Holy Mystery

Monsal Dale UK July 2011 (3)

Sermon – May 22nd 2016

Trinity Sunday (Year C)

By Roland Legge

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

 

 

 

Do you believe in the Trinity?  Most of us in the United Church would agree that we believe in the Trinity.  But what does this really mean?

 

Our scripture invites us into a dialogue to discover the many ways we can experience the holy in our lives.  In Proverbs we are told about Mother Wisdom who has been with us since the beginning of time. Mother Wisdom or Sophia is the very feminine image of the holy.  She is loving, creative, compassionate, wise and just.  She is in full relationship with God. Romans reminds us of the person of Jesus who gave us another lens to view God, not unlike Mother Wisdom and God.   In the Gospel according to John we are reminded of the Holy Spirit who is again much like Mother Wisdom, God and Jesus.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity has come to be to help make sense of the mystery of the holy.  It suggests that God is both one and three.  God is relational. For example, God expresses itself through the Spirit.  God expresses itself through Wisdom.  God expresses itself through the person and spirit of Jesus and most importantly through each of us. I love this description of the Trinity by Brian McLaren:

“In the early church, one of the most powerful images used for the Trinity was the image of a dance of mutual indwelling. The Father, Son, and Spirit live in an eternal, joyful, vibrant dance of love and honor, rhythm and harmony, grace and beauty, giving and receiving. The universe was created to be an expression and extension of the dance of God – so all creatures share in the dynamic joy of movement, love, vitality, harmony, and celebration. But we humans broke with the dance. We stamped on the toes of other dancers, ignored the rhythm, rejected the grace, and generally made a mess of things. But God sent Jesus into the world to model for us a way of living in the rhythm of God’s music of love, and ever since, people have been attracted to the beauty of his steps and have begun rejoining the dance.” -Brian McLaren, Found in Translation

 

I imagine God as this creative energy that continues to animate life for each of us and all of Creation.  If I just look around I will see, feel, and experience God.  I see God in each of you.  I feel God within me.  I experience God in the sound of the bird, the bark of a dog and the meow of a cat.  Where do you experience God?

 

For me the creative loving force we will call God is a mystery.  God is way beyond anything we can comprehend.  When we express God we are limited by our humanness.  Many of you grew up with the image of God as father.  Some of you still appreciate it today.  But God is way beyond the image of father.   There is no perfect definition of God. Here are some descriptions I use:

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Friend
  • Creator
  • Redeemer
  • Saviour
  • Healer
  • Child
  • Lover

And much more.

 

Feminist are transforming our church and world through their take on how God – Three in One can tear down the barriers that humans have built up through greed, fear, and hunger for power. This is what feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruther says:

 

Feminists are seeking an alternative understanding of power: power as mutual-empowerment, power that does not dominate, force, or coerce, but heals, reconciles, and transforms. In the presence of such power, we are not demeaned or rendered vile and unworthy, nor made helpless and called to submit; rather we are called into healthy self-esteem, into the power of one’s own creative agency that can affirm the good potential and creative agency of others.

Healing power dissolves the competitive model of power relations where one side’s power is the disempowerment of the other side; where one side’s victory is the defeat of the other side. Healing power repents, forgives, and transforms relationships so that both sides of former conflicts are enlivened, made whole, and enabled to rejoice in one another’s well-being. This is the appropriate understanding of the power of God, not models of power drawn from human relations of domination, war, and violence.

https://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/image-gods-goodness?parent=46596

 

I believe that God is most active in community.  When we come together in community doing the work of the Spirit the work we do gets magnified many times over.  The mystery that what we do as a community is much more than what the same number of individuals could do alone.  Why does this happen? It is because the God energy becomes stronger and stronger when people with the same intent come together.  It somehow unleashes the energy of the Holy Spirt on more and more people.  It inspires acts of kindness and compassion in more and more people.  It spreads the love of God among more and more people.

 

The wonder of God as father, son and holy spirit or creator, redeemer and sustainer that this force of love continues to open our hearts that of recognizing God in more and more people.  We would not be marrying divorce people if it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit.  We wouldn’t be recognizing the ability of women to be clergy in our United Church without the Holy Spirit.  We wouldn’t have become a welcoming church for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, trans-gendered and two spirited people without the Holy Spirit.  The power of the Holy weaving in and out of our lives everything life-giving is possible, even the end of violence in our world not only toward people, but toward the whole creation.

