The Beauty of Grey

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – October 26th 2014

20th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians

Matthew 22:34-46

We live in a very complex world.  We are often trying to simplify our lives.  So it can be very tempting to join a church that will tell you what to do in every circumstance.  To paint the world as though it is black and white.  To paint a world where everything is either good or evil, clean or dirty.

Why should we believe in our/Christian Jewish religion?   Jesus said religion is not there to be our moral code which defines who is good and who is bad.  It is not there to turn us into obedient people.  Rather it is there to compel us to love with all our heart.

In his time, Jesus wanted people to get down to the basics of their faith.  Why? Because people were getting confused.  People were getting confused because of the hundreds of rules that had been created to help people to stay on the narrow path of faith. It almost became impossible to remain faithful because you couldn’t help but break a rule because there were so many.  Sadly those who were privileged used these rules to keep their positions of power and the money in their pockets.  Those in power were also using the rules to rob the masses of their potential to confront the powers and  principalities.

So Jesus reminds his people of the great commandment that was passed onto him through his Jewish faith community.  He says that if you live by this commandment you will have fulfilled the Law.

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” —Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus says along with other Jews that the great commandment is one that sums up all their beliefs. It gets to heart of how we are to live our lives faithfully. If you love the Lord your God, you love yourself and love your neighbour then you are meeting all the expectations of God.  Jesus took it even further in saying that we should love all people whether they are Jew or not.  When you have done this you have truly fulfilled the Law.

How do we do this?  I appreciate how author Stacy Martin expresses this in an article she wrote for Sojourners magazine.  She shows how we can remain faithful through the following of the Great Commandment which includes these spiritual gifts.

Grace is the first gift of Christian faith.  For me grace is all about giving myself and others the room to learn through the trials and errors of life.  It is about reminding ourselves that none of us are perfect.  It is about acknowledging the light of God in each person we meet.   It is being open to God/Spirit working miracles of transformation through our lives even when at times we feel there is little hope.

Relationships is another gift of faith.  It is acknowledging that we relate to the Created order through God.  How God is always part of the picture.  So whatever we choose to do in this world whether that is mining, forestry, and/or trying to support our families we cannot create a hierarchy of God’s Creation to justify its destruction. It is all  GOOD!  I believe that when ever we show our love for God, ourselves and each other we will treat the world with greater compassion.  The world indeed will get closer to being the Kindom of God.

Forgiveness is another gift of faith.  Acts toward forgiveness free us up to keep living out the great commandment.  Acts towards forgiveness free our children from holding on to the same negative/destructive feeling creating new opportunities for healthier relationships.  Acts of forgiveness open up our hearts to love some of the more challenging people in our lives.

Community is the last gift of faith.  God’s call to community reminds us that we cannot live without each other.In a world where we live with the misconception that we can be successful on our own we are challenged to say with conviction that we need each other.  That when one person is hurting we all hurt.  When one person is celebrating we all celebrate.  We are the body of Christ!  Every one of us has something to offer this world.  Every one of us is loved by God!

Living out the Great Commandment is a lifelong goal.  It is never easy because sometimes we will miss the mark. However, I dream of a more loving world.  This isn’t a pie in the sky dream!  It is a dream that becomes true day in and day out.  Every time you and I intentionally choose to live in the way of Jesus, loving God, loving ourselves and each other, the world will continue to be transformed.

One way that I try to live out this commandment is to use the gifts I have been given.  I believe that is true for all of us.  So I invite all of us in our congregation to reflect on how we continue to live out love in Foam Lake and area and the rest of the world.  How do we show the grace of God?    How do we emphasize the importance of community so we can find a greater richness in life and be motivated to share our gifts with our brothers and sisters around the world?  How do we show the power of forgiveness?  A great place to start would be to forgive ourselves so we can feel the expansive love of God within us and around us.

Then, how do we forgive others while not allowing ourselves to be a door mat to be abused again and again!  Finally the last one is community.  How do we as a congregation seek to be community?  How do we create space for truly sharing who we are with others so we can be there for each other in all the ups and downs of life?

I end with this thought.  I have found it important to forgive myself.  I have been my own greatest enemy.  I continue to learn that it is okay not to be perfect.  I continue to learn that I don’t always need to have the answers.  But the miracle is that the more I come to live in harmony and love with myself I find it easier to open my heart to others.

I invite you to take some time in this coming week to spend some intentional time forgiving yourself.  If you need some help, do it with a friend you love.  If you need some help, pray for help from the Spirit.  Always remember that God loves you unconditionally.  Nothing can every change the mind of God.


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

I will not fear.

Twirling Jen

from: from:

This is a reflection on Psalm 23 for the times in which we live.

The Lord is my shepherd: I’ve often wondered about the imagery of the shepherd and the sheep in scripture. Shepherds and sheep are not particularly common in our part of the world but would have been very common in the ancient world and still are in certain parts of the globe. But if sheep and shepherds are so uncommon here, why is it that this psalm is so powerful for so many people?

