God Loves David’s and Goliath’s

Sermon – June 21st 2015

4th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Mark 4:35-41

 

We all remember the story of “David and Goliath”! It is one of those feel good stories of the good guy defeating the bad guy. It is a good story if you are one of the oppressed. It is good if you are one of the lowly. How do you think the rich and powerful experience this story?

For them it would not be good news. They do not want to lose their power. They enjoy the privileges they have. They would use whatever they have available to them as their weapon to keep the status quo. Would you want to fight “Goliath”? I don’t think I would.

We always like to cheer on the underdog. Do you remember how we all got behind the Jamaican Bobsled team at the Calgary Olympics in 1988? We all knew they were not going to win any medals but we cheered them like they were our home team.

Desmond Tutu is one of my favorite underdogs. Desmond Tutu was the Archbishop of South Africa for the Anglican Church and was very involved in bringing Apartheid to an end. He inspires me to live faithfully. He inspires me to live with courage. He is like the mustard seed we talked about last week who has grown into a courageous man of faith. A man of faith who is not afraid to challenge the powers and principalities and to put the needs of the Creation ahead of profit and power. William Willimon says this:

Bishop Desmond Tutu is a man of short stature, but he is a giant when compared to most of us, spiritually speaking. Tutu was walking by a construction site on a temporary sidewalk the width of one person. A white man appeared at the other end, recognized Tutu, and said, “I don’t give way to gorillas.” At which Tutu stepped aside, made a deep sweeping gesture, and said, “Ah yes, but I do.”

Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-21-2015-god-losers

For me Jesus is one of the greatest underdogs to have lived. No one expected so much from this Galilean peasant. He was from Galilee, one of the poorest parts of the world. The local joke was that nothing good could come from Galilee. Yet Jesus had a way of helping people to discover how others experienced them. Jesus had a way of bringing the best out in people. Jesus had a way of helping people to discover the holy in themselves. His call to wake us up to the holy essence of life wasn’t always well received. Some people liked what he was doing. Others felt very threatened and joined with others to attack him.

But what was even more surprising that his movement did not end when he died like a criminal. In fact the movement became stronger when he died. It is a miracle that Jesus with a dubious background become a great spiritual and political leaders. Had you ever thought of Jesus as an underdog?

Who are the “Goliaths” of the world today? For me these are the people addicted to power and privilege. These are the people who lose their moral compass. They are the people caught in the military industrial complex who rely on this unjust system to give them a job.

The armies of Canada, the United States and Russia are a few examples of who uses their power to keep the status quo and/or give their own nations even more power and privilege often at a great cost to others.

In our time, the leaders of Corporations have become the “Goliaths” of our times. Many transnational companies such as Walmart have more money and power than most nations. They are in this to make as much money as possible at all costs’. Many people’s lives and even nations have been hurt by this mentality of profit at all costs.

There are many people, often the poor, who are asked to do these jobs of violence. Many poor men and women end up in our armies because they have no other options. Then with the sophisticated weapons of war, more and more men and women are being physically, emotionally and spiritually hurt in practise and in battle which makes it difficult to function in life. Marriages end. Children lose one of their parents or both. The memories and the nightmares are hard to overcome. The individual is left try and survive. Many end up on the streets. Many of them die from addictions, and depression. Suicide is not un-common.

God loves both “David’s” and “Goliaths”!   God calls on Goliaths to have a change of heart. To discover what is really important for them. To learn that love is the only way to transform the world that is lasting. Joy that comes from being co-creators with God is way more satisfying than the endless desire for more power that never gets satisfied.

There are “Goliaths”, people with great power, who do use their power well. One example would be the creator and owner of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who has put a lot of money and effort into social and economic development around the world. God would say well done good and faithful man. You see Bill Gates has a vast network of “David’s” who he chooses to join in their projects for social change.

God cheers on “David’s” who won’t let anyone stop them from doing God’s work. “David’s” are God’s agents for change and transformation. “David’s” are like the Buddhist monks who build a peace pagoda right by the border with an American Nuclear base in Washington State. They do it to unsettle the community and remind Americans of their responsibility to build peace and justice around the world through peaceful means.

God celebrates “David’s,” like the National Chief, Perry Belgrade, who are working in our country to end the racism and imperialism that have oppressed the first people of Canada and the United States.   The Spirit calls upon us to join with these people to build relationships with our First Nations peoples so that we can all affirm that we are to share this Planet earth in ways that honor all peoples of the world.

While most of us would not see ourselves as powerful and influential people. However, many people in the world would see us as part of the rich and powerful nations. Much of what we choose to do in our world affects poor people worldwide. As Canadians we have great power vested in us to transform the world because we are so blessed with riches. We are part of a block of “Goliath” Nations. We must become humble and choose to let go of some of our wealth so we can share this with the world.

