Sermon by Rev. Nancy Wetselaar for Parkview United Church July 31, 2016. Sermon Topic: “Effective Leadership”


Sermon by Rev. Nancy Wetselaar July 31, 2016. Sermon Topic: “Effective Leadership”

Jesus failed. The home town boy was a wash out. He seemed so weak. Scripture says: “He could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.”

Jesus failed to make a difference. He was run out of town. Later he died on a cross between
two common thieves. What kind of leader is this?

Things are not always what they seem. God chose a shepherd boy to be a great warrior king.
God chose a peasant carpenter, who could not even find respect in his own home town
to be the place where heaven and earth meet. With eyes of faith we must look beneath and beyond
outward appearances to find the true power of God.

We don’t like failure, even less rejection, yet today’s story at least assures us that Jesus understands
what it feels like when we fail.

Several years ago Fortune Magazine analyzed several hundred successful men. The magazine
found that these men had failed an average of seven times each before succeeding.

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded. Babe Ruth may have
become famous for setting a home run record, but he also held the record for strikeouts.
Winston Churchill didn’t become Prime Minister of England until he was 66, after a lifetime
of defeats and setbacks.

As Thomas Edison said when an aide urged him to quit after hundreds of failures on a particular
project, “Why quit now? We know at least a hundred things that won’t work!”

We are reminded here of Paul’s words to the church in Galatia. “Let us not become weary in
doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

We get confused then, when Jesus gives instructions to the disciples as they set out on their ministry.
If people reject you, shake loose the dust from your feet and go your way. This doesn’t sound right
to those of us brought up on the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I don’t think
that Jesus means that we should give up lightly, or that when we do, at last, resign ourselves to
our failures, we should stomp off saying “Good riddance!”

What Jesus is saying is that where our abilities leave off, God will take over. As Paul says,
human weakness makes room for God’s power. Our failures aren’t the end of the story any
more than the apparent failure of Jesus’ death on a cross is the end of the story. In fact, it was just the
beginning, just as our failures can bring change and new life to us and others if we let them.

To quote a modern writer: “We begin where God begins – in our weakness so that God’s strength
will be experienced, in our foolishness so that God’s wisdom will be discovered, in questioning
so that God’s love will be known.”

And there, my friends, is the point. Effectiveness is not the criterion for good leadership. Love is.

Love, even when it comes from weakness is powerful. “Soft” action, when it arises from deeply
held principles can be highly effective. Yes, love is powerful.

Jesus chose strange companions in his disciples – weak, uneducated, frightened and shy. Yet Christ
did not hesitate to identify with them and consider their ministry an extension of his own.
Christ identifies with us to. Our work in this world is also an extension of his ministry, his Good
News of God’s love. In love, through the gifts of the Spirit we have what it takes to be effective leaders
in the church and the world.

We don’t always feel up to the task. Even those with much education, training and life experience can
know failure and question their abilities.

Consider this beautiful story from a West Coast Native Community. The minister, David Smith, was a white man. He wondered what he was doing there as he seemed to encounter pain and heartache everywhere he turned. The people were friendly and welcomed him into their homes but there was so much about their lives he didn’t understand. How could he be an effective spiritual leader in their community?

One day, feeling particularly out of his depth and unable to help in a community dispute, he
wandered down to the riverbank where the dug-outs used for Oolichan fishing were tied up.
From where he was sitting, he looked across the rushing river to the site of the original Indian
village and the partially logged mountainside rising above it. An eagle was circling the old site –
a good omen he would later learn.

He didn’t know how long he sat there when he became aware of someone approaching – sliding down
the bank to where he was sitting. Old Dan nodded a greeting and sat down on the log beside him.
For some time neither of them spoke. Then Dan put his hand on the minister’s knee and said,
“River been running a long time, Smith. Long time. You see the eagle circle? Long time, too.
You’ll be all right, Smith.”

The minister had just been given a gentle, loving lesson in perspective.
In the big picture there is room for failure, for forgiveness, for compassion and tolerance
when we and others fail. It can take time to make a difference.

The apostle Paul wanted to be strong, not weak – a giver not a receiver. But God told him,
“My grace is sufficient for you; power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul was content with this.
How, after all, can anyone repay God except by passing on the grace, the mercy, the love we receive.
As Bill Easum says, “Grace always comes to you on the way to someone else.

Passing on the love is the most effective leadership we can give. No, things are not as they seem.
God transformed a shepherd boy into a great warrior king.
God transformed a peasant carpenter, who could not even find respect in his own home town
into the One where heaven and earth meet.

God can transform us to give effective leadership in a world desperately needing us to make a difference!

