Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reminder: Worship Schedule Feb.15–March 8

Worship Schedule Feb.15–March 8:

Reminder: We will not have church in the library Feb. 22 and March 1, but will meet with Scarborough congregation at the church on 10 Eppleworth Road near Kennedy Station in Scarborough.

Feb. 15: church in the library as normal
Feb. 22: meeting with Scarborough Congregation; no church in library
Mar. 1: meeting with Scarborough Congregation; no church in library
Mar. 8: church in the library as normal

Prayer for Peace — Confucianism

A statue of Confucius in front of a temple in Qufu, China.

In our weekly prayer for peace this year, we are learning about the diverse religious traditions that have shaped our world and the communities of our neighbors.  Today we seek to learn about the tradition of Confucianism.  This system of ethics developed from the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher active in the sixth and fifth centuries before the common era.  Confucianism focuses on practical issues in this life (as opposed to the other-worldly or transcendent) with a special emphasis on the importance of family, filial piety, loyalty, integrity, continence, and righteousness.  For example, in teaching the virtue of “Ren” or humanness, Confucius taught, “one should see nothing improper, hear nothing improper, say nothing improper, do nothing improper.” Another description of this virtue is “not to do to others as you would not wish done to yourself” — a sentiment which echoes the “Golden Rule” taught by Jesus and many other religious and philosophical thinkers.

Just as the philosophical teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle have had enormous effects on the understanding of ethics in the West, including religious beliefs within Christianity, Confucianism has profoundly affected philosophical and religious thought throughout China and the Far East.

In our explorations this year, we are able to celebrate the diversity of thought that has enriched our world and also the threads that feel common to us all.

Prayer for Peace — Gloria Mitchell, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

O Holy One, who has been with us from the beginning and taught us to be your people as you are our God, we beseech you for peace.  We remember the time you led your children through the wilderness to forge them into a people.  We remember you being with Abraham and staying his hand against Isaac.  We remember you guided Lehi and family to a new home, and provided Joseph with the vision needed in the early days of the Restoration.  We remember Martha who served you, Mary who loved you, and Emma who was an elect lady.  This day, as all days, we remember we are part of the past, we are in the present, and look to the future in finding your presence.

We thank you, Almighty, for allowing us to share an understanding of you.  We thank you for opportunities for service, and pray history will record we did praise your name and glorified you.  Thank you God for intelligence and knowledge, but most of all thank you for your grace and gift of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Prayer for Peace — Native American and First Nations Religions

William Commanda (1913–2011), an Algonquin elder from Quebec,
performing a smudging ceremony.

In our weekly prayer for peace this year, Toronto Congregation is learning and thinking about the diversity of religious experience in our city and throughout the world.  Today we consider an entire category of religious experience: the beliefs, traditions, and practices of the indigenous peoples of North America, including the Native Americans of the United States and the First Nations of Canada.  At the time of contact between the world’s eastern and western hemispheres, the native population of North America numbered in the millions, and was divided into diverse nations with their own languages, traditions, and identities. Exposure to diseases from the Eastern Hemisphere, along with displacement by colonists and outright warfare caused devastating collapses in the native population.

Recovery has been a long and difficult path as native peoples have struggled to preserve their own traditions in the face of overwhelming pressure to assimilate into Eurocentric society.  This is also true for the recovery of traditional beliefs and sacred ceremonies.  Although these practices are as diverse as native languages are diverse, well-known ceremonies include the sweat-lodge ceremony, the pipe ceremony, and “smudging” — which involves the burning of sweetgrass, sage, or cedar to purify the body and spirit of everyone within a sacred space.  Natives who practice traditional religions often do so holistically — thinking that their traditions are meant to encompass more than just the religious sphere, but should include all of life.

As we learn about different conceptions of spirituality, let us be open to developing our own understanding and capacities as disciples.

Prayer for Peace — Donna M. Pratt, Des Moines, Iowa

Heavenly Parent, out of the silence we come to you. To you who gives voice to the thunder and to the laughter of children. To you who allows us to see the beauty of your earth which was created for us to use wisely, who allows us to smell the new-mown hay as well as the bread freshly baked for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or to share with a neighbor, who allows us to touch hands in friendship and to soothe the brow of those who are at times troubled and weary.

We ask that you create in us a new being, a being that is hungering for peace. One that would go the second mile, and the third, and the fourth. Help us to have hearts that respond positively when we think that we are wronged. Help us to see "the other side" of every situation in which we are involved. For we know, dear God, that it is through our faith in you that we are blessed and this blessing can, when used correctly, bring about that peace for which we have yearned so long.

As we observe the lighted peace candle, let us center our thoughts on peace. Peace...what a beautiful sound. Let it start with me.   Amen.