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

Bodies and Spirit

 

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 28:10-19a:  

Romans 8:12-25:  
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43: 

 

 

 

Paul in his message to the Romans calls upon us to be our Christ selves.  Another way of saying it is that we are called to be our true selves, our spirit selves, our authentic selves.  What does it mean for you to be your authentic self?

 

 

 

The language that Paul uses isn’t helpful for our time. Why?  In the scripture Paul calls upon us to follow the spirit and not the flesh.  Sadly, for many centuries, people have interpreted this to mean that are bodies are inherently evil and our bodies tempt us to sin, especially women’s bodies. So for centuries the church has tried to impose many rules on how we use our bodies to protect us from our animal selves.  It has imposed penalties on those who break the taboos.  It has used its rules around sexuality to keep women as slaves of men. This led to all sorts of unhealthy attitudes about our bodies and the relationship between men and women. 

 

 

 

For me, the church has warped our sense of a human sexuality and turned it from something beautiful into a tool for those with power to manipulate others into doing things that will benefit their masters.   It has led to us abusing our bodies and bodies of others.  It has also silenced the wisdom of our bodies and that is why there so much physical, spiritual and mental dis-ease now.  How comfortable are in your in your own body?  Did you know that the whole of you both spirit, mind and body are sacred and divine?

 

 

 

Thankfully there has been present from the beginning of Christianity to today groups of people who have opposed this notion that the body is inherently evil.  Even in early Christianity, the church over and over said that Jesus was both fully human and fully God.  It was like saying that Jesus was both divine spirit and sanctified body.   More so, it was made very clear that when Jesus was resurrected it wasn’t just his spirit. It also included his body. Also the stories of the disciple’s encounters with Jesus were bodily experiences, such as demonstrated by the story of Doubting Thomas.

 

 

 

There are more and more Christians, like myself, who feel called to see ourselves as both body and spirit. We cannot separate these two parts.  We cannot have one without the other.

 

 

 

As I am learning more about the Enneagram I am discovering how close the Spirit is. The wisdom of God is never far away whether you feel it in your body, see it through your eyes and/or sense it through your mind.  I believe God is present within us and around us.  God is present in the people, including ourselves and in the whole of creation.  It is never far away!

 

 

 

Too often we see ourselves as defective.  But God never sees us that way.  God has blessed each of us with love, patience, energy and wisdom to be a Co-Creator with God.  As long as we are caught in this lie we will be stuck in hopelessness. We will try all sorts of things to fix ourselves or fix those around us. But then we discover that money won’t fix it.  The latest hip book won’t fix it.  The right church won’t fix it.  However the only way to change the world is to change ourselves and the Good News is that we have everything we need to begin the transformation process.

 

 

 

Up to now many of us have gone through trials and tribulation to survive in our world.  How we survived is a combination of what we learned from those around us who passed on their survival skills and our and our personality.  When we are young we use whatever we come up with to survive.  When we use them habitually as we get older we call these fixations.

 

 

 

A fixation is a behaviour we use over and over again to deal with issues in our lives where we feel frightened and/or insecure.  When we use it often it becomes like a habit.  For example one of my fixations is security.  I have missed great opportunities in my life because I was frightened to do something or go somewhere I wasn’t familiar with.  I awfulized worrying about what was unlikely going to happen.  Have you ever done that?

 

 

 

Our goal is to become fully present in our Christ selves.  To work on this is a life long journey.  There is no quick fix.  Each of us need to be willing to begin peeling off all the lies and fixations that block us from being our true selves.  This will take a lot of courage and grace for yourself and those around you.

 

 

 

It is important to remember that you don’t need to try and do this alone. In fact I would recommend that you don’t try this alone as you will need people to journey with you as it won’t always be easy.

 

 

 

A good place to start is to honor your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  For example, we all need to be touched in respectful ways.  I will never forget a nun saying to me in a group that she had sexual needs in that she needed human contact, relationship and touch.  We know that if babies don’t have it they will die.

 

 

 

Our bodies are meant to be used for the glory of God.  How are you using your body?  Have you found your vocation and found ways to live it out?  Are you taking care of your body with proper food and exercise?  I love the image of the body being like a temple.  If you would take great care of your church why wouldn’t you take great care of your body?  Do this with joy and not as a penalty for your sinfulness.

 

 

 

I would encourage you to find a tool and/or a practise to help you to become more fully present such as painting, pottery, sports, meditation, yoga, massage and Reiki.  I am finding the Enneagram to be a great tool to help me find who I truly am by discovering and releasing my addictive fixations that have held me back for much of my life.  It is also helping me to discover more and more of my God given wisdom that is always present if I would just pay some attention. 

 

 

 

The Enneagram and other spiritual/personality tools has helped me to recognize that there is great guidance that comes through the head, heart and gut energies of our bodies.  For us to be healthy we need to pay attention to all three energies.  Most of us get into trouble when we are fixated on wisdom from only one.  This gives us a distorted perspective which leads to emotional hurt and frustration.

 

 

 

I invite you to begin or continue your journey of self-discovery as your great gift back to God.  If each of us would embark on this journey for healing and wholeness the world would become a much better place.

jesus1

Our Journey with the Enneagram and Ayurveda

Thanks Melanie and Kacie! My wife Jen had been learning about Ayurveda. So it is neat to bring them together. Thanks and Blessings

Berghoef & Bell Innovations

The Enneagram is an amazing tool for personal growth. But the Enneagram is only one system, and increasingly, we’ve been exploring other tools that complement it.