Sermon by Rev. Nancy Wetselaar for Parkview United Church July 17, 2016. Sermon Topic: “Practicing Hospitality”


Sermon by Rev. Nancy Wetselaar July 17, 2016. Sermon Topic: “Practicing Hospitality”

I began my ministry, nearly 40 years ago in rural Manitoba, serving the Minnedosa – Rapid City Wider Parish. There were three of us as ministers serving seven small rural churches.

Sadly, not much pastoral visiting had been done, since the Wider Parish was formed. But in my second year there we did get busy and I remember one particular visit to an elderly couple from Hunterville who had retired into Rapid City. We sat at their kitchen table and had tea.

The teapot Sadie used was a beautiful silver one. I asked her about it. She told me this wonderful story about her ancestral grandmother who lived in England during feudal times. She lived in a small village and raised geese. One year her geese won the prize at the local fair. She took the money and had the teapot made. It was inscribed on the side with the story but it was in such old English that I couldn’t read it. We had a nice visit that afternoon.

A few years later, having moved to Kitchener and gotten married I took Hank and Paul as a baby back to visit. We gathered with some folks at the Rapid City Church one evening. We sat in a circle and everyone in the circle got a chance to share a memory of my time there or ask a question. Sadie and her husband were there. She spoke of that afternoon that we had tea together. She told the group that it was the first time a minister had ever visited them. I didn’t know that but it seems that around her table our shared hospitality had blessed us both.

Today’s gospel, is the beloved story of Mary and Martha receiving Jesus into their home one evening. Two unmarried sisters – Mary the thoughtful one, Martha the busy one. Two sisters who extend hospitality to Jesus, with Martha bustling about in the kitchen preparing dinner, and Mary sitting adoringly at Jesus’ feet, hanging upon Jesus’ every word.

Hospitality. It’s an important Christian virtue throughout the New Testament. “Practice hospitality,” Paul often urges his churches. And here these two women are doing just that, receiving the guest, the stranger, into their home. Jesus, in Luke’s gospel is not the intimate friend of this family that he is in John’s gospel, at least not at the time of this story.

New meaning was given to me when I read how a single woman, living alone reacted to this story. She said, “I hope you appreciate the courage it takes for an unmarried woman to open the door at night and receive a man into her home.” Surely, in that day even more than ours, it took courage for these two women to invite Jesus into their home.

So Mary and Martha remind us that there is more than a little risk in hospitality. Hospitality requires exposure, the opening of the door into the inner sanctum of the home. Maybe that’s why so few of us entertain in our homes and then, only our very closest friends and family.

Israel was commanded to show hospitality, not only to fellow Jews, but to the “sojourner, the stranger in your gates.” Deuteronomy 10 says, “Remember, you were a stranger and a sojourner and God took you in.” You do the same.

One day Abraham and Sarah are awakened from their afternoon nap, opened their door and there were three strangers by the Oaks of Mamre. Sarah, like her sister Martha after her, made them dinner. Those strangers turned out to be angels in disguise, angels who blessed the old couple for their hospitality.

Mary and Martha are then being good Jews in continuing the hospitality among a people who have entertained angels unawares.

And, in our showing of hospitality, we meet the stranger, but the stranger also meets us on our own turf. That’s part of the threat that lurks behind our hospitality. Jesus enters into the home of Mary and Martha and not only talks with them and shares food at their table, but he also teaches them, even criticizes them.

But mostly the fear in hospitality is the fear that Mary and Martha had to overcome: the fear of the other, the stranger. It is a challenging thing to make space in our lives for the other. The main problem with the other is that they tend to be so . . . other.

William Willimon, my favorite American theologian was invited by a congregation of the Metropolitan Community Church in a nearby town to speak on the subject, “Loving Others in the Name of Christ
It was a Saturday night with 250 people at church! Many of them were people who didn’t feel too welcomed at other churches.
At the end of the service, two men came up to him. One of them said, “I wish my sister could have heard your sermon. I think it might have gotten to her.”
Willimon said, “People are always telling us preachers that kind of thing.

He said, “Well, she really needs it. I so wanted her to meet my partner Joel. I know what I did was stupid, but Joel and I just got in the car and drove all the way up to Maine. I just thought that, once we got there, she would see how happy I am and how much we care for each other. We got to Maine, walked up to her house, knocked on the door, and I said, “Susan, this is Joel, and I wanted you to meet . . .”
She said, “This is a Christian home. I want you to get off my porch and out of my yard and leave us alone.” So we got back in the car and drove back to North Carolina. No hospitality there.

