Acknowledging the Territory
As we always do when we gather in worship, we take a moment to recognize that the land on which we gather was cared for that land and held in sacred trust long before our ancestors arrived by the people who already lived here. And so, we offer our gratitude for this land and for those who have cared for it before us, and we acknowledge that it is, by law, the unseeded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
Lighting the Christ Candle
A candle can mean different things to different people. When we light our Christ candle, we reflect on the light that the life of Christ brought into the world and we commit ourselves to allow our own light to shine through us in all that we do.
Call to Worship *written by Anne Osdieck
Was Puccini’s music for his ears alone?
Was Starry Night only for Van Gogh’s eyes?
Are discerners of spirits better than those who prophesy?
Is it better to be a healer than a preacher?
Was Mother Teresa more important than the Jesuit brother who held the door?
Is red better than blue?
All gifts are from the same Spirit.
They are each a part of the whole and given to each of us for each other and for the common good.
And so, in gratitude for all the gifts we have been given, we gather to worship God.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Divine Mystery, just as you sent the gift of your Holy Spirit to those first saints long ago, we know you continue to send your Spirit and yours gifts to us, even though we do not always claim them. We acknowledge that we have not always recognized your gift. We acknowledge that we have not always used the gifts we have been given. We acknowledge that we have often chosen to keep them packed up or buried in the ground. Move us, by your Spirit, to pick up the gifts that you so freely give us, to open them and to spend them lavishly on the stewardship of your world. Amen
Gift of Music Lord, Take My Hand VU# 638
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Our first reading comes from 1st Corinthians. It is the passage that comes directly before 1st Corinthians 13, the love passage, and it reminds us that everyone has been given gifts and talents, but that all are to be used for the glory of God.
Matthew’s version of the parable of the talent or the parable of the three servants, challenges us to ask ourselves, “what are we doing with the talents that God has given us?”
If Elephants Can Fly – Why Not You?
I decided to skip ahead a couple of movies to the 4th Disney movie and talk this week about the movie Dumbo. One of the reasons for this is that the main character of this movie has a striking resemblance to one of the most loved characters of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the childlike, speechless character known as Dopey.
Unlike the majority of Disney movies, Dumbo is based on an original story. It remains one of the shortest and least expensive of all Disney’s animated movies, yet it was an immediate success with critics and audiences alike. It is, in many ways a “David and Goliath” story of the triumph of the little guy against great odds.
The movie opens in the winter headquarters of a travelling circus where a group of storks are delivering baby animals to their respective mothers, all that is, except Mrs. Jumbo, the elephant, who waits in vain for her bundle of joy to arrive. It turns out that the stork carrying the baby elephant has been delayed by his heavy burden and does not arrive until the circus has already boarded the train to begin their summer tour.
When the stork finally finds Mrs. Jumbo on the crowded train and presents her with her baby, the other elephants all congratulate her on the arrival of Jumbo Junior and express their admiration for the new arrival. All that changes, however, when the baby elephant sneezes, which cause his gigantic ears to unfold.
It is here that we learn the first lesson that Disney offers us through the movie Dumbo. Everyone is unique and different. No two people or no two elephants are born exactly the same. We all differ in appearance, in talents, in assets and in abilities.
In 1st Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us of this. We all have different gifts and talents, but all those gifts come from God. None is to be considered better than any other regardless of how different they might be from the gifts, talents or appearance that we might consider to be normal or desirable. All are gifts from God and are intended to be used to serve others and to praise their creator.
Unfortunately, as we all know, this is not how differences are always received. When the other elephants see Jumbo Junior’s huge ears they gasp in horror. They immediately begin to criticize his appearance and poke fun at his obvious difference. One even suggests that instead of Jumbo he should be called Dumbo. And the name sticks.
In an effort to protect her son, mother elephant immediately shuts off her compartment from the others and begins rocking her beloved offspring in her trunk, assuring him that regardless of what anyone might say, he is loved.
But it turns out that the other elephants are not the only ones who see Dumbo as an oddity to be teased and made fun of. At the first stop on their tour, two rather obnoxious youth begin teasing Dumbo and pulling at his ears. In defense of her child, Mrs. Jumbo picks up the boys and gives them a spanking with her trunk.
Unfortunately, this action gets Mrs. Jumbo labeled as a “Mad Elephant” and locked up. The other elephants blame Dumbo for the humiliation and refuse to have anything to do with him. Without his mother beside him, young Dumbo is completely alone, until he meets a mouse named Timothy. The two become fast friends and, in an effort to help Dumbo, Timothy plants an idea in the head of the sleeping ringmaster, a spectacular new act where a pyramid of elephants will balance on a ball while Dumbo, waving a flag, will jump from a springboard and land on the top of the pyramid. Unfortunately, things do not work out the way Timothy envisioned. As he is running towards the springboard, Dumbo trips over his own ear stumbling head first into the ball and sending the pyramid of elephants and the entire circus tent crashing to the ground.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Dumbo is reassigned in the circus hierarchy and becomes a clown. To the elephants this is a complete humiliation and Dumbo is now totally ostracized. To the clowns, he is a tool to be used as the brunt of every joke and to be treated without respect or concern.
And here is the second thing the story of Dumbo teaches us. There will always be those who will use our differences to tear us down and build themselves up. We are all vividly aware of the terrible stories of discrimination and bullying that often seem to dominate our media. Over the last year we have been made even more aware of it through the Black Lives Matter movement and through the reports of police brutality against indigenous people. But we are also aware that there are many stories that never get told, stories of people being humiliated, picked on and emotionally beaten down until they have no confidence at all in their own abilities or their own worth.
