A Celebration of Diversity


Sermon – May 25th 2014


6th of Easter (Year A)


Celebration of Diversity


By Roland Legge


Isaiah 11:1-9




I love the imagery in Isaiah 11:1-9 of lion and lamb co-habiting together.  For me this image is important for us today because it reminds me how God has desired diversity from the beginning of time.  In Genesis we are reminded that all of God’s creations was GOOD!  If God had not desired diversity, our world would not be so complex, fascinating, awe inspiring and incredible.




The Spirit yearns for each of us to bring forth all of whom God desires us to be. In order to do this faithfully we need to know our own identity and name the lenses of interpretation through which we experience the world.  Each of us views the world through many lenses.  What are they for you?




Eric Law, one of the speakers at Behold helped each of us at the event to begin to name the lenses through which we experience the world and how others might see us.  Here are some of the lenses:






vphysical ability


vskin color


vracial   background


vsexual orientation










vgeographic location


vmigration history


veducation and where






veconomic status




vbirth order


vand much more……




Each of us is made up of many cultural components. Which lenses do you see the world through?  How do you think others view you?




When we meet another person we all have our first impressions based on some of the lenses I mentioned.  The trouble is that many of our first impressions are incorrect.  We all have our stereo-types:


vaboriginal people are lazy


vteenagers cannot be trusted


vblond women are dumb


vAsians are good at math


vGay men are sissies


If we really get to know others we know these stereo-types are not true. How have you been hurt by stereo-types?




Jesus showed us how to break through our stereo-types to see each person as an awesome creation of God.  Jesus was not afraid to relate to all sorts of people; Pharisees, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, prostitutes, the very poor, and the sick.  There was no one that Jesus wasn’t willing to connect with.




I believe that Jesus would encourage and challenge us to have congregations that reflected the diversity of our communities.  Then why is this so difficult?




It is difficult because it requires a change in our hearts.  It is hard because it calls upon us to be open to the Spirit. An openness that will likely call upon us to change the ways we be church.  Here is what Eric Law suggests are the leadership skills, whether lay or clergy, that is needs to be lived out in order to diversify our congregations. They are:




vSelf-awareness of cultural values, privilege and power.


vTo see differences as an opportunity for learning


vTo have a commitment to Pluralism, that calls upon us to be open to seeing truths in other religions and cultures.


vTo be intentional about diversifying our faith communities.




As your spiritual I invite you to join me in this time of


transformation, but I cannot do this alone.  Each of us needs to take ownership of becoming an inter-cultural church if it is going to happen.




I have been so enriched by inter-cultural experiences.  They have not always been easy.  I remember attending a Baptist church in Brooklyn New York.  I and three others were the only white people in the whole church.  We were probably most under-dressed folks in the congregation.  While we stuck out like a sore thumb, we were so welcomed.  At the end of the service it didn’t seem to matter that were a minority in a large congregation.  I can’t remember the details of the service, but I can still feel the welcome and hospitality of the folks at Concord Baptist Church.  I think knowing who they are as an African American Baptist congregation, helped them to be open and welcoming to others.




In 1980 I attended the Canadian Yearly Meeting of Canadian Quakers in Nelson B.C.  I found myself in a workshop on Gay and Lesbian issues.  To my surprise I was the only “straight” person in the whole room.  Again I felt welcomed.  They could welcome me because they knew who they were.




In a previous community I was blessed to get to know an aboriginal family through a Christian Mission that arranges for parents in prison to be able to give Christmas presents to their children. I was welcomed into a very different world from mine, hearing stories of how our criminal justice system unfairly treats many aboriginal people.  I heard a powerful story of how this mother overcame addictions and violence to now work in healing lodge near Prince Albert Saskatchewan.   This family could speak to me because they felt proud of being Cree.




All of these experiences changed the way I saw the world.  They were uncomfortable at times.  But even more so they were liberating in widening my understanding and respect for those people and communities I was not familiar with.  These experiences and others often helped me to name my prejudices and see even more the wonder of the Creators handy work.  All of these experiences have helped me to feel good about whom I am as a white Canadian of English, Scottish and Irish ancestry.




Our higher power sees us at Foam Lake United Church as wonderfully diverse.  We may be mainly Western and Eastern European but if we go far back our ancestors came from many places and now from the Philippines.   How much do we know about our own ancestry?  How much do others know about us?




