Jesus Call to Heal

Sermon – September 27th 2015

18th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
James 5:13-20 
Mark 9:38-50

Jesus’ disciples are feeling good about themselves. They were a part of very important ministry with the Messiah.  How good can it get? Yet they were threatened by someone else healing in the name of God.

They tell Jesus about this impostor.  But to their surprise Jesus was not upset and says “Whoever is not against us is for us.” His followers cannot comprehend why he wasn’t upset.   Jesus has to explain to them, that as the strangers were healing in the name of Spirit, he had no issue with their ministry.  As far as Jesus was concerned the more the merrier.

Jesus demonstrated through his life that he was more concerned with what people did rather than the background of the person who did it.  So for Jesus the act had more importance than the reputation of the person who did it.  A person’s actions were far more important for Jesus than their nationality, gender, religion, color of their skin or abilities.  We still struggle with prejudice today.

Last week we were talking about what it means to be Christian.  Over the centuries people have answered this question in many ways.  Still today the challenge is for us to be open what Scripture is telling us today.

Many of us have a tendency to make God into our own image making the holy a weapon rather than a blessing. Our personal demon tricks us into thinking that we are one of the saved while the people we don’t like will go to hell.  Most of us realize that this is a too simplistic way of thinking.  Yet it still hard to motivate ourselves to risk turning our belief systems upside down.

For me the miracle is that our inspired Scriptures have new things to say to each new generation.  Our Scripture reminds us that we believe in a God of surprises who keeps challenging our prejudices.  Much to our annoyance there is no place that the Creators love cannot go!  The only person we can hold responsible is our selves.

What do we do when we have no person, religion, nationality or belief system to blame?  So for example instead of blaming Muslims, or some other groups, we need to look at ourselves.  We all have shadow sides, that part of us which can be mean, close minded, exclusive and demeaning.  Whether or not we want to admit it we all have it.  The question is are we able to acknowledge that part of ourselves so we can be free from it.  Are we able to allow God’s love to shine on our hurts, anger and greed so they can be transformed into generosity and love?   I believe that with the Creator’s help through each of us we can be changed people building people up rather than tearing them down.

James reminds us that our heart is changed when we to get to know people who we do not feel comfortable with, such as people of the Muslim faith.  I think we would find just as many amazing Muslims as Christians in the world.

The Spirit has shown me the goodness in so many people from all walks of life.  Sometimes it has taken longer than I would like to see people in the eyes of God.  What helped to change my way of thinking was getting to know people I had up to then looked down upon.

In fact James shows us how important hospitality is for our faith.   We are here on this earth to care for each other through prayer, helping each other out in tangible ways, encouraging each other through the hard times and challenging each other through the good times.

The only way we can care for each other is by really knowing each other.  How well do you know each member of our congregation?  Why is it such a challenge for so many congregations to take the time to get to know each other well?  Imagine if a new person arrived in our congregation.  How are we to get to know each other if we don’t create time for this to happen.

James wants us to do more than hospitality.  He wants us to create a healing ministry.  Jesus spent much of his time healing those who were suffering.  Healing begins to happen when we take time to be with a hurting person.  When we risk touching a person by shaking hands, hugging, and just being in their midst barriers are broken.  When we participate in the ancient rituals of anointing a person with oil, sharing prayer and invoking the spirit through the laying on of hands there is transformation.  When we really listen to another person’s story and share our own we become closer.  When we help a person out in need not only with our time and attention but with our physical resources fear is released.

For me there is a big difference between healing and curing.  When we participate in the healing ministry we can make no promises other than the Spirit will be with us.  I believe that we will be healed in some way.  But it may not be the way we would like the healing to happen.  Yes extraordinary healings do happen with cancer being there one minute and gone the next.

But more often the miracle is a change of heart.  It might be a family coming back together in forgiveness.  It might mean discovering what their life is really about and taking whatever time they have left to live out their life mission.  Healing comes in many ways.  It is a gift to be welcomed.  It is the knowledge that God loves each of us unconditionally.  Whether we are cured or not is no determination of the efficacy of the healing.  It simply is.

Thank you Jesus for showing us the way.  God’s love for each of us is much broader than any person could comprehend.  So let us learn from Jesus and welcome each person we meet, knowing they are a person of God.  Let us celebrate with Jesus as the walls crumble and we are reminded that we are all part of a great family.  Whenever we do something that enhances God’s creation, no matter how small or big, God is celebrating saying well done good and faithful steward.images

A Celebration of Diversity

Diversity

Sermon – May 25th 2014

 

6th of Easter (Year A)

 

Celebration of Diversity

 

By Roland Legge

 

Isaiah 11:1-9

 

 

 

I love the imagery in Isaiah 11:1-9 of lion and lamb co-habiting together.  For me this image is important for us today because it reminds me how God has desired diversity from the beginning of time.  In Genesis we are reminded that all of God’s creations was GOOD!  If God had not desired diversity, our world would not be so complex, fascinating, awe inspiring and incredible.