 

May we unleash the power of the Holy on Foam Lake and continue to break down the barriers in our community whether they be social, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, and age that prevents us from truly being the people of God.  The Spirit will guide us on our way.

 

 

 

Jesus and Healing

Message:

Sermon – June 28th 2015

5th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Mark 5:21-43

A big focus of Jesus’s ministry was all about healing. How comfortable are you with it? I continue to grow in my understanding of healing. It happens in so many ways through prayer, touch, anointing and all the different medical interventions we can make today. It also happens through economic justice. What do I mean by economic justice? I believe that Jesus calls us to share our resources so that the people who have a lot do not have too much and those who have too little have enough.

In today’s epistle reading Jesus is in a big crowd. There is a woman who has bled for years seeking healing. In the crowd she finds the courage to touch Jesus. Jesus is moved by the determination of this woman that he tells her that her faith has made her well.   This was very risky for the woman because she was never to touch a man unless he was her husband and especially because she was sick. She could get into a lot of trouble. It was also risky for Jesus to acknowledge that this had happened because he could be labeled as unclean forcing him to go into hiding.

How she is healed is a mystery. What did happen? She found the courage to touch Jesus. She believed that Jesus could heal her, and that Jesus accepted her touch. Touch can be so healing when it is welcome. Through Jesus’ compassion and openness this woman was slowly welcomed back into community. She was no longer isolated.

Jesus did have a healing energy that came from the centre of his being. Whenever people were able to access this healing energy whether close or distant something amazing happened. We all have the same potential to heal in the way of Jesus.

A number of years ago I took healing touch training. This is a healing modality that helps to smooth out the energy of our bodies to enhance our health.   Jen is the only person I have done it with, but it seems to help her whether she has a headache or sore muscles. Think about a time when you felt the energy of another person. Have you ever noticed that when you visit some people you go away exhausted and while others you come away full of life. Each of us gives off energy. Illness is often caused when energy is being blocked in our bodies.   So by freeing the energy to flow in our bodies we can be healthier.

I think we have lost touch with the healing ministry of Jesus. I don’t believe we should allow the charlatans to get in the way of us doing this important healing ministry. I know I have been turned off by people claiming to heal you from illness through elaborate schemes that earn them a lot of money and celebrity.

Early on in my ministry I remember being asked by a paid care giver to come and heal this man from his illness. I discovered this was more about what this woman wanted him to do than what the ill person was really wanting. I was not comfortable with being asked. I discussed what we could do through the ancient practises of prayer, anointing with oil, and the laying on of hands. I also talked with them that healing is a mystery. We do not always get the healing that we would want. To not get healed in the way we would like does not mean that we are not good enough. In the end I never got to do it before the man died.

Later on I did get the chance to work with a woman who was dealing with cancer. We spent time getting to know each other, and then we had a healing circle of friends at the hospital. It was a beautiful and meaningful service. This woman still died of cancer but there was the presence of the Spirit that brought us all together in a very intimate way. In that brief period of time our grief both deepened and yet was transformed into a love that filled us with gratitude for life.

The Good News is that we can be healers every day. We heal ourselves and others by providing healthy food, by exercising, by taking time to play with friends and family. We heal ourselves and each other by doing things that feed our soul whether that be cooking, drawing, painting, gardening, carpentry, writing, singing and the list goes on.

We heal each other by taking care of the planet earth we have been blessed with to live on. Every time we love the Creation we love God. Think of all the things we are doing to keep Foam Lake a healthy place to live. We do this through:

  1. Planting Gardens
  2. Recycling
  3. Polluting as little as we can
  4. Walking when possible
  5. Treating animals both tamed and wild with respect
  6. Providing opportunities for service in our community
  7. these are but a few of the things we can do.

We heal by working to end poverty and greed. Jesus calls us to address these difficult and troubling questions. For example why do Aboriginal children receive less money for education than the rest of us do? Why do we have so much poverty when we are such a wealthy country? I think most of us know the answers.

It happens because of the choices we make. It happens because of the policy of our governments. It happens because many people like to blame the people who are already suffering suggesting they are poor because of who they are. Our capitalist society likes to think that anyone can get ahead if they try hard enough. Yet there are plenty of studies to show that life is not that easy. Yes a few move from poverty to wealth. But the majority do not. We can help to heal the world by being more willing to share the wealth that we have been blessed with and show more compassion to those who do not have enough.

