Want to disagree with God!

Sermon – January 10th, 2016

1st Sunday after Epiphany – Baptism of our Lord

Isaiah 42:1-9

Acts 10: 34-43

Matthew 3:13-17

By Roland Legge



Have you ever had a quarrel with God?  I believe that most of us have, at some time.  Thankfully if anybody can handle anger it is God!   In our world of today we have lots to quarrel with God.  We wonder, how can there be so much violence in our world if God is all powerful?  We wonder, why God allows so much evil to happen?


We are living in a time again when it seems that the world has gone into complete madness.  Not unlike it was in the time of 1st and 2nd Isaiah. “First Isaiah was written to the Hebrews before they were taken into captivity in Babylon. Second Isaiah comes when the [Hebrews] are about to come home, and the prophet, convinced that they may have forgotten who God is, reminds them.

Our reading today comes from the time of 2nd Isaiah. 2nd Isaiah calls upon Israel to take heart.  He promises that at last, Israel’s cries to God have been heard.  He proclaims that God is sending a “servant” who will lead the people back.”  Do we need to hear that God is still with us and in ultimate control?

“I know that I still need to hear that message.  However, we need to be careful in how we interpret the scripture.   Taking a passage out of context is idolatrous. 2nd Isaiah felt compelled to refresh his people’s faithful memory.  To knock down the false images of God that we create and project upon God, and to irrigate the fields of our religious imagination with the truth of the way God really is in the world.”


So what do we mean when we say that we are called to bring down God’s justice on the world?  First I think we often forget that, we are broken and vulnerable.

Secondly, God wants us to remember that God sent Jesus to transform the world through weakness and vulnerability.

None of us are perfect. Each of us has been bruised.  But God calls us to be God’s light in the dark no matter how weak or strong the light is.  Our calling is to be the light for the world.

Thomas Long in a sermon on this same scripture from Isaiah told a story of from Pierre Von Paso’s book about the rise of the Third Reich.  It is a story of a rabbi who refused to give up the light of God no matter how bruised be became.  “Von Passo describes a day when a group of Nazi Brown Shirts captured a rabbi in his study as he was preparing his Sabbath sermon.  They mocked and humiliated him; they stripped him and flogged him.  As they did they laughed and said, “This lash is for Abraham; this one is for Jacob; this one is for Isaac.”  When he we numbed with the whipping, they took out scissors and they sheared his locks and his beard and mocked him, “Say something to us; say something in Hebrew; yes, say something in Hebrew; Standing there shivering the rabbi said in Hebrew, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart and mind and soul.” But he didn’t even finish before they interrupted him with more mocking, “you were preparing your sermon, weren’t you?  Preach us your sermon…Weren’t you preparing your sermon?

“Yes,” said the rabbi.

“Well then preach it in your synagogue; we burned your synagogue, preach to us now.”

“Give me my hat,” said the rabbi.

“You can’t preach without your hat,” they howled with laughter, “Give him his hat.”

They gave him his hat; he put it on and they laughed all the harder…the sight of a naked man wearing a rabbi’s hat.

“God created man in his image” said the rabbi “in the image of God he created him, that is the text for my sermon this sabbath.”

Long says that all of this destruction that human being commit toward each other is an attack on creation.  God will not rest until justice has been established.”


We can also keep the light of God’s love burning by how we choose to LOVE, HONOR and CHERISH our families.  This is another story from, master preacher, Tom Long: “Late one spring a former student came by Tom’s office for a cup of coffee. They chatted about this and that and then she said, “I have a secret to tell you.”

“What is it, “Tom said.

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

He was overjoyed. She and her husband had a seven year-old daughter, and they had been trying since their daughter had been born to have another child, but had been unsuccessful and had finally given up.  Now she was pregnant.

“That’s wonderful news,” Tom said.

“We just got the test results and we know two things about our child.  Our child will be a boy, and will have Down’s syndrome.”

Tom said that he knew she must be a bruised reed and a dimly burning wick.

“I don’t now how we are going to handle it,” she said, “but we are trusting in God to help us.”

A few weeks [later] he had received their Christmas letter and in it she wrote, “After nine long months of unmitigated discomfort, at four in the morning on August 18, I knew the magic moment had come.  At last at 10:55 a.m.  Timothy Andrew took his first breath and let our a hearty yell, he was whisked off to neo-natal intensive care where he spent the next three days before coming home.  He’s strong, alert, beautiful.  He has the sweetest disposition.  He shatters daily our images of handicapped and special needs.  He may need special help, but already he is no slouch in giving a special love.  We are blessed.  Kate (that’s their eight-year old) is Tim’s champion.


Hearing our concerns about how well Tim might be accepted by other kids, Kate informed the kids on our block, ‘My brother has Down’s syndrome and everybody’s going to play with him or else!  One evening we overheard her talking to Tim.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Timothy, I will always love you, I’ll never leave you, I’ll always be nearby.’

“Christ came to identify with us especially those most in need.  We know miraculous blessings.  We’ve experienced them first hand.”


What has got in the way of shining God’s light in the world?  Each of us will continue to discover ourselves, how God is calling us to keep the candle burning.  Sometimes, for me, it is no more than being hopeful for our church, our community and world.  Hope is such a powerful light in the world dark despair.



Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon Vol. 30, No.1.  Year A January, February, March 2002 Logos Productions Grove Heights MN pg. 10 – 12




A Holy Experience

Sermon – February 7th 2016

By Roland Legge

Transfiguration Sunday Year C

Gospel: Luke 9:28-43

St. Martins in the Fields Church London England UK July (3)




Imagine you are going on a retreat with Jesus up the mountain. Why a mountain? You see, it was believed that God was more present in high places such as hills and mountains.  Moses also liked to commune with God on a mountain top.  Where do you go to commune with God?


I like to think that it was the disciples who really changed on the mountain top.  For the first time his followers really understood in every cell of their bodies who Jesus was.  He was the one they had been waiting for.  He was the Messiah they had long hoped for even though he was not the great military leader they thought he would be.


This must have been an emotional high!  They knew they were walking on holy ground.  But it was not an experience that would be easy to share with others, so they remained silent.  Few would believe them because Jesus was not the type of person the Jewish people were expecting.


Then it was time to return back to the messy world.   It would not be easy. Yet this encounter with the Holy on the mountain changed Jesus followers.  I suspect they became more confident, courageous and spirit filled to continue journeying in the way of their master Jesus.


Where have you experienced the holy?  I think we usually become aware of these experiences after they have happened. These are what we call liminal times when the holy and mundane become one.


As a child I can remember being awed by my ability to walk.  My sister Carol and I were staying with our Aunt Helen in Bracebridge while our parents traveled to Montreal for Expo 67.  I have memories of walking around the back yard in utter awe of the complexity of the human body.


During the summers of 1985 and 1988 I worked as a student at First United Church in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver which is still one of Canada’s poorest communities. As a child growing up in Vancouver I was taught to avoid the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.  It took me out of my comfort zone.


Here in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, I discovered a small town right in the heart of Vancouver.  I experienced many people living out of the Gospel from neighbours helping neighbours, church ministries sharing the physical, emotional and spiritual abundance of God’s love and social agencies all striving to make a difference in the lives of people who had a higher number of obstacles to overcome than most other people.


You see, up to then, I had not lived in small town so it was a wonderful shock to me to when people would talk to each other on the street.  While there was a lot of hurt and pain there was an abundance of care for each other.


As a minister I am privileged to hear the stories of many people’s lives.  Each person has a powerful story to share.  Often during and after a visit, I am reminded once again that I stand on holy ground.  I have heard stories of great hardship and grace.


I always marvel when people are able to turn destructive time in their lives into ministries of grace.  I think of a young woman who traveled around Alberta telling the story of how she contracted HIV/AIDs so she could prevent others from getting it.  I think of another woman I met who told her story how she got out of a violent relationship so others who find themselves in abusive relationships would be encouraged to leave and get help.   When I was talking with both of these women I thought I was standing on holy ground.


I love having the opportunity to get together in a small group to deepen my faith in community.    I remember when I was part of small group studying the book “A Hidden Wholeness” by Quaker, Parker J. Palmer.  It introduces us to the spiritual discipline of creating “Circles of Trust” which are groups formed to help each of us to listen to our souls, the spirit of God, within us.  I found that our time together in our group felt like sacred time.  It comes out of my Quaker tradition that uses “Clearness Committee” to help its member and adherents to make some major choices in their lives. It is amazing feeling to sense the power of the holy working through each of us. Do you feel the spirit alive in Foam Lake United Church?


Another favourite author I have is Anne Lamott.  She has an amazing ability to show how we encounter the holy in all the ups and down of life.  She shows us how “Mountain top” experiences can happen just about anywhere. She describes in her book “Traveling Mercies” how she and her son Sam were shown that they are valued members of the community and even more importantly children /adults of God by the folk of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church even before Sam was born.  Anne was a single Mom.

Sam was welcomed and prayed for at St. Andrews seven months before he was born.  When I announced during the worship service that I was pregnant, people cheered.  All these old people, raised in the Bible-thumping homes in the Deep South, clapped.  Even the woman who’s grown up boys had been or were doing time in jails or prisons rejoiced for me.  And then almost immediately they set about providing for us.  They brought me casseroles to keep in a freezer; they brought me assurance that this baby was going to be part of the family.  And they began slipping me money.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott Anchor Books 1999 Page 101


Think of the times you have encountered God close at hand.  Who have been the people who have accepted you just for who you are?  When have you sensed the awe of being alive?  When have been the times you known deeply within you that you have a Holy purpose in your life?


I think we need to be reminded over and over again that the Spirit is alive and well in our community working through each of us.  It is tough work, but the Spirit brings us hope and the vision to see the possibilities.  Much of the work you are doing now to discern how you will continue ministry with less clergy support is being done like a clearness committee where you are searching for the will of the Spirit.   It helps us to see beyond our own ego’s that too often gets in the way of making the most life giving choices.


We live in a world where we allow a veil to cover the holy, partly to protect ourselves from the awesomeness of God.  Yet the holy, the sacred and mystical are always around us if only we are open to the glimpses of the divine.  May we all remain open to the Spirit knowing there is a better way forward.