Thank Goodness for Doubting Thomas!

harmon_faith-2Easter – April 24, 2011

By Roland Legge

Based on Matthew 28:1–10

 

Easter is probably one of the most earth shattering experiences humankind has experienced.  Whether we believe the resurrection to be metaphor or actual fact, millions of people’s lives have been changed.   No one can deny this reality if they have eyes to see and ears to hear.

 

Easter becomes real, when we the people of God, live out God’s commandment to love self, neighbour and God.  Every act coming out of love, hope, a hunger for peace, and a hunger for justice are like mini resurrections in themselves.  Each act no matter how small or big says no to our death focussed culture and yes to life abundant.

 

We don’t know a lot about what happened at Jesus resurrection.  No one saw it.  But we know the tomb was empty and Mary Magdalene found new life and hope after experiencing Jesus. It touched her so deeply that she had the courage to tell the male disciples that he indeed had risen.  Neither do we know a lot about Mary Magdalene.

 

What we do know that Mary was likely the leader of a group of women who followed Jesus.  Some believed that Mary was a prostitute even though there is no evidence of that in the Bible.  It seems to some theologians Mary was among a group of independent women who provided resources for Jesus ministry.  These were women who chose to share their financial wealth and property with Jesus and his movement. What is important is that Mary and these other women were living out a diaconal ministry of service as equals with the male disciples.

 

But the miracle is that upon Jesus death and resurrection on the cross these women became the prime movers of this new Jesus movement which finally claimed the ministry they had been called to after Jesus death and resurrection.  They were more than followers of Jesus.  They had taken on this ministry themselves.  They finally understood what Jesus had been telling them that they have all they need and more to live out their calling from God.

 

To be a resurrection people is not easy.  Jesus and his followers know this only too well.  In the resurrection the spiral of life radiates out love as shown to us by Jesus.  When the love of Christ is let loose there is nothing that can stop it.  However, this life affirming way of living challenges and conflicts with our culture which led to Jesus death by the Empire of his day.

 

It is sad to think how much time and effort goes in trying to snuff out God’s vision for the abundant life by the powerful in our world.  Some people have so much to lose in wealth and power.  They are too scared to change their way of life and to risk losing control of their kingdom.   It is easy for them and for us to justify to God our comforts of life.  Of course, we say, we deserve them.  But do we really deserve them more than anyone else?

 

We all have had resurrection experiences.  What have been the times in your life when an experience, feeling, emotion, relationship, connection with another person suddenly helped you to discover hope, new ways of being, courage or whatever you needed to overcome an obstacle you were facing in life.   Diana Butler Bass shares a story how her congregation, Epiphany in Washington D.C. and a homeless woman found power in the resurrection:

There is a woman in my church in Washington, D.C., who was homeless for 15 years. Several years ago, she came to Epiphany Church and was welcomed by the congregation’s ministry to homeless people. “It was the first time,” she told me, “that I came into a church and no one looked at me as if I was going to steal something.” Epiphany’s people respected her humanity, fed her, listened to her, and helped her – all in the name and power of Jesus. Eventually, she moved off the street into Section 8 housing, secured both work and support, and pulled her life together. An active member of Epiphany, she helps run the homeless ministry, serves as a Sunday reader, and usher.

This article is reprinted from Godspolitics on Beliefnet.com. Diana Butler Bass (http://www.dianabutlerbass.com/) was the author of Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper San Francisco) when this article appeared. This was found at www.sojo.net .

 

It is good news that resurrection is still happening today.  I say AMEM to that!   How is it happening at Foam Lake United Church?

 

A few years ago I saw a film on PBS called Unlisted: A story of Schizophrenia.  

 

This is a moving first person account of a woman’s troubled relationship with her father and his mental illness. Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, whose own father, Richard Ruston, has paranoid schizophrenia and at times lived on the street, takes viewers along on a deeply personal journey to reconnect with her estranged father.

http://video.kcts9.org/video/1779716157#

 

I experienced moments of resurrection in this story when film maker Delaney Ruston has moments of deep connection, sacred time, with her father and experiences her father as grandfather for her son.  There is a shot of her, her Dad and her son walking together just enjoying being together something she had craved so much as a child. She feels the pain of missed times with him.  Especially as a young girl when she needed a stable relationship with her father.  She starts to see the beauty of his sole through their open sharing. While this is all painful, it helps her to release years of pent up sadness and hurt that has burdened her life. Out of her courage to re-claim her relationship with her father she experiences moments of resurrection that helps her to live her life more fully.

