Calling the Imperfect

Sermon – June 14th 2015

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 15:34—16:13 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17 Mark 4:26-34

 

 

God is not happy with King Saul. So God decides to be subversive. Yes subversive! God decides to choose another King without Saul knowing about it. In our world most of us don’t feel comfortable with subversive acts because it forces us to see the world in new ways.

Why was God so upset with King Saul?   The story tells us that God was upset with Saul because he wasn’t completely obedient. Samuel tells Saul to kill all the Amalekites. But Saul kills doesn’t kill the king and leaves some of the best cows. So God is angry and declares he will choose a new king.

Thankfully today we know that God wouldn’t call on anyone to kill any people. In some ways Saul showed a tiny bit of compassion by not killing the King and some of the cattle. But to follow the story God sends Samuel on a mission to find a new King.

So I find it interesting what God is looking for in his new leader. He gets Samuel to interview all the members of a family that Samuel came across on his travels. He knew this was the family, but which family member to choose. God seems clear that God is more concerned about the hearts of each of these men. While God was more concerned with the heart, the story tells us David was very handsome. God did see a lot of potential in David. So David is chosen as the new King. Then Samuel, David and God come together and conspire to take over the Kingship. So Samuel on behalf of God anoints David with oil to be the messiah, the chosen one. David eventually become the new King after Saul kills himself in battle.

This is not a nice story. It is about power, war, and violence. We may find it hard to understand but this is how the people of this ancient time experienced their world. The change of power from one king to another often was not peaceful. Even though our so called democratic system is full of problems it is much better than it was then. Thankfully we still have peaceful changes of government.

This story is really all about discipleship. God calls David to be the new King. God calls each of us to be disciples. God saw in David a great leader. God see’s great gifts in each of us.

So God calls us to be bearers of Good News! What does it mean for us to be bearers of Good News? For me an important part of this is that God works most effectively through community. That is why we have churches. In our community here at Foam Lake United Church we are called to encourage each other in doing God’s work. We come together to listen to God because we can help each other discern each other’s callings. We come together to care for each other. We come together to celebrate life. We come together to help our neighbour.

Living in community gives us great courage to live faithfully in the world. Many of you care deeply about our town. United Church people tend to be very involved in our communities and you are no different. I invite you to name out how you support our community………….   All this is part of your ministry. All of this is about our churches ministry.

One thing we can all do is help people discern their calling. Did you know that most ministers became aware of their calling when someone asked them to prayerfully consider it? Did you know that very few of us have direct experiences with God like a voice in the night speaking to us? This is how I experienced my calling to ministry. Linda Irvin and others invited me to consider a call for ministry. If it wasn’t for her and other friends I might not have ever thought about it. When I did start to reflect on this it just felt right. I have now the same feeling about teaching the Enneagram personality system which just feels right. So what is God encouraging you to continue or begin? Being minister is not the only profession people are called to. All of us are called to something and that could be a parent, teacher, engineer etc.

I believe that when we are grounded in faithful community we find a courage to live that we didn’t realize we have. For some of us this might mean that we have the courage to take another path in life. This could mean moving. This could mean changing jobs. This might mean taking better care of ourselves. This might mean a rapid change in diet. It might mean working with people that you don’t feel comfortable with. It might mean going out of your way to help another person. I might mean standing up for another person who has been silenced. It might be to call to raise children whether they are your own, adopted or foster children. Only the Spirit within and around you can help you to know what is right for you.

Sometimes we are called to extraordinary courage. Here is one such example as told by MacKinlay Kantor:

In the middle of a terrible airline crash, an ordinary stewardess named Frankie returned again and again to the crashed plane to retrieve victims. Then the plane exploded, killing this ordinary hero. Her story was described by the author, MacKinlay Kantor: Frankie lies on a hill now. Toward the north is a hill where Central High School looms and where her principal used to talk about heroes. Maybe three miles away to the southeast is the house where she spent the first nine years of her life – and that is on a hill also … You might imagine that Frankie was up there somewhere, waltzing; she’d always loved to dance.     She could be, too … Except that something made her go back into that airplane cabin 11 times, and 11 times was just one time too many.     A crashed airplane is strictly for stalwart men and asbestos suits and masks. It is not for the petite little Miss Pretty – not unless she is a Mary Frances Housley. Then she had such love in her heart that no high-octane explosion can ever blast it out. – MacKinlay Kantor, “A Girl Named Frankie,” Reader’s Digest found on Pulpit Resource http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-14-2015-god%E2%80%99s-messiah 

 

Most of us don’t have these dramatic experiences. But what each of us has been called to do help to help bring the world a little closer to the Kindom of God we have been promised. A place where all will have enough food, shelter and love.

 

Where two or three are gathered httpywmovement.orgwhere-two-or-three-are-gathered

Our Bodies as Temples of God

Sermon – January 18 2015

2nd Sunday after Epiphany

By Roland Legge

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20) Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 John 1:43-51 

 

God calls the people we least expect! Can you imagine being Samuel waking up in the night to this voice calling his name?   Now there is old Eli who recognizes this voice as that of God. This must have been challenging for Eli because why would God talk to Samuel rather than him.   The miracle is that Eli was able to humble himself by encouraging Samuel to answer.

Then there is Nathaniel with his poor opinion of people from Nazareth. So what was it that convinced him that Jesus was worth paying attention to even though he came from the backwaters called Nazareth?

