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.

 

 

Miracles and Healing Everywhere!

the man cured from Leprosy

Gospel Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever seen a miracle happen to someone?

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

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

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

Think about the miracles you have experienced in life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Do you like Conflict?

Exploring the Word:

 

 

Sermon – September 7th 2014

13th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

 

 

How many of us love conflict?  I think the majority of us do not like it, except for a few people who thrive on it.  Yet conflict has an important role to play in our communities.  If we never had conflict there wouldn’t be any personal growth. If we didn’t have conflict we would not have healthy relationships.  If we didn’t have conflict we would stop growing as God’s people.

 

Jesus knows this only too well! So in our Gospel lesson we learn how faith communities can grow from conflict.  The trouble is that many of our churches try to hide from conflict which only makes things worse.  It makes things worse because avoidance doesn’t resolve the conflict.  The energy created by conflict is just left to fester making it come out at unexpected times on issues that have nothing to do with the original issue.  When conflict is hidden it often will come out in very destructive ways.

 

Jesus shows us a simple way to resolve conflict.  The first one is to go and talk to the person you have conflict with, using “I” statements to clearly name what upset or hurt you.  So for example, if you were upset because you felt excluded from the decision about what color to paint the basement of the church, here is what Jesus would suggest you do: first you would clarify what you were upset about. If you still deemed the issue serious enough you would go and talk to the chair of the Property Committee.  If you have good reason to be upset and the person does apologise to you after a conversation where each party was allowed to share their point of view you are to forgive them. However, if they don’t forgive you, you are go to the next step.

 

Jesus then suggests that you find two or three people, such as our Ministry and Personnel Committee.  Remember God says when two or three people are together God is present. The idea is that through prayer and open conversation the conflict can begin to be resolved. If you are able to resolve the issue at this level you again forgive and reconcile with the person or persons.

 

But what do you do if it does not get resolved through the Ministry and Personnel Committee?  Jesus suggests that you need to take it to the whole church. In our United Church Polity it would need to go to the Board or to the Presbytery.

 

At all these levels, conflict needs to be addressed with great care.  Again we need to speak very clearly and from our own point of view.  We are not to call each other names.  We need to respect the fact that it is normal to have different opinions.  We need to find solutions that are respectful of all who are involved. It needs to be a win-win solution.

 

Resolving conflict takes time.  I love how the Religious Society of Friends uses Consensus Decision Making as a process to decide the direction of each Friends Meeting or Yearly Meeting which is like our General Council.  When a proposal is made, people get to ask questions for clarification.  They get to ask questions about why this proposal is important.  They get to discuss if there are better ways to do this.  They patiently wait until everyone has had their say. Throughout the process people need to keep checking to see if consensus has been reached.  There may need to be amendments made to make the proposal acceptable to everyone.  But once people come to a place where everyone can live with the decision then consensus is reached.  What I like about consensus is that when the decision is made everyone can get behind it and make it happen.  You will no longer have any 51 % to 49% decisions that can seriously divide the community.

 

Often forgiveness takes time too.   It is more often a process that allows us the time to forgive ourselves and others.  If it is a serious offense we may get no further than not allowing the negative/destructive energy of the offense to hurt our present and future relationships.  Forgiveness does not always mean that we can renew the relationship.

 

I believe Jesus calls us to be a community where we can openly struggle, laugh, pray our way to decisions that will be of benefit to the whole community.  It doesn’t mean we get it right all the time.  But when we don’t get it right we will rise to the occasion and make the changes needed.  But in order to find consensus we all need to be willing to give and take. The bottom line is that we need to be able to live with the decision.

 

God has blessed each of us with power. Power in and of itself is neither good nor bad.  More important is how we use that power.  We all want to be able to impact the world around us.  God desires for us to share our power with others and come up with solutions that seek the highest good for the community.

 

I can think of one conflict that took place in the Vancouver Friends Meeting.  In 1983, when Vancouver hosted the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Friends (Quakers) participated.  At the end of the Assembly, each participating church who helped to organize the gathering in Canada received a chalice.  For Quakers this raised a serious question as “Friends” don’t have communion as a ritual.  Some people were incensed and wanted to return it. Some people wanted to keep it. Those who wanted to keep it had various ideas as to what to do with it.  The whole event created a lot of controversy.  But after a lot of prayerful deliberation it was decided to put the chalice into the Quaker Museum at the Friends Meeting House in Toronto.  In the end everybody was able to live with decision.

