Sermon – April 24th 2016
5th Sunday of Easter
By Roland Legge
It seems to be the rage today to talk about the need for change. Some say “change is inevitable”; others say “change or die”; even others say “change must come”.
Yet most of us do not want change. We get used to our routines. Our routines help us to stay calm through all the ups and downs of life. What are your routines? When I get up in the morning I shave and take my shower, eat breakfast, give Abby attention, brush my teeth and kiss Jen. Somehow this daily routine gives me comfort and helps me to face the day.
We have our routines in our churches too. We get comfortable in the ways we operate as a congregation. Every Sunday each of you have a good idea of what worship is going to look like. Our order of service does not change much. We have our favourite hymns. We all have our favourite places we like to sit in the church. We are used to coming to church at 10:30 am on Sundays. Some of us are used to going out for brunch after church.
The way we do the church business has not changed for years. We trust that certain people will do the work of the church so some of us don’t have to worry about it. If something needs to be done, we form a committee. We run our meetings in the way we have been used to for many years. Most of us don’t want to be at the meeting, and yet we spend a lot of time talking. We have our regular social and fund raising events that seem to magically happen every year. We like our routine. But we can not seem to understand why the younger generation often does not want to take part in the life of our church. Too often we want to blame them for not being there.
In the early church the followers of Jesus were also fixated in their old ways even when they were not working well. Peter was struggling with whom he should be ministering too. He had been brought up to only care for the Jews. Jesus had pushed him to love the foreigner, but he was being tempted to go back to his old comfortable ways. Many of his friends and colleagues were being tempted to go back to separating the so called “clean” Jew from the “un-clean” Gentile.
If it hadn’t been for the dream that Peter had he might never have changed. This is what he experienced in his vision:
There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me.
11:6 As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.
11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’
11:8 But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
11:9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’
11:10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.
Acts 11: 5b – 10
So Peter takes a major turn in his ministry. After his vision, he is invited to the home of Simon, a Gentile, to baptize his whole family which he does. When he was there he would have had table fellowship, a meal, with them which was a big NO for the majority of early Christians. Many would see Peter as now being “un-clean”. Yes, Peter was breaking away from the routine. This made a lot of people uncomfortable. It even made people angry.
So in the early times in the new Christian movement there was a lot of conflict between the different Christian groups many whom remained strictly Jewish while others began a growing ministry to the Gentiles until eventually Christianity became a separate religion.
There is nothing wrong with routine and traditions. But it can become a problem if we get too stuck in our ways. In the United Church of Canada, we have become too comfortable with our routines in our style of worship, the way we see ourselves and in the way we organize ourselves.
The world is changing at a phenomenal pace these days and the church is being left behind. Most young people can not relate to us. We are using a “language” that most young people do not understand. It is going to take a lot of courage to re-think who we are, in the context of the time we now live in. I think we need to get back to our routes which is the great commandments. The commandments to love our selves, to love our neighbour and to love our God. Then to reflect and act on how the Spirit is calling us to live this out in our modern times.
In Foam Lake United Church, we are being called to love our selves, to love our neighbour and God. Many young people want to be part of movements that help them to live this out in their day to day lives. Our challenge is to create a worshiping community that brings us together to spread God’s love in real ways. It is a lot more than sitting in a pew every Sunday. This requires us to create opportunities to grow together, to care for each other, to celebrate together, to walk our talk in our communities and to always remember that we are part of something much greater. We are not only part of the whole Christian church we are part of the human family on planet earth.
In order for this to happen we must welcome all types of people into our community. We must be willing to invite people who are openly Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Trans-gendered. We must be willing to invite people who hold different beliefs than we have. We must be willing to invite people who are physically and/or mentally disabled. We must be willing to invite young families with noisy children. We must be willing to invite people who don’t seem to fit in e.g. The guy with the colored hair and earing and the women with pink hair in a short skirt. We must not only tolerate this we must be able to welcome the holy diversity of God’s creation with openness, welcome and love.
Are you ready to embrace the wondrous, awesome, incredible diversity of God? I am! Are you?