When you think of it Paul was also a very unlikely follower of Jesus because at one point in his life he was one of Christianity’s greatest enemies. He did everything he could to make life difficult for the Christians. Then one day on the Damascus Road he has a radical turn around and becomes a follower and proselytizer for Jesus.

I think we can blame all these conversions on the Holy Spirit! These people had their lives totally turned around. They were all able to feel the presence of God in their physical and spiritual selves in such a powerful way they could not continue to live in their old ways of fear and greed.   How has your life been turned around?

I want to focus on the Epistle because it talks of what for me is so important. Paul was calling on his people to use their bodies for the transformation of the world. He calls on his followers to treat their own bodies with respect and dignity and do the same to others. In essence Paul was describing how God becomes incarnate in each of us every day. How God loves to live in every cell of our bodies. Did you know that Christianity is one of the few religions that believes that God became incarnate in a human being? I go even further and say that God seeks to become one of us each day. This is not just a spiritual concept! It is about all of us especially our physical bodies.

Most of us have grown up in the Church that has not been comfortable with our human bodies. We, that is the Church and Society, have come up with all sorts of rules, taboos and destructive theology that has divided us up into two beings a that we are intended to treat our bodies as temples. Our bodies were created in the image of God. In the book of Genesis we are reminded that God was pleased with what God had created.

How do you feel about your own body? No one is perfect! No one has a perfect body because each body is unique. I have struggled with my body image for years. I am certainly not the image of stereotypical strong man. I have too often feared my own body. I keep worrying about what could go wrong. But if you think about it our bodies are amazing miracles. It is amazing that our bodies work well most of the time and especially when we are taking care of them. It is amazing how often, other parts of the body, will make up for a part that is not working well. We are truly blessed.

I believe Jesus came into the world to help us live fully in our human physical life here on planet earth. I don’t think Jesus was concerned about the afterlife. He wants us to live the best we can during our earthly life. He wants us to use our bodies for the building up of the Kindom of God.   He wants us to enjoy the incredible gift of being blessed with a human body that allows us to fully experience the world through sight, smell, touch and thought.

Also I believe that the Spirit desires us to enjoy being sexual beings. Meaning thus that God intends for us to experience the world and each other through our bodies. To remain being fully human we need gentle touch to remind us that we are part of something much greater. Then when we give ourselves fully to another person it becomes a sacred act that radiates the love of God. I appreciate what Rohr says about the Catholic Theological Society’s 1979 Study on Human Sexuality.

The Catholic Theological Society’s 1979 Study Human Sexuality summarized it rather well when stated that our sexual action must aim to be “self-liberating, other-enriching, honest, faithful, socially responsible, life-serving, and joyous.” That is certainly the task and journey of a lifetime, but it is no more or less than what Jesus said when he taught the greatest commandment of love of God and love of neighbour. The two loves “resemble” (Matthews 22:39) one another. They are each the school of the other. We will learn how to be properly sexual as we understand the properly passionate relationship that God has with us. And we will learn to be properly spiritual as we come to understand the true character of human longing and affection.

http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/pure-passion?parent=41152

When we can openly talk about sexuality in church we will have come a long way.

I hope we can learn to value our bodies more. I hope we will stop trying to separate our personhood in to the physical and spiritual. We are all interconnected. Each of us are a weaving together of all our physical and spiritual qualities. They cannot be separated!

I invite you this week to intentionally be aware of your amazing body and how you feel blessed to live in it. What are you thankful for?

When we feel so blessed by our bodies we cannot help but want to take better care of ourselves and to encourage others to do the same with their own bodies. This all must happen to heal the world.

God within Us

The Power of Intention

Sermon – January 11 2015

Baptism of Jesus Sunday (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Genesis 1:1-5

Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11

 

Today we mark the day of Jesus baptism. It was an important day for Jesus! He felt compelled to follow in the way of John the Baptists. He wanted to start afresh again through the repenting of his sins. He wanted to publicly profess his faith in God! He also wanted to make clear that God was God and Caesar wasn’t.

The story goes that when Jesus is baptized a dove appears, a sign of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. Do you remember when a dove appears in another Biblical story?   If we go way back to the book of Genesis a dove is sent out to find dry land and finally it returns with a leaf in its beak. I think Mark wants us to connect Jesus to Noah. Hence he has a special relationship with God and he is to be trusted.

I believe in the power of intention! Jesus made his intentions known to God in how we was going to live his life. This was his strong desire to spread God’s love and stand is solidarity for justice. However this is much more than our annual New Year’s resolutions. How many of us hold on to our resolutions for more than a month. I don’t think many of us do. Do you?

When we set our intentions we are using all of who we are in mind, heart and body in connection with the Holy. This becomes a powerful force for change. How do we do this? It comes out of our prayer, mediation, and worship, all within community. It comes out of listening to the Spirit within us and around us. It comes from the cries for justice from our brothers and sisters from around the world. It comes from the teachings of Jesus and other wise people. The miracles is that the more we live it out the more right it feels. However it is often not easy.

In the United Church of Canada we mostly baptize our children. I am probably one of a few of you who was baptized as an adult. For most of you the equivalent would be your Confirmation or Re-Affirmation of Faith. It is the time when we proclaim to God and our community of our choice to live in the way of Jesus. It says to ourselves and those around us, that everything comes from God. We have been put here on earth to be good stewards of amazing Mother Earth to whom we are just one small part of.