We are called to welcome everyone, even those who make us uncomfortable. Hospitality is one of the major ways that we make room for God, that we grow in our faith, that we enlarge our notion of family. Maybe that’s why Jesus, at the end of Matthew’s gospel, says that the great test for our fidelity is not our knowledge of the Bible, or our ability to recite the creed with conviction. The major test is: I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

The recent refugee crisis in our world has put many to the test. Terrorism has not helped the situation. We mustn’t be afraid.

We’ve come to church this morning to meet God, to be with Jesus. Most of the time, that’s the way we think of the Christian life: We come to church, we come to Jesus, in prayer, we knock on God’s door saying, “Open up! Is there anybody at home?” Jesus, will you receive us?

But the Bible usually tells the story the other way around. The door that needs opening is not that of Jesus. It is the door into our lives, the door of our hearts that we have locked shut. On Sunday, in worship, we are not knocking on God’s door; God is knocking on our door. Will we open our hearts to God in Christ?

Revelation, the last book of the Bible, hears Christ say to us, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me”. May our hearts always be open to him. Amen

Lord Jesus, you have opened your door to us; help us to open our doors to you.
You have entered into our lives; help us to risk entering the lives of others.
You knocked on the door of our hearts, came to us and talked with us, changing us forever.
Remembering the way that you graciously received us,
help us to graciously receive others. Amen.

Thank you from Tom and Maureen!

IMG_5170Maureen and I would like to say Thank You for a fabulous retirement party. It was an event we will never forget. The music was perfect, the décor amazing, even down to bringing in the bird houses I made, and the food fantastic. As you can tell our family, especially our grandchildren, all had a fun time. For the parting gift of the burning bush with its surprising blooms I also say Thank You. We are already planning where to put the flower beds and what kind of trees and plants to purchase. If the bush doesn’t bloom like that next year I plan to check with Ken Roth to see if I have used the wrong fertilizer.

Seriously, Thank You for everything.

Your good friends, Tom & Maureen

Job: When Misery Comes Callin’


What’s this book about?


If misery were a house guest, how should you treat it?  Well, if Job’s response is any clue – and the book’s happy ending suggests it is – it’s okay to take a hissy-fit.

In fairness to Job, he doesn’t start out complaining to high heaven.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  When he gets the devastating news that all his children have been killed in a windstorm, and his herds have been stolen by raiders, he initially takes these blows with grace: “We bring nothing at birth; we take nothing with us at death.  The Lord alone gives and takes.  Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21).

Even when he later loses his health to some agonizing, oozing skin disease, and his wife advises him to curse God and die, Job philosophically replies, “If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well” (Job 2:10).

A week into this bad new reality, Job changes his tune.  Physically hurting, depressed, and confused, he curses the day he was born.  He stops shy of cursing God – but he’s not shy about blaming Him.  Job has no idea why he must suffer like this, so he demands an explanation from God.

He never gets one, perhaps because he wouldn’t understand it anyway.  Who knows?   What he does get is a reminder of who God is – the Creator who:

  • placed the cornerstone of the earth, “while morning stars sang, and angels rejoiced” (Job 38:9).
  • set the ocean’s boundaries “and wrapped it in blankets of thickest fog” (Job 38:27).
  • sends torrents of rain on empty deserts, transforming “barren land to meadows green? (Job 38:27).

When misery comes calling, perhaps it doesn’t matter very much how we treat it – with grace or fury.  Perhaps what matters most is remembering who God is, and trusting Him because of it.

Highlights from the Book of Job:


Job loses his family, herds, and health (Job 1:1 – 2:10):

In a conversation with Satan, God asks, “What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him – he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil.”

Try taking away everything he owns,” Satan replies, “and he will curse you to your face.”

We never actually find out just who Satan is, beyond the fact that he appears to be in opposition to God here.   We could go off on a huge tangent just speculating on the identity of Satan, but I’ll leave that to the Biblical scholars.  Let’s just move on . . .

God accepts the challenge and allows Satan to unleash disasters on Job.  Raiders steal Job’s vast herds and kill his servants. A windstorm destroys his house and kills all ten of his children.  And then Job breaks out with festering skin sores.

Conventional wisdom of Job’s day said people suffered because they sinned.  Period.  But Job’s story says otherwise; sometimes the innocent suffer.  You may never know why you suffer.  Perhaps it’s to strengthen your faith.  Perhaps it’s to show God’s power, which is supposedly why a man that Jesus healed was born blind (John 9:3).  Or maybe you suffer because of the effects of someone else’s misdeeds. Whatever the reason, God will see you through the suffering.  He’s also an expert at turning tragedy into blessing.  Joseph got sold into slavery – a tragedy.  But as a result, Joseph rose to second-in-command of Egypt, and was able to save the Egyptians as well as the Hebrews from a seven-year drought – a blessing.

