Being our Spirit Selves

Be your self

Reflection:

Sermon – April 17th 2016

4th Sunday of Easter

By Roland Legge

Acts 9:36-43

Psalm 23

John 10:22-30

 

Have you ever met a shepherd?  Today most of us have never met a shepherd and don’t know what their life would have been like.  But in Jesus day shepherds would have been a common sight and thus the followers of Jesus would have known exactly what the metaphor meant.  So what does the shepherd metaphor mean in the Biblical story? Do you know?

 

Shepherds were poor people living on the land tending their sheep. It was not an easy job.  I am sure it was monotonous, but also very dangerous.  I quote now from Sandy Simpson:

Middle eastern cultures understood what shepherding was all about.  It was about feeding the lambs and the sheep, bringing them to good pasture lands and water, grooming and clipping them, delivering new lambs, leading them and teaching them to stay together, going off after the wandering lost ones, and protecting the sheep in the field and in the fold. 

http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/agoodshepherd.html

There were times when the shepherd would risk their life to protect their flock.  They new when there was danger just by the way the animals were behaving because they new their flocks well.

For the early Christians Jesus began to be seen as the Good Shepherd.  This was not a job for wimps.  It was going to take great dedication, love, generosity, the ability to teach, the courage to protect and the willingness to discipline those who have fallen off the track.  Jesus took seriously his call to guide, challenge, inspire, encourage, and love, showing us the path to new life.  He new it was risky and would likely lead to his death on the Cross.

 

In Psalm 23 the Good Shepherd is one in the same as the Holy Spirit. To invite the Spirit to journey with us we need to be fully tuned to the wisdom that is within us and around us. When we have that intimate connection with Spirit we will always find the courage to do what we have been called to do no matter how much our lives may be put at risk.  It doesn’t mean we won’t feel fear, but we won’t let that fear block us from doing what needs to be done.  We will also have that inner knowing that we are not alone.  I think Peter finally discovered this after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

Now when bumbling Peter arrives in the Book of Acts, after many struggles to find his faith and courage, finds his Christ self.   His true self.  He finds that one of his faithful disciples, Tabitha is dead.  Tradition says that Tabitha was an independent women of means who supported the ministry of Jesus.  Peter was called to her home and found her lying there dead.  He immediately calls upon her to get up.  There is no debating of what to do.   He inwardly new what he needed to do.  Do you have that kind of inward knowing?

 

How do we come that place of inner knowing?  Each of us need to find a way to become present enough to feel the power of the Spirit through our bodies, each other and the whole creation.  The Good News is that it is available to all of us.

 

We come to that inner knowing through intentional prayer and meditation.  First we can start by taking time out of our busy lives to quiet our minds and open our hearts.  But we don’t just have to sit and do nothing.  If we start with an intention of prayerful openness and love, anything we do such as cooking, gardening, reading, writing, singing, creating pottery, making wine and so much more can be a form of prayer. This can bring you joy and hope?  I invite you to consider what forms of spiritual practise helps you to quiet your mind?

 

Recently, I have been learning to be more present in the moment.  I have been learning to quiet my mind.  While I may not always be successful in doing this I have become much better at it.  I have done this through meditation, getting Life Coaching, going for massage, body work, eating better, exercising and being much more conscious of what is going on in my head.  Up to a few years ago my mind was more like a three ring circus that would never stop. The Spirit would always get a busy signal when it was trying to reach me and now it is often able to get my attention.

 

I have avoided doing a lot of things the Spirit was calling upon me to do because I was too fearful of change.  I was fearful of not having enough money.  I was fearful of not having a big enough of RRSP.  I was fearful of making mistakes.  I was fearful at failing at a new career.  But for the most part this has gone and I am finally ready to broaden my calling to ministry by reaching out too many people outside the church through my calling to be a Life Coach.  I am not worried and I am feeling good.  Are you afraid of making changes in your life?    I invite you to seek out the wisdom of the Spirit.

 

None of this can experience transformation without some form of community.  I have a number of groups of people who have become family to me that have and continue to enrich my life. I would not be where I am today without them.   My wider family is the church, my Enneagram community and the many other people I know.  For me God is working its love through these amazing people.  I would not be where I am today without them.  Who are those people for you in your lives?

