The Power of Intention

Sermon – January 11 2015

Baptism of Jesus Sunday (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Genesis 1:1-5

Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11

 

Today we mark the day of Jesus baptism. It was an important day for Jesus! He felt compelled to follow in the way of John the Baptists. He wanted to start afresh again through the repenting of his sins. He wanted to publicly profess his faith in God! He also wanted to make clear that God was God and Caesar wasn’t.

The story goes that when Jesus is baptized a dove appears, a sign of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. Do you remember when a dove appears in another Biblical story?   If we go way back to the book of Genesis a dove is sent out to find dry land and finally it returns with a leaf in its beak. I think Mark wants us to connect Jesus to Noah. Hence he has a special relationship with God and he is to be trusted.

I believe in the power of intention! Jesus made his intentions known to God in how we was going to live his life. This was his strong desire to spread God’s love and stand is solidarity for justice. However this is much more than our annual New Year’s resolutions. How many of us hold on to our resolutions for more than a month. I don’t think many of us do. Do you?

When we set our intentions we are using all of who we are in mind, heart and body in connection with the Holy. This becomes a powerful force for change. How do we do this? It comes out of our prayer, mediation, and worship, all within community. It comes out of listening to the Spirit within us and around us. It comes from the cries for justice from our brothers and sisters from around the world. It comes from the teachings of Jesus and other wise people. The miracles is that the more we live it out the more right it feels. However it is often not easy.

In the United Church of Canada we mostly baptize our children. I am probably one of a few of you who was baptized as an adult. For most of you the equivalent would be your Confirmation or Re-Affirmation of Faith. It is the time when we proclaim to God and our community of our choice to live in the way of Jesus. It says to ourselves and those around us, that everything comes from God. We have been put here on earth to be good stewards of amazing Mother Earth to whom we are just one small part of.

As follower of Jesus we choose to try out a very different understanding of how humans and Creation are to live in harmony with each other. We say NO to the Domination system that says only the toughest and most violent people will survive. We offer the radical understanding of power through vulnerability and weakness. We follow in the way of Jesus that gives this world an opportunity to pass on this amazing planet and gift of life to many future generations ahead.

Sadly Christianity has been terribly influenced by the Domination System. This had led to horrible violence being let loose on many vulnerable people. Millions of people have been killed in the name of Jesus. If Jesus could speak to us today he would be very angry and sad!

The Jesus Movement is one of compassion! It is also has a peculiar concern for the vulnerable and oppressed! This makes many of us in the West uncomfortable because we have so much. Yet Jesus cares about us all.

His call is for us is to be more generous with all we have been given. It doesn’t matter to God who paid for it or made it. It does matter how it is being used. It does matter that those who are in greatest need benefit from the technology; production of food, clean water, affordable housing. People who are sick such as the thousands of people in Africa who are suffering from Ebola should get the medicine they need whether or not they have money to pay.

God calls all of us into ministry. Ministry is all about spreading the Good News of Jesus. This is not about capitalism, materialism or militarism. In fact it goes against any ideology that gives the power and privileges to a few people. The Good News is that we each have enough! The Good News is that we can all enjoy life when we share more equitably with each other. The Good News is that no one needs to suffer from poverty, violence and or war. The Good News is that there is a better way to live on this planet.

So go and keep spreading the Good News! Jesus has abundant life planned for you! Jesus knows that you have important things to do in this world that will help to make it a better place for all. Jesus has given you everything we need to live well in this world.

 Jesus and Discipleship

Radical Mary Mother of Jesus

Sermon – December 21st 2014

Advent Four – Year B

By Roland Legge

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16: 

Luke 1:47-55  Luke 1:26-38: 

 

Can you imagine being Mary, mother of Jesus?  I wonder if the story we heard in the Bible today was really so straight forward.  Do you think she would have accepted the news that she was going to have a baby out of wedlock so well and so quickly?  What do you think?