As follower of Jesus we choose to try out a very different understanding of how humans and Creation are to live in harmony with each other. We say NO to the Domination system that says only the toughest and most violent people will survive. We offer the radical understanding of power through vulnerability and weakness. We follow in the way of Jesus that gives this world an opportunity to pass on this amazing planet and gift of life to many future generations ahead.

Sadly Christianity has been terribly influenced by the Domination System. This had led to horrible violence being let loose on many vulnerable people. Millions of people have been killed in the name of Jesus. If Jesus could speak to us today he would be very angry and sad!

The Jesus Movement is one of compassion! It is also has a peculiar concern for the vulnerable and oppressed! This makes many of us in the West uncomfortable because we have so much. Yet Jesus cares about us all.

His call is for us is to be more generous with all we have been given. It doesn’t matter to God who paid for it or made it. It does matter how it is being used. It does matter that those who are in greatest need benefit from the technology; production of food, clean water, affordable housing. People who are sick such as the thousands of people in Africa who are suffering from Ebola should get the medicine they need whether or not they have money to pay.

God calls all of us into ministry. Ministry is all about spreading the Good News of Jesus. This is not about capitalism, materialism or militarism. In fact it goes against any ideology that gives the power and privileges to a few people. The Good News is that we each have enough! The Good News is that we can all enjoy life when we share more equitably with each other. The Good News is that no one needs to suffer from poverty, violence and or war. The Good News is that there is a better way to live on this planet.

So go and keep spreading the Good News! Jesus has abundant life planned for you! Jesus knows that you have important things to do in this world that will help to make it a better place for all. Jesus has given you everything we need to live well in this world.

 Jesus and Discipleship

Called to Witness

Sermon – January 4th 2014

2nd Sunday of Christmas

By Roland Legge

Hebrew ScriptureJeremiah 31:7-14

Gospel:  John 1 (1-9) 10-18

 

 

Who was John the Baptist?  Scholars believe that John the Baptist had his own movement for liberation.  John was calling on people to turn their lives around well before Jesus came on to the scene.  Many of us believe that Jesus was originally a follower of John.  But as time moved on Jesus got a name for himself.  The scripture we read today is the result of the early followers of Jesus choosing to keep John the Baptist in the story although in a lesser light.  In the end John’s movement eventually joined the Jesus movement.  But this took many year and in the mean time the two groups struggled for acceptance.

In our Scripture reading today, from the Gospel according to John, the author shows us that John the Baptist’ ministry was to be one of witness to Jesus.  Jesus needed John to point to him as the son of God, the Messiah that many Jews had been waiting a long time for.  Why did Jesus need a witness? Because Jesus was so busy healing and proclaiming the Good News that few people understood who he really was.  John was needed to proclaim to the world that Jesus was no ordinary man!  He was indeed the son of God.

While for some Jesus was not big deal because they saw Jesus as some crazy zealot who was trying to free the Hebrews from the Romans.  They didn’t think that Jesus would amount to much.

But then were those who felt threatened by anyone challenging the status quo whether that was the religious officials or the Roman Empire.  It didn’t take long before a group of people, Romans and Jewish officials sought out Jesus to arrest him and kill him.  They were particularly concerned by the many peasants getting excited that God had something better planned for them.   The smell of rebellion was in the air.

In this atmosphere Jesus was calling on his followers to be witnesses for the Good News that Jesus and his disciples were proclaiming.  To be a witness to Jesus was also to be a disciple, choosing to live out this vision through words and actions.

Witness

We all need to discover how we are being called to witness for Jesus.  It won’t be easy!  Every day thousands of people proclaim their witness for materialism and capitalism on all our media devices.  So we need to find ways to get people’s attention.  We need to walk our talk so people will take us seriously.

How do you witness to the power of Jesus in our world? Sometimes it comes from the most unlikely of people, often a child.  I quote from a book by Thomas Long:

Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist, tells the story of the time, early in her practice of medicine, when she was treating a little girl named Anna for leukemia. This was back in the days when the recovery rate was woefully low, and though Anna had gone in and out of remission many times, by the age of seven she was facing the end. At Anna’s side at the last were her parents, a hospital chaplain who favored psychology over theology, and Komp herself, who at the time would have described herself as a “pragmatic post-Christian agnostic.” Komp writes, “Before she died [Anna] mustered the final energy to sit up in her hospital bed and say: ‘The angels – they’re so beautiful! Mommy, can you see them? Do you hear their singing? I’ve never heard such beautiful singing!’ Then she lay back on her pillow and died.”      Anna’s parents reacted “as if they had been given the most precious gift in the world.” The hospital chaplain quickly left the room, leaving the agnostic Komp alone with the grieving Christian family. “Together we contemplated a spiritual mystery that transcended our understanding and experience. For weeks to follow, the thought that stuck in my head was ‘Have I found a reliable witness?’” – Thomas G. Long, Testimony, Talking Ourselves into Being Christian

 

I think of two of my elementary school teachers, Mrs. Gardner and Mrs. Reid who taught me at Edith Cavell Elementary School in Vancouver.  They witnessed to the power of God by the way they taught each of their students.  As a child I could feel the love they had for me and their confidence in my abilities.   I also could feel that they had the same love for each of their students. 

