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.

[RL1]romero04

What do I want for Christmas

Sermon – December 24th 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

By Roland Legge

Hebrew Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7

Epistle: Titus 2:11-14

Gospel: Luke 2:1-20

 

 

For most of us Christmas is a very special time of year.  It seems to bring out the best in us.

We love to get together with family and friends.  We think of our elderly and disabled who are not able to get easily out of their homes.  We think of the many individuals and families who do not have enough to eat and so donate to food banks.  We seem more generous at this time of year as many non-profit organizations get more donations.  We seem to make a bigger effort to get along with each other. It is said that one night during the 1st World War the soldiers stopped fighting on Christmas Eve and came together for a party playing soccer, sharing some of their rations and showing each other photos of their families back at home.  These are all little miracles.

Now imagine if we lived each day as though it was Christmas. I think the world would be a lot better place. As Christians, followers of Jesus, we indeed are called to live this out each and every day. How do you live this out each day?

As I get older the giving and receiving of material gifts seem to be getting less and less important. What I do value is having time to be with friends and family. I value taking some time to reflect on how I am living out my call from God. What do I need to keep doing? What do I need to let go of? What new thing might the Spirit be calling me to do. I value doing my best along with others to continue to make the amazing planet earth we have been gifted by God a better place where all can enjoy.

There is much I want for Christmas! But not just Christmas but every day. I want human kind to learn how to live more in harmony with Mother Earth. One thing I would like to see are our governments and mining companies take greater responsibility in how they mine the resources and how they treat the local people; many who are being displaced around the world. I would like us to value all of Creation simply because God created it. It doesn’t have to have a financial value to be of worth.

I want to see the end of wars around our world. Violence is such an outdated way of solving disputes. Too many people make huge amounts of money making all the equipment and computer programs to fight these terrible wars. We must not let greed rule our ways. If soldiers can stop fighting for a night we can stop fighting any time we choose too. Jesus did really show us the way to resolve disputes non-violently. Let’s take Jesus seriously and really follow in his ways.

I want to see the great religions of the world to get along with each other. I believe there are many paths to the Divine. Instead of fearing each other let us be open to learning from each other. Let us find ways to work together on issues of importance that we can all agree on such as peace, the environment, healthy people, the economy and much more. Let us enjoy the diversity of people that God created us to be.

I want to see the end of all forms of prejudice whether that be ageism, homophobia, racism and/or gender. We need to keep asking God to help us see that we are all created in the image of God. To be reminded that God is not concerned with all these prejudices but more with how we treat each other and Mother Earth and all that makes it up.

Yes there is much I want for Christmas and for everyday of the year. The Good News is that many acts of love, compassion, reconciliation and justice happen every day. Sadly the media seems to ignore much of this. So remember this when you watch the news. This doesn’t mean we should ignore all the bad things happening around the world.

There are so many challenges our world faces. Yet, if each of us live our lives with the help of our inner and community guidance of the Spirit the world will continue to be transformed. The greatest gift you can give the world is your time and talents in living out the great Commandments to love God, self and neighbour. With each of us doing our part in our personal and corporate lives the world will become more and more healthy. God knows you make a difference! Do you know that?

One of the greatest gifts I have ever received is the relationship I have with my wife Jen. Through her love for me I am learning to be more attentive to the Spirit. She helps me to be my God given self. To be my true self. I am also thankful for my extended family and friends who make it awesome to be me. I treasure each and every one of them. So when I am around Jen, family and friends I feel valued and so feel compelled to make a difference in the world. I want others to feel that same kind of love that melts away fear and hatred.

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope it will be a time to enjoy yourself, your family and friends. I hope it will be a time to reflect on your life and listen to the inner voice of the Spirit that will continue to show you the way. Most importantly I hope we will reflect on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. To ask how is Jesus asking you to live in his way?

May God continue to bless you on this journey.

Christmas

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

We are the people of Hope!

Sermon – November 30th 2014

Advent One

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 64:1-9 1

1st Corinthian 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37:

 

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Today we focus on hope. Are you hopeful?  Are you looking forward to the future or do you fear the kind of world we are leaving for our grandchildren and great grandchildren? Do you believe that with God’s help we can make the world a better place to live?

Hope is not about wishful thinking.  For Christians hope is about being able to face the realities of the world while believing in every cell of our bodies that with God’s help we can transform the world.  We can transform the world into the Kindom of God where all can live in harmony with each other and God’s creation.