Jesus spent most of his ministry working with the poor and oppressed. He still loved the Goliaths of the world but he did have a soft spot for the poor. He knew that by challenging the world to share resources so that all would have enough could heal many people.   This is what Jesus spent the majority of his life doing. How are we trying to alleviate poverty here in Foam Lake?

Let us be a force for healing change in our community and world. Amen!universal-love

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

Grounded in Faith

Sermon – March 29th 2015

By Roland Legge

Palm/Passion Sunday (Year B)

Isaiah 50:4-9a:  Philippians 2:5-11:  Mark 14:1—15:47:

 

I am indebted to William Willimon for the idea of today’s sermon.

How many times have you heard this story?  Anyone want to venture a guess?   In all the times I have heard this story I have rarelly focused on the woman in the story who challenges Peter.  So I invite you to join me on reflecting on the importance of what this woman did.

Willimon summarizes the story like this: “It is late at night, toward the end of this Holy Week. It is after the last supper when Jesus had gathered with his disciples in an upper room. The Passion of Christ has begun. The soldiers have seized Jesus and have led him away to the palace. At the palace, Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate and is on trial. But out in the darkness, in the courtyard, down below, another trial takes place. Judge and jury at the trial is a servant girl. And though we don’t know much about her, if she is only a girl, but also only a servant, we know that she is small, insignificant, powerless person. She is not only a woman in a patriarchal culture, but she is also a servant woman. And she is young and you know that also means you are powerless, on the bottom. And this little, powerless girl is the one who puts Peter, the premier disciple, through his paces.

Pulpit Resource Vol. 36 No. 1 Year A January, February, March 2008 by William H. Willimon Published by Logos Production Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 46

This oppressed, simple girl challenges the faithfulness of Peter, the one Jesus is to call the rock of the church.  She challenges him and he fails miserably.  He claims to her that he never knew Jesus.  He does this to save his own life. But soon Peter realizes the terrible error of his ways and begins his healing process.  In effect this girl is the one that challenges Peter into being the person he claims to Jesus and the other disciples to be.  This girl was challenging Peter to walk his talk.  It was a tough lesson for Peter to learn.  It was even harder to learn from a person that society had impoverished, oppressed and ignored.  But he had to move on.  Why?  Jesus wasn’t going to let him off the hook!

We all need people in our lives to ensure we remain grounded in our faith.  We all need people to challenge us to walk our talk no matter how hard or easy life seems to be.  Willimon tells of this student:

A few years ago a student was telling me that he and his roommate were not getting along too well.  I asked him why, and he said, “Because he is a Muslim and I’m not.” I asked him how that made a difference.  And he said, “When we moved in together, he asked me what my religion was. I told him that I was a Christian.  A Lutheran—I  told him that my family wasn’t the very best of Christians and that we only went to church occasionally and it wasn’t that big a deal to me.  My roommate has this nasty habit of asking embarrassing questions.” “What sort of question?” I asked. “Well after we had roomed together a few weeks, he asked me, “Why do you Christians never pray?”

“I told him, ‘We pray a lot.  We just sort of keep it to ourselves.”

“He said, ‘I’ll say that you do.

I’ve never seen you pray.’ He prays like a half dozen times a day on his prayer rug in our room, facing the East.  When I came in last Saturday morning, and he asked me, ‘Doesn’t your St. Paul say something about joining your body with that of a prostitute?”

I told him, “Look, she is not a prostitute, she is Tri Delta. I told you I am not the best Christian in the world.  You shouldn’t judge the Christian faith by me!”

And I, hearing of his torment said, “Well how should he judge the Christian faith?  I think I need to write your Muslim roommate a thank-you note.  If he keeps working on you with these questions, he may make you into a real Christian.”

Pulpit Resource page 47

I hope this person learnt from his Muslin roommate.  He was giving him the opportunity to grow in his faith.  If he engages his roommate by choosing to learn more about his own faith this relationship could turn from being a curse to being a blessing. I wonder if Peter was ever able to look back and see the encounter he had with the young girl as a blessing.  What do you think?

Most of us have had experiences with people who drive us crazy.  There are people out there who will push all the “buttons” we have.  These are people who have much to teach us; if, only we would listen.

When I was training for ministry I was in a class called “Basic Christian Beliefs”.  Every week I was part of a seminar group.  We were made up of Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church and possibly Mennonite. We were definitely a diverse group. What has stuck in my mind from my seminar group was the Catholic sisters understanding of communion and why open communion was not acceptable to them.