 

In the months and years ahead we as a congregation will have some major choices to make.  The Spirit may be calling us to talk about things that many of us won’t feel comfortable in talking about.  Yet God calls us too openly and compassionately to talk about things prayerfully—even if we have to risk conflict.  Conversations may free us up to be the church in new ways that will be inviting to our younger generations, many of whom have moved away from the church.  What are those sensitive subjects in our church?

 

I pray that we will take seriously the teachings of Jesus that will show us the way to the Kindom of God.  May the Spirit give us the courage to speak what we think and yet be given the openness and tenderness to hear different points of view. May we be given the wisdom to seek new paths for our church and world.  May we be given the courage to experiment with new ways of being church. May we continue to pass on the Good News of Jesus!  The Good News is that there is a better and more joyful and just way to co-exist in this world with all of God’s Creation. So be it!  Amen.

Listening_Earhttpcrossinthewilderness.blogspot.ca2012_08_12_archive.html

Who am I to say No

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – August 31st 2014

12th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Burning Bush

Bodies and Spirit

 

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 28:10-19a:  

Romans 8:12-25:  
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43: 

 

 

 

Paul in his message to the Romans calls upon us to be our Christ selves.  Another way of saying it is that we are called to be our true selves, our spirit selves, our authentic selves.  What does it mean for you to be your authentic self?

 

 

 

The language that Paul uses isn’t helpful for our time. Why?  In the scripture Paul calls upon us to follow the spirit and not the flesh.  Sadly, for many centuries, people have interpreted this to mean that are bodies are inherently evil and our bodies tempt us to sin, especially women’s bodies. So for centuries the church has tried to impose many rules on how we use our bodies to protect us from our animal selves.  It has imposed penalties on those who break the taboos.  It has used its rules around sexuality to keep women as slaves of men. This led to all sorts of unhealthy attitudes about our bodies and the relationship between men and women. 

 

 

 

For me, the church has warped our sense of a human sexuality and turned it from something beautiful into a tool for those with power to manipulate others into doing things that will benefit their masters.   It has led to us abusing our bodies and bodies of others.  It has also silenced the wisdom of our bodies and that is why there so much physical, spiritual and mental dis-ease now.  How comfortable are in your in your own body?  Did you know that the whole of you both spirit, mind and body are sacred and divine?

 

 

 

Thankfully there has been present from the beginning of Christianity to today groups of people who have opposed this notion that the body is inherently evil.  Even in early Christianity, the church over and over said that Jesus was both fully human and fully God.  It was like saying that Jesus was both divine spirit and sanctified body.   More so, it was made very clear that when Jesus was resurrected it wasn’t just his spirit. It also included his body. Also the stories of the disciple’s encounters with Jesus were bodily experiences, such as demonstrated by the story of Doubting Thomas.

 

 

 

There are more and more Christians, like myself, who feel called to see ourselves as both body and spirit. We cannot separate these two parts.  We cannot have one without the other.

 

 

 

As I am learning more about the Enneagram I am discovering how close the Spirit is. The wisdom of God is never far away whether you feel it in your body, see it through your eyes and/or sense it through your mind.  I believe God is present within us and around us.  God is present in the people, including ourselves and in the whole of creation.  It is never far away!

 

 

 

Too often we see ourselves as defective.  But God never sees us that way.  God has blessed each of us with love, patience, energy and wisdom to be a Co-Creator with God.  As long as we are caught in this lie we will be stuck in hopelessness. We will try all sorts of things to fix ourselves or fix those around us. But then we discover that money won’t fix it.  The latest hip book won’t fix it.  The right church won’t fix it.  However the only way to change the world is to change ourselves and the Good News is that we have everything we need to begin the transformation process.

 

 

 

Up to now many of us have gone through trials and tribulation to survive in our world.  How we survived is a combination of what we learned from those around us who passed on their survival skills and our and our personality.  When we are young we use whatever we come up with to survive.  When we use them habitually as we get older we call these fixations.

 

 

 

A fixation is a behaviour we use over and over again to deal with issues in our lives where we feel frightened and/or insecure.  When we use it often it becomes like a habit.  For example one of my fixations is security.  I have missed great opportunities in my life because I was frightened to do something or go somewhere I wasn’t familiar with.  I awfulized worrying about what was unlikely going to happen.  Have you ever done that?

 

 

 

Our goal is to become fully present in our Christ selves.  To work on this is a life long journey.  There is no quick fix.  Each of us need to be willing to begin peeling off all the lies and fixations that block us from being our true selves.  This will take a lot of courage and grace for yourself and those around you.

 

 

 

It is important to remember that you don’t need to try and do this alone. In fact I would recommend that you don’t try this alone as you will need people to journey with you as it won’t always be easy.