People are hungry for faith communities that seek to embrace diversity.  Places where each of us are encouraged and challenged to live as followers of Jesus.  May we at Foam Lake United continue to live into this vision so that we may find the abundant life that Jesus promised us.










We Can Make a Difference


Sermon – May 18th 2014

By Roland Legge

Easter Five (Year A)

Psalm 31

John 14:1-14


Jesus sure has high expectations of us!  What would you have said to Jesus when he told his disciples that God was going to do even greater things through them than what he had done?  If I had been there I would have said to Jesus he doesn’t know what he is talking about.  How could he expect us to outdo him?  But Jesus won’t hear of our excuses.  He won’t hear of our excuses because it is God who is going to work through us. This endeavour does not rely on our imperfect humanness but on our willingness to allow God to work through us. 


A few years ago I attended the United Church’s national inter-cultural ministry conference in Vancouver.   Inter-cultural ministry is all about allowing God to work through us in helping to build loving, just, and respectful relationships between the great diversity of cultures in our world.  In our own context the majority of people fit into four main cultures.  They are Anglophone (Anglo-Saxon), Ukrainian, Icelandic, Aboriginal and Metis.  How can we be a blessing to each other?


How do we learn to get along better with each other?  This is one of the great tasks that God has given us.  We must each struggle to know how God desires for us to live with justice and harmony with all people in our communities.  Our congregation must discern how we can welcome all people in our community, no matter who they are and where they came from.  This call to mutuality in community is what John, the author of this Gospel, was reminding his followers that it was Jesus who called us all to this ministry in the first place.


Today I am going to share some of my experiences from a workshop called “Building Bridges – Understanding the Village”, that I took at the gathering.   The workshop helped me to better understand how my aboriginal brothers and sisters have been affected by the European settlement of North America.  It also helped me to know how I can best be part of healing the divisions not only between aboriginal and white people, but between all people in the world.


Our facilitators Cathy and Alberta led us through a process of education through storytelling and role playing.  First they emphasized this is not about shaming white people.  But it is about learning to “row” together as aboriginal and white people.  In order for this to happen we must first get to know each other through hearing our stories.


Cathy and Alberta shared some of the story of their own people.  They were representing the many nations of aboriginal people on the coast of British Columbia.  They reminded us they have been in relationship with the land for a long time.  Archaeologists believe that there have been settlements of people around Burrard inlet for 10,000 years. 


They talked of the importance of knowing who you are.  Before European contact, each people knew who they were through the food they ate, their homes, and their clothes, system of governance and language and dialect.  Each of these different aspects of their culture helped each tribe to know who they were in relation to the many other nations on the west coast of B.C.  They were proud peoples who were not ashamed of being who they were. 


We were reminded that we all have come from our own indigenous lands.  For me that is Scotland and Ireland.  My heart lights up whenever I hear Celtic music.  If we go back far back each of us comes from rural communities that had many of the same attributes a first nation’s village had before the Europeans came.  Where is your indigenous land?


Cathy and Alberta invited us to role play living in a west coast first nation’s village pre European colonization.  I invite you to join me in this role play in which each of us were invited to take on the roles of people who made their community function including children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, elders and hunter protectors.


I volunteered to be one of the children.  I felt secure in the circle with all my community keeping me safe so I could explore and play as much as I wanted.    I felt the warmth of my parents, grandparents, elders, aunts, uncles and the hunter protectors.  I felt like I was living in a womb of love.  I was so happy because I had everything I needed.  But then the Europeans came and forcefully removed me with my brothers, sisters, cousins and friends out of the community.  I was forcefully led from the circle outside the room to attend a residential school far from where I had grown up.  I felt sad, frightened, and angry.   I missed my family and all that I was used to in my community.  It seemed like I could no longer do anything that was right because I was told that I was a heathen.  I wasn’t allowed to speak my own language.  I wasn’t allowed to play the games I had grown up with.  I was forced to eat strange food. I became very depressed because I felt like a stranger in a foreign land where I was not welcome.  I no longer had the comfort of the familiar sights and smells of my own community.  It sometimes felt that life was no longer worth living.


Then my people began the long healing process.  It wasn’t easy.  One day, members of my tribe tried to bring me back to the community.  I was hesitant about returning because I was unsure of what would happen when I returned.  But with perseverance my people brought me back into the circle.  It felt good in the end, but the journey toward healing is going to take a long time because of how we had been treated as less than human.  For the first time I felt some hope.  The role play came to an end and all shared how it felt to be in our different roles.