This was challenging for me because I believed as I do today that communion should be open to everyone.  For me it is so tragic that Roman Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox cannot have communion together on a regular basis.  I say how you can break up the Christian family! But by the end of the seminar gatherings I could respect my Catholic sisters in the group.  You see the Roman Catholics believe that in the bread and wine is the real physical and spiritual essence of God and Jesus.  This is one of the main ways for Catholics to connect with the Holy,   So to have Communion with Protestants, who understand communion as an active remembrance of Jesus, takes away some of sacred power for Roman Catholics.  While I do not agree with my Catholic sisters I came to understand them much better and learned a lot more about my own understanding of communion.  I am thankful for my encounter with them even though it was not easy.

Who have been the people in your lives who have challenged you into being more the person God calls you to be, just like the young woman did for Peter?

God will always ensure that there will be irritating and challenging people in our lives to challenge us to be even more authentic Christians and people of planet earth.  May God give each of us the wisdom to learn from these occurrences.  May we never fear the light of God being shone on us by people like the woman who challenged Peter.1-donkeyhttptheblogthatwasthursday.wordpress.com20120403a-two-day-late-palm-sunday-reflection

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?

Holy Disruption!

Sermon – Advent 2

December 7th 2014 (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

 

 

It is hard to ignore John the Baptist!  Would you or I have been one of the many people who chose to come to John for his baptism of repentance? I am not sure if I would have left my comfortable sofa to go into the wilderness to be baptized by this loud and smelly man.   How in the world does this wild story this fit into Advent?

I think for many of us this Advent/Christmas season is supposed to be one of comfort, memories and nostalgia.  It is supposed to be a time of happiness.   It is supposed to be a time of generosity.  It is a time of frivolity with parties and concerts to attend.  It is the time of year that we think of the needy and try to make their lives a little better.  But John the Baptist has a difference understanding of Advent.

If we listen to John the Baptist, Advent is all about repentance!  Repenting is hard work.  It forces us to look deeply into ourselves to see how we need to bring our lives back closer to the ways of God.  This is hard work because we will have to face our own fears, shame and hopeless if we are to truly repent.  It will require us to change how we live not just in that moment but to integrate those changes into our lives on a daily basis.  Old habits will need to change.  But there is a huge reward that goes along with that hard work.  That reward is inward joy!

 

 

Much of what we have to do is in the choices that we make.   Much of what we have to do comes out of our conversations.  It is often about taking a stand and living into it.

Many years ago I took a stand when I chose to help clean the homes of people living with HIV/AIDS when there was no hope for recovery.   You see there were many homemakers who wouldn’t do this out of fear of infection and prejudice. This doesn’t mean it was easy, but with the help of God working through others I was able to do this and make a difference in these people’s lives.  I was able to it despite my own fears.

Recently there was a gathering of people who took a stand in a theater in St. Louis Missouri where the terrible violence has been taking place due to the killing of a young black man called Mike Brown by a white police officer.  It involve a piece of music written by JOHANNES BRAHMS called the German Requiem, that when first played in Vienna in 1867 caused a great uproar; there was boos, inappropriate behaviour and disgust. What was so controversial?  It was controversial because it was a piece of religious music being played in a public hall.

Now many years later the same piece along with Detlev Glanert’s arrangement of Brahms’ Four Preludes and Serious Songs was being played at the Powell Hall in St. Louis and got a similar reaction.  It took place after the intermission when

conductor Markus Stenz took the stage, two audience members began to sing. In strong, clear voices, they performed Florence Patton Reece’s famous justice hymn: “Which side are you on, friend? Which side are you on?” Nearly a dozen more scattered throughout Powell Hall joined in. While the audience watched in stunned silence, a banner unfurled from the balcony with a silhouette of a man’s face. It said: Requiem for Mike Brown 1996-2014.

 

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

 

One theatergoer challenged if the theater was an appropriate place for a protest.  A Catholic Priest spoke up and challenged the man complaining by inviting people to change the chant from of “What side are you On” to How are we going to heal?  Then without further ado the conductor tapped his baton and the orchestra began to play Brahms’ Requiem.

It opened with pulsing bass and unfolding choral line from Matthew 5: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

So Advent is a time of disruption!  John the Baptist and Jesus came to disrupt our lives so the Kindom of God can take root in our hearts.  Catholic theologian James Alison puts it this way:

“The One who is coming will not preside over us, but will teach us to want peace from within, and to learn the habits that make it possible. The One who loves us will come as one we despise, and crucify: The definitive puncturing of our god-fantasies, and yet the Presence of one who is powerfully determined not to let us remain wedded to our self-destruction.”

