The Spirit Sets you Free

Sermon – March 22nd 2015

Lent 5 (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Jeremiah 31:31-34 John 12:20-33

 

How beautiful is the passage from Jeremiah today. Jeremiah and his people are living in difficult times. They have been away from their home county for a long time. They are sad, depressed, tired and feeling abandoned by their God.

God says to them that the Spirit is about to begin a new covenant which will be different from the last one. Now God will write the Law, on each person’s heart. Hence, God will speak directly to each person through their body, mind and spirit.

Can you imagine the delight of the people in hearing this Good News! They now had something to look forward to. There was something to live for. Life was going to get better!

How do you experience God in your life? Do you really believe that God is right within you? I think many of us don’t really give God a chance to speak to our hearts, minds and souls. Our lives are too full of noise and chatter. But when we do quiet our minds the Spirit does speak to us in ways that helps us to know what is really important in our lives and how we are called to live it out.

Now most of us don’t hear an actual voice, but we do get intuition, feeling, thoughts that can help us to find our way. Can you remember a time when you suddenly realized what you needed to do? It has happened for me. Once in a while I wake up in the morning and know what I need to do or a thought arises and it won’t go away until I act on it. I don’t know where the thoughts come from. I just know it feels right. When I begin to live this out everything starts falling into place.

Now when we choose to follow the Spirit is never easy! It always takes some courage. But when we do open our hearts we find the strength in ourselves to face our own fears. I believe Jesus must have been frightened at times. He knew what he was saying and doing was making a lot of people upset.   He told his disciples that a seed must die before it can bring new life. He was trying to tell his followers that in order to transform our world we must be willing to risk in our own lives, never giving into greed, fear and violence.

Not only must we be willing to risk our lives we must be willing to let go of old ways that no longer benefit us and our world. We must lead by example in being willing to show people a radically different way to live that is based on sharing, responsible stewardship of the earth, and having enough. In the end we must never give in because there will always be some people who will resist this change because for them they have too much to lose. They prefer the devil they know than the one they don’t know.

We all have God’s Laws written on our hearts, the law of love! It is our choices whether we listen to it or not. Thankfully many people do listen. Here is one such extraordinary story of courage and faith:

Orlando Letelier served in the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile; after the 1973 coup, he was tortured and exiled by the military dictatorship, against whose human rights abuses he continued to speak out. On September 21, 1976, he and a co-worker were killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. Several operatives of the Chilean secret police were later convicted of his murder.

http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/bishops-homily-letelier-funeral?parent=41164

We give thanks for those who will never be silenced in the job of shining the light of Social justice wherever there is the abuse of power.

Another great person was Clarence Jordan who started the Koinonia community (http://www.koinoniafarm.org/) where people of faith can come together to build up the Kindom of God where all people would be recognized as the people of God. A place where the community would help to bring out the best in each other. A place where people could come together to talk about very difficult issues plaguing the world. A place where humans could learn to live in harmony with the earth. It is still there.

He is also known for his creation of the Cottage Patch Gospels. Here is the introduction he wrote for his

Clarence states:

Jesus has been so zealously worshiped, his deity so vehemently affirmed, his halo so brightly illumined, and his cross so beautifully polished that in the minds of many he no longer exists as a man. He has become an exquisite celestial being who momentarily and mistakenly lapsed into a painful involvement in the human scene, and then quite properly returned to his heavenly habitat. By thus glorifying him we more effectively rid ourselves of him than did those who tried to do so by crudely crucifying him.

http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/scandalous-life-faith?parent=41164

Clarence was a man of vision and faith.  He has helped thousands of people to find their faith and vocations in life.  His story still speaks to us today!

 

Most importantly Jeremiah and Jesus are calling upon us to be 24 hours seven days a week Christians.  But if we are to faithfully live this out we must remain open to the wisdom of the Spirit through taking time to listen to the Holy within and around us.  Jesus promises us that when we do this we will continue to find abundant life.  Leaving us with feelings of joy deep within our hearts that gives us strength, patience and love to face any challenge in the world.

 

Summer 2012 Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba 055

Would you invite Jesus for Dinner?

Sermon – March 15th 2015

By Roland Legge

With Thanks from the Online Resource Faith Lens from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Numbers 21:4-9 Ephesians 2:1-10 John 3:14-21

 

Gospel Reflection

Presenting his gospel like a stage play director, John has turned down the lights.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night because John wants us to see that he is in the dark, in sharp contrast to Jesus, the light of the world (see also John 1:9, 8:12, 9:5).