 

Our churches can be places where we come together to shepherd each other and be a sign of the promised New Jerusalem. They can be places to challenge each other into being who we can be.  They can be places to support each other through the rough times.  They can be places to build strong relationships that will give you the courage to face the many adversities that are thrown our way.   They can come places where we welcome all those who are on the fringes of our society.  It can be the place where love is felt, experienced and celebrated, especially among the poor, the hungry, the mentally ill, the oppressed and the physically infirm.  Churches who are open to the Holy Spirit just naturally do this.

 

Let it be so!

Scandalous Leaders

Laughing Jesushttpyouthguy07.blogspot.ca201006radical-man-beefy-cheesy.html

Reflection:

Sermon – April 10th 2016

3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Acts 9:1-20

Revelation 5:11-14

John 21:1-19

By Roland Legge

 

 

Easter is scandalous! Those in power were sure they had put an end to Jesus.  But Jesus would not go away.

 

Jesus never did anything in the usual way.  Wouldn’t a great leader choose the powerful to join him or her?  Not Jesus.   Instead Jesus chose very ordinary imperfect people to be his disciples, like Peter, you and me.

 

Peter was an ordinary fisherman before he met Jesus.  If you based your perception of Peter from the Gospels, you wouldn’t think Peter to be wise and courageous.  Peter had a way of messing up over and over again.  He often would not understand what Jesus was meaning.  Then during the last few hours of Jesus life, Peter too afraid to admit to the Roman authorities that he knew this man.  So it is surprising and remarkable that it was Peter who was to become the “rock” of the church.

 

So today when we enter the story, Peter is having an encounter with the risen Christ.  Now, first notice, that Peter and his friends don’t recognize Jesus at the beginning.  I wonder, why.  Do you?  But once Peter recognizes Jesus he jumps out of the boat with exuberance to the shore to meet Jesus.  Peter seems different.  Possibly, for the first time in Peter’s life, he takes an exuberant leap of faith out of the boat into a new way of being.  Peter is ready to take a risk.  It doesn’t say he stops and thinks about it, he just does it.  I am willing to guess that Jesus must have had a big smile as he saw Peter maturing in his faith.

 

Now Jesus asks Peter three times, does he love him.  By the third time Peter was feeling hurt.  Why would Jesus ask him this three times?  Remember now, it was three times that Peter denied Jesus.  So it was going to take at least three times to make Peter right with him.  But there is more.  Walter Wink shares this.  He says:

Then sudden poignancy: Peter, do you agapas (the highest, self-giving love, agape) me? Peter: “Yes, Lord;
you know that I philo (to have friendship, affection for) you.” Jesus: “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus asks: Do you agapas me? “Yes Lord; you know that I philo you.” “Tend my sheep.” A third time Jesus asks, Do you phileis me? Peter, grieved that this third time Jesus had adopted his word, replies, “You know everything; you know that I philo you.” “Feed my sheep.”

In this gentle scene of restitution after perfidy, we see enacted the severity and costliness of love: It breaks our heart by accepting our inability to reciprocate. Do I need to move from “liking” God to “loving”?

Walter Wink was professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City when this article appeared. Sojourners Magazine Washington D.C.

 

Here, Walter reminds us that Jesus is also calling Peter to love much more deeply.  Jesus wants Peter to share agape love with all people.  Even in this scene Peter fears that he doesn’t have that kind of love in him.

 

What is agape love?  Here is the definition I found in Harper’s Bible Dictionary:

Agape, because it was used so seldom and was so unspecific in meaning could be used in the New Testament to designate the unmerited love God shows to humankind in sending his son as suffering redeemer.  When used of human love it means selfless and self-giving love.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary Harper San Francisco General Editor Paul J. Achtemeier 1985 P.G. 14

 

I believe Jesus calls us live out all forms of love.  But I suspect that agape love is lived out the least in our world as it was in Jesus and Peter’s day.

 

Our world is so hungry for agape love.  A good place to reflect on how well we are doing in this area is to reflect on how well we love those we find most difficult to love.   One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, in her book “Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith” shares part of a sermon her minister gave on love and some of her own reflections. She says…

I sat there in church, working this through in my mind, tugging at it, yet hunkered down on the inside to protect myself from having to take it in, and then Veronica said one of the most stunning things I’ve heard her say: When someone is acting butt-ugly, God loves them just the same as God loves the innocent.  They are still just as loved by God.”  It was outrageous.  Veronica said you don’t have to support people’s political agendas, but you do have to love them, if you want to follow Jesus.

