Sermon – April 19th 2015
2nd Sunday after Easter (Year B)
By Roland Legge
Remember bumbling Peter who got so frightened at Jesus death that he told those who questioned him that he didn’t know who this Jesus was. How could this man who had betrayed Jesus become the great leader of this new Jewish movement for transformation?
Peter caught the faith! He suddenly understood deep in his heart what this movement Jesus had begun was all about. Peter now knew that he and his friends were being called to continue this movement to put God’s love at the centre of community life whether that be local or worldwide. He also gleaned what the meaning of the resurrection meant. That not even death could stop the love of God from turning the powers and principalities upside down. Peter found a courage within himself that he never knew he had. It was a courage that would not allow the threat of death to stop him from living out what Jesus had begun.
We too are called just like Peter and the early disciples. Have you found the same courage within you that Peter discovered? Most of us have not had to face the violence that Peter faced. But in our own ways we have had to find courage to face the challenges of life. How are you being called to transform the world? What fears do you have that may be blocking you from your true calling?
If you are like me we can allow fear to rule our lives. It is hard to not get caught up in fear because we are reminded of it over and over again through our electronic media. Our governments love to frighten us, so as to justify their policies that will limit our human rights and increase the power of the military and secret service agencies. This is not only happening in Canada but around the world. However Jesus wants us to see the world through the lens of love, mutuality and hospitality. We all have the choice as to what lens we view the world. How do you view the world?
Peter is now telling the world that we need to continue building communities of people where we work, share, pray and play together. Peter declares that Jesus has shown us the way. This is why churches came to be. Churches are to be places where we live out the values of Jesus in sharing, working together, worshiping together, encouraging each other, holding each other accountable for our actions, playing together and bringing the best out in each other. How are we doing this as Foam Lake United Church?
Why do you come to church? There is no wrong or wright answer. We come to church for many reasons. Some of us like the singing. Some of us like the sermons. Some of us enjoy being together we each other. Some of us come out of habit. Some of us come because we are searching for more in our lives. Some of us come because of the voice of God that is within each of us. Some of us come because we want to make a difference in our world. Why do you come to church? What do you think the church should be about?
Like many churches today we struggle to survive. Yet I believe our church has great potential if only we could recognize the Christ within our community. Who are the lonely? Who are the sick? Who are the mentally ill? Who are the hurting? Who are the people struggling to make meaning in their lives? They are Christ in our midst if only we could recognize them.
Here is a story from William H. Willimon of how a congregation was changed when they were able to recognize Christ within their own church through a family who was touched by their ministry.
I was a pastor of a church that had lots of problems. Though I worked hard and tried everything I knew how to try, it seemed that I just couldn’t find out the formula for turning this congregation around and moving it forward. I read books on how to reinvigorate a congregation. We hired a consultant to spend a weekend with us and to look at our situation and guide us. We set goals and came up with a plan. Despite our efforts, it seemed that at every turn in the road, things just didn’t work out and we saw little fruit for our efforts. The people we invited from the community didn’t visit us. The visitors didn’t join us. Thus I became despondent, wondering if the church would simply move toward death. Thus, I trudged to church one Sunday, feeling depressed, not really wanting to be there at all. And as I walked in, I was greeted by one of the members who had a whole group of people standing around him. The man greeted me with, “Look at our guests this Sunday!” Around him stood a couple of adults and a whole gaggle of children. “You may not remember us, but we came to your church a few months ago looking for help. You were so nice to us. The woman who helped us gave us some money, even some food to help us make it through the week,” the man explained. “I had lost my job and we were at the end of our rope and didn’t know where to turn. The nice woman had prayer with us and then sent us on our way with some wonderful and desperately needed help. If it hadn’t been for your church we couldn’t have made it through that week.” “We had about given up, until your church reached out to us,” the woman said. He continued, “Well, things got better for us right after that. I got a great new job. We’re back on our feet and things are going great. I had to go out of town for a few weeks for training for my new job. Now I’m back and the first thing we wanted to do was to come to your church. We want to join your church and be part of this. In fact, if it would be okay, I would like to tell our story to the people this morning and to thank them for what they did to save us.” And that was the day, the place, and the hour that our church began its turn-around. Maybe even more than that, with the appearance of that family, I think the risen Christ also appeared to us. Christ somehow showed up and he found a way to turn our church from just a volunteer organization that occasionally did nice things for people in need into nothing less than the very body of Christ. Maybe even more amazing: the faith of a despondent and rather defeated pastor was restored. The risen Christ had taken bodily form before my very eyes. The risen Christ had come and stood among us.
This congregation went from being a social club to one that was actively doing the ministry of God. They became the Christ light for their whole community.
May Foam Lake United Church continue to be the Christ light for our part of the world. Help us Great Spirit to make it so!
This Sermon is solely the view of the writer Roland Legge and does not necessarily reflect the official beliefs of Foam Lake United Church or the United Church of Canada