Perhaps it has something to do with the sense of a sheep’s vulnerability. Even if we don’t know a lot about sheep we can get a sense that they are more vulnerable than many other livestock that we keep. Cows are big and heavy. Goats have the ability to climb their way out of a sticky situation. Horses are fast. Pigs…

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Do you like Banquets!

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – October 12th 2014

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

Thanksgiving Sunday

By Roland Legge

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Whom do we choose to live by?

Sermon – October 5th 2014

16th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46

I don’t like today’s passage from Matthew!  It has such violent images.  Why am I using it?  I am using it because it has been used by too many Christians over the centuries to oppress our Jewish brothers and sisters.

First, I think it is important to remember that Jesus was a Jew.  Jesus was an Israelite. Jesus never intended to start another religion he only wanted to reform his own.

The Gospel according to Matthew was written by a Jew in a time when there was a lot of pain between Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and those who didn’t.  It was a painful time—not unlike some of the conflicts we have faced in the United Church of Canada which divided congregations.  These conflicts divided many families, just like conflicts in the early days of Jesus’ ministry.

The parable of the Vineyard was probably adapted from a Parable that Jesus actually said.  In Jesus’ time he was simply wanting to his encourage his followers to keep on going despite the anger by those in power both the Roman Empire and the religious establishment.  I need to be clear that the religious establishment did not represent all Jews.  There were many who were opposed to their intention to keep the power in the hands of a few people—not unlike the Papacy of today or sometime even our General Council of the United Church.

Sadly, this scripture has been used as justification to abuse and kill Jews throughout the centuries.  We must change this way of thinking throughout Christianity.  This is why the United Church of Canada has been working hard to build relationships with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Through these relationships we can better understand each other and find ways to work and worship together.  This doesn’t mean we are always going to agree. No two Christians or Jews will agree on everything.  There is great diversity of views in both religions.

I love this re-telling of the Parable, told by William H. Willimon, which reflects on how Christians have treated Jews. He says:

The church in its dealings with the Jewish people has acted like the bad relations in this parable:
A family, who lived in a beautiful house beside a blue lake, was surprised to hear a knock at the door one morning. There stood at their front door a couple with two children. They were even more surprised when the couple told them, “We are your long-lost relatives from out west. We have come to visit you for just a couple of days. Can we come in?”
The family, though surprised by these relatives whom they had never heard of, graciously received them into their home, and began to graciously entertain them for the next couple of days. After two days had passed, the relatives said that they would like to stay a few days longer. The family graciously agreed.
But then, the family began to notice that their guests, their long-lost relatives, were beginning to behave less like guests and more like permanent residents. The relatives began to redecorate the room they had been given. In fact, they spilled out of the guest room and took over two additional rooms in the house, rearranging the furniture, taking pictures off the walls and putting different pictures there that they had brought with them, and in general, acting as if they owned the place.
Still, the family tried graciously to welcome them and make them feel at home. The trouble was, the guests were beginning to feel a bit too much at home. Two weeks went by, and still the relatives, whom the family thought were only temporary guests, were with them.
One day there was a knock at the door and the family was surprised to see six or seven people standing at the door, holding their suitcases. They had never seen the people before and were startled when their relatives called out from the four rooms they were now occupying in the home, “Oh, those are some of our friends from out west. We told them what a nice house you live in, and invited them to come stay with us and visit. We knew you wouldn’t mind because you are so gracious.”
Well, I won’t go into the rest of the story, but you can probably figure out how it ended. After a couple of months, the family had been reduced to living in only one room of their own house, while their temporary “guests” had taken over the entire house for themselves. Eventually, in dismay, the family – feeling like strangers in their own home – moved away, driven out by those whom they had once received so graciously.
Take this as a parable, akin to the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 21 of the wicked tenants in the vineyard.


Sadly, we Christian began to impose our particular ways on our Jewish brothers and sisters and tried to make them look inferior. We would go to great lengths to destroy their communities.  We must not let this happen again.

So what can we get out of today’s Scripture? I think we all fall short of following the way of Jesus and we need to reflect on ourselves.   It is against the ways of Jesus to put down his own people.

I believe the Spirit calls upon us in our families and communities to hold each other responsible for following the Great Commandment: love God with all your heart and soul, to love your neighbour as yourself and to honor and respect yourself as a man/woman of God.  We are the only ones who can change ourselves and we need to focus on ourselves rather than put others down to lift ourselves up.

Canada is becoming more and more a multi-faith country.  I hope we will seek to get to know people of other faiths and philosophies and recognize what we have in common. We can allow our differences to help each of us grow into being more understanding, compassionate and open minded.  May the Creator help us, of different faiths, to work together for a better world and let the Spirit lead us to a just, loving and sustainable world that will honor all of Creation.