Three friends come to comfort Job (Job 2:11 – 13):

Three of Job’s friends arrive.  Job’s tragedy is so horrifying that the three men sit speechless with him for seven days.  Actually, that’s probably the best thing they can do for Job: sitting with him and keeping their mouths shut.  For when they start talking, they accuse him of sinning, and insist that he won’t find relief until he confesses.

“Only those who plant seeds of evil harvest trouble, ” says Eliphaz (Job 4:8).  Bildad advises Job to start living right (Job 8:5). And in perhaps the most callous line of the book, Zophar tells the tormented Job who has lost nearly everything, “God has punished you less than you deserve” (Job 11:6).

“Miserable comforters are you all!” Job replies (Job 16:2 New King James version).

When people are suffering, the last thing they need is criticism.  You might as well sucker punch them.  What they need is a friend who hurts with them, and who’ll help them get through it.

Job takes his complaints to God (Job 10:1 – 22):

“Don’t just condemn me!” an angry Job tells God, “Point out what I did wrong.  Why do you take such delight in destroying those you created?”

After a long silence, God speaks, raising questions no human could answer.  Questions like:

  • “How did I lay the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4).
  • “Where is the home of light?” (Job 38:19).

God’s point is clear: there are some things that humans can’t understand.  And sometimes suffering is one of them.  Embarrassed, Job apologizes. “I have talked about things that are far beyond my understanding” (Job 42:3).  In time, Job raises ten more children and produces herds double the size he had before.  He lives long enough to see his great-great-grandchildren.

When you’re suffering, take your complaints to God.  Don’t be afraid of hurting His feelings.  If you’re mad at Him, tell him so.  Job did.  But hang onto your past experiences with God, letting them remind you that He is with you – and even if He’s all you have, He’s enough.


Background notes:


Several clues suggest Job lived in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – in roughly 2000 B.C.  Job was raided by Sabeans and Chaldeans, who lived in Abraham’s time.  Also, Job – as head of the extended family – served as a priest for the family, as was customary before the time of Moses.  The Book of Job was written by an unknown Israelite who probably had access to a tradition (oral or written) about an ancient righteous man who endured great suffering with remarkable perseverance, and without turning against God. (Job


Job lived in the mysterious “land of Uz” (Job 1:1).  No one knows exactly where that is.  Some guess it was in Edom, a region southeast of Israel in what is now Jordan.  One of Job’s friends is from Teman, an Edomite city.  Also, Edomites were famous for their wisdom – and the Book of Job is considered wisdom literature, a style of writing that seeks practical answers to philosophical questions such as “why do good people suffer?”


Bottom-line summary:

Job is truly a good man who lives a rich life.  He has a family of ten children, many servants, and thousands of sheep, camels, cattle, and donkeys.  Satan (whoever or whatever that is) meets with God and says it’s because Job has such an easy life that he respects God.  If life suddenly gets tough, Satan argues, Job will reject God.  “All right,” God says . . . “Make Job suffer as much as you want, but just don’t kill him” (Job 2:6).  Otherwise, go nuts.

Suddenly, Job’s rich and satisfying life takes a tragic turn. He loses his herds, his servants, his house, his children.   And then he breaks out with agonizing skin ulcers all over his body.

Three friends arrive to comfort him.  They sit in silence for a week, and then open their mouths.  That’s when the comfort ends.  They end up adding to his misery by insisting he must have sinned, and that God is punishing him.  Job argues that he has done nothing wrong, and he complains to God for dumping all this suffering on him.  The bulk of the book is Job’s debate with his three ‘friends’.

By book’s end, God enters the conversation.  Without explaining why Job is suffering, God rebukes Job for saying it’s wrong of God to allow this suffering.  God also condemns Job’s three ‘friends’ for their bad advice, and orders them to ask Job’s forgiveness.  They do so, and give Job some silver and gold.  In time, Job rebuilds back his herds to double their original size.  And he has ten more children.

Influential people:

Job, a good man, tragically loses his riches, children, and health.  His story shows that even good people sometimes suffer through no fault of their own.  But the story also calls us to hold onto our faith in God during tough times.

Job’s wife urges her husband to end his misery by cursing God in the hopes God will kill him.  She is perhaps a sad example of those who give up on God in a crisis.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, Job’s three ‘friends’ come to comfort him.  By insisting Job sinned and is being punished for what’s happening to him, they illustrate that sometimes the best comfort we can offer is to simply be present and say little or nothing.