 

 

 

A good place to start is to honor your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  For example, we all need to be touched in respectful ways.  I will never forget a nun saying to me in a group that she had sexual needs in that she needed human contact, relationship and touch.  We know that if babies don’t have it they will die.

 

 

 

Our bodies are meant to be used for the glory of God.  How are you using your body?  Have you found your vocation and found ways to live it out?  Are you taking care of your body with proper food and exercise?  I love the image of the body being like a temple.  If you would take great care of your church why wouldn’t you take great care of your body?  Do this with joy and not as a penalty for your sinfulness.

 

 

 

I would encourage you to find a tool and/or a practise to help you to become more fully present such as painting, pottery, sports, meditation, yoga, massage and Reiki.  I am finding the Enneagram to be a great tool to help me find who I truly am by discovering and releasing my addictive fixations that have held me back for much of my life.  It is also helping me to discover more and more of my God given wisdom that is always present if I would just pay some attention. 

 

 

 

The Enneagram and other spiritual/personality tools has helped me to recognize that there is great guidance that comes through the head, heart and gut energies of our bodies.  For us to be healthy we need to pay attention to all three energies.  Most of us get into trouble when we are fixated on wisdom from only one.  This gives us a distorted perspective which leads to emotional hurt and frustration.

 

 

 

I invite you to begin or continue your journey of self-discovery as your great gift back to God.  If each of us would embark on this journey for healing and wholeness the world would become a much better place.

jesus1

We Can Make a Difference

Image

Sermon – May 18th 2014

By Roland Legge

Easter Five (Year A)

Psalm 31

John 14:1-14

 

Jesus sure has high expectations of us!  What would you have said to Jesus when he told his disciples that God was going to do even greater things through them than what he had done?  If I had been there I would have said to Jesus he doesn’t know what he is talking about.  How could he expect us to outdo him?  But Jesus won’t hear of our excuses.  He won’t hear of our excuses because it is God who is going to work through us. This endeavour does not rely on our imperfect humanness but on our willingness to allow God to work through us. 

 

A few years ago I attended the United Church’s national inter-cultural ministry conference in Vancouver.   Inter-cultural ministry is all about allowing God to work through us in helping to build loving, just, and respectful relationships between the great diversity of cultures in our world.  In our own context the majority of people fit into four main cultures.  They are Anglophone (Anglo-Saxon), Ukrainian, Icelandic, Aboriginal and Metis.  How can we be a blessing to each other?

 

How do we learn to get along better with each other?  This is one of the great tasks that God has given us.  We must each struggle to know how God desires for us to live with justice and harmony with all people in our communities.  Our congregation must discern how we can welcome all people in our community, no matter who they are and where they came from.  This call to mutuality in community is what John, the author of this Gospel, was reminding his followers that it was Jesus who called us all to this ministry in the first place.

 

Today I am going to share some of my experiences from a workshop called “Building Bridges – Understanding the Village”, that I took at the gathering.   The workshop helped me to better understand how my aboriginal brothers and sisters have been affected by the European settlement of North America.  It also helped me to know how I can best be part of healing the divisions not only between aboriginal and white people, but between all people in the world.

 

Our facilitators Cathy and Alberta led us through a process of education through storytelling and role playing.  First they emphasized this is not about shaming white people.  But it is about learning to “row” together as aboriginal and white people.  In order for this to happen we must first get to know each other through hearing our stories.

 

Cathy and Alberta shared some of the story of their own people.  They were representing the many nations of aboriginal people on the coast of British Columbia.  They reminded us they have been in relationship with the land for a long time.  Archaeologists believe that there have been settlements of people around Burrard inlet for 10,000 years. 

 

They talked of the importance of knowing who you are.  Before European contact, each people knew who they were through the food they ate, their homes, and their clothes, system of governance and language and dialect.  Each of these different aspects of their culture helped each tribe to know who they were in relation to the many other nations on the west coast of B.C.  They were proud peoples who were not ashamed of being who they were. 

 

We were reminded that we all have come from our own indigenous lands.  For me that is Scotland and Ireland.  My heart lights up whenever I hear Celtic music.  If we go back far back each of us comes from rural communities that had many of the same attributes a first nation’s village had before the Europeans came.  Where is your indigenous land?

 

Cathy and Alberta invited us to role play living in a west coast first nation’s village pre European colonization.  I invite you to join me in this role play in which each of us were invited to take on the roles of people who made their community function including children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, elders and hunter protectors.