 

I think of Russ Hudson, one of the teachers and researchers at the Enneagram Institute.  He is a witness for the type of world that Jesus desires us to experience where every person will be recognized and honored for the gifts and love they bring.  He points to the way where people of all and no religions of the world can get along with each other.  He points to the truth that God has given us everything we need to live fully in our world.   He shows us how we can begin to access the holy within each of us.  It is a matter of uncovering what we already have.

 

I try to witness to the holiness of each person in our world.  I believe that we are all made in the image of God.  We all have that of God in each of us.  It is even there in some of the most terrible people in the world.  I believe that we all have amazing stories to tell about our lives.  Every story I hear are most amazing stories of love, hope, determination and struggle.  So whenever you share your story with me I feel very blessed.  You all act as witnesses to the holy calling that each of us have been given.  Your stories fill me with hope because I have no doubt that God continues to be active in our world working through each of us.

Preaching the Word by William H. Willimon

The more we intentionally choose to witness to the type of world that Jesus desires us to live in, the more faithful our witnessing we will be. The best way to do this is by living as though this is already true. So we love each other for who we are. We speak up for those who can’t. We share everything we have. We care for planet earth because we have been blessed with its providence. We learn to resolve disputes nonviolently. We can have heaven right here on earth. This is the Good News!

Radical Mary Mother of Jesus

Sermon – December 21st 2014

Advent Four – Year B

By Roland Legge

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16: 

Luke 1:47-55  Luke 1:26-38: 

 

Can you imagine being Mary, mother of Jesus?  I wonder if the story we heard in the Bible today was really so straight forward.  Do you think she would have accepted the news that she was going to have a baby out of wedlock so well and so quickly?  What do you think?

I don’t want to denigrate the story of Mary because I believe she was a very courageous woman.  But I think the over simplification of her story does not reflect the strong faith and courage she had.

Now let’s imagine that you are Mary.  You are young. You are soon to be married.  You don’t have a lot of choice about how you will live your life.  You are feeling very vulnerable. The man you are to marry is a kind and gentle man.  But he is a man of his times.  You have to be careful in how you treat him.  You have to be careful in what you say.

So when an angel visits  you with the so called, Good News, that you are to give birth to the son of God you at first are shocked.  You think: How could this be?  I am not ready for this!  I am in so much trouble!  This could mean the end of my chance to marry Joseph.  This may be the end of my life.  You can’t help but cry!

Mary could have run away and I wouldn’t have blamed her.  But Mary shows us the courageous woman she is. She does feel strongly called to bring this child into the world.  She somehow knows he is going to be special.  But she makes this choice knowing she is doing this at great risk to herself, the baby and the rest of her family.  Mary is far from being gentle and innocent.  She has a fire within her, the Holy Spirit that leads her forth into the chaos of the world.

I love the Magnificat, Luke 1:47-55, which for me describes her faith.  This shows us the radical side of Mary. It turns upside down the traditional understanding of her.

 

Sadly the Christian church has changed Mary into this quiet obedient women that no woman could ever hope to emulate.  Why?  She has been shaped through theology to represent the male feminine. These represent the feminine qualities that males suppress in themselves and then project onto women.  I quote from Rosemary Radford Reuther:

To a large extent, Mary has been simply a cultural and religious symbol of this projection.  She becomes the idealized nurturant mother, cut off from the qualities of sexuality and wifehood that are despised by men. When women try to model themselves after that understanding of Mary, they receive something very distorted and alienating for them—an act that is impossible for any women to follow.  Virginal motherhood is not something any woman can actually accomplish.

Sojourners Preaching the Word: http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/onehumanity?parent=41145#PTWadvent4B

I choose to believe in the revolutionary Mary who lives with great courage. She stands up for God in calling forth people to repentance standing in solidarity with those who live in poverty, violence, war and oppression.  She does not call women to live a life that does not reflect all of who they are and who they are capable of being.  If Mary was living today I think she would a strong feminist!  What do you think?

I believe that God calls upon us to live with the same courage Mary had.  Can you think of a time in your life when love has been birthed as a result of some ones courage and vulnerability?

I remember when Terry Fox was running across our country to raise money and awareness of cancer.  Because of his courage and vulnerability he dramatically increased the research going into the prevention and cure for cancer.

His heart for life touched a lot of other hearts not only in Canada but around the world. He continues to make a difference.

I think of Malala as a contemporary Mary who continues to raise the awareness of the importance of the education of girls around the world and in the importance of respecting and honoring human rights around the world.  She is turning the world upside down.

I think of Louis Wilson, former Moderator of the United Church of Canada and former member of the Canadian Senate who continues to work for social justice in our country and around the world.  She took on National Sea Products in Lunenburg Nova Scotia when they were negatively impacting the local fisherman and fish factories.  She stood up for the rights of women in the United Church of Canada.  She challenged the Canadian government to build healthy relationships with countries around the world that respect human rights and to challenge those who didn’t.  Lois will never be forgotten.

I think of my Aunt Jean who never gave up on her church and Presbytery raising funds for the Mission and Service Fund.  She was the very opposite of meek and mild.  She made sure you never forgot about the importance of the Mission and Service fund.  She walked her talk through many years of working for the YWCA and as social worker.  She has changed me for ever.