Hope is also means action.  We can’t have hope unless we are willing to live into it.  We cannot have hope unless we are willing to live as though the Kindom of God is already here.

I have hope!  I have hope because I believe that God has given us everything we need for all of humankind and the rest of God’s creation to live in harmony with each other.  I have hope that humans will stop fighting each other in wars.  I have hope that we will stop polluting the world as more and more of us realize that we are part of God’s creation rather than separate.   I have hope because I experience acts of love, generosity and courage every day.

I have hope when:

  • I experience people helping out each other
  • when I see a white police officer hugging a young African American on Facebook
  • when a community celebrates the return of a Mom dog to its puppies that just happened in Saskatoon
  • when we celebrate the love between two people of the same sex that is being celebrated more and more around the world
  • when the Irish Catholics and Protestants come together in peace
  • when children are welcomed into our church and allowed to be children

Our Scripture today from the Gospel according to Mark sends a message of hope to his people.  He says to his people that he knows of their many struggles they are facing trying to remain faithful.  He says to his people he knows of their fear.  He says to his people he knows of their impatience for change.

More so, the author of Mark calls on his people to live as though the world has already been transformed into the Kindom of God. He calls upon them to live with hope even though that hope sometimes is hard to find.  He promises that God has something better for them and the whole world.  There will be a radical change.  There will be disruption that will turn the world upside-down!   Suddenly the lowly will be honored.  Those with much will be humbled.  But he reminds them we will never know when this radical holy intervention will take place.  The challenge is to live as this transformation of love has already happened.  Mark’s message was received with thanksgiving!

Sadly this apocalyptic scripture has been misinterpreted.  Apocalyptic simply means revelation.  It was a message of hope often written during times of great oppression.  It was not intended to be an excuse to ignore the injustices of the world.  It was never intended to set up divisions between the saved and unsaved.  It was never meant to ignore the realities of the world. It was a never an intention to keep the status quo. You see God cares about all people.  God cares about living on this amazing earth.  It is not all about the afterlife!

Many North American Christians have corrupted the scripture into making our faith all about following a particular dogma.  This serious misinterpretation has led to movements so focussed on reaching the hereafter that they ignore the realities of the world.  It is often wealthy people who do not want to give up their privilege that often comes from the abuse of God’s creation; that does not require them to share their own wealth; that doesn’t require them to clean up the earth.  Why would you worry about the health of the world if you can’t wait to leave it in some glorious nuclear war?  Then even to make this even worse they begin to think that nuclear war is good thing because it will get them to Jesus.

So when Mark talks about the new world.  This is not a heavenly world, but one grounded in the here and now.  This is a new world order where human kind will live peacefully, and sustainably.

I want to end with some words from a great speech of Martin Luther King Junior, using apocalyptic speech that talks of the real hope that Jesus was about:

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination . . . So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition . . . Some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells . . . Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive . . . Go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today . . . And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

May we each incarnate the Hope that Jesus has passed on to us making the world the place that God intends it to be.

Amen.

New York City June 2014 (147)

Success or Faithfulness

Sermon – November 2, 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus has had it!  He is tired of these so called Rabbi’s who do not walk their talk.  They work so hard at keeping their outer appearance so pure that they have little energy or commitment left to live out the Love of God in the world.

“It is important to note that Jesus critiqued as a Jew and follower of Judaism — as a prophet — and so his critique is coming from within.  Jesus does not critique the teaching or the clothing of the Pharisees — their outward signs of piety.  Jesus upholds the Pharisees as good teachers, but poor models.  He observes how the meaning of some outward symbols of piety has taken on new and less noble meaning because the Pharisees are not “walking the talk.”

Yet these devotions were not all bad.  The Pharisees worked hard on their outward appearance partly in order to maintain the Jewish identity by wearing powerful symbols of the Jewish faith.  This probably helped the Jews to maintain their distinctiveness during a time when there was great pressure for them to merge with the powerful dogmas of the time.

Jesus was calling for a new community where each of us is set free to be our God given selves.  He believes that words and actions need to be in harmony.  He wants his disciples to walk their talk and help each other with their challenges. Jesus calls on his followers to be humble finding strength through vulnerability.

Sadly, many of us in North America and Western Europe also get caught up in how we look.  I expect that you have noticed the many commercials that keep telling us over and over again how happy we can be if we would just consume their product.  How happy we would be if we wore a certain brand of clothes, perfume, after shave or drove a certain type of car or had a particular credit card.  The list goes on and on.