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

 

Think for a moment as to how God is breaking into your heart.  How is the life and the teaching of Jesus disrupting our lives?  How is the Spirit within you calling you to make choices that challenge the status quo and open up new possibilities for new life in our communities and world that recognizes that we are all equal before our Maker?  Isn’t this what Christmas is all about!!

 

 

 

 

 

 repentance_httplifehopeandtruth.comchangerepentance

We are the people of Hope!

Sermon – November 30th 2014

Advent One

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 64:1-9 1

1st Corinthian 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37:

 

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Today we focus on hope. Are you hopeful?  Are you looking forward to the future or do you fear the kind of world we are leaving for our grandchildren and great grandchildren? Do you believe that with God’s help we can make the world a better place to live?

Hope is not about wishful thinking.  For Christians hope is about being able to face the realities of the world while believing in every cell of our bodies that with God’s help we can transform the world.  We can transform the world into the Kindom of God where all can live in harmony with each other and God’s creation.

Hope is also means action.  We can’t have hope unless we are willing to live into it.  We cannot have hope unless we are willing to live as though the Kindom of God is already here.

I have hope!  I have hope because I believe that God has given us everything we need for all of humankind and the rest of God’s creation to live in harmony with each other.  I have hope that humans will stop fighting each other in wars.  I have hope that we will stop polluting the world as more and more of us realize that we are part of God’s creation rather than separate.   I have hope because I experience acts of love, generosity and courage every day.

I have hope when:

  • I experience people helping out each other
  • when I see a white police officer hugging a young African American on Facebook
  • when a community celebrates the return of a Mom dog to its puppies that just happened in Saskatoon
  • when we celebrate the love between two people of the same sex that is being celebrated more and more around the world
  • when the Irish Catholics and Protestants come together in peace
  • when children are welcomed into our church and allowed to be children

Our Scripture today from the Gospel according to Mark sends a message of hope to his people.  He says to his people that he knows of their many struggles they are facing trying to remain faithful.  He says to his people he knows of their fear.  He says to his people he knows of their impatience for change.

More so, the author of Mark calls on his people to live as though the world has already been transformed into the Kindom of God. He calls upon them to live with hope even though that hope sometimes is hard to find.  He promises that God has something better for them and the whole world.  There will be a radical change.  There will be disruption that will turn the world upside-down!   Suddenly the lowly will be honored.  Those with much will be humbled.  But he reminds them we will never know when this radical holy intervention will take place.  The challenge is to live as this transformation of love has already happened.  Mark’s message was received with thanksgiving!

Sadly this apocalyptic scripture has been misinterpreted.  Apocalyptic simply means revelation.  It was a message of hope often written during times of great oppression.  It was not intended to be an excuse to ignore the injustices of the world.  It was never intended to set up divisions between the saved and unsaved.  It was never meant to ignore the realities of the world. It was a never an intention to keep the status quo. You see God cares about all people.  God cares about living on this amazing earth.  It is not all about the afterlife!

Many North American Christians have corrupted the scripture into making our faith all about following a particular dogma.  This serious misinterpretation has led to movements so focussed on reaching the hereafter that they ignore the realities of the world.  It is often wealthy people who do not want to give up their privilege that often comes from the abuse of God’s creation; that does not require them to share their own wealth; that doesn’t require them to clean up the earth.  Why would you worry about the health of the world if you can’t wait to leave it in some glorious nuclear war?  Then even to make this even worse they begin to think that nuclear war is good thing because it will get them to Jesus.

So when Mark talks about the new world.  This is not a heavenly world, but one grounded in the here and now.  This is a new world order where human kind will live peacefully, and sustainably.

I want to end with some words from a great speech of Martin Luther King Junior, using apocalyptic speech that talks of the real hope that Jesus was about:

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination . . . So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition . . . Some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells . . . Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive . . . Go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today . . . And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

May we each incarnate the Hope that Jesus has passed on to us making the world the place that God intends it to be.

Amen.

New York City June 2014 (147)

ARE YOU HONEST WITH YOURSELF?

Sermon – November 16th 2014

By Roland Legge

Judges 4
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30  

 

What can we learn from the Parable of the Talents?  Is this justification for the Capitalist System?  No I don’t think so!