In the end whether we are a “David” or “Goliath” God loves us and will do everything the Spirit can do to reflect God’s love through each of us. Working together David’s and Goliaths can transform the world by bringing us ordinary people along so we can all live in harmony with each other and the earth.

david_and_goliath_outline

Whom do we choose to follow?

Sermon – October 19, 2014

19th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Matthew 22:15-22

 

The conflict between Jesus and his critics had been getting worse over time, since the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. The Herodian’s being a political movement who totally supported the rule of Rome wanted to expose Jesus’ anti Rome/anti tax beliefs because they saw him as a threat to the status quo. The Pharisees, who while not believing in the tax, had come to accept it as a reasonable cost to having the freedom and security to function in the Roman world.  They saw Jesus as a threat to the status quo which gave them power and privilege.  So some Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus a difficult question with the intention to get him in trouble which in essence goes like this: “To whom should they give their loyalty—to God or to Caesar?”

Now Jesus was very wise in how he answered the question.  First he asks for a coin because he does not have one.  Only his critics have a coin. They have in their pockets coins with the idolatrous image of Caesar stamped upon it. Then he says the famous words which is “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to give unto God what is God’s”. So what does Jesus really mean?

Sadly Jesus words have been misinterpreted many times with people claiming that Jesus wants us to pay our taxes to government unquestionably.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I think it is important to note that Jesus does not specify just what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.  He doesn’t have to.  He is talking with people who know scripture by heart and know this psalm: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.” (Ps 24:1)

What Jesus was saying in his time was that if you have chosen to worship Rome then it only seems right then for you to pay taxes to Rome.  However if you choose to follow God then you have no responsibility to pay money to Caesar.  Note that Jesus did not have any coins with the image of Caesar on them.  He is showing clearly where he puts his trust.

Who do we worship today?  Where do we put our trust? Do we worship God?  Or do we worship money, power, armies, bombs, alcohol, drugs etc.   This is a hard question because I think we all want to say that we worship God more than anything else.  But do we?

Our actions often speak louder than our words.  In recent federal elections I suspect that many people put the god of financial security as more important than following our Creator God.  Many have seemed to forgotten Psalm 24:1.  Remember it: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”  The environment seems to become less important when ever we realize there is a financial cost to cleaning it up.  Christians often forget to ask the question as to what does God call upon Canadians and their government to do in the short term and long term.   We look at our economy in every possible way other than what God’s economy might look like.

The challenge for Christians today is to become politically active like Jesus was.  Yes Jesus was politically active. He stood up for God’s economy.  This included hanging out with people that were looked down upon by the religious of his day.  It included speaking the truth when most did not want the truth to be spoken.  It included practicing civil disobedience when he became so angry by the abuse of those who benefited from money that came into the Temple.  Remember that time when Jesus turns over the tables in the Temple?

Jesus was part of a larger movement that was exposing the evil of the Roman Empire.  He was always challenging people to follow God and not Caesar.  The poor and oppressed were empowered by his message because he was giving them permission to challenge Caesar when Caesar was going against God. This was more than enough to get him killed on a cross.

In Canada today we talk about the rule of law.  I don’t think Jesus would disagree with countries having rules of law.  However Jesus would be very angry at any government saying we have to follow all laws without question.  There are many laws we should follow because they help to bring about God’s economy; that being a world where people have access to basic human rights such as food, shelter, education and community.  However Governments have too often let power become their god.  When this happens they will bring in laws that are unjust, immoral, violent and destructive.  Jesus says we are to refuse to follow such laws as long as we are willing to face the consequences.

For example, my father strongly believed this.  He for many years up to his death was part of the Canadian Peace Tax Fund.  Every year this organization figured out what percentage of our taxes go to war.  Then my father would deduct that amount from what he sent to the government and remit the rest to the peace tax fund.  He strongly believed that we need to put money into peacemaking rather than war making. He was following in the path of Jesus.

Would I every break the law for God?  I hope if the opportunity comes along I will have the guts to do it.  But I know there are so many ways for Christians to stand in solidarity with the oppressed.  This is why I am not afraid to raise controversial topics because I know that is what Jesus would have done if he was here today.  This is why I am not afraid to meet people who society have looked down upon.  What do you do when you are confronted with injustice?

The world is a complex place.  It is not easy to make these tough decisions.  Sometimes it is hard to know what God wants.  But with prayer, worship and community we can together make choices each day that are more congruent with our creator.  These would be decisions that will show others that it is the Creator God who we truly worship.

I believe with God there is always hope.  A hope that says we can make a difference in the world; a promise that we will not be left alone. I believe that God will show us the way if we would only listen.

All quotes except for when it is stated otherwise come from Pulpit Resource Vol. 36, No. 4 Year A & B A October, November, December 2008 by William Willimon Logos Productions Inver Grove Heights MN pages 1316

Question Mark

The Mighty Mustard Seed

 

Sermon – July 27th 2014

 

7th Sunday after Pentecost

 

By Roland Legge

 

Genesis 29:15-28

 

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

 

 

 

 

 

What is the Kingdom of Heaven for you?  Is it the place good Christians go to when they die or is it the world we live in right now?  For too long the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven has been abused.  It has been an oppressive tool for the church and governments to keep people in a state of poverty through the promise of a better life after they die.  This is not what Jesus was talking about!

