Sermon – November 16th 2014

By Roland Legge

Judges 4
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30  


What can we learn from the Parable of the Talents?  Is this justification for the Capitalist System?  No I don’t think so!

Jesus is saying to his followers that transforming the world is dangerous business. This is a Parable that encourages us to take risks. This is a Parable that calls upon us to act with gutsy love in the world. Jesus has no doubt that the world can become a more caring and just place.  Jesus says “Yes we can”!

One simple thing we Christians can do is to tell the truth.    But why is it so difficult to live this out?  Yet I suspect most of us, if not all of us have lied some time in our lives.  Sometimes we do it to protect ourselves.  Sometimes we do it to protect those we love.  I am not saying we should never say a white lie sometimes if we determine it to be the most compassionate and just thing to do.  But I believe that in most circumstances it is best to tell the truth.

But before we promise to do this with those we interact with whether they be family, friend or stranger we need to stop lying to ourselves.  I think we hurt ourselves when we lie to ourselves. We lie to ourselves in many ways.  I can think of a time in my first marriage when I thought I could fix my marriage with Yvonne.  This was a lie.  I lie to myself every time I don’t think I am worthy of other people’s love.  I lie to myself every time I say something is important to me and then don’t follow through.  I lie to myself every time I say I am fine when I am not. How do you lie to yourself?

There is an excellent book I ready many years ago called People of the Lie by Scott Peck.  He argues that the more we lie to ourselves and others prevents us from making wiser choices.  He says in his book:

 “The less clearly we see the reality of the world – the more our minds are befuddled by falsehoods, misperceptions, and illusions – the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make right decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”

So many of the conflicts in the world today happen because of lies, poor communication and fear.

Yet there is a time to tell the truth.  Timing can be everything.  Thankfully doctors are improving on their bedside manners.  It isn’t helpful when a doctor just blurts out that you have cancer.  It makes a difference when he or she sits down and takes some time with the patient to pass on the bad news and stay with them long enough to help them to begin to process their grieving.

I want the truth from each of you as to how I am doing.  What you like.  What you don’t like.  However, I am much more open to your points of view if you are polite with me and use the “I” statements.  Do you get annoyed with people who say nice things to you to appease you when it isn’t true? I do.  But I also get upset if people are really rude to me.  Telling the truth does not give us permission to abuse people.

Any relationship we have calls on us to be truthful.  Honesty can lead to deep and healthy relationships.  For example, if we are honest to ourselves and each other we can communicate better with each other.  Being able to express our own needs and ask for what we need from those we love helps us to have more fulfilling relationships.

Here is a story from William Willimon that tells of an experience that Tony Campolo experienced that shows how speaking the truth can lead to rich relationships.

Tony Campolo told of a time his mother made him go to a funeral to show his respect for the deceased, Mr. Kilpatrick. He drove to the funeral home, entered the chapel, and bowed his head. When he looked around, he noticed he was the only one there, and when he peered into the casket, he did not see Mr. Kilpatrick. He had gone to the wrong funeral! Campolo was about to leave when an elderly woman clutched his arm and pleaded, “You were his friend, weren’t you?” Not knowing what to do, he lied and said, “Yeah, he was a good man. Everybody loved him.” After the funeral, Campolo and the elderly woman went to the cemetery in a limousine. The casket was lowered into the grave, and both tossed a flower on it.
On the way back to the funeral home, Campolo confessed the truth. “Ms. King, there’s something I’ve got to tell you. I want to be your friend, and we can’t have a friendship unless I tell you the truth. I’m afraid I have to tell you that I didn’t really know your husband. I came to his funeral by accident.”
She squeezed his hand and said, “You’ll never, ever, ever know how much you being here with me today meant.”
I don’t know whether Campolo and Ms. King became friends; I only know they could not have become genuine friends without Campolo’s honesty.

Think for a moment, how are you at speaking the truth as you see it.  How good are you at being honest with yourself?    Remember it is hard to be honest with others if we cannot be with honest with ourselves.

Are we honest with each other in this congregation of ours?  Can we be both honest and respectful of each other?   I hope that both you and I can be honest with each other.  I hope we can learn from each other.  I hope we have the courage and patience to work out win win solutions in all the challenges we face in this congregation.

Jesus reminds us in today’s Parable that we are called to live with reckless love.  I pray that each of us in all our relationships can find hope, compassion and reconciliation in open and honest sharing with the people we interact with each day.  This is the way to the Kindom of God.  Thanks be to God.



Tellling the Truth

Living in the Here and Now

Sermon – November 9th 2014

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Matthew 25:1-13


I am troubled by today’s scripture reading from Matthew.  The lazy bride’s maids are condemned for life because of their laziness in not being prepared to welcome the bride groom. I feel for the lazy brides maids do you?