 

Now for some perspective.  All throughout her book she talks about her anger with President George Bush.  Now she begins to work out how on earth she could try to love him..

 

In my head I saw the president, marching on an aircraft carrier, with his little squinched-up Yertle the Turtle mouth, like a five year-old whose dad own the ship.  Which his dad probably does.  Then I saw a photo op, signing papers, and something made me stop.  I wasn’t thinking about his legislation or his tax cuts for the wealthy—I just experimented with the idea that God loves him just as much as God loves my niece Clara, that God looks at him in the same way my brother looks at baby Clara. How could this be?  It didn’t seem right.  But I stuck with it.  And after a while I could feel the tiniest of spaces in the knot, the lightest breath between tangled links…….

 Driving home, I tried to hold on to what I’d heard that day: that loving your enemies was nonnegotiable.  It meant trying to respect them, it meant identifying with their humanity and weaknesses.  It didn’t mean unconditional acceptance of their crazy behavior.  They were still accountable for the atrocities they’d perpetuated, as you were accountable for yours.  But you worked at doing better, at loving them, for the profoundest spiritual reason: You were trying not to make things worse.

Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott Riverhead Books New York P.G. 224-225

 

 

Jesus is calling all of us practice agape love every day.  This is no easy thing to do. In my job as a minister I meet many people.  I am always going to meet people who anger, annoy and frustrate me.  I am sure this is the same for all of us.  But what I have learned through Peter and Jesus and through Anne Lamott, agape loving is all about being able to see that of God in another person.  It is also about being accountable for our choices and actions.  So to love is not to ignore sin in the world but to face it with our presence in mind, body and spirit. To speak truth in love to those who offend you. Know that in the end, facing sin and injustice with the presence of the Creator enables us to radiate that love wherever we go.

 

Jesus: A Courageous Man

Jesus_Christ

Sermon –March 20th 2016

Palm Passion Sunday (Year C)

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 23:1-49

 

 

Jesus is having a great day.  He gets a great welcome when he arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey with people laying down their cloaks in honor of him.  On the other side of town, the Roman army is arriving with great military fanfare with soldiers, weapons and war horses to keep the peace during the turbulent times of Passover.  The mission of Jesus was so opposite of the mission of the Roman rulers.

 

Yet the great fanfare of Jesus did not last for long.  I think we forget that Jesus was seen as a threat to those with privilege and power.  First, Jesus was empowering the poor.  The poor were starting to demand change from their rulers.  Hence, the risk of insurrection was getting worse and worse as the Roman army oppressed the people more and more.  He was a very different threat because he had a different type of power that came from within rather than through external sources such as armies, weapons and money.  The Romans thought they could end his movement by killing him, but it didn’t work.

 

Jesus was also shaking up his own Jewish faith.  He wanted to reform it so he used the traditions and stories of his own people to remind them who they were and where they came from.  He challenged many of the Pharisaic rules that were getting in the way of people sharing the love of God e.g. not being able to heal a person on the Sabbath.  He challenged the behaviour of some the Jewish leadership who were collaborating with the Roman invaders to keep their own power at a great cost to the average Jewish person.

 

Jesus was also challenging people’s attitudes toward women.  While I wouldn’t consider Jesus a feminist he showed great respect and love for women.  The scripture tells us that women played a very important roll in his movement.  Some of his most courageous leaders were women even though non of them of were named as Disciples.  He called on men to treat women in the same way that women are expected to treat men.  I am sure this made a lot of people upset.  It would be on the same level as how controversial it has been for the church to accept the GLBQ community as equal members of the church and even more importantly equally loved by God.  Jesus riled up a lot of people.

 

Jesus also loved so many people on the fringes of society.  He was able to recognize the spirit in every person he met whether they were tax collectors, women, prostitutes, a soldier, and any person that was considered by Jewish custom “un-clean”.  He could talk and touch any one.  He was able to see into a person’s heart and soul that made a lot of people uncomfortable. You couldn’t hide from Jesus.

 

Many people were looking forward to getting rid of Jesus.  Finally, when he made his trip to Jerusalem the Romans had had enough.  They set in motion the plan to kill him on a cross.