In essence Mary was the first disciple of Jesus.  Jesus got much of his values from Mary.  If it hadn’t been for Mary’s courage Jesus may never have been born.  So I give thanks for the mission and ministry of Mary.  It was through her courage, and the courage of many other people there is much to celebrate in our world today.  There is also hope for the future.  Merry Christmas!

 

Mary

Holy Disruption!

Sermon – Advent 2

December 7th 2014 (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

 

 

It is hard to ignore John the Baptist!  Would you or I have been one of the many people who chose to come to John for his baptism of repentance? I am not sure if I would have left my comfortable sofa to go into the wilderness to be baptized by this loud and smelly man.   How in the world does this wild story this fit into Advent?

I think for many of us this Advent/Christmas season is supposed to be one of comfort, memories and nostalgia.  It is supposed to be a time of happiness.   It is supposed to be a time of generosity.  It is a time of frivolity with parties and concerts to attend.  It is the time of year that we think of the needy and try to make their lives a little better.  But John the Baptist has a difference understanding of Advent.

If we listen to John the Baptist, Advent is all about repentance!  Repenting is hard work.  It forces us to look deeply into ourselves to see how we need to bring our lives back closer to the ways of God.  This is hard work because we will have to face our own fears, shame and hopeless if we are to truly repent.  It will require us to change how we live not just in that moment but to integrate those changes into our lives on a daily basis.  Old habits will need to change.  But there is a huge reward that goes along with that hard work.  That reward is inward joy!

 

 

Much of what we have to do is in the choices that we make.   Much of what we have to do comes out of our conversations.  It is often about taking a stand and living into it.

Many years ago I took a stand when I chose to help clean the homes of people living with HIV/AIDS when there was no hope for recovery.   You see there were many homemakers who wouldn’t do this out of fear of infection and prejudice. This doesn’t mean it was easy, but with the help of God working through others I was able to do this and make a difference in these people’s lives.  I was able to it despite my own fears.

Recently there was a gathering of people who took a stand in a theater in St. Louis Missouri where the terrible violence has been taking place due to the killing of a young black man called Mike Brown by a white police officer.  It involve a piece of music written by JOHANNES BRAHMS called the German Requiem, that when first played in Vienna in 1867 caused a great uproar; there was boos, inappropriate behaviour and disgust. What was so controversial?  It was controversial because it was a piece of religious music being played in a public hall.

Now many years later the same piece along with Detlev Glanert’s arrangement of Brahms’ Four Preludes and Serious Songs was being played at the Powell Hall in St. Louis and got a similar reaction.  It took place after the intermission when

conductor Markus Stenz took the stage, two audience members began to sing. In strong, clear voices, they performed Florence Patton Reece’s famous justice hymn: “Which side are you on, friend? Which side are you on?” Nearly a dozen more scattered throughout Powell Hall joined in. While the audience watched in stunned silence, a banner unfurled from the balcony with a silhouette of a man’s face. It said: Requiem for Mike Brown 1996-2014.

 

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

 

One theatergoer challenged if the theater was an appropriate place for a protest.  A Catholic Priest spoke up and challenged the man complaining by inviting people to change the chant from of “What side are you On” to How are we going to heal?  Then without further ado the conductor tapped his baton and the orchestra began to play Brahms’ Requiem.

It opened with pulsing bass and unfolding choral line from Matthew 5: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

So Advent is a time of disruption!  John the Baptist and Jesus came to disrupt our lives so the Kindom of God can take root in our hearts.  Catholic theologian James Alison puts it this way:

“The One who is coming will not preside over us, but will teach us to want peace from within, and to learn the habits that make it possible. The One who loves us will come as one we despise, and crucify: The definitive puncturing of our god-fantasies, and yet the Presence of one who is powerfully determined not to let us remain wedded to our self-destruction.”

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

 

Think for a moment as to how God is breaking into your heart.  How is the life and the teaching of Jesus disrupting our lives?  How is the Spirit within you calling you to make choices that challenge the status quo and open up new possibilities for new life in our communities and world that recognizes that we are all equal before our Maker?  Isn’t this what Christmas is all about!!

 

 

 

 

 

 repentance_httplifehopeandtruth.comchangerepentance

Who am I to say No

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – August 31st 2014

12th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

Exodus 3:1-15
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

 

Imagine you are walking along and you notice a bush that is burning.  But the strange thing is that the bush is not being consumed by the fire.  Now that would get my attention, unless I was visiting Universal Studios in Hollywood.

 

When we read this passage from Exodus it is the burning bush that gets our attention.  But what is really amazing, is who God calls to do his work!  God calls Moses this less than perfect sinful person to do his/her work to free God’s people.

 

Moses was no saint.  He killed an Egyptian man because he had hit one of his own people.  He was part of God’s plan to kill many Egyptians to help free his people.  Moses could get very angry.  He was obstinate.   I wouldn’t want to be around him when he was angry.

 

Neither was he thrilled by God’s plan for him to free their people from Egypt. He had many excuses, even though God wasn’t willing to hear his excuses. He was reluctant, at best, to agree to God’s call.

 

Moses was a complex man.  While he did some very bad things God still trusted him to do what he needed him to do. God somehow new that Moses had what it was going to take the challenge the power of Pharaoh.  Moses became a great leader helping his people to travel through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.   He faced drought, rebellion and anger from his people because they were exhausted and frustrated.  Because his intimate relationship with the Creator he and his people never gave up.  Now that took a lot of courage, faith and commitment.

