Doris Mae Honer
I believe that each and every one of us is a child of God. I also believe that we have genetically inherited one of God’s cells or, I call it, “, the spark of God’s light”. If you have ever noticed the soft glow of a newborn baby, you will know that the baby contains a soft little light from God. I am using the word God, meaning God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Regarding God’s Light, I looked in the bible and found exactly what I was looking for. In the various passages I perused, I made a list.
The spark of God is comprised of 1) Our Belief system and our Faith: 2) The sharing with others of that faith: 3) Doing faithful actions: like helping in the church and in all other aspects of one’s individual life: 4)Allowing the light/flame of your Belief and Faith in God to shine from your heart through your face, eyes and in your thoughts as well as your actions, and be shared with others in trust, and in the love of Christ.
When we cultivate the spark of God within us and recognize it as a force at our disposal this gives us the power of God moving on earth, especially when we turn that power outward to help others.
Our Faith is our greatest tool. It gets us through the worst we have to endure when we have faith to recognize God as our constant companion and turn to Him for help.
Regarding this spark of God’s light I believe it grows into flames of God’s light, depending on the choices we make.
In John8:12 it is written, ….Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Matt:5:14 Jesus said, “ You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Therefore my conclusion is that we are the children of God, carrying the spark of God’s Light in our hearts. What we do to nurture that spark into a bright light is up to us, and the choices we make.
As I look around, I can see many twinkling lights in this room. Those twinkles are from your hearts and through your eyes because you, the owners, are people who share with others.
Your sharing of your service of time, skills, donations of money, effort and heart go far beyond just a nod of the head, a smile or a handshake. Sharing your service is sharing God’s love, as well as being another way to love God. It is in sharing, and loving each person in this congregation and beyond, through service, that we make this world a better place, be the service large or small.
Gordon United Church is a real hub of Christian activity. I want us all to give a really big “Thank You” to the many different committees within Gordon United Church. You’ve all heard of the Men’s Club, The United Church Women, The Get Acquainted Group, The General Council, The Building and Finance Committee, The Worship Committee, The Ministry and Personnel Committee, The Futures Development Committee, The Pastoral Care. Then there’s the volunteer people connected with the Food Bank donations and their work for the community. There are more volunteers who bake and volunteer with the Community Dinners, feeding the people who are homeless. We have two volunteer teachers for the weekly offering of Yoga, which keeps us all healthy and in better shape. We have ushers every week who volunteer their time to make you feel welcome and to do their work within the service. We must thank the many volunteer hands that help maintain the upkeep of the building. Gordon United provides space to the Outreach of the community where members of various groups come to our building to meet. Another big “Thank you” goes to our volunteer singers in the choir.
None of the many, many volunteers are paid. They give of their service because of their love for God. I want to say thank you to all the people involved in every, and all committees, who are sharing their love of God through their service. All these committees provide valuable service, but they also provide much more. They give to each other a sense of belonging, of being part of the extended family of God. To know that we belong is of absolute importance. I will never forget the words of a beautiful young 14 year old client I had in my Therapeutic Recreation practice. She had Down’s Syndrome. She said, “I just want to belong. I just want to feel wanted”. I believe in God’s world, we are all wanted, and we are all part of God’s family. I have felt this very strongly with the congregation here in Gordon United Church.
Within our Gordon United Church we have people who are paid for their time and service. I want to thank them all for all the Overtime they all have also put in and for which they don’t get paid.
God’s spark within His children is seen here in the congregation but also in many more places, some quite unusual.
I’d like to take you away from Gordon United for a while to walk with me through a few of my past journeys. I saw the spark of God’s light in a few people that some might consider quite unlikely.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I studied and became a Therapist in Recreational Arts. This includes bringing Music, Art and Literature to populations who were either physically or chronically disabled, mentally handicapped, mentally ill, incarcerated in prison, or elderly. I learned very quickly that the spark of God’s light is sometimes well hidden, but very much THERE in some of the people who were considered “outcasts” in our society.
Let me introduce you first to Julia. When I met her, she was completely bedridden with the disease MS which means multiple tumors of the spine. I met her in a chronic care facility in Tucson Arizona.
The staff told me she would throw things at me , curse and swear at me and order me to “Get out” of her room. After saying a prayer, I went to her room and knocked on the doorway. She turned very angry eyes to me and snarled, “What do you want?”
I said, “Julia, I need your help. I’m doing my internship for the course I’m taking in university and am asking you to be my client.” She was surprised, but agreed. No one in the facility had asked for her help before. Julia was a very tiny woman with a pixie like heart shaped face and a stature the size of a ten or eleven year old child. Julia said she was “part native,” and the other part, she said, “might be Heinz fifty seven varieties”. She described suffering terrible physical and some sexual abuse in her childhood and was tossed out on the street in her early teens. There she was picked up by a man who was her “John” and she became a prostitute.
Julia agreed to be my client for the course I was taking. We took explorations through music, books of poetry and laughed joyfully as we discovered Julia was very creative.