Jesus is saying to his followers that transforming the world is dangerous business. This is a Parable that encourages us to take risks. This is a Parable that calls upon us to act with gutsy love in the world. Jesus has no doubt that the world can become a more caring and just place.  Jesus says “Yes we can”!

One simple thing we Christians can do is to tell the truth.    But why is it so difficult to live this out?  Yet I suspect most of us, if not all of us have lied some time in our lives.  Sometimes we do it to protect ourselves.  Sometimes we do it to protect those we love.  I am not saying we should never say a white lie sometimes if we determine it to be the most compassionate and just thing to do.  But I believe that in most circumstances it is best to tell the truth.

But before we promise to do this with those we interact with whether they be family, friend or stranger we need to stop lying to ourselves.  I think we hurt ourselves when we lie to ourselves. We lie to ourselves in many ways.  I can think of a time in my first marriage when I thought I could fix my marriage with Yvonne.  This was a lie.  I lie to myself every time I don’t think I am worthy of other people’s love.  I lie to myself every time I say something is important to me and then don’t follow through.  I lie to myself every time I say I am fine when I am not. How do you lie to yourself?

There is an excellent book I ready many years ago called People of the Lie by Scott Peck.  He argues that the more we lie to ourselves and others prevents us from making wiser choices.  He says in his book:

 “The less clearly we see the reality of the world – the more our minds are befuddled by falsehoods, misperceptions, and illusions – the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make right decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”

So many of the conflicts in the world today happen because of lies, poor communication and fear.

Yet there is a time to tell the truth.  Timing can be everything.  Thankfully doctors are improving on their bedside manners.  It isn’t helpful when a doctor just blurts out that you have cancer.  It makes a difference when he or she sits down and takes some time with the patient to pass on the bad news and stay with them long enough to help them to begin to process their grieving.

I want the truth from each of you as to how I am doing.  What you like.  What you don’t like.  However, I am much more open to your points of view if you are polite with me and use the “I” statements.  Do you get annoyed with people who say nice things to you to appease you when it isn’t true? I do.  But I also get upset if people are really rude to me.  Telling the truth does not give us permission to abuse people.

Any relationship we have calls on us to be truthful.  Honesty can lead to deep and healthy relationships.  For example, if we are honest to ourselves and each other we can communicate better with each other.  Being able to express our own needs and ask for what we need from those we love helps us to have more fulfilling relationships.

Here is a story from William Willimon that tells of an experience that Tony Campolo experienced that shows how speaking the truth can lead to rich relationships.

Tony Campolo told of a time his mother made him go to a funeral to show his respect for the deceased, Mr. Kilpatrick. He drove to the funeral home, entered the chapel, and bowed his head. When he looked around, he noticed he was the only one there, and when he peered into the casket, he did not see Mr. Kilpatrick. He had gone to the wrong funeral! Campolo was about to leave when an elderly woman clutched his arm and pleaded, “You were his friend, weren’t you?” Not knowing what to do, he lied and said, “Yeah, he was a good man. Everybody loved him.” After the funeral, Campolo and the elderly woman went to the cemetery in a limousine. The casket was lowered into the grave, and both tossed a flower on it.
On the way back to the funeral home, Campolo confessed the truth. “Ms. King, there’s something I’ve got to tell you. I want to be your friend, and we can’t have a friendship unless I tell you the truth. I’m afraid I have to tell you that I didn’t really know your husband. I came to his funeral by accident.”
She squeezed his hand and said, “You’ll never, ever, ever know how much you being here with me today meant.”
I don’t know whether Campolo and Ms. King became friends; I only know they could not have become genuine friends without Campolo’s honesty.

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/november-16-2014-stewards-truth

Think for a moment, how are you at speaking the truth as you see it.  How good are you at being honest with yourself?    Remember it is hard to be honest with others if we cannot be with honest with ourselves.

Are we honest with each other in this congregation of ours?  Can we be both honest and respectful of each other?   I hope that both you and I can be honest with each other.  I hope we can learn from each other.  I hope we have the courage and patience to work out win win solutions in all the challenges we face in this congregation.

Jesus reminds us in today’s Parable that we are called to live with reckless love.  I pray that each of us in all our relationships can find hope, compassion and reconciliation in open and honest sharing with the people we interact with each day.  This is the way to the Kindom of God.  Thanks be to God.

 

 

Tellling the Truth

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

Do you like Banquets!

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – October 12th 2014

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

Thanksgiving Sunday

By Roland Legge

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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