Yes, Jesus wants us to be free. To bet set free from all the false gods of consumerism and power. Free from ways of living that come out of worshiping false gods such as lust, greed and self-delusion that can never truly bring hope, joy and meaning.

To be set free is also not to get caught up in our guilt.  A little guilt is okay if it spurs us on to new life but too much can make us powerless.  Thus I hope today’s sermon and service is helping to waken up within each of us who God wants us to be.

But this does not mean we are to do more.  It could mean that we are to do something different.  It could mean making a change in our life whether small or big. Yes, small changes can dramatically alter our attitude from hopelessness to hope.

But often before we move on, we first need to see where we are not living in harmony before we can begin to make that change. Can we answer these three questions: 1. Do our inner lives connect with our outer lives?  2. Do people see and experience the real us?  3. Which definition of success do we live by?

Sadly, many of us have a warped understanding of what it means to be successful. We too often think that success means to be married, have two children, make lots of money, and own a big house, two cars, a motor boat and a quad.

I believe that as a church and a society we need to redefine what success is. Here is what Mother Teresa says about success.

 “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke of success.  He spoke only of faithfulness in love.  This is the only success that really counts.”

(Aha Creative Resources for Preachers Oct/Nov/Dec 2002 Vol. 12 #1)

Also Molly Blythe Teichert tells the story of John Kamm a successful businessman in Hong Kong who learned that working for human rights is more important than making money. I quote:

“When people looked at John Kamm they saw a successful businessman, the president of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of a multinational corporation.  They saw a man who lived in a luxury apartment, drove a Mercedes, and employed two maids.  But God saw an advocate for freedom.

 

Shortly after the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese held a banquet to honor American businessmen working to help China attain most-favored-nation status.  As the host of the banquet was publicly thanking Kamm for his efforts, Kamm took the opportunity to ask for the release of political prisoner Yao Yongzhan.  The host of the banquet stormed off stage and Kamm was reprimanded for humiliating his host. Yet two weeks later, Yongzhan was released from prison.  Kamm decided to try again. He inquired with a local official about the possibility of releasing brothers Li Lin and Li Zhi.  He says that a week after their release, he and his wife had dinner with them in Hong Kong.

 

“They told me the day I got involved was the day their situation improved.  I wept.  That’s when I started to think that I could talk to the Chinese about freeing prisoners, and they would do it.”

 

Apart from any official human rights agency, John Kamm has helped to facilitate the release of more than 250 political prisoners in China – more than any other organization or government in the world.”

                Molly Blythe Teichert, Information from New York Times, “Kamm’s List” Aha pg. 26

 

I hope you noticed that Kamm had a passion for what he was doing.  I don’t believe that Kamm had his arm twisted to get him to do it.  I hope that we in our church communities can encourage each other to discover our passions.  We must get away from the old model of “twisting people’s arm until they do what the church board, Presbytery or Conference wants them to do.

What passions do you have?  Do you love to work, play and teach with children?  I certainly notice that among our church school teachers.  I notice how our musicians love musicI see how our gardeners and our volunteer custodians keep our church looking good.  I can often smell fresh coffee and food at church gatherings as many people share with us their passion to cook.  We have some fine artist in our communities. We have carpenters, teachers, nurses, doctors, homemakers and the list goes on.

To have a passions does not mean were going to enjoy every minute of what we do but we will have at least a sense of satisfaction that we were able to help out our church, community, family and thus God.   What ever we did will have a sense of rightness about it that no “arm twisting” could ever accomplish?

 

 

St. Julians Church Norwich England July 2011 (4)

The Beauty of Grey

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – October 26th 2014

20th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians

Matthew 22:34-46

We live in a very complex world.  We are often trying to simplify our lives.  So it can be very tempting to join a church that will tell you what to do in every circumstance.  To paint the world as though it is black and white.  To paint a world where everything is either good or evil, clean or dirty.

Why should we believe in our/Christian Jewish religion?   Jesus said religion is not there to be our moral code which defines who is good and who is bad.  It is not there to turn us into obedient people.  Rather it is there to compel us to love with all our heart.

In his time, Jesus wanted people to get down to the basics of their faith.  Why? Because people were getting confused.  People were getting confused because of the hundreds of rules that had been created to help people to stay on the narrow path of faith. It almost became impossible to remain faithful because you couldn’t help but break a rule because there were so many.  Sadly those who were privileged used these rules to keep their positions of power and the money in their pockets.  Those in power were also using the rules to rob the masses of their potential to confront the powers and  principalities.