Why do we need to hear the story?  We need to hear the story so we can better understand our aboriginal brothers and sisters.  We need to do this so we can work hand in hand with our aboriginal brothers and sisters to heal the world.  I believe this is the only way to begin to break down the walls between us.


Instead of getting stuck in shame we need to move ahead to heal the world with all people no matter how different they may seem to us.   Cathy and Alberta said if we all can abide by these four laws found in many aboriginal cultures there is a way out of our mess.  The four laws are these:

  1. LOVE


Imagine if we all keep these laws as the lenses we view the world, our world will become a more a gentle, loving and just place to be.


Each of us will continue to make a difference. We will do this by finding belonging in our different communities.  We will find this by being our own persons.  We will do this by mastering our gifts which we can share with the world.  Lastly, but not least, we can make a difference in generously sharing all of who we are with all the people of the world.


We not only must do this individually but as a faith community.  Hence, I hope we at Foam Lake United Church will continue to create opportunities for each of us to get to know each other through hearing each of our ordinary amazing stories.  I hope we will continue to do this through generously sharing our gifts with our family, church, community and world.  I hope we will do this by us seeking out the stories of folks from different cultures such as our Ukrainian, Icelandic, Aboriginal and Metis brother and sisters.


I came back from Behold full of new energy, joy and hope. I pray that you too can experience the joy that comes from breaking down the walls of racism and prejudice; the walls that hold us back from bringing forth the New Jerusalem that Christ promised is both here and yet to come.


Healing to Wholeness


Reflection # 1 Acts 8:26-40


Jesus whole life was about bringing people to wholeness.  He wants each of us to be able to experience the joy and wonder of life.  Jesus wants each of us to know in the deepest part of ourselves that we are unconditionally loved by the Creator.  He wants to invite us to be spiritually open, enabling the Spirit to keep working through each of us.  The Holy Spirit will help us to name and experience the wonderful mixture of humanity and divinity in each of us.  When we do this the world feels and looks like a much brighter place.


In the book of Acts we hear the story of how the Holy Spirit was working through Philip. The Spirit was leading Philip to break down barriers.  Philip was led by the Spirit to share the Good News with an Ethiopian eunuch.  He is breaking the barrier that said Judaism was only for the Hebrews; even the Christian sect within Judaism.  He is breaking the barrier in hanging out with some one that was different from him, someone neither male nor female. 


Imagine what it would have been like to have been this Ethiopian eunuch.  I expect, while he had some respect because of being connected with those in power, many would have ignored this person or seen this eunuch as less than human.  I hunch, it must have felt good when Philip took some time with this person to help the eunuch make some sense of scripture this person was reading from Isaiah.  It is said that this eunuch went away rejoicing.  This person new now beyond doubt that he/she was worthy, loved, respected, a full human being and unconditionally loved by God.  This person had been helped by Philip to feel whole.  The eunuch was allowing the Holy Spirit to heal him/her from anything that was holding this eunuch back from fully living out its life.


Can you remember a time when you felt out of place?  Can you remember a time when you have felt not respected?  Can you remember a time when you felt so broken you didn’t know if you could find joy and hope again?  Most of us have experienced some of this in our lives.  I have had many people in my life help me to discover the wholeness and healing that God desires for me to feel and know.  I want to talk to you about a favorite teacher of mine, Mrs. Gardener.  She was all about helping me and any student she taught that we were worthy of her time and energy.  She made it very clear that she deeply cared about us.  She made sure we knew we were bright and intelligent.  I can remember her spending hours upon hours with me teaching the times tables that are still with me today.  I stayed in touch with her long after she finished teaching.  Mrs. Gardener helped me to feel whole.  Through the Spirit working through her I received much healing that helped me to keep growing physically, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.


Who has broken through your barriers?  Who has helped you to see beyond all the “isms” to see divine-humanity in each person we meet?  Who has helped you to experience wholeness and healing?  Who are you inviting into wholeness and healing?


May the Creator bless all of us with the same wholeness that Jesus lived out.