 

Jesus did not die to fulfill the scripture as the Bible says.  Why does the Bible say this? People tried to make sense of how their Messiah could die like a criminal.  The read back into their own scriptures to make sense of what happened.  If they didn’t find some divine reason for his death on a cross they would not be taken seriously because no Messiah would die like Jesus did.  So why did Jesus die? He died because he was a thorn in the side of the powerful just like Martin Luther King Junior died for his challenging the status quo of his time.  The Roman invaders had to get rid of him and some of the religious authorities would be happy to see him gone because he was shaking up their faith.

 

Who in the end was responsible for Jesus death?  It was the Romans’!  The writers of the Gospels, Paul and his imitators had to get along with the Romans so they tried to put more of the blame on the Jews especially after the Christians were thrown out of the Synagogues.   At the beginning it was like a family feud between the Jews who believed Jesus to the Messiah and those who did not.  Sadly, these scriptures have been used as justification for violence against Jewish people and communities.  It was this belief that paved the way for the Holocaust in Germany.  In the end it was only the Romans who had the power to crucify a person.  For the Romans Jesus would have been seen as a trouble maker.

 

For me it is important that we remember the story of Jesus crucifixion.  I think we can all relate to the hopelessness that the early followers of Jesus felt.  How they must have thought that this new and exciting movement was going to end with Jesus death.

 

There are many people in our world today who face the same kind of suffering that Jesus experienced.  People are killed for their work in human rights, their  religious views, feeding the poor, freedom, building democracy and much more.  There are millions of people who can relate to the despair of the early followers.  But we know that Easter does happen.  Easter is no figment of our imagination.   The love of Jesus was not stopped by his horrible death on the cross.  In fact, the Jesus movement became magnified many times over bringing hope to thousands and thousands of people.

 

So I hope this Holy Season we will remember what Jesus was really about.  Jesus was offering us no magical solution to solve our problems.  He was offering us a way of life that can bring to life the Kingdom of God. A place where everyone has enough.  A place where people are treated justly.  A place where people are held accountable for their behaviour. A place where know one feels alone.  A place where everyone feels loved.  A place where the nations, nationalities, ethnic groups, people of different sexual orientations, able bodied and disabled, young and old can all get along with each other.  But the bottom line being we need to have the faith and courage to live this out no matter what we face.  We don’t need to get it perfect, but we do need to try.  The miracle is that when we try the Spirt will help us along the way.

A Dysfunctional Family and its Neighbors

Prodigal Son

Sermon – Lent 4

March 6, 2016

By Roland Legge

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

 

You know the story of the prodigal son.  Over and over we have been told that this story is about how God chooses to forgive repentant sinners. So it was a big surprise when I heard this story told in a very different way, by a man named Richard Rohrbaugh.

 

If we made a new title for this story it might be called: “The Prodigal Son: “A Dysfunctional Family and its Neighbors”.  Now you might be wondering if this could be the same story.  You see Richard Rohrbaugh has spent much of his life studying Middle Eastern Culture and the Mediterranean Peasant culture at the time of Jesus.  It is through the eyes of Jesus contemporaries that we now view the story.   Mediterranean Peasant culture was an honor shame culture which is very different from what we experience in North America.

 

In our culture we focus on the individual.  In Jesus time he and his contemporaries focused on the wellbeing of the community.  So if you did something really good it would have a positive effect on yourself and the whole community. But if you did something wrong then you, your family and the whole community would pay the consequences.  You might even risk being thrown out of your community or even worse killed.

 

The father looked foolish for distributing the inheritance before he died. But even more, when the prodigal goes off and waste all his share of the inheritance, this shamed the community even more.  So by the time the prodigal returns home, the community would not have been pleased to see him.  Hence he would have been in danger upon his arrival home.  Kenneth Bailey explains why the father runs out to greet him:

In the Mediterranean old men do not run.  It is not only shameful (ankles show), it also indicates lack of control.  They certainly do not run to meet or welcome anyone, and especially not their children.  But if an emergency exists, perhaps that is another matter.  Obviously the father acts in this way because the boy is in trouble.  The villagers would be angry and the father’s compassion’ is well placed… The embrace and kiss are not first of all signs of welcome; they are signs of protection.