I don’t want to denigrate the story of Mary because I believe she was a very courageous woman.  But I think the over simplification of her story does not reflect the strong faith and courage she had.

Now let’s imagine that you are Mary.  You are young. You are soon to be married.  You don’t have a lot of choice about how you will live your life.  You are feeling very vulnerable. The man you are to marry is a kind and gentle man.  But he is a man of his times.  You have to be careful in how you treat him.  You have to be careful in what you say.

So when an angel visits  you with the so called, Good News, that you are to give birth to the son of God you at first are shocked.  You think: How could this be?  I am not ready for this!  I am in so much trouble!  This could mean the end of my chance to marry Joseph.  This may be the end of my life.  You can’t help but cry!

Mary could have run away and I wouldn’t have blamed her.  But Mary shows us the courageous woman she is. She does feel strongly called to bring this child into the world.  She somehow knows he is going to be special.  But she makes this choice knowing she is doing this at great risk to herself, the baby and the rest of her family.  Mary is far from being gentle and innocent.  She has a fire within her, the Holy Spirit that leads her forth into the chaos of the world.

I love the Magnificat, Luke 1:47-55, which for me describes her faith.  This shows us the radical side of Mary. It turns upside down the traditional understanding of her.

 

Sadly the Christian church has changed Mary into this quiet obedient women that no woman could ever hope to emulate.  Why?  She has been shaped through theology to represent the male feminine. These represent the feminine qualities that males suppress in themselves and then project onto women.  I quote from Rosemary Radford Reuther:

To a large extent, Mary has been simply a cultural and religious symbol of this projection.  She becomes the idealized nurturant mother, cut off from the qualities of sexuality and wifehood that are despised by men. When women try to model themselves after that understanding of Mary, they receive something very distorted and alienating for them—an act that is impossible for any women to follow.  Virginal motherhood is not something any woman can actually accomplish.

Sojourners Preaching the Word: http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/onehumanity?parent=41145#PTWadvent4B

I choose to believe in the revolutionary Mary who lives with great courage. She stands up for God in calling forth people to repentance standing in solidarity with those who live in poverty, violence, war and oppression.  She does not call women to live a life that does not reflect all of who they are and who they are capable of being.  If Mary was living today I think she would a strong feminist!  What do you think?

I believe that God calls upon us to live with the same courage Mary had.  Can you think of a time in your life when love has been birthed as a result of some ones courage and vulnerability?

I remember when Terry Fox was running across our country to raise money and awareness of cancer.  Because of his courage and vulnerability he dramatically increased the research going into the prevention and cure for cancer.

His heart for life touched a lot of other hearts not only in Canada but around the world. He continues to make a difference.

I think of Malala as a contemporary Mary who continues to raise the awareness of the importance of the education of girls around the world and in the importance of respecting and honoring human rights around the world.  She is turning the world upside down.

I think of Louis Wilson, former Moderator of the United Church of Canada and former member of the Canadian Senate who continues to work for social justice in our country and around the world.  She took on National Sea Products in Lunenburg Nova Scotia when they were negatively impacting the local fisherman and fish factories.  She stood up for the rights of women in the United Church of Canada.  She challenged the Canadian government to build healthy relationships with countries around the world that respect human rights and to challenge those who didn’t.  Lois will never be forgotten.

I think of my Aunt Jean who never gave up on her church and Presbytery raising funds for the Mission and Service Fund.  She was the very opposite of meek and mild.  She made sure you never forgot about the importance of the Mission and Service fund.  She walked her talk through many years of working for the YWCA and as social worker.  She has changed me for ever.

In essence Mary was the first disciple of Jesus.  Jesus got much of his values from Mary.  If it hadn’t been for Mary’s courage Jesus may never have been born.  So I give thanks for the mission and ministry of Mary.  It was through her courage, and the courage of many other people there is much to celebrate in our world today.  There is also hope for the future.  Merry Christmas!

 

Mary

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