 

If God can find leaders in people like Moses God can find leaders in us.  God doesn’t look for leaders like a big corporation would.  God usually finds the least expected people to do her/his work.  People like you and I.

 

God is looking for a very different qualities.  God is calling for people who will follow their call even if it makes them to feel uncomfortable.  God is looking for people to do the impossible such as overcoming violence and poverty.  God is looking for people to see the goodness in all people. God is looking for people who are willing to lead through vulnerability, non-violence and unconditional love.  God is looking for people who are not afraid to suffer to overcome hate, prejudice and retribution. God is looking for people who will offer change through invitation rather than coercion!

 

Today in churches like Foam Lake United we are being called to ministry whether or not we are the laity or clergy.  .  God is looking for lay and order of ministry people to see through the eyes of God and then to have the courage to respond to what they see that needs God’s attention.  For example, we see people in our community who are sick, grieving the loss of a loved one and/or facing a personal emergency and we do help them with food, money and love.  We hear every Sunday the amazing ministry, done in our name, through the work of the Mission and Service fund and we are compelled to give.

 

Today our congregation and all of Christendom is being asked to reach out to people in our communities, nation and world just as Jesus did when he lived.  This means finding the courage to take the church and its ministry outside of our buildings.  It means getting involved in the politics of our time helping to discern with our leaders the type of world our faith compels us create.

 

Sometimes it means that we need to risk getting the comfortable uncomfortable.  I think the life and ministry of people like Martin Luther King best illustrates this.  In a letter from Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King justifies why he has organized marches and sit-ins that have disturbed the peace.  Martin Luther King is all for negotiation but he believes that sometimes nonviolent direct action is required to create a crisis to foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.

Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon http://www.logosproductions.com/content/august-31-2014-call-lead

 

None of us live in the severe conditions like African Americans were living in the Southern United States.  So it may be hard for us to relate, but we all have our blind spots.  But if we think about it all churches have gotten used to being the church in a particular way and often don’t find it easy to change.  Sometimes we need a minister or lay person to shake us up a bit to become open to becoming more relevant for our times.

 

In Canada we continue to struggle in our relationship with our First peoples.  More and more First Nations see the value of nonviolent resistance to wake up the governments and the people to taking action that will begin to reduce the wide disparity between the rest of Canada and First Nation peoples.  Is God calling us to walk with these people and do our part to heal the divisions between us and them?  We are blessed to live in the midst of First Nations people and thus have a great opportunity to do this work/ministry of healing and justice.

 

We believe in a God who asks us to do the most unexpected things.  We like Moses can find hundreds of excuses not to do things.  But God never give ups on us until we say YES!

 

I would like to end with one of my favorite songs sung by Linnea Good, called “Who am I to say No”.  I invite you to sit and reflect as you hear it.  Please join in if you like.

Burning Bush

Would you have Moses over for Dinner?

 

Would you have Moses for Dinner?

 

June 22nd 2014

 

Foam Lake United Church

 

 

 

A Snapshot of Moses:

 

Would you have Moses over for dinner?  I am not sure if I would.  I would be honoured to get to know him.   To be able to say I actually met him in person would be awesome.  However, I am afraid of how he might mess up my life.  He might just get one of his messages from God that would now involve me.  I am not sure if I want to take the risk.

 

Moses is probably one of the most influential leaders of the Hebrew People.  Tradition says that Moses was born to a Levite couple.  At the time of his birth there was an Egyptian decree to kill all newborn Hebrew males.  His mother is said to have cast him adrift on the Nile River.  It was Pharaoh’s daughter who finds him and makes sure he is saved.  A wet nurse is found who happens to be Moses mother and so Moses grows up in the midst of the powerful in Egypt.

 

We know little of Moses when he was growing up.  It wasn’t until his “burning bush” incident that God gets Moses attention to become the leader and liberator of the Hebrews in Egypt.  Moses came up with many excuses to now follow God.  But God always had a comeback leaving with Moses no excuses to run away. 

 

Moses became the spokesperson for his people. 

 

To convince the Israelites Moses was told the name of God in the famous and difficult phrase “I am that I am” [Exodus 3:14, also 6:3] and shown a series of wonders he will perform for them: changing a rod into a serpent and back to a rod again; making leprosy appear and disappear from his hand; and changing water into blood.

 

Harper’s Bible Dictionary General Editor Paul J. Achtemeier Harper San Francisco.  Page 656

 

 

 

Moses job was to convince Pharaoh to free the Hebrew people.  He was also the intercessor between God and the Hebrews.  He managed to convince God a number of times to not be too harsh on his people.

 

We also know Moses for being the law giver and judge.  He simply passed on God’s law to the Hebrew people.  Today we still take seriously the Ten Commandments which tradition names Moses as the author.

 

Most of all we know Moses for being a leader.  It was not an easy job because his people would often complain.  They had short memories, quickly forgetting the oppression they faced Egypt.  Moses had to keep encouraging people to move forward overcoming their fears each and every day.   He would re-tell their story of Exodus over and over to remind them of the journey they were on.  Jews do this to this very day when they remember their foundational story of exodus every year.

 

The story suggests that Moses was 120 years old when he died.    You see 120 years was considered the ideal life span.  He died on Mount Moab viewing the land his people would move into upon his death.