 

 

 

For Jesus the Kingdom of Heaven was to be lived out each day in the here and now.  The Kingdom parables were told to encourage people in their faithful journey through life.

 

 

 

In the parable of the Mustard Seed Jesus was using this little bush as a symbol of the Kingdom. It is kind of like the dandelion flowers we all have in our gardens today.  First the mustard seed was small and when it landed on the ground it was prolific.  It was a small ordinary bush that never gave up.  Why would Jesus have used this ordinary innocuous bush as a symbol of the Kingdom of God?  It could be interpreted in a nice feel good way, in believing that this Parable shows us how small acts of ministry can have a huge impact.  Now this is very true.  But this story goes much deeper in suggesting that the Kingdom of heaven is like a weed that confronts, challenges, corrupts and subverts us often in most uncomfortable and disturbing ways.  So no matter how hard we might fight against it,  God will never give up.

 

 

 

 

 

I love the imagery of the women who hides the leaven for the bread.  In Jesus day leaven was a symbol of moral corruption.  But none the less, she takes it and makes a 100 loaves of bread which will feed many hungry people.  So here this women takes the subversive power of God, in the leaven, and makes use of it to transform many lives.  This is no picnic!  This is all about the radical transformation of God through the most ordinary things of life, the most irritating people and sometimes the things we consider dirty to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven. God never gives up! God will find a way to get through to us.

 

 

 

Who are the pesky people that never give up on Kingdom building?  There are many and you probably know someone who has that fiery passion to transform the world.  I think of Dorothy Day who led the Catholic Workers Movement much to the annoyance of church, corporate and government officials. Dorothy was born in New York City in 1897.   She was a radical women for her time and known for work in non-violent resistance (Pacifism) and women’s suffrage.  She was arrested a couple of times, one of the times protesting for the woman’s vote in front of the Whitehouse in Washington D.C.   She went on a hunger strike when we she was imprisoned.  Dorothy annoyed a lot of people.  She often got called a “Communist”.  I think God the Spirit was well pleased.

 

 

 

In think of Malala Yousafzai a courageous young woman from Pakistan who refused to be obedient to the Taliban who does not want girls to be educated.  She never gave up on getting an education even when she and her family were being threatened. Malala and her Dad remain determined to today standing up for girls around the world who are being oppressed.  They refuse to give in!  They are like those pesky mustard bushes and dandelions who won’t go away.  I am sure the Spirit is pleased.

 

 

 

I love this story from Joyce Hollyday who tells of some Brazilian women who refused to be pushed out of their community.  Here is how God worked through these courageous women.

 

A small group of peasants lived on a piece of land in Brazil, which was wanted for development by government and private business interests. To make their land seizure legal, those who wanted it got the Congress to declare the land theirs. The peasants were pushed off the land, their houses and crops destroyed.

 

As the people moved on to start over, this action was repeated several times. Whenever the peasants tried to resist, the police came in with force, wounding and killing some of them. Their burden of suffering was tremendous.

 

So when it became known that they were about to be pushed off their land yet again, one person asked, “Why should we resist? It will just mean that more of us will lose our lives. “Another pointed out that even if they were not killed, they would die slowly of starvation. Without land, they had no way to live, no way to plant or grow food. Despair was the prevailing mood, until some of the women got an idea.

 

With a little research, the women found out where all the members of the Congress lived. While the government officials were at work in their offices, the women went with their children — each to a different house — and sat on the front lawns of the luxurious homes.

 

These were some of Brazil’s most prestigious neighborhoods, and the sight of ragged women and their children on the lawns was an extraordinary and curious vision. After a while some of the wives of the Congress members went out with bread. The mothers told them, “We want no bread from you.”

 

Some of the wealthy women came out with money. “We have not come here for money, ” said the mothers. And eventually each wife asked, “What do you want?”

 

The peasant women answered, “We are going to die. And since this is a nice place, we thought we would like to die here. “

 

Then the wives asked, “Why are you going to die?”

 

And the mothers told of how their land was about to be stolen again, how their children were going to starve, and how the Congress was voting to make their doom legal.

 

The phones at the Congress began buzzing. Every wife called her husband to plead with him not to vote for the bill in Congress. And in the end, the people kept their land and their future.

 

A Collection of Mustard Seeds by Joyce Hollyday http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/collection-mustard-seeds?parent=41124

 

 

 

God works through each of us to bring in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus reminds us that there will be many ups and downs on this path toward holiness.  But the Spirit will always be present using us in surprising ways to subvert, turn around, and challenge God’s family to live with love, justice, dignity and generosity.

extravegant lovehttpwww.masterworksfestival.orgThe-MasterWorks-Festival-Offici_Extravagant-Love.blog