In their conversation, Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus to see things in a different way, but with limited success.  Their disconnect mirrors a passionate divide that runs throughout John’s gospel between those who accept Jesus and those who reject him.  Those who accept him believe, and those who do not “are condemned already” as they shun the light in favor of darkness.

Jesus is like the dress:  the same phenomenon seen very differently, but always sparking a strong reaction.

But John, seeing him differently, would say that Jesus is the light.  The world is the dress.  (The Greek word for world is cosmos, which has various shades of meaning itself—humanity, “the way things are,” the powers that resist God, all of creation.  John, whose writing covers many levels at once, probably intends all of these simultaneously.)  Jesus the light shines upon the world and reveals its true colors.

But Jesus also reveals to us the true colors of God’s heart:  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  God loyally loves the fickle world.  The designer’s eyes consistently see the world as worth saving.

The price tag attached is steep:  Jesus will end up black and blue on the cross.  Yet the colors of Easter are white and gold.  The Light changes everything.

http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286

Discussion Questions

  1.  How do you see Jesus?  How is your view different from how others see Jesus?  Does he bring love or judgment…or both?

I see Jesus in many ways. I see Jesus as a spirit filled man who strived to make the world a better place. Jesus for me was one of the most God conscious persons to have ever lived on this planet. He had a close relationship with the Holy. Yet Jesus responded to the world in a particular time in history. While he was way ahead of his time in how he treated women, children, and people on the fringes of society; I don’t think you could call him a feminist.

How is my view of Jesus different from others? I put an emphasis on his humanity. I can relate to Jesus more if he is human. Can you?

I believe Jesus was a great healer. He spent much of his ministry healing people. I think the church has forgotten this important part of who we are. We too can heal in the name of Jesus. We have the ancient traditions of healing touch, anointment with oil, prayer and presence. Where I differ in my understanding of healing is that curing is not its prime purpose. Healing happens even when a person is not cured of his/her disease. Healing begins to happen when we care for each other in loving community. Healing happen when we recognize that of God in each other.

I believe that Jesus does bring both love and judgement. However Jesus is not one I fear.   I believe he wants the best for each of us. I would be very comfortable in having him over for dinner. Yet Jesus is much more than meek and mild. He was not afraid to shine the light on the dark. He was not afraid to speak out against injustice.

  1. How do you see the world?  Is it good or evil…or both?  If the world were two colors, what would they be?

I love the book by Matthew Fox called “Original Blessing”. In it Matthew suggests that when God created the world, all of its inhabitants animate and non-animate were blessed. I believe that God is rooted in our whole planet. Whenever an animal, plant or tree is made extinct I believe that God/Spirit is hurt because a part of it has been killed.

I believe that Mother Earth is good in the sense that it was created with love. Nature, the plants, animals, trees, fish, insects, people, minerals, and soil were all created so that all could live in union with each other. While nature is violent and destructive at times it is not evil. Mother Earth is alive and constantly changing. When earth is left to its own natural order life will continue to go on, there will be equilibrium so that the planet can stay healthy. Humankind is just one small part of the Created order.

Sadly we humans have over populated the planet. Over the centuries we thought we could do anything we like. But now more and more people are realizing that we have sinned by abusing our planet home. Sin for me is when we lose our connection with the Holy. We sin when we begin to think that the extinction of species, the poisoning of the air and water is okay. We sin when we begin to think of ourselves as gods who think we can overcome all our problems with technology. We sin because we have forgot the truth that we people are connected to everything on our planet and that every time we hurt the planet we hurt ourselves.

  1. Are there things in your life you keep in the dark because you are afraid they will be exposed?

Yes I have kept certain things in my life in the dark because of feeling embarrassed and ashamed. This is why so many people didn’t like Jesus because he had the natural gift to shine the light on the dark parts of our lives. Another way of saying it is our shadow sides. When I was young I feared that people would find out that I was nervous and anxious most of the time. I didn’t want people to know because I thought they would think I was crazy and a failure in the world. Ironically when I learned that I did not need to hide my problems I felt much better.