 

I volunteered to be one of the children.  I felt secure in the circle with all my community keeping me safe so I could explore and play as much as I wanted.    I felt the warmth of my parents, grandparents, elders, aunts, uncles and the hunter protectors.  I felt like I was living in a womb of love.  I was so happy because I had everything I needed.  But then the Europeans came and forcefully removed me with my brothers, sisters, cousins and friends out of the community.  I was forcefully led from the circle outside the room to attend a residential school far from where I had grown up.  I felt sad, frightened, and angry.   I missed my family and all that I was used to in my community.  It seemed like I could no longer do anything that was right because I was told that I was a heathen.  I wasn’t allowed to speak my own language.  I wasn’t allowed to play the games I had grown up with.  I was forced to eat strange food. I became very depressed because I felt like a stranger in a foreign land where I was not welcome.  I no longer had the comfort of the familiar sights and smells of my own community.  It sometimes felt that life was no longer worth living.

 

Then my people began the long healing process.  It wasn’t easy.  One day, members of my tribe tried to bring me back to the community.  I was hesitant about returning because I was unsure of what would happen when I returned.  But with perseverance my people brought me back into the circle.  It felt good in the end, but the journey toward healing is going to take a long time because of how we had been treated as less than human.  For the first time I felt some hope.  The role play came to an end and all shared how it felt to be in our different roles.

 

Why do we need to hear the story?  We need to hear the story so we can better understand our aboriginal brothers and sisters.  We need to do this so we can work hand in hand with our aboriginal brothers and sisters to heal the world.  I believe this is the only way to begin to break down the walls between us.

 

Instead of getting stuck in shame we need to move ahead to heal the world with all people no matter how different they may seem to us.   Cathy and Alberta said if we all can abide by these four laws found in many aboriginal cultures there is a way out of our mess.  The four laws are these:

  1. LOVE
  2. RESPECT
  3. KINDNESS
  4. GENEROSITY

 

Imagine if we all keep these laws as the lenses we view the world, our world will become a more a gentle, loving and just place to be.

 

Each of us will continue to make a difference. We will do this by finding belonging in our different communities.  We will find this by being our own persons.  We will do this by mastering our gifts which we can share with the world.  Lastly, but not least, we can make a difference in generously sharing all of who we are with all the people of the world.

 

We not only must do this individually but as a faith community.  Hence, I hope we at Foam Lake United Church will continue to create opportunities for each of us to get to know each other through hearing each of our ordinary amazing stories.  I hope we will continue to do this through generously sharing our gifts with our family, church, community and world.  I hope we will do this by us seeking out the stories of folks from different cultures such as our Ukrainian, Icelandic, Aboriginal and Metis brother and sisters.

 

I came back from Behold full of new energy, joy and hope. I pray that you too can experience the joy that comes from breaking down the walls of racism and prejudice; the walls that hold us back from bringing forth the New Jerusalem that Christ promised is both here and yet to come.

 

Healing to Wholeness

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Reflection # 1 Acts 8:26-40

 

Jesus whole life was about bringing people to wholeness.  He wants each of us to be able to experience the joy and wonder of life.  Jesus wants each of us to know in the deepest part of ourselves that we are unconditionally loved by the Creator.  He wants to invite us to be spiritually open, enabling the Spirit to keep working through each of us.  The Holy Spirit will help us to name and experience the wonderful mixture of humanity and divinity in each of us.  When we do this the world feels and looks like a much brighter place.

 

In the book of Acts we hear the story of how the Holy Spirit was working through Philip. The Spirit was leading Philip to break down barriers.  Philip was led by the Spirit to share the Good News with an Ethiopian eunuch.  He is breaking the barrier that said Judaism was only for the Hebrews; even the Christian sect within Judaism.  He is breaking the barrier in hanging out with some one that was different from him, someone neither male nor female. 

 

Imagine what it would have been like to have been this Ethiopian eunuch.  I expect, while he had some respect because of being connected with those in power, many would have ignored this person or seen this eunuch as less than human.  I hunch, it must have felt good when Philip took some time with this person to help the eunuch make some sense of scripture this person was reading from Isaiah.  It is said that this eunuch went away rejoicing.  This person new now beyond doubt that he/she was worthy, loved, respected, a full human being and unconditionally loved by God.  This person had been helped by Philip to feel whole.  The eunuch was allowing the Holy Spirit to heal him/her from anything that was holding this eunuch back from fully living out its life.