Yes, todays Gospel lesson was a message to Matthew’s followers who were getting impatient because Jesus had not returned yet.  Matthew was trying to tell them they needed to be patient.  But they also needed to be prepared as we would never would know when Jesus would return.

Matthew was trying to emphasize that we are to focus our lives on living, in the way of Jesus, which prepares us for any eventuality. Sadly this scripture has been corrupted by the popular belief, called rapture, which leads us to being only concerned about our salvation in a very narrow way.  It does not include the biblical understanding of the salvation/healing of the world. It is about believing in a particular dogma that divides the world into good and bad.  It doesn’t like diversity! So, whenever we get into talking about the theology of end times I get uncomfortable.  Do you?

I believe that Jesus keeps returning over and over again.  Jesus comes to me through each of you.  Yet I am accountable for my behaviour and the choices I make in life.  How am I accountable?

Yes I am accountable to God.  Do I need to fear God when I die?  No I don’t!  But in some way I will be held accountable to the Divine.  I have no idea how that will happen.  I sometimes wonder if hell is only on earth.

Yet there are so many ways God holds me accountable.  God holds me accountable through my faith community, through my family, through my friends.  I pray that those around me will affirm me when I am on the Christ path and challenge/confront me in a loving way when I am getting off track. I believe that we need to do this for each other.

Another word that is commonly used in our faith that is not unlike accountability is judgement.  Yet none of us want to be judged unless we get a good mark in a test or essay.  But judgement is not a bad word.  I like what William Willimon’s colleague Rick Lischer says about this:

Yet my colleague Rick Lischer points out that in the New Testament the Greek word for judgment is krisis. And he points out that this word krisis does not really mean the end, the final act, or what happens after the final act, but more accurately means “turning point.” A crisis is not what happens after everything else is over. A crisis is what happens when the plot of the story takes a decisive turn. That decisive turning point could be at the beginning, the middle, or the end. It doesn’t always have to be at the very end.

Jesus often talks judgment, particularly in this Gospel. When Jesus talked judgment, he did not speak of it so much as being at the very end, but at any time there is that moment of crisis, a turning point.

Lischer says toward the end of Matthew that the crisis comes like a thief in the night, when you are sleeping. The thief pries open a window and climbs in. Like that. Judgment comes when you least expect it.


I know that holding people accountable/judging can be uncomfortable.  We need to keep building healthy relationships for this to happen.  We need to learn to communicate in clear and compassionate ways so others have the chance to hear us.  It is not that difficult.  Remember to always use I statements.  Always try to be clear as possible.  Clarify what each other are saying.  Make a plan to resolve your issue and come back from time to time to see how you are doing.  When you do resolve it celebrate!

I don’t worry about Jesus returning for one last time to divide the sheep and goats.  I think God loves sheep and goats!  I am thankful that God comes back over and over again through people like you.  I am never alone!!  God comes back to us to help us live out our lives faithfully seeking for us to reflect the Creator’s love.

We all have a number of callings.  They are all equally important.  I was just at a meeting of Saskatchewan Conference Pastoral Relations and Settlement Committee in Saskatoon.  Did you know that we are in great need of leaders in the United Church of Canada?  God is calling for Ordained, Diaconal or Lay Profession (Designated Ministers).  Have you ever wondered if you would make a good minister?  Do you know somebody who would be a good minister?  If you do let them know.  Many of us in church leadership are there because someone encouraged us to consider it.

Are you able to do what you feel passionate about whether that is as your paid job, or as volunteer?  I hope you are able to live out your dreams.  I hope you are able to do things that feel meaningful for you.  I hope you know you are making a difference in the world.

In holding each other accountable and judging is not meant to be a weapon, rather it is an act of love that a person or group lives out to help people become more and more their true selves.  It is an act or acts to help people to recognize they are men, women and children of our maker.  It is a reminder that we are all created in the image of God.

I can think of times in my life where I have been held accountable in life giving ways.  It could be a congregational member, a colleague, and/or Presbytery who with compassion explains clearly to me in a calm tone how I have impacted themselves or others whether good or bad.  I may not have liked what they had to say at first, but then I have a chance to redeem a relationship whether that means me making amends, seeking forgiveness or the opportunity to sort out a misunderstanding.

I feel very fortunate to have a job that I love to do.  I am grateful to have activities such as dancing and learning about the Enneagram that also give me energy.  I am grateful to be in a relationship with Jen where we seek to encourage each other in living our lives fully.

I pray that you may have that joy and satisfaction too!  Don’t forget that each of you are women and men of God blessed with gifts and abilities to bring the Kindom of God closer and closer to us.

Thanks be to God.  Amen!

New York City June 2014 (147)

Success or Faithfulness

Sermon – November 2, 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus has had it!  He is tired of these so called Rabbi’s who do not walk their talk.  They work so hard at keeping their outer appearance so pure that they have little energy or commitment left to live out the Love of God in the world.