This is where we find Dumbo. Separated from his mother, rejected by the other elephants and humiliated by the clowns, Dumbo is left with only one friend in the entire world, Timothy. When the two, inadvertently, become inebriated by drinking an entire bucket of water which is spiked with a bottle of the clowns’ alcohol, we are treated to a hilarious song and dance routine by a troupe of ‘Pink Elephants’.
As morning arrives and the two sober up, they find themselves precariously balance in the high branches of a tall tree, unable to remember how they got there. A group of crows standing near by suggest that the only way to get that far up in the tree was to fly.
The idea hits Timothy like a great revelation. “That’s it,” he shouts. “Dumbo … your ears … they’re perfect wings. The very things that held you down are going to carry you up and up and up!”
But Dumbo, having been made to feel for so long, that his ears are something to be ashamed of, simply cannot believe that they could actually be a blessing. So Timothy, with the help of the crows, convinces Dumbo that the reason he can fly must be the ‘magic feather’ that Timothy offers him. And so, with the feather held tightly in his trunk, Dumbo begins flapping his ears and sure enough, Dumbo flies!
And so, Timothy comes up with another plan. That night the clowns have decided to dress Dumbo as a clown baby and have him jump from a burning tower and land in a bucket of suds. But Timothy decides that instead of falling, Dumbo should shock everyone by flying.
With Timothy hidden in his hat and the ‘magic feather’ firmly held in his trunk, Dumbo leaps from the tower. But just as he prepares to unfurl his ears, the feather slips from his trunk. Dumbo is paralyzed with fear, but Timothy desperately tries to explain to him that the feather was no more than a prop and that the ability to fly lies within Dumbo himself. Sure enough, just before the two crashes into the bucket, Dumbo spreads his ‘wings and flies.
And here lies the most important lesson of all. We all have the ability within us to do something amazing. It may not seem amazing to us, but we have each been given gifts and abilities that have the potential to make a difference in our world. And sometimes the very things that seem to be a burden to us, the very things that make us feel different, things we often try to hide, can be the very things that God can use to accomplish greatness.
In order to do great things with the talents we have been given, however, we must not be afraid to use them. And often that means risking failure. The parable of the three servants never tells us how the first two servants earned the extra money they returned to their master and it does not tell us if, in their efforts to make a profit, they also lost money along the way.
The other thing it does not tell us, which I think would be an interesting twist to the parable, is what the master would have done if one of the servants had risked investing the money and had ended up loosing it. I like to think that he would have been praised for at least trying. But the story we have does tells us that the servant who made no effort to use his talent in any way, but instead chose to bury it in the ground, is condemned for his actions.
This parable, like the story of Dumbo, is not about being more talented or having more obvious gifts than someone else. It’s not about making the most money or about being better then anyone else at a specific task. It’s not about doubling or even tripling the gifts you have. It’s about using what you have been given, no matter how great or how small those gifts may appear.
It’s about using the talents you have been given. And sometimes, the very things that we might see as burdens we must bear, the very things that make us different from everyone else, may turn out to be the greatest blessings we have. They may turn out to be the exact talents that are needed.
But sometimes, using our talents, especially those talents we have hidden from others, can be frightening. What if we fail? What if everyone laughs at us? What if it turns out they are not really talents at all and we don’t actually have any talents? What then?
Dumbo needed a magic feather to convince him that he could actually fly. Without it, he was afraid to even try. But the only thing the magic feather did was to convince him he already had within him all he needed. It was not the magic feather that made him fly, it was the magic feather that gave him the confidence to try.
God has already given us all the skills and talents we need, even if sometimes we don’t recognize those gifts as talents. Whatever it is that we are meant to accomplish we already have what it takes to succeed. But just in case we doubt it, we have also been given a magic feather to hold on to.
That magic feather is called faith. And the truth is that faith is not magic. It is about trusting and believing that even if we are unsure of ourselves, even if we are frightened, we can risk stepping out into the unknown, we can risk ‘unfurling our ears’, knowing that, with God’s help, we truly can fly. Amen.
Gift of Music Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ VU# 468
We Offer Our Gifts
At this time in our worship, we are reminded that our commitment to God always includes the gifts we offer. Those gifts may be the financial contributions we make to our church or they may be the gifts of our time, our talents, our abilities, our commitment 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 touched and blessed those disciples long ago, bless the gifts that we offer you today that, through your spirit, they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
Although we may not have a physical prayer jar in which to place our prayers, we take a moment of silence now to offer our own personal prayers for all those named in our hearts, our thoughts, and our minds as well as those who are on the hearts and minds of all those gathered here … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Our Prayers of the People this morning was written by Carol Penner and is titled, Prayer for Doubters
You call us to be people of faith, yet we are often people with doubts. We doubt that love can grow again in relationships where anger and bitterness reign supreme. You know the strength of love and the power of prayer: help us to be faithful lovers.
We doubt that peace can come in the Middle East, in Syria, in Palestine; where hatred and racism reign supreme. You know that peace is growing there: help us to be faithful peacemakers.
We doubt that the hungry can be fed in Africa, where despair and hopelessness reign supreme. You know that there is enough food in the world; help us to be generous and faithful.
You specialize in impossibilities; you walked on water, you heal the nations, you forgive sins, you set the captive free, you set us free from our captivities.
This morning we pray for people here who are filled with doubts, who wonder whether you exist and whether you are listening to our prayers, who wonder what this whole community is about.
We pray for people who doubt the purpose of life, who wonder whether to end it all, who face feelings of meaningless and despair. Even when we have that sinking feeling, give us the wisdom to turn to you.
Lord we want to believe, help our unbelief! Give us faith, small as a mustard seed,
so that we can be your faithful people. We ask all this in Christ’s name, Amen.
Closing Hymn One More Step Along the World I Go VU#639