Called to Abundance

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon – March 30th 2014

Lent IV (Year A)

By Roland Legge

1 Samuel 16:1-13:

Ephesians 5:8-14:

John 9:1-41:

 

 

Imagine a stranger joins us for church one Sunday and announces to us that he has been called by God to search for the right people to bring Abundant Life to the people of Foam Lake.  He tells us that the Spirit has led him to this church and knows that the people here have all it takes to bring hope, love and justice to this town.

 

What would our reaction be?  I am guessing that many of us would be both intrigued and a little uncomfortable.  We would think he was in the wrong place. We would be uncomfortable because we do not believe that we have what it will take to transform our community into the Kin-dom of God.  We are too realistic to think we could make much of a difference.

 

But the stranger goes on to name our many gifts. The stranger reminds us that we have people who are talented in hospitality, cooking, carpentry, teaching, singing, playing musical instruments, plumbing, drama, caring for animals, farming, listening, the arts and much, much more…..

 

When we reflect on it, we realize that God has given us everything we need to bring in the Kin-dom of God.  God has given us all the Love we need to shine Light on all that is hurting in our world.  This divine gifts gives us the ability to see through the eyes of God so we can bring healing wherever there is brokenness.  The world will never look the same again.

 

This new radical perspective we have gained will be welcomed by many, but will be a threat to those who benefit from the status-quo.  There will be many Pharisee types out there who will try to convince us that we have no right to live out the Great Commandments because we will be breaking a lot of rules that have been put in place to keep the power in the hands of a few people. Here is the story of young girl who is given new sight, some of it that came to her before she could physically see again.

 

Fourteen year old Lisa Reid is from New Zealand.  She had a cancerous brain tumour caused her a lot of trouble such as headaches, vomiting and a loss of coordination.   The only way to resolve this was to have an operation.  Sadly this left her blind because her optic nerves were damaged.  This didn’t stop Lisa from living fully.  She felt called to help other children with cancer.  She participated in television shows and documentaries that were seen all across New Zealand.  She raised money for the organization that trained her seeing-eye dog, Amy.  Lisa found her calling and was transforming her country.  Then something surprising and shocking happened.

 

Ten years after her sight was taken away she fell and hit her head on the coffee table and floor.  To her shock and delight when she got up the next morning she was able to see.  Her doctors were skeptical. This shouldn’t have happened!  They tried to explain it away by suggesting that her problem was more psychological than physical.  She didn’t worry about what the doctors said.  What did matter was that once she was blind and now she could see.

Faith Lens for March 30th 2014: http://blogs.elca.org/faithlens/post/march-30-2014-was-blind-but-now-i-see/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FaithLens+%28Blog+%2F+Faith+Lens%29

 

Was this a miracle?  I would say it was.  She had an experience similar to that of the blind beggar that Jesus healed in the Gospel according to John.  Both of them didn’t waste their time trying to explain it. Why? Because everything looked different!  “They were once blind but now they could see.” God had shown them what the world could really be like.  A world where everyone will have enough!  A world where everyone will be loved.  They could no longer resist their call from God to heal that which was broken.

 

Have you experienced a miracle?  I think we all experience miracles even though they may not be as spectacular as Lisa and blind beggar’s experience.  We have a miracle going on right now in Foam Lake United Church if only we could see it.  Sometimes we can become blind to what God is calling us to live out.  We get so caught up in our day to day life that we forget what God has intended for us.  Our hearts get hardened by the fear we hold on to each day.  But Jesus really does have Good News for us!

 

The miracle is that we have everything we need to live out our faith.  We have no excuses!  Sometimes our unwillingness to grieve what has happened in the past blocks our growth.  We get stuck in our unwillingness to admit the world has changed.

 

I know what this is like because throughout my life I have been partly blind to what the Spirit intends for me.  I got so caught up in my need for security, I built walls around myself which prevented me from taking risks. For example, I have missed out so much in life because I was not willing to risk spending some of my inheritance because of the fear of not having enough money to retire on.  I was afraid of trying anything new because of a fear of failing.  I needed to learn to renew my trust with the living God.  I needed to let go of a lot of garbage in my life.  This still required my grieving, letting go of old and comfortable ways of thinking.

 

We can easily get caught up in our grief that the church and the world is not like it was twenty years ago.  Instead of focussing on the here and future we hold onto what we think was the glorious past.  We need to let go of our past.   It was perfect for the time.  But we can never repeat what happened in the past.  We never could repeat the past and it is becoming more and more impossible because of the incredible change in our world.

 

Spirit is calling upon us to release our fear of change.  Don’t despair, God is just as active today as she was long ago.  God is longing is to live through each of us practising the Great Commandments to love self, neighbour and God. There is hope for our Foam Lake United Church!  There is hope for our country!  There is hope for the world.