So Jesus reminds his people of the great commandment that was passed onto him through his Jewish faith community.  He says that if you live by this commandment you will have fulfilled the Law.

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” —Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus says along with other Jews that the great commandment is one that sums up all their beliefs. It gets to heart of how we are to live our lives faithfully. If you love the Lord your God, you love yourself and love your neighbour then you are meeting all the expectations of God.  Jesus took it even further in saying that we should love all people whether they are Jew or not.  When you have done this you have truly fulfilled the Law.

How do we do this?  I appreciate how author Stacy Martin expresses this in an article she wrote for Sojourners magazine.  She shows how we can remain faithful through the following of the Great Commandment which includes these spiritual gifts.

Grace is the first gift of Christian faith.  For me grace is all about giving myself and others the room to learn through the trials and errors of life.  It is about reminding ourselves that none of us are perfect.  It is about acknowledging the light of God in each person we meet.   It is being open to God/Spirit working miracles of transformation through our lives even when at times we feel there is little hope.

Relationships is another gift of faith.  It is acknowledging that we relate to the Created order through God.  How God is always part of the picture.  So whatever we choose to do in this world whether that is mining, forestry, and/or trying to support our families we cannot create a hierarchy of God’s Creation to justify its destruction. It is all  GOOD!  I believe that when ever we show our love for God, ourselves and each other we will treat the world with greater compassion.  The world indeed will get closer to being the Kindom of God.

Forgiveness is another gift of faith.  Acts toward forgiveness free us up to keep living out the great commandment.  Acts towards forgiveness free our children from holding on to the same negative/destructive feeling creating new opportunities for healthier relationships.  Acts of forgiveness open up our hearts to love some of the more challenging people in our lives.

Community is the last gift of faith.  God’s call to community reminds us that we cannot live without each other.In a world where we live with the misconception that we can be successful on our own we are challenged to say with conviction that we need each other.  That when one person is hurting we all hurt.  When one person is celebrating we all celebrate.  We are the body of Christ!  Every one of us has something to offer this world.  Every one of us is loved by God!

Living out the Great Commandment is a lifelong goal.  It is never easy because sometimes we will miss the mark. However, I dream of a more loving world.  This isn’t a pie in the sky dream!  It is a dream that becomes true day in and day out.  Every time you and I intentionally choose to live in the way of Jesus, loving God, loving ourselves and each other, the world will continue to be transformed.

One way that I try to live out this commandment is to use the gifts I have been given.  I believe that is true for all of us.  So I invite all of us in our congregation to reflect on how we continue to live out love in Foam Lake and area and the rest of the world.  How do we show the grace of God?    How do we emphasize the importance of community so we can find a greater richness in life and be motivated to share our gifts with our brothers and sisters around the world?  How do we show the power of forgiveness?  A great place to start would be to forgive ourselves so we can feel the expansive love of God within us and around us.

Then, how do we forgive others while not allowing ourselves to be a door mat to be abused again and again!  Finally the last one is community.  How do we as a congregation seek to be community?  How do we create space for truly sharing who we are with others so we can be there for each other in all the ups and downs of life?

I end with this thought.  I have found it important to forgive myself.  I have been my own greatest enemy.  I continue to learn that it is okay not to be perfect.  I continue to learn that I don’t always need to have the answers.  But the miracle is that the more I come to live in harmony and love with myself I find it easier to open my heart to others.

I invite you to take some time in this coming week to spend some intentional time forgiving yourself.  If you need some help, do it with a friend you love.  If you need some help, pray for help from the Spirit.  Always remember that God loves you unconditionally.  Nothing can every change the mind of God.

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How Irritating can Jesus be!

 

Sermon – July 13th 2014

 

5th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Genesis 25:19-34

 

Romans 8:1-11

 

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus loved to tell stories called parables.  These were pithy little stories that always had a surprising ending.  They had a way of challenging people.  They had an uncanny way of helping people to see a true reflection of themselves whether they liked it or not.  Often, the stories revealed a truth that many people did not want to admit.  Instead of receiving the stories with thanksgiving they returned Jesus love with anger and hate.

 

 

 

We might wonder how a story like the Parable of the Sower, could unleash such anger.   It seems like such an innocent story.   It suggests that we Christians are the seeds that have been planted in the good soil.    This is certainly the interpretation that some scribe added to the Parable, but Jesus unlikely intended it to be watered down that much.  Thus what we read today has a lot more details filled in than Jesus would have likely shared.  The first listeners to Jesus Parable did not likely hear it the same way.  Many would have left partly confused and partly angry.