“A Dysfunctional Family and its Neighbors” found in the collection Jesus and His Parables Edited by V. George Shillington p.g. 156

 

 

The father could have chosen to punish his sons.  This would have been the expected action of the father.  But he chooses to have compassion even at the risk of losing face.  Yet he goes even further by calling a party and welcomes the whole community.  How do we know the village was invited?  If it had just been the family a goat would have been killed.  The killing of the fatted calf suggests that the whole village was invited.  This party was to encourage reconciliation between the village and his family.  It seems to be working as when the older son comes to the home he sees people dancing.  But the problem is the older son will not reconcile with brother and father.  This again would have been a great shame to the family.  In the end we do not know how things work out.

 

So why, would Jesus have written this parable?

Because as Rohrbaugh says, it’s something peasants could identify with and understand, “commending the valiant struggle of a beleaguered if foolish father” (p.g. 163).

The story affirms our need to be loyal to both kin and village even when sin has gone rampant.  The surprise is how the father does it.  The father counters his own disloyalty with foolishness of his own. (lorenrosson.blogspot.com) He sets an example of how we are called to respond.  Instead of responding to his younger son with anger, rage and violence he embraces him with compassion and love even when it makes himself look like the fool.

 

This parable is not about repentance/forgiveness taught today in most churches. The key is not to equate the father in the story with God.  This is more an earthy story with a heavy meaning rather than a heavenly meaning. Likely, the readers of this story would have believed that the apocalypse was imminent.  So Jesus in this context calls on his people to radically change their behavior – like this father, to become asses and fools of the kingdom.

 

While today most of us don’t believe in an imminent apocalypse; are there not enough serious problems in our world that beckon us to radically change how we live our lives?  Are we not called to find creative ways to live out our love for family, friends and all God’s creation?  I do!!  I believe this is all an important part of our call to radical loving.  A radical living that may look like foolishness to the rest of the world. What is God calling you to change?

 

I know for myself that God is continually calling me to pollute less in the world.  This is not an easy thing to do.  First I am becoming much more conscious of how I am polluting.  I can’t change anything that I am not aware of.  This is a big first step.  Jen and I continue to explore ways of being better stewards.  We try to recycle a lot.    I do have a small car, but I think twice now before I use my car.  In town I try to walk when possible.  Sometimes this means I just need to get up a little earlier so I have the extra time to walk.   Sometimes I am good at this but there are other times when I succumb to the car.  What are you doing for the environment?

 

What else can we all do?  Building community in our families and churches is going to make the difference.  This can lead us to mission, people working for peace and justice in our world. This is a human community where God becomes most active just as God became active in this very human imperfect father.  One person who expresses this well is Jean Vanier.

Community is the place to share together that we are obstacles. That is to say, we’re not perfect. Maybe our wounds from the past, the wounds that cause blockages in our relationships, maybe these will always be with us. Jesus can heal these, but it seems to me that the first thing is to be able to talk about the wounds and the blockages—to talk about them without being threatened.

Reflections on Christian Community. by Jean Vanier. Sojourners Magazine, December 1977

So let us go out and celebrate life with our family, friends, community and world.  Let us go out and be fools for God.  Let us go out and love the unlovable.  Let’s hang in with people that are sabotaging themselves and others.  Let us stand in solidarity with the oppressed. Most of all let us do what God would want us to do even if others are going to think we are fools.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

four_steps_to_hearing_your_callhttpwww.vocationnetwork.orgarticlesshow5

 

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

 

 

 

Miracles and Healing Everywhere!

the man cured from Leprosy

Gospel Reflection

The second half of Mark’s first chapter is all about healing.  Early on we see that Jesus has both the power and the ability to make people whole.  These miracles not only gave hope to the people who were healed, it also put Jesus in the precarious position of being in the spotlight.

In today’s story of the cleansing of the leper, we see that it is the man’s faith in Jesus that opens the door to his healing.  Yet it is Jesus who chooses to cleanse the man of leprosy.  By removing the leprosy, Jesus also removes the social stigma that came with it.  Leprosy is a highly contagious disease.  In those days the only way to prevent the spread of leprosy was to isolate people with the disease.  They were cast off from their friends, family, and religious community.  A leper lived a painful, shameful, and lonely life.  Imagine the immense joy felt by this man who was healed by Jesus.