 

Can you remember a time when you felt out of place?  Can you remember a time when you have felt not respected?  Can you remember a time when you felt so broken you didn’t know if you could find joy and hope again?  Most of us have experienced some of this in our lives.  I have had many people in my life help me to discover the wholeness and healing that God desires for me to feel and know.  I want to talk to you about a favorite teacher of mine, Mrs. Gardener.  She was all about helping me and any student she taught that we were worthy of her time and energy.  She made it very clear that she deeply cared about us.  She made sure we knew we were bright and intelligent.  I can remember her spending hours upon hours with me teaching the times tables that are still with me today.  I stayed in touch with her long after she finished teaching.  Mrs. Gardener helped me to feel whole.  Through the Spirit working through her I received much healing that helped me to keep growing physically, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

 

Who has broken through your barriers?  Who has helped you to see beyond all the “isms” to see divine-humanity in each person we meet?  Who has helped you to experience wholeness and healing?  Who are you inviting into wholeness and healing?

 

May the Creator bless all of us with the same wholeness that Jesus lived out.

 

 

 

Reflection #2:  Mark 5: 25-34

 

Here we have another story of a person finding wholeness and healing.  This is a story about a woman who broke a social taboo.  I quote now from Miriam Mary and Me by Lois Wilson:

Although the woman knew her flow of blood had stopped when she touched Jesus, the text says she still “trembled and feared” when Jesus asked “who touched me?” If the incident simply involved physical healing, the woman would not have responded with fear and trembling to Jesus inquiry.  But she had spoken a taboo.  She had been a social reject for 12 years.  Religious law declared any “touching,” of either the woman or anything associated with her, ritually unclean, that is, taboo (Leviticus 15:19-30).  She trembled because she had broken the law (Leviticus 12:2-7). She had sinned by appearing in a public space when she was ritually polluted.

Miriam Mary & Me Biblical Stories Retold for Children and Adults by Lois Miriam Wilson Northstone Publishing Kelowna B.C. page 247

 

 

Jesus showed us that wholeness comes when we fully recognize another human being.  We bring wholeness when we are able to look them right in the eye.  We bring wholeness when we reach out and touch another person.  We bring wholeness when we acknowledge their presence in a positive way.  In order to do this we need to continuing breaking through many taboos.

 

What are the taboos we need to overcome today?  There are many.  One is the tendency to see people with disabilities as not full human beings. In order to overcome our fear of being around people who don’t seem “normal” to us we need to try to get a sense of what it might be like to walk in their shoes.  This is a good tool to use to break through any taboos and stereotypes that too often get in the way of all people enjoying the blessing of healthy community.

 

I had inherited a lot of stereotypes about people with mental illness.  I somehow got the message that these were not normal people. I got the message you couldn’t trust them.  They were somehow not completely human.  This was all challenged in my last year of theology school when I learned a lot about schizophrenia.  This is just as common as autism!  I learnt the most about it when I was in a workshop where they tried to give us participants an idea what it is like to live with schizophrenia.  These new learning’s changed me forever.

 

After trying to listen to multiple voices all talking to me at once and often in very demeaning ways I soon realized why it is so hard for a person living with this terrible illness to function.  This new knowledge helped me to be more compassionate.  As I got to know people living with schizophrenia I realized that I had little to fear from them.  I realized they are just as much the children of God as any so called “able” person is. Also during this same time I was working in the inner cities of Toronto and Vancouver.  I discovered I could bring wholeness and healing to people with mental illness by taking time to get to know them and treating them with the dignity that all people should be given.  Yes, even people with mental illness can be on the road to wholeness.

 

Reflection # 3:  Luke 10:38-42

 

I love the story of Mary and Martha.  There are many ways to interpret the story.  But today I want to focus on how Jesus was able to recognize Mary’s need to be spiritually fed.  Mary’s need for healing and wholeness was more important at that time than Martha’s need to provide hospitality. 

 

We all need to take time to care for ourselves just as Mary was allowing herself to do with Jesus.  We all need time to care for our minds, our spirit, our intellect and our need to participate in meaningful service in our world.  But this is hard to do in a world that puts so much value on production, money and consumption.  I even find it hard to take twenty minutes to do Centering Prayer each day.  One would think it should not be hard. Why?  I know for me there is still a part of me that does not take seriously the wisdom that meditation and prayer are a good use of my time.  How easy or hard do you find it to care for yourself?

 

I hope that we will stay on the road to wholeness and healing through out our lives.  May the Spirit bless each of us through the words of this poem by Ann Weems called: Gift of God.  Hear it as though I am saying this right to you.

Gift of God

You

gift next to me and

                                      pass me Bread and Wine…

You

always there

                   with communion in your countenance

reaching ready

                                 aware accepting affirming

 

Gift of God

You

touch this lepered me

                                      to wholeness

 

Instrument of God

You

hear alleluias through obscenities

   see rainbows in the darkest storms

         unearth flowers in the snow

 

Gift of God

I thank God for you!

Reaching for Rainbows by Ann Weems The Westminster Press 1980 Philadelphia page 34