“Gee” she said, “I never knew I could do that!” She even dictated a poem for me and ordered me to put it in my collection of poems. She told me she loved God, and we visited the facility chapel where she asked me to sing and play hymns to her. The sister who took care of the chapel welcomed Julia with open arms. Julia had two children. When she said, “How I love my children!” I saw God’s sparkles of light spring clearly and shining from her eyes. It lit up her face and glowed from her heart. We talked of love, God’s love, and people’s love for each other. I will never forget the one liner she said about love. “If people truly loved each other, I mean real love, not the sexual stuff, then we prostitutes wouldn’t have any work.” When I left Julia, the light of Christ was strong in her heart and shone through her eyes. A nurse complained, “Since Julia has stopped yelling, cussing, and throwing things it’s awful dull around here.” Julia died peacefully in her sleep. But before she died, she had fanned her spark of God’s light into a flame of God’s light and had forgiven those connected to her childhood circumstances, and also forgiven herself. She was free from guilt. With the peace and tranquility of God in her heart, one night she just stopped breathing, left this earth and flew upwards on her new journey.
Paul was 27 when I met him. He was a big, good looking and athletically built young man who had already been incarcerated in the Canadian federal prison for 8 years. Paul was born into a very well respected family who lived on the west coast. His parents were mature in age and well established when Paul was born. He grew up learning good work ethics, honour and definitely had been taught all about God. However, when he was in his teens he was very rebellious. At nineteen, he and his buddies attended a wild party, became “stoned” on Meth, and a fight broke out. Paul killed his opponent. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. His mortified parents forgave him his actions, continued their love for him until they died, but expected him to take the full responsibility for killing another person. I was in that prison as the Music Therapist and pulled a band together. I invited Paul to be the drummer in the band we formed, and therefore got to know him quite well. He had also made another friendship, with the prison Chaplin. With that Chaplin’s encouragement Paul began to study “on line” in the prison’s library and was working towards a Psychology degree. I never heard him say “Poor me”. I did hear him say he had asked for forgiveness, was terribly sorry that he had taken another man’s life, and he took the responsibility for the burden of his past actions. He was grateful for being alive, having a loving wife whom he had married within prison. She had given him two adorable children who visited him regularly. Paul wanted to “give back something” to his community and asked to be a visiting speaker in the local high schools. He was granted that privilege, always accompanied by a guard. I heard him talk to the students at one of the schools he visited. He told them of his life, and how his actions and poor choices especially when under the drug’s influence had killed a man, resulted in his incarceration, destroying his hopes for freedom, for attending a university, getting a good job, and being free to make his own choices in liberty. But he also told them that God helps anyone who asks, and that he had found real happiness in living with Christ as his companion. He urged them to make good responsible choices, and said that bad choices brought drastic life changes. Paul told me it was a very small way of repentance for taking another man’s life. The spark of God’s light became a flame within Paul. The Chaplin took the time to share his own Faith with Paul, and recognized Paul’s “spark.” He had helped him to become an important flame and light of encouragement for the youthful teenagers in the local schools.
In Mira Flores, Peru, South America, I went with a group of my Peruvian girlfriends twice a week to a Roman Catholic Church courtyard. Our arms were full of freshly baked and buttered warm buns and we also carried many gallons of milk. These women I knew were of high middle class in their communities. Once we settled in the church’s courtyard, the gates opened, and many dirty, skinny children of all ages and sizes streamed in almost filling the courtyard.
The priest yelled “Laversen sus manos!” (Wash your hands!) and the children ran to the one fountain in the mIddle of the courtyard. It stood within a large concrete basin, where bars of soap had been placed. The children washed their hands and held them up to the women or the priest yelling “Estan limpias” (Hands are clean) as they settled on wooden benches in front of long wooden tables. We women distributed the buns and poured milk into the glasses. The children clasped their hands and bowed their heads waiting for the priest to bless the food. These are the street children who most people hold in suspicion and at a distance, because they steal. The children are fending for themselves and living on the street for too many sad and heart rending reasons to explain right now.
They have formed their own families, the oldest boy and girl looking after the younger ones. I saw the sparkling light of God in the older tiny thin faces as they attended to the little ones. They ate quietly, and when they were finished they said “gracias” to the women and the priest before disappearing into the city, the older ones holding onto the younger ones. They left the tables spotless. Not a crumb to be found. No glass of milk had been spilt carelessly. The glasses had been licked clean.
The Peruvian women were trying to raise more money so they could feed the children cheese and eggs as well as bread. They were saddened because they could not do more. No one knows how their flames of God’s love and light will result in the street children. But the priest and the women will be remembered by all of those little ones throughout their lives.
I see many people right here in this congregation, some who have phenomenal skills and who demonstrate great level headed qualities to keep the balance when the spiritual weather of the church people gets a mite stormy over differences of human opinion. Running a church is not a heavenly peaceful harmonious experience all the time. There are some times when it isn’t, only because we are still human and have much to learn. However, this is where we can and do learn team work, because of our love of God, and with a curbing of human ego. We have to remember that God in charge.
I have read in many different books, that whatever you give away, you will also receive back in perhaps a different form. I know that I always feel much better after attending the meetings where I have volunteered my services. I am sure any volunteer here in this church will agree with that. I am sure that all the people I have mentioned on my past journey will feel better for the services given to them. We are all God’s children.
I’d like to quote from a poem by Leo Rosten, one of my favourite poets. He wrote, “The purpose of life is to matter, —to count, to stand for something, to have it make some difference that we lived at all.” Our Gordon United Church and all the volunteer groups within it stand for sharing God’s love through service and giving donations. I want to say again, “THANK YOU, THANK YOU AND THANK YOU for all the good works that you all do.” Amen.
Doris Mae Honer