 

Scholars cannot say if Moses really lived.  I suspect there was a person name Moses, but much of what has been told about Moses is myth.  Myth is story not based on fact but story told in ways that reveal more ‘truths’ than any factual story could ever hope to tell.

 

The story of Moses whether factual or narrative is still one of the key stories in the world today.  It has influenced many people to this very day in inspiring correct teaching and revolution among the people.

 

 

 

Theme time: The Ten Commandments page 213 Lectionary Story Bible

 

  • Then make our own Ten Commandments for today

 

 

 

Sermon – February 20, 2011

 

By Roland Legge

 

Exodus 3:1 – 12   and 4:1 – 12

 

 

 

Our scripture today focuses on Moses call.  Can you imagine coming across a burning bush that was not being consumed?  Most places this would be a strange sight unless you were at Universal Studios in Los Angeles U.S.A.  Would it get your attention?    How has the Creator got your attention?  What have been your “burning bushes”?

 

 

 

Moses was not unlike most of us when we are asked to do something difficult.  He wanted to run away.  He didn’t think he had the personal gifts and skills to be a leader in his community.  Moses gave God so many excuses, yet the Creator always had a comeback.  Thus, Moses ran out of excuses and new he had to give, this life calling, his best “shot”. 

 

 

 

Our Creator gave Moses a huge and ominous task to lead his, Hebrew, people into freedom from the oppression of Pharaoh in Egypt.  Moses new this was risky business and new he could not do it without God’s involvement. 

 

 

 

He like his people believed that God was part of everything and thus he had nothing to fear.  He believed that whatever would happen would be the will of God.  But this didn’t mean that Moses had to agree with the choices of God.  So there are numerous times when Moses confronts God because of the Creators harsh punishment to the Hebrew people.   Hence it was not unusual for God to change God’s punishment after Moses had interjected on his people’s behalf. 

 

 

 

I wonder how long it took for Moses to be convinced to become the religious and political leader of his people.  I doubt it happened overnight.  I suspect it was a more gradual process. 

 

 

 

What are the “burning bushes” in your life?   For me my separation and divorce from my first relationship was a wakeup call from God as I have shared with you before.  I am not saying that God brought on my divorce.  Rather my life got so bad that the excuses I had made no longer worked.  I could not accept my old life script any more.  My old script was based on my wishful thinking, that if I tried hard enough to make Yvonne love me, our relationship would become harmonies.  You see, once I realized how I had deceived myself, I could no longer stay in the relationship as it was.  There would need to be dramatic change and if not the relationship would have to end.

 

 

 

Why did it take so long for me to come to this point?  I was afraid of what others would think of me if I was to leave Yvonne.  In the end I discovered that many people wondered why I had stayed so long in the relationship.  It took this dramatic “burning bush” event for God to get my attention.  I have since then tried to stay more in touch with the Holy Spirit helping me to live a much more joyful life than I had lived up to that time.

 

 

 

Back to Moses; once Moses had accepted God’s call he now needed to try and convince his people that God had commissioned him to be their leader.  Moses new he was going to need lots of help to make this happen.  So the Creator enables Moses to do ‘miracles’  such as his walking stick turning into a snake, which convinces his followers that YAWEH has chosen him to be their leader.

 

I can relate to Moses.  It is sometimes hard to convince others that we have been truly transformed by the Divine.  Unless we are church people few people would be open to this Good News.  Even church people may be sceptical.  I would probably be one of those sceptical people.  Would you?  How do we show people that we have really changed?  I think the only way for people to believe that we have changed is by truly getting to know us.  

 

 

 

It can be very hurtful to be not believed.   A few years ago I was at a training event.  At the end we were put into small groups with a facilitator to discern if we were called to this particular form of ministry.  One of the members of the group, new me from some years before; and he didn’t seem willing to be open to possibility that I may have grown in confidence since I had last seen him.  Out of concern for me he swayed the group to block me from getting the accreditation I was hoping for.   When have been the times you have felt misunderstood?

 

 

 

In the end we, like Moses, need to go out and be who we are called to be no matter how many doubters may be out there.

 

 

 

I think the bottom line for Moses was the ongoing task of building community.  This is what he did all his life.  Here are some pointers as to how this community forms and nurtures itself.  I quote from an article called Exodus and Community by Elizabeth McMaster written for Sojourners Magazine in 1986.

 

  • Community begins in the inspiration or vision that brings people together out of scatteredness and isolation and binds them in one hope.  People gather together in voluntary displacement.
  • It finds its authority in Christ’s mandate, “Remember me,” and Gather together that I might be among you.”
  • It grows through the willingness of its members to conspire or breathe together on behalf of life, which is the proper work of community in the Spirit of God.
  • Like the communities of the ancient covenant, it lives in enfleshing, in enacting its covenant with God and with one another, making visible the power of God in our world.

 

WWW.sojo.net  Exodus and Community by Elizabeth McMaster.  Sojourners Magazine, March 1986

 

 

 

In this context, God calls us to break down the walls of fear and division, as Moses did so well. How does this inform our own personal and corporate faith journeys?  What do you think Moses would say to us here at St. Paul’s United Church?  I have no doubt he wouldn’t be afraid to tell us what God is calling this congregation to live out.  How God desires for us to break down the walls of fear in our own community. I doubt he would be very popular because he would push into action in ways that some of us would feel very uncomfortable and unprepared!