Jesus instructed the cleansed leper to do two things – (1) don’t tell anyone, and (2) present yourself to the priest.  At this point in time Jesus was already starting to become overwhelmed with the crowds that were following him.  These large gatherings may have been somewhat inconvenient, but they also presented a security risk for Jesus.  The more his popularity grew, the more likely it was that government and religious leaders would see him as a threat.  Jesus was attempting to keep the crowds small while also telling the religious leaders that he comes in the name of the same God they believe in.

It’s not surprising to read that the man couldn’t keep this news to himself.  How can someone keep quiet when their life has been forever changed?!  The man told everyone who would hear, which made life more difficult for Jesus.  He would continue his ministry of healing and teaching, but it was a very different existence from then on.

http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/282

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever seen a miracle happen to someone?

Yes I have I have seen miracles in people’s lives.   They are not like the miracle that happened for the man in the Scripture reading today. I remember one miracle when I was working at My Brother’s Place a halfway house in Toronto for people with no place else to go. One fellow was living with schizophrenia. It was a miracle every day when he got up, brushed his teeth and dressed. One day I was asked to help him go shopping for some jeans. We came back with the things he was needing. The staff were amazed. Now isn’t that a miracle.

In a church long ago that was not known to be a happy place. One Sunday morning I came up to this church and heard laughter. I couldn’t believe it. What was going on? To my amazement two men had come back to church. They totally changed the atmosphere of this church. They liked to tease each other and their laughter transformed that congregation into a much more joyful place to be. Now that was a miracle!

It was a miracle how Jen and I met. She had asked the chair of the Sexual Abuse Prevention Committee to do a workshop for youth leaders on appropriate boundaries. Laura, the chair was not able to do it. So I was called and we planned this workshop. By the way when we talked on the phone we talked about lots of things way beyond what we needed to talk about the workshop. Then when it came time to facilitate this workshop at Conference no one came. We offered it twice and no one came. This gave us some private time to get to know each other. Our relationship bloomed very quickly. Now that is a miracle.

Think about the miracles you have experienced in life.

  • When have you felt desperate for healing or change in your life? 

I felt desperate for healing in my life in the summer of 1983. At the time I was training to become an Accountant. I was not a happy person. My teacher was rude, crude and nasty and I was just passing. So in the spring of 1983 I went to the UK and the European Continent for two months. It was an amazing trip where I learned a lot more self-confidence. Then soon after I got back I worked as a volunteer at the Peace and Justice Coffee House at the World Council of Churches Assembly at U.B.C. I loved the people I met! I heard some amazing speakers. I met Desmond Tutu from South Africa for the first time. I hadn’t been so excited in a long time. Then after that summer I realized that Accounting was not for me. So I ripped up my membership in the Society of Management Accountants and felt elation. This was all part of my journey to being called to Diaconal Ministry in the United Church of Canada.

A couple of years ago I was feeling very unsettled. There was a strong feeling in me that I had more to do. There were new things I needed to learn. I had this feeling for a while, but was afraid of addressing it. So on our trip to the UK one night when I was having trouble sleeping I woke up one morning knowing what I needed to be focussing on the Enneagram. The neat thing was that when I went home everything opened for me to be able to do this. Working on the Enneagram has helped me to begin a healing process helping me to recognize that I had more gifts that I needed to share within and outside the church. This continues to be a healing process.

  • How would you respond to Jesus’ healing if you were a leper?

I hope I would be open to it. But I know I would be afraid of getting too close to the infected person and thus get infected myself. I can relate this to people who are living with AIDS. It was not an easy time for me and my friends to support our friend Craig who was suffering with AIDS. With a lot of prayer and intentionality we were able to be supportive of Craig and each other. We had to face our own fears and remind ourselves over and over that it was not an easy disease to get. So I hope with some help from Jesus I would have been there too for the man living with Leprosy.   What would you have done?

  • Why do you think Jesus wanted the man to not tell anyone?

I wonder if Jesus didn’t want him to tell anyone because he knew it would bring more people to see him and he already was exhausted. I have felt exhausted at times wondering how I could help another person who was in great need. I don’t doubt that Jesus was feeling that. Why do you think Jesus told this man not to share this Good News with any one?