I think we all have parts of our lives we like to hide. Many of us think we are the only ones suffering because of some mental, physical, relationship or spiritual matter. It is kind of like trying to carry a huge rock on our back because we feel so exhausted from trying to hold everything in. But when we do let go and share what is going on in our lives we feel much lighter because we have let go of all the burdens we have been holding on to.

However I know many people will find themselves in a situation where it is not safe to share what is going on. In that case people need to find a safe place where they can tell the truth and get the support to work through the issue or issues and the help to discern what relationships which can be redeemed. To find the courage to let go of the relationships that are no longer serving them anymore.

– See more at: http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286#sthash.m4XN8P2n.dpufblack-jesus

Joy and Suffering

Sermon – March 1st 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Mark 8:31-38

 

Jesus was now ready to teach to his inner circle. Jesus new that like most people of his time, his disciples had a very different image of what the Messiah was to be about than what Jesus new to be true.

Jesus wanted to prepare his people for the great struggle ahead. The next few weeks were going to be very difficult. He wanted his disciples to know that he was likely going to be killed for what he believed. He wanted them to know that this was not the end, but just the beginning of the bringing in of the kingdom of God. He laid it on the line by saying that if they want to continue his movement they too must be willing to risk suffering to overcome the principalities and powers of their time. This was hard for Jesus followers to hear.

Not only is it hard for Jesus inner circle, it is hard for us to hear. Most of us don’t want to suffer. It is not pleasant! For many of us we think of church as a place to get away from all the problems of the world. We come to church to feel better. We don’t come to church to be encouraged to suffer.

I don’t believe that Jesus desires us to suffer. But our God calls upon us to bring transformation in our world through vulnerability and suffering because it is the only way overcome the violence in the world. It is only way to overcome violence with a peace that will be lasting.

Selma Montgomery March

This is not a path for sissies! It takes great courage to live in the way of Jesus that calls upon us to share, show compassion, stand up for the least, to not have more than what we need and to recognize that of God in each other. It is not convenient to have no one person, group, race or nation to blame for our own problems. Instead of blaming we are called to seek solutions that are a win, win for all. This takes great integrity!

So who is Jesus for you? Think about it for a moment (silence). Here are some descriptions that come to mind:

  • Friend – some one that cares about you.
  • Saviour – some one that heals
  • Saviour – some one that protects you from the devil.
  • Liberator – frees people from oppression, poverty and violence
  • Justice maker – some one that stands up for human rights and the inherent value of each person
  • God of mystery – one that connects us with the holy/sacred
  • Oppressor – one that keeps those with power and privilege in power.
  • Military leader – one that commands the army to victory.
  • Lord: one that act likes a political leader whether a king, prince, prime minister or president.
  • Lover – one that loves each person unconditionally no matter whom they are. 

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/march-1-2015-not-knowing-what-we%E2%80%99re-getting

So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today? Why do you come to church? Do you come to be transformed? Do you come to live in Christian Community where we are called to live differently? In our time God is critiquing our Capitalist System that puts value on money where as our faith puts value on people and all of God’s Creation. Do you come to church to share time, talents and love with each other? Do you come to church to be a sign of hope in our world? Are you here to say there is another way of living in the world that makes room for us all?I invite you this week to reflect on what it means for you to be a Christian? There is no one correct answer. But it must reflect the Great Commandment of God which is to love God with all your heart, to love yourself and to love your neighbour as yourself. Then to remember that neighbour is our brothers and sister around the world. Then for us as a congregation to reflect on how we can be God’s light here in Foam Lake and area. What is the Good News that we have to freely share with all people. How can we continue to be the light of Christ in our community?  

Sadly we try to over simplify why bad things happen. Too often we want to blame the sufferers for their own demise. Sometimes we want God to be the reason. What would you say to this preacher who tried to explain the plane accident on the Hudson River in New York City? He believed this was planned by the God so we could experience the wonder of God. But what would he say to families whose loved ones died in a plane crash who did not survive. So what would you say to the family of a person who was killed in a jet crash? I could not say to the family that this was all part of God’s plan. God does not treat us like puppets. God values all lives. God does not pick and choose who lives. There is so much that happens in our world that is even beyond the control of God. But God does enter us through our suffering and grieves with us. God shows us a path to a better way of living.

Jesus demonstrates to us how God enters each of us through our suffering. Bad things do happen to good people for many reasons. It is often through no fault of the sufferer. I strongly believe that God does not desire for any of us to suffer. But suffering is part of the human condition. How could we feel joy if we didn’t know suffering. It is often at these times, when are defenses are down, the Spirit has a much easier time getting through to us. It is at these times we become most aware of how dependent we are on God. How we need each other. It is one time when we discover what the most important parts of life are.