 

 

 

The Spirit yearns for each of us to bring forth all of whom God desires us to be. In order to do this faithfully we need to know our own identity and name the lenses of interpretation through which we experience the world.  Each of us views the world through many lenses.  What are they for you?

 

 

 

Eric Law, one of the speakers at Behold helped each of us at the event to begin to name the lenses through which we experience the world and how others might see us.  Here are some of the lenses:

 

vage

 

vgender

 

vphysical ability

 

vskin color

 

vracial   background

 

vsexual orientation

 

vmarried

 

vsingle

 

vdivorced

 

vwidowed

 

vgeographic location

 

vmigration history

 

veducation and where

 

vreligion

 

vprofession

 

veconomic status

 

vlanguage

 

vbirth order

 

vand much more……

 

 

 

Each of us is made up of many cultural components. Which lenses do you see the world through?  How do you think others view you?

 

 

 

When we meet another person we all have our first impressions based on some of the lenses I mentioned.  The trouble is that many of our first impressions are incorrect.  We all have our stereo-types:

 

vaboriginal people are lazy

 

vteenagers cannot be trusted

 

vblond women are dumb

 

vAsians are good at math

 

vGay men are sissies

 

If we really get to know others we know these stereo-types are not true. How have you been hurt by stereo-types?

 

 

 

Jesus showed us how to break through our stereo-types to see each person as an awesome creation of God.  Jesus was not afraid to relate to all sorts of people; Pharisees, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, prostitutes, the very poor, and the sick.  There was no one that Jesus wasn’t willing to connect with.

 

 

 

I believe that Jesus would encourage and challenge us to have congregations that reflected the diversity of our communities.  Then why is this so difficult?

 

 

 

It is difficult because it requires a change in our hearts.  It is hard because it calls upon us to be open to the Spirit. An openness that will likely call upon us to change the ways we be church.  Here is what Eric Law suggests are the leadership skills, whether lay or clergy, that is needs to be lived out in order to diversify our congregations. They are:

 

 

 

vSelf-awareness of cultural values, privilege and power.

 

vTo see differences as an opportunity for learning

 

vTo have a commitment to Pluralism, that calls upon us to be open to seeing truths in other religions and cultures.

 

vTo be intentional about diversifying our faith communities.

 

 

 

As your spiritual I invite you to join me in this time of

 

transformation, but I cannot do this alone.  Each of us needs to take ownership of becoming an inter-cultural church if it is going to happen.

 

 

 

I have been so enriched by inter-cultural experiences.  They have not always been easy.  I remember attending a Baptist church in Brooklyn New York.  I and three others were the only white people in the whole church.  We were probably most under-dressed folks in the congregation.  While we stuck out like a sore thumb, we were so welcomed.  At the end of the service it didn’t seem to matter that were a minority in a large congregation.  I can’t remember the details of the service, but I can still feel the welcome and hospitality of the folks at Concord Baptist Church.  I think knowing who they are as an African American Baptist congregation, helped them to be open and welcoming to others.

 

 

 

In 1980 I attended the Canadian Yearly Meeting of Canadian Quakers in Nelson B.C.  I found myself in a workshop on Gay and Lesbian issues.  To my surprise I was the only “straight” person in the whole room.  Again I felt welcomed.  They could welcome me because they knew who they were.

 

 

 

In a previous community I was blessed to get to know an aboriginal family through a Christian Mission that arranges for parents in prison to be able to give Christmas presents to their children. I was welcomed into a very different world from mine, hearing stories of how our criminal justice system unfairly treats many aboriginal people.  I heard a powerful story of how this mother overcame addictions and violence to now work in healing lodge near Prince Albert Saskatchewan.   This family could speak to me because they felt proud of being Cree.

 

 

 

All of these experiences changed the way I saw the world.  They were uncomfortable at times.  But even more so they were liberating in widening my understanding and respect for those people and communities I was not familiar with.  These experiences and others often helped me to name my prejudices and see even more the wonder of the Creators handy work.  All of these experiences have helped me to feel good about whom I am as a white Canadian of English, Scottish and Irish ancestry.

 

 

 

Our higher power sees us at Foam Lake United Church as wonderfully diverse.  We may be mainly Western and Eastern European but if we go far back our ancestors came from many places and now from the Philippines.   How much do we know about our own ancestry?  How much do others know about us?

 

 

 

People are hungry for faith communities that seek to embrace diversity.  Places where each of us are encouraged and challenged to live as followers of Jesus.  May we at Foam Lake United continue to live into this vision so that we may find the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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