunteer answers and when called upon often seem totally flustered by any question put to her.
Most teachers simply allowed her to quietly do her work which she always seemed to accomplish adequately and so she continued to pass from grade to grade by she was always considered an average or below average student. When she ended up in a class where the teacher took a particular interest in her, the teacher discovered that the girl was incredibly bright. He gently pushed and challenged her, until she gained the confidence to ask and answer questions. With a great deal of encouragement and care, the girl become an outstanding student.
Alice’s next two encounters in wonderland are with a rather haughty caterpillar who morphs into a butterfly and a Cheshire Cat who tells her everyone in Wonderland is mad, and then directs her to find the Mad Hatter.
She finds the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse engaged in an “Un-birthday” party which she is invited to join. A great deal of silliness ensues and despite her many questions, Alice is never given an answer as to how she can find the White Rabbit. Eventually Alice declares in frustration that she just doesn’t have time for such nonsense.
When the White Rabbit appears at the tea party, again complaining that he is late, the Mad Hatter grabs his watch and declares it is running two days behind. He tries to fix it by dipping in in the tea pot then opening it up and adding salt, butter, jam and lemon juice, before eventually smashing it to bits with a mallet.
And here the second thing that Alice learns in Wonderland. Time can very easily become an obsession. Throughout her adventure Alice is constantly pursuing the White Rabbit, whose entire character seems to be defined by his distress over being late.
Our own human obsession with time is often seen in how easily we become worried and focused on things that we are waiting for, either with excitement or with dread. When we do this, we become oblivious to much of what is happening around us right here and now. We live either in anticipation of what will happen or sometimes in longing for what has happened in the past, that we fail to fully live in the daily moments that we are given.
At this point in the movie, Alice decides she has had more than enough nonsense and she just wants to go home. This proves to be more difficult than she had anticipated. Lost and alone, Alice sits down and begins to cry, asking herself why she chose to ignore his lessons and begin this strange adventure in the first place. When the Cheshire Cat appears once more and when Alice complains that she cannot find her way, the Cheshire Cat replies that it is because here, all ways are the Queen’s way!
This soon becomes apparent when Alice first sees the Queen’s army of playing cards painting white roses red because the Queen has decided all roses should be red. The “Queen’s way” is farther demonstrated when Alice is challenged to a game of croquet using flamingos as mallets and hedgehogs as balls. The hedgehogs change direction at will to ensue that the Queen’s balls go through the playing card markers while Alice’s do not and the flamingo goes limp in Alice’s hand making sure she cannot shoot. And throughout all of this, any time things don’t work out exactly as the Queen wants, she shouts, “Off with their heads!”
Alice is put on trial for interfering with one of the Queen’s shots, something that was actually done by the Cheshire Cat. At the trial Alice eats one last piece of mushroom she has been carrying around and grows to a humungous size from which she calls the Queen a pompous tyrant. Unfortunately, the effects of the mushroom are not permanent and Alice shirks back to her former size. She finds herself being chased by the Queen’s pack of cards who are determined to chop off her head. A hectic chase ensues that reintroduces a number of characters until Alice finally reaches the door through which she entered Wonderland. The door is still locked but when she peeks through the keyhole, she sees herself asleep under the tree where her sister had been reading to her. She screams at herself to wake up and slowly the voice changes into the voice of her sister, who wakes Alice just in time for Tea.
And so, the last lesson that Alice learns in Wonderland is that things are not always what they appear. Those who appear to have power over us, even the power of life and death, do not always have the ultimate authority.
The Queen of Hearts is a tyrant who rules with an iron fist, punishing anyone who displeases her. But the Queen’s power is, in fact, only an illusion. It is only through fear that she is able to control anyone.
So much of our world today is controlled by fear; fear of losing control or at least the control we think we have, fear of losing status, influence or the respect of others, fear of losing financial stability and the safety that we think such stability offers us, fear of situations and circumstances beyond our control or beyond our understanding. But faith calls us to set aside fear and trust in the Divine.
Many people find the story of Alice in Wonderland rather bizarre, and assume that it is nothing but nonsense. Yet in Jesus time, many people felt the same way about his parables. According to Matthew, when asked about why he spoke in parable or stories instead of just telling the people what they needed to hear, Jesus answered, “they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand.”
Sometimes we really do have to search and question in order to understand. But if we are truly open to the possibility of finding meaning in even the most bizarre of story, perhaps even a tale as strange as Alice in Wonderland can help us better understand the wonder and mystery of our faith. Amen.
Gift of Music Draw the Circle Wide MV#145
We Offer Our Gifts
At this time in our worship, we are reminded that our commitment to God also includes the gifts we offer. We may offer our gifts by placing them on our offering plates, by giving through PAR or through other ways of making donations. But, as always, we need to remember that our financial contributions are only one of the many things that we have to offer. We offer our time, our talents, our abilities, our commitments and our prayers. And so, whatever it is we offer today, let us ask God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray;
Loving God, as your spirit has continued to touch and bless people throughout history, bless the gifts that we offer you today that through your spirit they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, let us take a moment to remember all those named in our prayer jar, in our hearts and our thoughts this day … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
God of mystery and parable. There are so many things in life that just don’t make sense to us. Why do so many people in the world starve each day when so many others have more than they can ever use … Why do so many people lie, cheat, deceive or abuse power and position for their own selfish wants while others are denied even a small share of what they hope for … Why do people fight and kill each other for control over land, resources, or wealth instead of trying to talk things out and come to a reasonable compromise … Why do flood, fires, hurricanes and tornados, earthquake, and mudslides devastate so many lives … Why do disease and illness cause so much suffering, especially in places where it could be prevented if health care were only available … Why are the basic necessities of life like safe and adequate water, healthy food, health care and a good education denied to so many people simply because of where they are born, the colour of their skin, the family from which they come or the perception that other might have of them …
God there is much that we find confusing and unexplainable in our world. Remind us that we don’t need to have all the answers. Remind us that we need to continue to question so that we can seek, not our own answers, but your guidance and direction. Help us to be open each day to see you in both the blessings and the challenges of life. Help us to see, to recognize and to follow. Amen.
Closing Hymn Let There Be Light #679
So now go out into a world that at times may seem very strange and confusing, knowing that at all times and in all things you are never alone. God is with you.