This made Jesus a very powerful man. There were many who worshipped him. There were many who were moved towards starting revolution because Jesus made it clear that God had something much better planned for them. As well, Jesus message was welcomed more by the poor and abused than those who were rich. Yet for those in the pinnacles of power Jesus was looked down upon as a trouble maker. As one that needed to be dealt with even through imprisonment and/or death.

For me Jesus is one the most God conscious persons to have ever lived. Jesus was able to live fully in each moment of his life. He knew himself well so he could be open to others. He didn’t allow his own personal issues to get in the way of helping others. He allowed the Spirit to dwell within him. He had the incredible ability to see what was blocking others from living their lives fully. Jesus could heal through the telling of parables, prayer and healing touch, if people chose to receive Jesus gift.

This made Jesus a very powerful man. There were many who worshipped him. There were many who were moved towards starting revolution because Jesus made it clear that God had something much better planned for them. As well, Jesus message was welcomed more by the poor and abused than those who were rich. Yet for those in the pinnacles of power Jesus was looked down upon as a trouble maker. As one that needed to be dealt with even through imprisonment and/or death.

Jesus demonstrates to us how God enters each of us through our suffering. Bad things do happen to good people for many reasons. It is often through no fault of the sufferer. I strongly believe that God does not desire for any of us to suffer. But suffering is part of the human condition. How could we feel joy if we didn’t know suffering. It is often at these times, when are defenses are down, the Spirit has a much easier time getting through to us. It is at these times we become most aware of how dependent we are on God. How we need each other. It is one time when we discover what the most important parts of life are.

Sadly we try to over simplify why bad things happen. Too often we want to blame the sufferers for their own demise. Sometimes we want God to be the reason. What would you say to this preacher who tried to explain the plane accident on the Hudson River in New York City? He believed this was planned by the God so we could experience the wonder of God. But what would he say to families whose loved ones died in a plane crash who did not survive. So what would you say to the family of a person who was killed in a jet crash? I could not say to the family that this was all part of God’s plan. God does not treat us like puppets. God values all lives. God does not pick and choose who lives. There is so much that happens in our world that is even beyond the control of God. But God does enter us through our suffering and grieves with us. God shows us a path to a better way of living.

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/march-1-2015-not-knowing-what-we%E2%80%99re-getting

So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today? Why do you come to church? Do you come to be transformed? Do you come to live in Christian Community where we are called to live differently? In our time God is critiquing our Capitalist System that puts value on money where as our faith puts value on people and all of God’s Creation. Do you come to church to share time, talents and love with each other? Do you come to church to be a sign of hope in our world? Are you here to say there is another way of living in the world that makes room for us all?

I invite you this week to reflect on what it means for you to be a Christian? There is no one correct answer. But it must reflect the Great Commandment of God which is to love God with all your heart, to love yourself and to love your neighbour as yourself. Then to remember that neighbour is our brothers and sister around the world.

 

 

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

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

Living in the Here and Now

Sermon – November 9th 2014

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Matthew 25:1-13

 

I am troubled by today’s scripture reading from Matthew.  The lazy bride’s maids are condemned for life because of their laziness in not being prepared to welcome the bride groom. I feel for the lazy brides maids do you?

Yes, todays Gospel lesson was a message to Matthew’s followers who were getting impatient because Jesus had not returned yet.  Matthew was trying to tell them they needed to be patient.  But they also needed to be prepared as we would never would know when Jesus would return.

Matthew was trying to emphasize that we are to focus our lives on living, in the way of Jesus, which prepares us for any eventuality. Sadly this scripture has been corrupted by the popular belief, called rapture, which leads us to being only concerned about our salvation in a very narrow way.  It does not include the biblical understanding of the salvation/healing of the world. It is about believing in a particular dogma that divides the world into good and bad.  It doesn’t like diversity! So, whenever we get into talking about the theology of end times I get uncomfortable.  Do you?

I believe that Jesus keeps returning over and over again.  Jesus comes to me through each of you.  Yet I am accountable for my behaviour and the choices I make in life.  How am I accountable?