We’ve found Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of holistic healing that focuses on maintaining health rather than curing illness, to be especially useful. It’s a tradition that’s been around for over 5000 years, and with its amazing specificity and individualized approach, remains one of the most popular systems of alternative medicine in the world. Ayurveda describes three basic doshas, or constitutions, with distinct lifestyle needs, and prescribes ways to balance the energy of each one. Most people have a dominant dosha, with some having a combination of two or three. In a nutshell:

food picVata (air) people are creative, quick-moving, and erratic. They benefit from nourishing and routine.

Pitta (fire) people are sharp, driven, and irritable. They benefit from calming and moderation.

Kapha (earth)…

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How Irritating can Jesus be!

 

Sermon – July 13th 2014

 

5th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Genesis 25:19-34

 

Romans 8:1-11

 

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus loved to tell stories called parables.  These were pithy little stories that always had a surprising ending.  They had a way of challenging people.  They had an uncanny way of helping people to see a true reflection of themselves whether they liked it or not.  Often, the stories revealed a truth that many people did not want to admit.  Instead of receiving the stories with thanksgiving they returned Jesus love with anger and hate.

 

 

 

We might wonder how a story like the Parable of the Sower, could unleash such anger.   It seems like such an innocent story.   It suggests that we Christians are the seeds that have been planted in the good soil.    This is certainly the interpretation that some scribe added to the Parable, but Jesus unlikely intended it to be watered down that much.  Thus what we read today has a lot more details filled in than Jesus would have likely shared.  The first listeners to Jesus Parable did not likely hear it the same way.  Many would have left partly confused and partly angry.

 

 

 

To get an idea of what it was like to hear the Parable for the first time.  Here this Parable :

 

A man once came to Buddha with an offering of flowers in his hands.  Buddha looked up at him and said, “Drop it!”

 

 

 

The man couldn’t believe he was being asked to drop the flowers.  Then it occurred to him that perhaps Buddha was asking him to drop the flowers that he had in his left hand, since to offer something with one’s left hand was considered inauspicious and impolite.  So he dropped the flowers that his left hand held.

 

 

 

And Buddha said to him, “Drop it!”

 

 

 

This time, the man was so unnerved by Buddha’s request that he simply dropped all the flowers and stood before Buddha empty handed.

 

 

 

And Buddha smiled and said to him, “Drop it!”

 

 

 

Perplexed, the man asked, “Buddha, what is it that I am supposed to drop?

 

 

 

“Not the flowers, my son,” said Buddha, ‘but the one who brought them.”

 

Keeping the Faith in Babylon A Pastoral Resource for Christians in Exile by Barry J. Robinson Ordinary 15 Year A

 

 

 

 

 

If you got the point of the story you might have understood Jesus story way back.   This story of Buddha probably gets more at the point of the Parable we heard today more than the interpretation we heard today right in the passage that was read.

 

 

 

So today’s Parable of Jesus, for me, calls upon us to drop that which is holding us back from living faithfully.  It is a call to forgive those who have offended and hurt us so that we can move ahead.  However, this is not a call to pretend that destructive events in our life never happened but it is call to learn and move on.  As Paul said in today’s epistle this is call to serve God in newness of life.

 

 

 

There are so many memories that can get in the way of our living life abundantly whether that is for individuals or for organizations such as churches.  You may have met people like the person in the story that I am about to tell as told by William Willimon.  I suspect that most of us have done this some time in our lives. Here is the story:

 

Remembrance can be a sure way to ensure that a congregation fails to achieve vitality.

 

I once served a church where there was a man who had been a member of that church for over 30 years.  He didn’t hold any prominent office in the church, but some of the people ‘jokingly referred to him as our “unofficial historian.” History is fine, and it is good to have someone in the congregation who can remember the congregational story and its past, but only up to a point.

 

His remembrance functioned negatively within the life of the congregation.  Just let someone come up with a new idea, and he would always be there to say, “No.  We tried that back in 1969 and it didn’t work.” Case closed, and the end of the possibility of the newness of life.

 

One time, when somebody suggested that we try a new initiative in evangelism, he chimed in, “I remember well, a previous pastor suggesting that we try that.  We did it, but it was a big flop.  That was about 1964.”

 

“1964!” I shouted. Do you know where I was in 1964? I was renting my tux for the high school prom.  That is ancient history.  Why should we care what happened in 1964?    I wasn’t even a pastor then.  It is a whole new world today.”

 

I was only partially right.  It is never a “whole new world” unless we have the ability to lay aside the past that enslaves us.

 

Pulpit Resource by William Willimon  Vol. 33, No. 3 Year A July, August, September 2005   Published by Logos Productions Inver Grove Heights MN P.G. 12-13

 

 

 

I have learned myself of the importance to let go of past anger, grudges and disappointments.  I was married once before and I did not happy relationship.  I knew once that relationship was over I needed to forgive my ex-wife and myself.   I needed to let go if I was to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. As well,  I knew that if I was ever to enter  a new relationship I would need to let go if I was going to have any hope of choosing a compatible and loving partner to be with.  Doing this work through counseling and spiritual direction was not easy but oh so worthwhile.  As you see, I am now in a healthy relationship with Jen.  This would not have happened if I had not done my work.

 

 

 

Remember, as I said earlier, to let go does not require us to completely forget.  To let go does not require us to call some dastardly or unkind act as okay.  To let go and forgive does require us to put these memories enough in the back our minds so that we are not continually having those memories inflame us over and over again.  Rather our goal is to learn from our mistakes and move on into even more abundant life.

 

 

 

So what do you need to let go of?  What do you need to keep at the back of your memory?  Who do you need to forgive?  As you acknowledge the answers to these questions over your life, find the courage to do the work and you will discover even more joyfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canola Fields near Strathclair Manitoba July 2012 (4)