“It is important to note that Jesus critiqued as a Jew and follower of Judaism — as a prophet — and so his critique is coming from within.  Jesus does not critique the teaching or the clothing of the Pharisees — their outward signs of piety.  Jesus upholds the Pharisees as good teachers, but poor models.  He observes how the meaning of some outward symbols of piety has taken on new and less noble meaning because the Pharisees are not “walking the talk.”

Yet these devotions were not all bad.  The Pharisees worked hard on their outward appearance partly in order to maintain the Jewish identity by wearing powerful symbols of the Jewish faith.  This probably helped the Jews to maintain their distinctiveness during a time when there was great pressure for them to merge with the powerful dogmas of the time.

Jesus was calling for a new community where each of us is set free to be our God given selves.  He believes that words and actions need to be in harmony.  He wants his disciples to walk their talk and help each other with their challenges. Jesus calls on his followers to be humble finding strength through vulnerability.

Sadly, many of us in North America and Western Europe also get caught up in how we look.  I expect that you have noticed the many commercials that keep telling us over and over again how happy we can be if we would just consume their product.  How happy we would be if we wore a certain brand of clothes, perfume, after shave or drove a certain type of car or had a particular credit card.  The list goes on and on.

Yes, Jesus wants us to be free. To bet set free from all the false gods of consumerism and power. Free from ways of living that come out of worshiping false gods such as lust, greed and self-delusion that can never truly bring hope, joy and meaning.

To be set free is also not to get caught up in our guilt.  A little guilt is okay if it spurs us on to new life but too much can make us powerless.  Thus I hope today’s sermon and service is helping to waken up within each of us who God wants us to be.

But this does not mean we are to do more.  It could mean that we are to do something different.  It could mean making a change in our life whether small or big. Yes, small changes can dramatically alter our attitude from hopelessness to hope.

But often before we move on, we first need to see where we are not living in harmony before we can begin to make that change. Can we answer these three questions: 1. Do our inner lives connect with our outer lives?  2. Do people see and experience the real us?  3. Which definition of success do we live by?

Sadly, many of us have a warped understanding of what it means to be successful. We too often think that success means to be married, have two children, make lots of money, and own a big house, two cars, a motor boat and a quad.

I believe that as a church and a society we need to redefine what success is. Here is what Mother Teresa says about success.

 “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke of success.  He spoke only of faithfulness in love.  This is the only success that really counts.”

(Aha Creative Resources for Preachers Oct/Nov/Dec 2002 Vol. 12 #1)

Also Molly Blythe Teichert tells the story of John Kamm a successful businessman in Hong Kong who learned that working for human rights is more important than making money. I quote:

“When people looked at John Kamm they saw a successful businessman, the president of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of a multinational corporation.  They saw a man who lived in a luxury apartment, drove a Mercedes, and employed two maids.  But God saw an advocate for freedom.


Shortly after the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese held a banquet to honor American businessmen working to help China attain most-favored-nation status.  As the host of the banquet was publicly thanking Kamm for his efforts, Kamm took the opportunity to ask for the release of political prisoner Yao Yongzhan.  The host of the banquet stormed off stage and Kamm was reprimanded for humiliating his host. Yet two weeks later, Yongzhan was released from prison.  Kamm decided to try again. He inquired with a local official about the possibility of releasing brothers Li Lin and Li Zhi.  He says that a week after their release, he and his wife had dinner with them in Hong Kong.


“They told me the day I got involved was the day their situation improved.  I wept.  That’s when I started to think that I could talk to the Chinese about freeing prisoners, and they would do it.”


Apart from any official human rights agency, John Kamm has helped to facilitate the release of more than 250 political prisoners in China – more than any other organization or government in the world.”

                Molly Blythe Teichert, Information from New York Times, “Kamm’s List” Aha pg. 26


I hope you noticed that Kamm had a passion for what he was doing.  I don’t believe that Kamm had his arm twisted to get him to do it.  I hope that we in our church communities can encourage each other to discover our passions.  We must get away from the old model of “twisting people’s arm until they do what the church board, Presbytery or Conference wants them to do.

What passions do you have?  Do you love to work, play and teach with children?  I certainly notice that among our church school teachers.  I notice how our musicians love musicI see how our gardeners and our volunteer custodians keep our church looking good.  I can often smell fresh coffee and food at church gatherings as many people share with us their passion to cook.  We have some fine artist in our communities. We have carpenters, teachers, nurses, doctors, homemakers and the list goes on.

To have a passions does not mean were going to enjoy every minute of what we do but we will have at least a sense of satisfaction that we were able to help out our church, community, family and thus God.   What ever we did will have a sense of rightness about it that no “arm twisting” could ever accomplish?



St. Julians Church Norwich England July 2011 (4)