Yes I am accountable to God.  Do I need to fear God when I die?  No I don’t!  But in some way I will be held accountable to the Divine.  I have no idea how that will happen.  I sometimes wonder if hell is only on earth.

Yet there are so many ways God holds me accountable.  God holds me accountable through my faith community, through my family, through my friends.  I pray that those around me will affirm me when I am on the Christ path and challenge/confront me in a loving way when I am getting off track. I believe that we need to do this for each other.

Another word that is commonly used in our faith that is not unlike accountability is judgement.  Yet none of us want to be judged unless we get a good mark in a test or essay.  But judgement is not a bad word.  I like what William Willimon’s colleague Rick Lischer says about this:

Yet my colleague Rick Lischer points out that in the New Testament the Greek word for judgment is krisis. And he points out that this word krisis does not really mean the end, the final act, or what happens after the final act, but more accurately means “turning point.” A crisis is not what happens after everything else is over. A crisis is what happens when the plot of the story takes a decisive turn. That decisive turning point could be at the beginning, the middle, or the end. It doesn’t always have to be at the very end.

Jesus often talks judgment, particularly in this Gospel. When Jesus talked judgment, he did not speak of it so much as being at the very end, but at any time there is that moment of crisis, a turning point.

Lischer says toward the end of Matthew that the crisis comes like a thief in the night, when you are sleeping. The thief pries open a window and climbs in. Like that. Judgment comes when you least expect it.

  1. http://www.logosproductions.com/content/november-9-2014-prepared-judgment

I know that holding people accountable/judging can be uncomfortable.  We need to keep building healthy relationships for this to happen.  We need to learn to communicate in clear and compassionate ways so others have the chance to hear us.  It is not that difficult.  Remember to always use I statements.  Always try to be clear as possible.  Clarify what each other are saying.  Make a plan to resolve your issue and come back from time to time to see how you are doing.  When you do resolve it celebrate!

I don’t worry about Jesus returning for one last time to divide the sheep and goats.  I think God loves sheep and goats!  I am thankful that God comes back over and over again through people like you.  I am never alone!!  God comes back to us to help us live out our lives faithfully seeking for us to reflect the Creator’s love.

We all have a number of callings.  They are all equally important.  I was just at a meeting of Saskatchewan Conference Pastoral Relations and Settlement Committee in Saskatoon.  Did you know that we are in great need of leaders in the United Church of Canada?  God is calling for Ordained, Diaconal or Lay Profession (Designated Ministers).  Have you ever wondered if you would make a good minister?  Do you know somebody who would be a good minister?  If you do let them know.  Many of us in church leadership are there because someone encouraged us to consider it.

Are you able to do what you feel passionate about whether that is as your paid job, or as volunteer?  I hope you are able to live out your dreams.  I hope you are able to do things that feel meaningful for you.  I hope you know you are making a difference in the world.

In holding each other accountable and judging is not meant to be a weapon, rather it is an act of love that a person or group lives out to help people become more and more their true selves.  It is an act or acts to help people to recognize they are men, women and children of our maker.  It is a reminder that we are all created in the image of God.

I can think of times in my life where I have been held accountable in life giving ways.  It could be a congregational member, a colleague, and/or Presbytery who with compassion explains clearly to me in a calm tone how I have impacted themselves or others whether good or bad.  I may not have liked what they had to say at first, but then I have a chance to redeem a relationship whether that means me making amends, seeking forgiveness or the opportunity to sort out a misunderstanding.

I feel very fortunate to have a job that I love to do.  I am grateful to have activities such as dancing and learning about the Enneagram that also give me energy.  I am grateful to be in a relationship with Jen where we seek to encourage each other in living our lives fully.

I pray that you may have that joy and satisfaction too!  Don’t forget that each of you are women and men of God blessed with gifts and abilities to bring the Kindom of God closer and closer to us.

Thanks be to God.  Amen!

New York City June 2014 (147)

Do you like Banquets!

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – October 12th 2014

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

Thanksgiving Sunday

By Roland Legge

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

Not Jesus meek and mild again this Sunday.  Matthew continues to reflect the tumultuous times he was living in. Today’s Parable of the Banquet tries to make sense of the events of the time.

First, remember that Matthew is a Jewish Christian.  The original guest invited represent the Jews who do not accept Jesus. Matthew was grieving that so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters were not accepting Jesus as the Messiah. He couldn’t understand why when it was so obvious to himself.  He wants his Jewish friends to realize that there are serious consequences if they cannot see Jesus as he truly is for Matthew.