 

Where do you see the love of Jesus in our community?  I see it in

  • The sharing of music
  • The love of children
  • Enjoying the company of each other
  • Singing
  • Laughter
  • Public worship
  • Table Fellowship: Pot Lucks
  • The marking of the major events in our lives
  • Helping those in need
  • The wonder of play
  • Prayer
  • Acts of social justice
  • Studying the Scripture
  • Supporting our foster child
  • Supporting the ministries of the wider church through Mission and Service

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I challenge each of us to see our church and community through the eyes of Jesus.  When we can see with holy wisdom our fear is taken away; we become energized to do God’s work.  What we must do becomes so clear.  Once what we thought impossible becomes a reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam and Eve: Another Perspective

Sermon: 

Sermon – March 9th 2014

Lent I (Year A)

By Roland Legge

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

 

 

Do you believe in “Original Blessing”?  I do.  I like the idea of “Original Blessing” much better than original sin.  When you look into the eyes of a new born do you see sin?  I don’t think so.  So why has the doctrine of original sin been such a powerful force within Christianity?

 

Original sin came as a way of understanding why humans can do terrible things to each other.  It explains why Jesus had to die on the cross so that we could be free of our sins which was only possible if our natural inclination to sin could be broken.  As Christians we came to believe that Jesus died for our sins. 

 

We do know that the doctrine of original sin was first developed, in the second-century, by Irenaeus. At the time Irenaeus was struggling against Gnostic cults which totally focused on the pure spiritual side of God through special knowledge.  Irenaeus and others thought that the Gnostics were doing unspeakable things with their bodies, while claiming they had clean spirits.  Now later scholarship shows this not to be true. None the less, Irenaeus was trying to compel people to believe that what they did with their body could lead them to eternal hell and anything that involved sex and romance must be suspect. Augustine of Hippo added to the doctrine of original sin when he wrote that original sin was passed through lust, which accompanied sexual reproduction, which made the will weak.  Most of Augustine’s disciples also equated original sin with lust. 

 

Then St. Anselm was the first medieval theologian to open up a new thought; separating original sin from lust and redefining it as a loss of righteousness.  Even later than that, Thomas Aquinas presented a more positive view concluding that the fall had left humans to their natural abilities while depriving them of supernatural privileges.

Wikipedia    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin#History_of_the_doctrine_of_original_sin

 

Matthew Fox believes that Augustine (354-430) and the Council of Trent, 1546, has had the most influence on how original sin continues to influence us today. Augustine took an interest in the doctrine of original sin and began to mix it with his peculiar notions of sexuality.  Later in the Council of Trent it became even more ingrained in our church doctrines.

 

I would like to spend a little time going over today’s Hebrew Scripture reading from Genesis because this story has been misinterpreted to justify the doctrine of original sin.  What is this story really about?  Is it really about the fall of human kind?  I don’t think so.  I think it is about how God was preparing God’s two children to go out into the big world themselves.  The Garden was kind of like the same home we hopefully grew up in—where our parents took good care of us.

 

I like to think that God set up the tree of knowledge in the middle of the garden to be the sign that would show God when they were mature enough to leave the “nest”. Here are some questions that God might be asking to ascertain if the children were ready to leave home. Were they ready to think for themselves?  Were they ready to take risks?  Were they ready for an adventure without any knowledge of how it was going to turn out?  I believe there would have been great sadness for God, Adam and Eve when they needed to part from the Garden—just as parent and child have sadness when the children move away from home for the first time.

 

Adam and Eve is a coming up age story and not the story of temptation and sin.  We must rid our society of the view that Eve was responsible for all sin in the world. We must portray Eve in a new way.  Here is a wonderful description found in the book Bad Girls of the Bible; Exploring Women of Questionable Virtue that reflects an image of Eve, after the incident of the apple, that shows her more in the image of God.

She thinks and speaks—with the man and the serpent and to God. She is able to engage in substantive theological debate.  She respects authority and exercises her own freedoms.  She appreciates beauty.  She is a seeker—she wants to be better, wiser than she was created to be. 

  She is an adventurous risk taker—just like God!  She is courageous—she eats the fruit without knowing what the future will hold. She is willing to take the risk, despite her fear of death.

Bad Girls of the Bible; Exploring Women of Questionable Virtue by Barbara J. Essex the Pilgrim Press Cleveland Ohio 1999 page 12

 

Why should we care about this today?  We need to care because this destructive doctrine has been used to justify the oppression of women and other groups that are seen by main line society as a threat.  Too often women are blamed for the problems of the world.  Any women who dares to speak up for herself is often seen as a threat.  Many women who try to get ahead in our business world find a glass ceiling that prevents them from advancing in their career.  Men get away with rape because the defense argues the woman was seducing him by the way she was dressed. Even today, women get less pay for the same work as a man.   Women who choose to have children and work away from home are looked down upon whether or not this by choice or necessity. Women who choose to stay home to raise children are still seen as second rate because they are not bringing in a financial income.

 

This is not just bad news to women, but it is also bad news to men too.  Men and women need to live in healthy and just relationships with each other.  When a man is holding a woman back he is also holding himself back.  If he always blames women for his problems he is not taking responsibility for himself.  If he is limiting what a women can do in the world he is also limiting what he can do.  For example, I like to cook, wash dishes, clean the house, and mow the lawn. I do not like fixing anything electrical, mechanical or doing wood work around the house.  Jen likes the latter and can do a much better job than I in those areas.  Men and women should be free to be fully who they are.  We are all equal in the heart of God.