 

I have had moments of resurrection throughout my life.  They often happen in small ways when I am at home with Jen, talking with a friend on the phone, keeping connected to family.  When I was on the Central Committee for the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, I felt a strong presence of the Spirit among the Council, staff and students.  It is hard to describe other than a deep sense of hope despite all the challenges theological schools are facing in Canada.   I say AMEN to that!

 

How do we live out the Easter story each day?  Imagine the transformation that could happen in our country if all Canadians, including our politicians, focussed on living compassionate lives.  Stories of resurrection would multiply as the compassion of the few turned into the compassion of the many. I challenge each of us to bring our life affirming values to all we do in life. Each time we do this will be a small but powerful act of resurrection.

 

 

 

The Gift of Resurrection

giotto httpfirstchurchmn.wordpress.comcategorysermonspage2

Easter – April 24, 2011

By Roland Legge

Based on Matthew 28:1–10

 

Easter is probably one of the most earth shattering experiences humankind has experienced.  Whether we believe the resurrection to be metaphor or actual fact, millions of people’s lives have been changed.   No one can deny this reality if they have eyes to see and ears to hear.

 

Easter becomes real, when we the people of God, live out God’s commandment to love self, neighbour and God.  Every act coming out of love, hope, a hunger for peace, and a hunger for justice are like mini resurrections in themselves.  Each act no matter how small or big says no to our death focussed culture and yes to life abundant.

 

We don’t know a lot about what happened at Jesus resurrection.  No one saw it.  But we know the tomb was empty and Mary Magdalene found new life and hope after experiencing Jesus. It touched her so deeply that she had the courage to tell the male disciples that he indeed had risen.  Neither do we know a lot about Mary Magdalene.

 

What we do know that Mary was likely the leader of a group of women who followed Jesus.  Some believed that Mary was a prostitute even though there is no evidence of that in the Bible.  It seems to some theologians Mary was among a group of independent women who provided resources for Jesus ministry.  These were women who chose to share their financial wealth and property with Jesus and his movement. What is important is that Mary and these other women were living out a diaconal ministry of service as equals with the male disciples.

 

But the miracle is that upon Jesus death and resurrection on the cross these women became the prime movers of this new Jesus movement which finally claimed the ministry they had been called to after Jesus death and resurrection.  They were more than followers of Jesus.  They had taken on this ministry themselves.  They finally understood what Jesus had been telling them that they have all they need and more to live out their calling from God.

 

To be a resurrection people is not easy.  Jesus and his followers know this only too well.  In the resurrection the spiral of life radiates out love as shown to us by Jesus.  When the love of Christ is let loose there is nothing that can stop it.  However, this life affirming way of living challenges and conflicts with our culture which led to Jesus death by the Empire of his day.

 

It is sad to think how much time and effort goes in trying to snuff out God’s vision for the abundant life by the powerful in our world.  Some people have so much to lose in wealth and power.  They are too scared to change their way of life and to risk losing control of their kingdom.   It is easy for them and for us to justify to God our comforts of life.  Of course, we say, we deserve them.  But do we really deserve them more than anyone else?

 

We all have had resurrection experiences.  What have been the times in your life when an experience, feeling, emotion, relationship, connection with another person suddenly helped you to discover hope, new ways of being, courage or whatever you needed to overcome an obstacle you were facing in life.   Diana Butler Bass shares a story how her congregation, Epiphany in Washington D.C. and a homeless woman found power in the resurrection:

There is a woman in my church in Washington, D.C., who was homeless for 15 years. Several years ago, she came to Epiphany Church and was welcomed by the congregation’s ministry to homeless people. “It was the first time,” she told me, “that I came into a church and no one looked at me as if I was going to steal something.” Epiphany’s people respected her humanity, fed her, listened to her, and helped her – all in the name and power of Jesus. Eventually, she moved off the street into Section 8 housing, secured both work and support, and pulled her life together. An active member of Epiphany, she helps run the homeless ministry, serves as a Sunday reader, and usher.