The second set of guest represent the Gentiles. Matthew is also trying to make sense of the many Gentile converts.  I expect he is so excited by their interest in Jesus. Yet he is confounded that they too don’t always totally get Jesus.  Matthew wants them to know that there are consequences for their sinfulness.

So again this is no justification for hurting our Jewish brothers and sisters.  It is more about the radical call of God that invites all to the great heavenly banquet where all are welcome!  Where all will be held accountable!

As today is, Thanksgiving Sunday, I think this is a great day to reflect on the Banquet we are being invited to participate in.  First, I do not believe in a God of wrath.  The God I believe in welcomes us all to the table.  The God I believe in calls on us to practice radical gratitude.  To recognize that of God in each and every person we meet no matter what prejudices we may hold.

I think my Mother had it right.  She knew about the Banquet! Every special day of the year such as at Thanksgiving she would always invite someone from the Friends Meeting church to come and have dinner with us who otherwise would have been alone. As a kid I didn’t understand this.  I just wanted dinner alone with my family.  But now I see the love of God in my mother.  She welcomed people to the Banquet throughout her life.

What does this Banquet look like here at Foam Lake United Church?  Every Sunday should be like the Banquet.  Do we make it clear to our community that everyone is welcome at our church and really mean it?  Do we take an interest in everyone that is connected through our church?  Do we tell them how glad that they are with us?  Do we thank them for all they do?  Do we make an intentional effort to welcome those who are more isolated in our community such as people living with disabilities and or mental illness?  Do we show the children how much we love them? Do we show their parents the love support they need as they raise their children in a crazy world?

Living in the way of Jesus is a lifelong goal.  We are living in the Kindom of God and yet it is still to come.  We are at the Banquet and yet not all people have been welcomed to the Banquet!

There are so many people who have been kept out of the Banquet.  I think of the millions of people in the Middle East who are forced into living conditions that are hell right here on earth.  We in the west have much to atone for.  Right now our government is participating in the bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq.  While I have no easy solution to the problems in the Middle East I know that the bombing is only going to make things worse.  The only way to resolve things is for us to have people in the Middle East working with their own people to resolve conflict through non-violent means.  It means stopping the trade in armaments.  It means ending the manipulation of Super Powers in the world.  It means ending poverty!  It means ending the abuse of power by a few people.  It means naming extremist for what they are!  It is about bringing the religions of the world together to build peace and justice.

It is going to take people like Malala Yousafzai who just received the Nobel Peace prize for her work in calling for all girls to receive a good education.  That girls should be able to live free of fearing sexual abuse and rape.  Malala is inviting people to the Banquet.

It is going to take people like you and I practising Radical Gratitude really being thankful for all that we have been blessed with.  It is going to be important that Congregations like Foam Lake United Church focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have. It is going to be about practising real community where we really care for each other.  Where we go out in to our community and let others know how much they are loved by God and that we really care about them.

Over the years I have had glimpses of the Banquet that Jesus is talking about.  I remember one summer when was I working in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.  I remember going to a funeral for a fellow who lived on the streets.  I was surprised by how I was moved to tears by this service.  Many people got up and told stories about this person and what he meant to them. It was beautiful!

I experienced the banquet when I was welcomed into a First Nations family home because I had the opportunity to be part of a program where parents who are in prison can give Christmas presents to their children.  It was an honor to be in their home and receive their hospitality.  It was an honor to hear some of their life story. I learned that they are not much different from me.

I experienced the Banquet through the people I have met through the Enneagram.  I have been welcomed into a community where every person is honored and encouraged to be their true Spirit selves.  It is a place to be real.  It is a place to be vulnerable.  It is place to allow your emotional walls to come tumbling down and be received by the community in love.

I experience the Banquet every Sunday when we come together to worship the Creator.  I especially feel it when we share the Peace, sing together, enjoy  a pot luck meal and when we share communion.

How do you experience the Banquet?  How do you experience the Love of God?  God wants us all to wake up to our higher selves.  God wants each of us to find meaning and joy in our lives.

I want to end with these questions.  How is God calling us to welcome people to the Banquet?  How is God calling us to host the Banquet in Foam Lake?  What are we doing to make this happen?  How can we welcome more people to the Banquet?

Village+Wedding+Feast-1600x1200-2462