Further discussion on suffering:

Suffering isn’t a sure sign of God’s anger. Like many people in ancient times, Job and his friends believe that God rewards good people with prosperity and punishes them with suffering.  That’s why Job’s friends are so quick to accuse him of having done wrong, and why Job, bewildered and angry, begins questioning the fairness of God.

The depth of suffering Job experiences is the very reason many people today reject God.  They can’t understand how any compassionate being – especially a God who supposedly embodies love – could stand by and do nothing while good people suffer.

In his moments of deepest despair, Job lashes out at God, criticizing him (unfairly?) by saying that God:

  • isn’t listening to him (Job 9:16)
  • hurts him for no reason (Job 9:17)
  • is unjust, making the innocent appear guilty (Job 9:20)
  • laughs when a good person dies (Job 9:23)
  • causes injustice in the world (Job 9:24

God knows, however, that this isn’t what Job really believes.  It’s the pain talking – perhaps a bit like the tirade of a pregnant woman in the crisis of delivery, blaming her husband for wanting children.   In the end, Job adjusts to his tragedy and returns to trusting God, even though God never explains the reason behind the suffering.

Sometimes suffering is God’s punishment for misdeed: he punished Israel for worshipping idols by sending war, famine, and disease (Jeremiah 28:7).  Sometimes suffering is to show God’s power: Jesus healed a man born blind, explaining “because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle” (John 9:3).  Sometimes suffering is to strengthen our spiritual muscles, to make us stronger: “Suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us” (Romans 5:3 – 4).  Sometimes, however, suffering is because someone else’s bad choice affects us.

Like Job, we may be clueless about why we’re suffering.  But – according to the Bible – we can know this: God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him: (Romans 8:28).  Whether we’re suffering or not, God is on our side.  Job didn’t seem to realize that, and it made his suffering harder to bear.  We can learn from Job’s mistake.  Maybe that’s why Job suffered: so his story could help us.

Interesting fact:

Job was considered one of the three most upright humans who ever lived, along with Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14).


Some snappy one-liners from Job to God:

  • “If God has something against me, let him speak up or put it in writing” (Job 31:35).
  • “I ask you, God, why pick on me?” (Job 14:3).
  • “You, God, are the reason I am insulted and spit on” (Job 17:6).


Some snappy one-liners from God to Job:

  • “Did you ever tell the sun to rise?” (Job 38:12).
  • “Did you teach hawks to fly south for the winter?” (Job 39:26).
  • “Did you set in place the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper?” (Job 38:32).


A final quote from the Book of Job:

“You respect God and live right, so don’t lose hope!” (Job 4:6).  Advice for a discouraged Job, from one of his friends.



That’s all for this week!
Paul S.




Message by Rev. Tom Beecroft for Parkview United Church June 29, 2016: “My Letter of Thanks”


Message by Rev. Tom Beecroft  June 29, 2016: “My Letter of Thanks”


Today, after being with many of you as your minister for the last eleven years, I’m not sure there is much I can say that you haven’t already heard me say except to repeat my thanks. I decided not to be like all the Grammy Award winners and recipients of great recognition and thank first my wife Maureen and my family. They are the ones who truly know how I have lived out my call to ministry. They are the ones waiting with long “To Do” lists and plans for future events. They are the ones who have given the most and asked for the least.

To everyone else I want to say, Thank you for eleven wonderful years. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, and I know you haven’t always been overjoyed with my accomplishments or lack there of. But you have been good at biting your tongue while showing your love and support. We have grown together and, yes, aged together. We have laughed together and cried together. As of Friday night we’ve even danced together and celebrated our relationship.

Saying goodbye to our relationship as minister and members of the congregation is not easy. I have told several people that I now understand why many ministers move on to a new church after four or five years. After five years, every funeral is the funeral of a friend. So today as I say goodbye as your minister I continue to cherish your friendship. As good friends I pray that you will support me in this transition. As of today I am no longer your minister. I will not be available for weddings or baptisms or funerals; those are the rights and privileges of your incoming minister. After that new person has been in place for a minimum of two years you might want to invite me back to lead worship during your minister’s vacation time or study leave. Or maybe not. In the time between today and when your new minister begins, Rev. Gary Clarke is the person to whom you need to turn for all your ministry needs.

The best way you can share your thanks with me is to give your new minister your total support. Allow them to enter your lives the way you have welcomed me. Don’t remind them of how Tom did things, and congratulate them and support them in every new adventure and idea they are eager to share. Allow me to remain in your heart not on the tip of your tongue, and in all things never forget my thanks and gratitude for all we have been.

Thank You

Rev. Tom Beecroft