 

 

 

I wonder what would be the burning issue that Moses would find in Cochrane.  I believe he would want to bring forth justice wherever there is injustice.  Maybe he would push for Anglophone, Francophone, Aboriginal, and Meitei to all work more closely together to make our community a healthier place to be.  What do you think? …………………………………….

 

 

 

Moses was one of the greatest leaders of our faith tradition that encompasses Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  I hope Moses opens us up to having more honest and open dialogue with our Creator; for us to learn the discipline of knowing when the spirit is speaking to us rather than our egos.  I hope we learn from his courage to take on leadership.  How he was willing to take on difficult tasks.  May we find the same intimacy with our Creator.  May we find the same courage to go where the Creator desires us to go.

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Courage to Lead

Courage

June 1 2014

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)

 

By Roland Legge

 

Acts 1:6-14

 

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

 

John 17:1-11

 

 

 

Back in Peter’s day the early Christian community was facing persecution, especially from Emperor Nero.  Nero after causing the great fire in Rome in 64 AD found a scapegoat among the followers of Jesus. He blamed the Christians for the crime and began a vengeful persecution. Tacitus the great Roman historian reported that the Christians who confessed to believe in Christ were, and I quote from In Clayton J. Schmit,

 

made subject of sport, being covered with animal skins and attacked by dogs, nailed to crosses, set on fire, even burned at night for the illumination of Nero’s garden parties.

 

Pulpit Resource Vol. 36, No. 2 Year A April, May, June 2008 by William H. Willimon “An Anti-Social Faith” by Clayton J. Schmit Logos Productions Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 21

 

 

 

In this context Peter was encouraging his folks to not let the persecution they were facing to get in the way of living out their faith.

 

 

 

Can you imagine what these early Christians were going through?  I think it is hard for us to imagine, because few of us have suffered terrible persecution for our faith.  The most we face is taunting and teasing.  I am not saying this is not unpleasant but this is nothing compared to risking our lives for our faith.

 

 

 

Yet in the face of this persecution Peter speaks with hope. He calls upon his people see their struggle as like the heat it takes to purify gold and silver; they themselves being, the gold and silver and the persecution being the fire.        Peter new these were not easy times.  But he had faith that God would keep leading them into the Kingdom of God. That nothing could stop this from happening as long as he and his people kept on proclaiming and living the Good News.  The Good News being that God is in control and not Caesar!

 

 

 

Peter wanted to do everything he could to help his people to remain faithful.  Peter gave his people profound instructions such as

 

  • Accept what you can’t control
  • Know that God will liberate you
  • Put your concerns to God and trust in the Creators care
  • Stay disciplined and alert to what is going on around you
  • Remember that you are not alone

 

Page 22

 

He goes on to promise his people that in the end, after the suffering is over, God will restore God’s people both in the world and in the world to come.

 

 

 

We are very fortunate to live in Canada.  Most of us, in this church, have it very good. We find it difficult to answer this question: how have you suffered persecution for Christ?  So how can we relate to this story?  But how about trying to answer the question in another way: Will we be called in the future to suffer for our faith?

 

 

 

I have no doubt we will if we pay attention to the Spirit.  There are Christians around the world today who suffer to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.  Some of these are life threatening and others like the one I am about to mention are more annoying and frustrating.  They are people like Cartoonist Johnny Hart, creator of the B.C. strip, who is well known for being a Christian.  The Los Angeles Times once censored three of Hart’s cartoons because of his message of hope and faith was too obvious.

 

 

 

On the more serious side there have been people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who risked his life to end the evil of Hitler and his regime in Germany during the Second World War.

 

 

 

There are people like Archbishop Oscar Romero who by speaking up for justice.  Here was what Romero said just before his death:

 

We have just heard in the gospel that those who surrender to the service of people through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies.  This hope comforts us as Christian.  We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses, wants and demands.  We have the security of knowing that when we plant, if nourished with Christian hope, will never fail.  This holy Mass, this body broken and blood shed for human beings encourages us to give our body and blood up to suffering and pain, as Christ did—not for self, but to bring justice and peace to our people.  Let us be intimately united in faith and hope at this moment.” Page 24

 

At this point the gun shot exploded and killed Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Why was he killed?  He was killed because what he stood for was threatening those in power.  He was killed for some of the same reasons that Jesus was killed for.

 

 

 

How are we called to suffer for Christ?  Jesus and God want us to love with a reckless abandon!   The Spirit wants us to speak for those who have little power and voice.  The Divine Source wants us care for the Creation.  Jesus, love incarnate, wants us to honor and respect ourselves.  Jesus and God want us to love our neighbor as we love our selves.  The Creator calls upon us to ensure that each us has enough.   The Wise One calls upon us to learn to resolve all disputes in non-violent ways.

 

 

 

 

 

You see, there are many paths to the Kingdom.  I encourage you to reflect on how faithfully we are living out our lives.  None of us will get it perfect.  None of us can do it all.  We each need to discern through prayer and contemplation what God is calling us to live out.  The good news is that the Creator promises to be with us as we do our best to make our world a more just and loving place to be for all of life.  Where has God called you so far?  What plans does God have for you today?  What plans does God have for you in the future?  Then go and continue to live it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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