Reflection #2:  Mark 5: 25-34


Here we have another story of a person finding wholeness and healing.  This is a story about a woman who broke a social taboo.  I quote now from Miriam Mary and Me by Lois Wilson:

Although the woman knew her flow of blood had stopped when she touched Jesus, the text says she still “trembled and feared” when Jesus asked “who touched me?” If the incident simply involved physical healing, the woman would not have responded with fear and trembling to Jesus inquiry.  But she had spoken a taboo.  She had been a social reject for 12 years.  Religious law declared any “touching,” of either the woman or anything associated with her, ritually unclean, that is, taboo (Leviticus 15:19-30).  She trembled because she had broken the law (Leviticus 12:2-7). She had sinned by appearing in a public space when she was ritually polluted.

Miriam Mary & Me Biblical Stories Retold for Children and Adults by Lois Miriam Wilson Northstone Publishing Kelowna B.C. page 247



Jesus showed us that wholeness comes when we fully recognize another human being.  We bring wholeness when we are able to look them right in the eye.  We bring wholeness when we reach out and touch another person.  We bring wholeness when we acknowledge their presence in a positive way.  In order to do this we need to continuing breaking through many taboos.


What are the taboos we need to overcome today?  There are many.  One is the tendency to see people with disabilities as not full human beings. In order to overcome our fear of being around people who don’t seem “normal” to us we need to try to get a sense of what it might be like to walk in their shoes.  This is a good tool to use to break through any taboos and stereotypes that too often get in the way of all people enjoying the blessing of healthy community.


I had inherited a lot of stereotypes about people with mental illness.  I somehow got the message that these were not normal people. I got the message you couldn’t trust them.  They were somehow not completely human.  This was all challenged in my last year of theology school when I learned a lot about schizophrenia.  This is just as common as autism!  I learnt the most about it when I was in a workshop where they tried to give us participants an idea what it is like to live with schizophrenia.  These new learning’s changed me forever.


After trying to listen to multiple voices all talking to me at once and often in very demeaning ways I soon realized why it is so hard for a person living with this terrible illness to function.  This new knowledge helped me to be more compassionate.  As I got to know people living with schizophrenia I realized that I had little to fear from them.  I realized they are just as much the children of God as any so called “able” person is. Also during this same time I was working in the inner cities of Toronto and Vancouver.  I discovered I could bring wholeness and healing to people with mental illness by taking time to get to know them and treating them with the dignity that all people should be given.  Yes, even people with mental illness can be on the road to wholeness.


Reflection # 3:  Luke 10:38-42


I love the story of Mary and Martha.  There are many ways to interpret the story.  But today I want to focus on how Jesus was able to recognize Mary’s need to be spiritually fed.  Mary’s need for healing and wholeness was more important at that time than Martha’s need to provide hospitality. 


We all need to take time to care for ourselves just as Mary was allowing herself to do with Jesus.  We all need time to care for our minds, our spirit, our intellect and our need to participate in meaningful service in our world.  But this is hard to do in a world that puts so much value on production, money and consumption.  I even find it hard to take twenty minutes to do Centering Prayer each day.  One would think it should not be hard. Why?  I know for me there is still a part of me that does not take seriously the wisdom that meditation and prayer are a good use of my time.  How easy or hard do you find it to care for yourself?


I hope that we will stay on the road to wholeness and healing through out our lives.  May the Spirit bless each of us through the words of this poem by Ann Weems called: Gift of God.  Hear it as though I am saying this right to you.

Gift of God


gift next to me and

                                      pass me Bread and Wine…


always there

                   with communion in your countenance

reaching ready

                                 aware accepting affirming


Gift of God


touch this lepered me

                                      to wholeness


Instrument of God


hear alleluias through obscenities

   see rainbows in the darkest storms

         unearth flowers in the snow


Gift of God

I thank God for you!

Reaching for Rainbows by Ann Weems The Westminster Press 1980 Philadelphia page 34




Meeting Jesus in Each Other


Exploring the Word:

Sermon – May 4th 2014

2nd Sunday after Easter

By Roland Legge

Acts 2:14a, 36-41  

Luke 24:13-35



Imagine you are traveling on the Road to Emmaus just after the death of your beloved friend Jesus.  You are sad, disappointed, angry and hurting because the One you believed, who would free your people from the Roman oppressors, is dead.


You and your friend just had to get out of town to get away from everything so you could think straight again.  You keep asking yourself, how the Messiah could be killed on a Cross just like a crook.  You begin to wonder if Jesus was really great.  Were you taken advantage of?  Your mind is a mess.  You just need some quiet time to talk with a friend.  You want to run away from your problems.