This article is reprinted from Godspolitics on Beliefnet.com. Diana Butler Bass (http://www.dianabutlerbass.com/) was the author of Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper San Francisco) when this article appeared. This was found at www.sojo.net . 

It is good news that resurrection is still happening today.  I say AMEM to that!   How is it happening at Foam Lake United Church?

 

A few years ago I saw a film on PBS called Unlisted: A story of Schizophrenia.  

 

This is a moving first person account of a woman’s troubled relationship with her father and his mental illness. Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, whose own father, Richard Ruston, has paranoid schizophrenia and at times lived on the street, takes viewers along on a deeply personal journey to reconnect with her estranged father.

http://video.kcts9.org/video/1779716157#

 

I experienced moments of resurrection in this story when film maker Delaney Ruston has moments of deep connection, sacred time, with her father and experiences her father as grandfather for her son.  There is a shot of her, her Dad and her son walking together just enjoying being together something she had craved so much as a child. She feels the pain of missed times with him.  Especially as a young girl when she needed a stable relationship with her father.  She starts to see the beauty of his sole through their open sharing. While this is all painful, it helps her to release years of pent up sadness and hurt that has burdened her life. Out of her courage to re-claim her relationship with her father she experiences moments of resurrection that helps her to live her life more fully.

 

I have had moments of resurrection throughout my life.  They often happen in small ways when I am at home with Jen, talking with a friend on the phone, keeping connected to family.  When I was on the Central Committee for the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, I felt a strong presence of the Spirit among the Council, staff and students.  It is hard to describe other than a deep sense of hope despite all the challenges theological schools are facing in Canada.   I say AMEN to that!

 

How do we live out the Easter story each day?  Imagine the transformation that could happen in our country if all Canadians, including our politicians, focussed on living compassionate lives.  Stories of resurrection would multiply as the compassion of the few turned into the compassion of the many. I challenge each of us to bring our life affirming values to all we do in life. Each time we do this will be a small but powerful act of resurrection.

 

 

 

Free to be our “True” Christ Selves

Sermon – April 6th 2014

Lent V (Year A)

By Roland Legge

Ezekiel 37:1-14

John 11:1-45

 

 

We have all felt down in the dumps at some time in our lives. Some of us have experienced depression for short periods of time, while others have struggled with it throughout their lives.  Many people have found themselves unemployed, living with illness, broken marriages, and deaths in the family which sucks the life out of them. Minorities find themselves struggling to overcome racism, and bigotry. Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered and Bi-Sexual people live with the threat of losing their jobs, harassment and even death. It is at times like this, we can all relate to Ezekiel’s vision of the “dry bones”.  Where have you experienced dry bones in your life?

 

Ezekiel and his contemporaries were living in exile.  They had lost their land, homes, jobs, their national identity and even their faith.  They were very depressed. They lost much of their faith because they had been promised by God, in the story of the Exodus, to live in the Promised Land for the rest of their lives.   Now they were forced back into living in the wilderness. Many of them felt abandoned by God. When have you felt abandoned by God?

 

Ezekiel finds the courage and faith to demand that these dry bones, his community of refugees, to come back to life.  In our Gospel reading Jesus is also calling on his community to find new life through the story of raising Lazarus from the dead.

 

Jesus and Ezekiel were calling their people into transformative ministries that would show us the way to the Kin-dome of God.  Transformation can only happen when are able to fully let go of all that is holding us back.  The story of Lazarus being raised from the dead was told to help us prepare for Jesus resurrection which is the key to all us finding new life and hope.

 

In order to be transformed we all need something to shake us to the core.  Something that will open our hearts and minds to seeing the world as it really is and how we have truly been part of it.  Something that will break down all the walls around ourselves that have been built up to protect us from some threat in the past that is no longer serving us.