Prophets Love them or Hate Them

Sermon – Feb 1st 2015

4th Sunday after Pentecost Year B

By Roland Legge

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

I Corinthians 8:1-13

Mark 1:21-28

 

In the Gospel according to Mark we enter the scene where Jesus is exercising demons. In this era we don’t usually think of demons in our lives. Do you? We probably talk more about addictions and mental illness. But the bottom line is that Jesus has come in to the world to heal human suffering . Yet we all struggle with the meaning of pain, suffering and death in our world.

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? I think most of us have. Yet too often we try to make sense of why we or others suffer. Why did Aunt Joan get cancer? Why did Jim get hit by a drunk driver? Why was Alice murdered? Too often we want to explain this away by suggesting that God was responsible for this. This makes me angry because I don’t believe in a God that would do that. To me a God who did this kind of violence should be charged with crimes against humanity. What do you think?

What would you have said to William Sloan Coffin on the death of his son? Here this story by William Willimon?

After his son died when his car plummeted into Boston Harbor, the great preacher William Sloane Coffin preached his most memorable sermon in which he said: When a person dies, there are many things that can be said, and at least one thing that should never be said. The night after Alex died, a woman came by carrying quiches. She shook her head, saying sadly, “I just don’t understand the will of God.”      Instantly I swarmed all over her. “I’ll say you don’t, lady! Do you think it was the will of God that Alex never fixed that lousy windshield wiper that he was probably driving too fast in a storm? Do you think it is God’s will that there are no streetlights along that stretch of road?”      Nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around with his finger on triggers, his fist around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead set against all unnatural deaths. The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is, “It is the will of God.” My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.

Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon for Feb 1st 2015 : http://www.logosproductions.com/content/february-1-2015-suffering-love

 

I totally agree with Willimon and Sloan. I believe the Creator grieves with us when something tragic happens or when a loved one dies whether young or old. God is all about mending the world.

Jesus shows us in Mark how he has been called to help people to live full lives in the here and now. He keeps calling us to mend the world. Jesus calls upon us to participate in the world through the diverse ministries we are called to. In today’s readings we are made aware of the two distinct ministries, one being healing, where Jesus heals the man and the second, prophecy, described to us in the book of Deuteronomy.

Our world is in such great need of healing. There are so many hurting people because of dis-ease, mental issues, hopelessness, violence and poverty. Jesus calls upon us to share the bounty of resources we have been blessed with on our planet earth right now. What are the implications of Jesus call to action?

All of us participate in this important ministry of pastoral care. We care for our children. We reach out to those who are having a hard time. We let people know we are praying for them. We encourage friend, and stranger to do the best they can with what they have been given. What else is God calling us to do? Think about this for a moment. (Silence…..)   I have been given the gift of walking with people on their journey. What gifts have you been given?

Also, we are also called to the prophetic ministry. Today many of us misunderstand prophecy. Too many people think it is about the Bible predicting the future which couldn’t be further from the truth. The ancient and moderns prophets were people called to uphold the covenant we have with God. They are to call his/her people to live up to the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount. They are to warn us what could happen if we continue our sinful ways. They are present to “rock the boat” so much that they will get our attention. They are present in our lives to remind us that we have been given the power to choose between right and wrong. They never make us feel comfortable!   Yet they open us up to the possibility of new life.

Today we are more and more aware that our communities and world need both the pastoral and prophetic ministries for us to remain healthy. We each need pastoral care which includes healing to be fully present in our world and open to the Spirit. But we need the prophetic to remind us that we are our brothers and sisters keeper. When one person suffers we all suffer. The prophets recognize that there are systemic problems in our world such as materialism that needs the light shone on and hearts that need to be opened so that the world can be transformed into Kindom of God.

The Spirit calls upon us to walk our talk by living in ways that do not rely on other people being abused by poor labour practices and violence. It calls upon us to hold our politicians accountable for their actions in whether they are making our country a just place for all.

In the next year we will likely have a federal election. First think what Jesus would have our government live out and then ask questions of the candidates to see which person will do the best for our people in Canada and around the world. If a policy is good for Canada but destructive for the world we need to think twice. But we also must show our appreciation for those willing to serve our country and promise to work with whomever comes into government. When we care for others there is room for dialogue which can open doors to greater unity and purpose.

I invite you to reflect on how you continue to be called into service by God. What ministries of Pastoral Care and Social Justice are you being too called to live out?   What is God calling us as a congregation to be about in our community and world? As we continue to live this out more people will be interested in participating in our church because they want to be part of a community that is making a real difference in people’s lives.

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