 

 

 

To get an idea of what it was like to hear the Parable for the first time.  Here this Parable :

 

A man once came to Buddha with an offering of flowers in his hands.  Buddha looked up at him and said, “Drop it!”

 

 

 

The man couldn’t believe he was being asked to drop the flowers.  Then it occurred to him that perhaps Buddha was asking him to drop the flowers that he had in his left hand, since to offer something with one’s left hand was considered inauspicious and impolite.  So he dropped the flowers that his left hand held.

 

 

 

And Buddha said to him, “Drop it!”

 

 

 

This time, the man was so unnerved by Buddha’s request that he simply dropped all the flowers and stood before Buddha empty handed.

 

 

 

And Buddha smiled and said to him, “Drop it!”

 

 

 

Perplexed, the man asked, “Buddha, what is it that I am supposed to drop?

 

 

 

“Not the flowers, my son,” said Buddha, ‘but the one who brought them.”

 

Keeping the Faith in Babylon A Pastoral Resource for Christians in Exile by Barry J. Robinson Ordinary 15 Year A

 

 

 

 

 

If you got the point of the story you might have understood Jesus story way back.   This story of Buddha probably gets more at the point of the Parable we heard today more than the interpretation we heard today right in the passage that was read.

 

 

 

So today’s Parable of Jesus, for me, calls upon us to drop that which is holding us back from living faithfully.  It is a call to forgive those who have offended and hurt us so that we can move ahead.  However, this is not a call to pretend that destructive events in our life never happened but it is call to learn and move on.  As Paul said in today’s epistle this is call to serve God in newness of life.

 

 

 

There are so many memories that can get in the way of our living life abundantly whether that is for individuals or for organizations such as churches.  You may have met people like the person in the story that I am about to tell as told by William Willimon.  I suspect that most of us have done this some time in our lives. Here is the story:

 

Remembrance can be a sure way to ensure that a congregation fails to achieve vitality.

 

I once served a church where there was a man who had been a member of that church for over 30 years.  He didn’t hold any prominent office in the church, but some of the people ‘jokingly referred to him as our “unofficial historian.” History is fine, and it is good to have someone in the congregation who can remember the congregational story and its past, but only up to a point.

 

His remembrance functioned negatively within the life of the congregation.  Just let someone come up with a new idea, and he would always be there to say, “No.  We tried that back in 1969 and it didn’t work.” Case closed, and the end of the possibility of the newness of life.

 

One time, when somebody suggested that we try a new initiative in evangelism, he chimed in, “I remember well, a previous pastor suggesting that we try that.  We did it, but it was a big flop.  That was about 1964.”

 

“1964!” I shouted. Do you know where I was in 1964? I was renting my tux for the high school prom.  That is ancient history.  Why should we care what happened in 1964?    I wasn’t even a pastor then.  It is a whole new world today.”

 

I was only partially right.  It is never a “whole new world” unless we have the ability to lay aside the past that enslaves us.

 

Pulpit Resource by William Willimon  Vol. 33, No. 3 Year A July, August, September 2005   Published by Logos Productions Inver Grove Heights MN P.G. 12-13

 

 

 

I have learned myself of the importance to let go of past anger, grudges and disappointments.  I was married once before and I did not happy relationship.  I knew once that relationship was over I needed to forgive my ex-wife and myself.   I needed to let go if I was to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. As well,  I knew that if I was ever to enter  a new relationship I would need to let go if I was going to have any hope of choosing a compatible and loving partner to be with.  Doing this work through counseling and spiritual direction was not easy but oh so worthwhile.  As you see, I am now in a healthy relationship with Jen.  This would not have happened if I had not done my work.

 

 

 

Remember, as I said earlier, to let go does not require us to completely forget.  To let go does not require us to call some dastardly or unkind act as okay.  To let go and forgive does require us to put these memories enough in the back our minds so that we are not continually having those memories inflame us over and over again.  Rather our goal is to learn from our mistakes and move on into even more abundant life.

 

 

 

So what do you need to let go of?  What do you need to keep at the back of your memory?  Who do you need to forgive?  As you acknowledge the answers to these questions over your life, find the courage to do the work and you will discover even more joyfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canola Fields near Strathclair Manitoba July 2012 (4)