 

I wonder how Lazarus resuscitation from the dead changed his life.  It must have shook him up. I would like to think that it inspired him even more to be a faithful follower of Jesus even if it meant risking his life.  How would it have changed your life?

 

For the followers of Jesus, it was his death and resurrection that really shook them up.  In the days between his death and resurrection many of his disciples were just about ready to give up.  Yet once they realized that Jesus was with them in a new way, they found courage in themselves they never knew they had.  If you were in their shoe, would the resurrection of Jesus shake you up? Think of a time when you found courage to face something that had been haunting you for a long time.

 

We all need to be shook up at different times in our lives.  It is so tempting to stay with the devil we do know than the devil we don’t know.  God through prophets like Ezekiel and Jesus call upon to see beyond our fear and lack of vision into something new and awesome.

As I have told you before the end of my first marriage was a difficult and transformative time in my life.  If it wasn’t for my first wife blowing up just after our 5th wedding anniversary because I had given her the wrong color of roses and the wrong number I might have stayed in that unhealthy relationship much longer.  I suddenly realized that I needed to make a dramatic change in my life and stand up to her.  Up to then I was living a world of make believe always thinking I could fix my wife into treating me well.  Thanks to this dramatic wakeup call I have become a much healthier person.  What have been those wake up experiences for you?

 

Can you imagine living in Rwanda during the time of the Genocide?  The people of Rwanda and the world had a huge wake up call.  Life as they knew it had to change.  The Hutu’s and Tutsis needed to learn to forgive each other and begin to work together again.  This was going to be a very difficult tasks because of the horrific violence.

 

The world also woke up to the reality of how imperialism can destroy a nation well after the occupiers had left.  Janet L Parker while visiting Rwanda on behalf of the World Council of Churches learned what had started this hatred between the two tribe.  She says:

Listening to our hosts, we learned that the animosity between the Hutus and the Tutsis began during the colonial era, when the minority Tutsis were selected by the Belgians to rule over the majority Hutu. The colonizers, including priests, actively cultivated a mythology of Tutsi superiority. Tom Ndahiro of the Rwandan Human Rights Commission told us that the roots of the genocide began with verbal “murder” after the Hutus gained control following independence. Tutsis were called inyenzi—cockroaches—for years before 1994, and labeled “the enemy within.” A genocidal ideology is progressive, slipping in under people’s defenses, inflaming grudges, arousing paranoia, and relying on rewards and punishment to motivate participation in genocide. We heard stories of the complete breakdown of human civilization.

Found at Sojo.net:   http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/can-these-bones-live?parent=41105  Written by Janet L Parker

 

 

This shake up has challenged the people of Rwanda to truly share power with all people of their country.  Churches began to come alive again.  Relationships are being re-built between Hutus and Tutsis.  Slowly it is becoming more important to identify as a Rwandan rather than the tribe you came from.  The people of Rwanda have shown great faith by coming back together and working hard at creating a just and compassionate country.

 

But has the world been changed.  People working in the United Nations and many NGO’s have seen the light and hold our governments to account such as Desmond Tutu and Romeo Dallaire.  Yet it seems that the powers in the world particularly, the United States, Canada, Russia, China and the European Economic Union only seem concerned if it is directly affecting their economic/ political interest.  Thousands and thousands of people are killed in Syria and the world community doesn’t seem willing to do much about it.  Violence continues to infect the Sudan and the world doesn’t seem to care.  Thousands of people are continuing to die from HIV/AIDS even though we can now manage this disease.  What horrific event will it take for the world to wake up?

 

God will continue to use our mistakes to get our attention, if only we would finally pay attention.  Do you have a bad habit?  What would it take to change your behaviour?

 

As we approach Easter let us remember the wisdom of the Cross.  When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable even if God’s love results in our physical death humanity is changed for the better.  When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable even when the love of God forces us to face some of our own demons we are changed. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable even if it forces us to free ourselves from ego, our false selves, we discover our Christ selves or true selves.  When we find our Christ self we become free to live out how the Spirit desires us to live loving, generous, kind, wise, strong and courageous lives.

 

Go and be your Christ self.  Go and make a difference.  Go and help bring the Earth back into harmony.

 

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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.