Imagine the story through the disciples’ eyes. We are out on the Road to Emmaus.  We come across this fellow and we begin to talk with him. We can’t believe it but he doesn’t seem to know anything about what happened in Jerusalem.  So we explain to him what has happened and how shocked and upset we are.  But then to our surprise he goes on to explain through the Scripture why this would have happened.  We are astounded by what he says.  He is about to go when we invite him to join us for a meal.  Then as we share a meal together we suddenly realize it was Jesus we were talking to.  The moment we realize this he disappears.  By this time our hearts are on fire and we get back to Jerusalem as quickly as possible to tell our Good News.  Yes, Jesus has risen and the movement for social change is once again on the move.


Many of us, when we get down, get stuck in our distress just like the two people on the Road to Emmaus.  It often takes something shocking to wake us up into seeing the situation as it really is.  For the travelers this was the realization they were talking to Jesus.  Not only did they get stuck in their distress, but they wanted to run away from their problems and from their pain.  They wanted to get as far away from Jerusalem as possible.


There is so much to run away from today.  We face violence, environmental degradation, racism, homophobia, greed, wars, materialism and more and it is so tempting to run away from all our problems, often through getting caught in addictions.  Addictions such as alcohol, drugs both legal and illegal that briefly hide our pain and fear.  Addictions such as consumption that feed our endless hunger for more. But Jesus offers us another way to live in the world.


Jesus reminds us over and over again how we are not alone.  The holy is never far away and can be found in in our bodies, minds, and hearts and in the whole creation.  The only way I can express this is through a metaphor. 


I like the image of a tree as a powerful metaphor.  The tree is solid, yet flexible, its roots reach into the earth for its nurturing, and its leaves soak up the solar rays that are synthesized into food for the trees and oxygen for us to breathe. The tree when it is healthy provides shelter for animals and birds and people.  The tree when it is healthy produces fruit that gives life for many creatures including ourselves.   I believe this is how God intended for us to live on planet earth with each other.  God is like a great conductor or coach who guides is into living in harmony with each other so we can all be at our best.


Do you have strong roots into the earth that keeps you grounded and self-aware?   Are you connected to the longings of your heart? Can you feel the radiance of the sun on your head?  Can you feel the wisdom of the holy throughout your body, mind and heart?  Can you feel the wisdom of Jesus in the earth and in the heavens?  When you experience this kind of union with the divine our addictions begin to disappear.


 All we need to live is all accessible to each of us.  All we need to do is to be open to the Spirit and feel it, catch it, ask for it, and/or mediate on it.  All we need to do is to live in community, just like we do at Foam Lake United Church; to be there to support, encourage and challenge each other into being all we can be.  The Spirit is so present when we intentionally manifest the Kindom of God. How do you manifest the Kingdom of God?


I invite each of us to look for Jesus in every person we meet.  Each of us are beautiful human beings.  Each of us are blessed with Divine gifts which we are called to share with the world.  Often this comes as a surprise to us because too often we are own greatest critique.  While I know at some level I am a good minister.  While I realize that my sermons might be meaningful to people I still was surprised that people who, had never met me in person, expressed appreciation for the sermons they read on my personal blog.  I was astounded that people from a diverse background were finding my messages helpful and life giving.  Maybe you feel that way sometimes.  Others are often better able to see our gifts than we can ourselves.


Too often we undervalue what we can offer the world.  Know that you are precious!  Know that God loves you for who you are.  Know that Jesus will walk with you for the rest of your lives and into the next the realm.


Often we find Jesus in the least expected places.  We are surprised to find Jesus in people that we don’t feel comfortable with.  Who are the people you have experienced Jesus in?  I have met Jesus in Gay, Straight, Bi-Sexual, Trans-gendered and Two Spirited people.  I have met Jesus in many different races, nationalities and religious groups.  I have met Jesus in people who I totally disagree with.


I have found the best way to recognize Jesus in those I meet is over a meal, just like Jesus did with these travelers.  Often at a meal we are more relaxed, we take time to get to know each other, and we look into each other’s eyes.  It becomes a holy and sacred time.  Some of my best memories are at meals with people whether I know them or not.   Take a moment to recall some of those meals that were sacred for you.


As well, when we shared the Peace of Christ with each other today, we were recognizing that of Jesus in each of us.  For me the sanctuary is bubbling with love when we take the time to acknowledge the sacredness of each person.


I end with this challenge to find Jesus in every person we meet with this week.  Don’t rush through your meals.  Take the time to open up with each other. You will be blessed! The world will never look the same again.