Bumbling Peter Finds his Way!

Sermon – April 19th 2015

2nd Sunday after Easter (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Acts 3:12-19

Luke 24:36b-48

Remember bumbling Peter who got so frightened at Jesus death that he told those who questioned him that he didn’t know who this Jesus was. How could this man who had betrayed Jesus become the great leader of this new Jewish movement for transformation?

Peter caught the faith! He suddenly understood deep in his heart what this movement Jesus had begun was all about. Peter now knew that he and his friends were being called to continue this movement to put God’s love at the centre of community life whether that be local or worldwide. He also gleaned what the meaning of the resurrection meant. That not even death could stop the love of God from turning the powers and principalities upside down. Peter found a courage within himself that he never knew he had. It was a courage that would not allow the threat of death to stop him from living out what Jesus had begun.

We too are called just like Peter and the early disciples. Have you found the same courage within you that Peter discovered? Most of us have not had to face the violence that Peter faced. But in our own ways we have had to find courage to face the challenges of life. How are you being called to transform the world? What fears do you have that may be blocking you from your true calling?

If you are like me we can allow fear to rule our lives. It is hard to not get caught up in fear because we are reminded of it over and over again through our electronic media. Our governments love to frighten us, so as to justify their policies that will limit our human rights and increase the power of the military and secret service agencies. This is not only happening in Canada but around the world. However Jesus wants us to see the world through the lens of love, mutuality and hospitality. We all have the choice as to what lens we view the world. How do you view the world?

Peter is now telling the world that we need to continue building communities of people where we work, share, pray and play together. Peter declares that Jesus has shown us the way. This is why churches came to be. Churches are to be places where we live out the values of Jesus in sharing, working together, worshiping together, encouraging each other, holding each other accountable for our actions, playing together and bringing the best out in each other. How are we doing this as Foam Lake United Church?

Why do you come to church? There is no wrong or wright answer. We come to church for many reasons. Some of us like the singing. Some of us like the sermons. Some of us enjoy being together we each other. Some of us come out of habit. Some of us come because we are searching for more in our lives. Some of us come because of the voice of God that is within each of us. Some of us come because we want to make a difference in our world. Why do you come to church? What do you think the church should be about?

Like many churches today we struggle to survive. Yet I believe our church has great potential if only we could recognize the Christ within our community. Who are the lonely? Who are the sick? Who are the mentally ill? Who are the hurting? Who are the people struggling to make meaning in their lives? They are Christ in our midst if only we could recognize them.

Here is a story from William H. Willimon of how a congregation was changed when they were able to recognize Christ within their own church through a family who was touched by their ministry.

I was a pastor of a church that had lots of problems. Though I worked hard and tried everything I knew how to try, it seemed that I just couldn’t find out the formula for turning this congregation around and moving it forward. I read books on how to reinvigorate a congregation. We hired a consultant to spend a weekend with us and to look at our situation and guide us. We set goals and came up with a plan.     Despite our efforts, it seemed that at every turn in the road, things just didn’t work out and we saw little fruit for our efforts. The people we invited from the community didn’t visit us. The visitors didn’t join us. Thus I became despondent, wondering if the church would simply move toward death.     Thus, I trudged to church one Sunday, feeling depressed, not really wanting to be there at all. And as I walked in, I was greeted by one of the members who had a whole group of people standing around him. The man greeted me with, “Look at our guests this Sunday!”     Around him stood a couple of adults and a whole gaggle of children.     “You may not remember us, but we came to your church a few months ago looking for help. You were so nice to us. The woman who helped us gave us some money, even some food to help us make it through the week,” the man explained. “I had lost my job and we were at the end of our rope and didn’t know where to turn. The nice woman had prayer with us and then sent us on our way with some wonderful and desperately needed help. If it hadn’t been for your church we couldn’t have made it through that week.”     “We had about given up, until your church reached out to us,” the woman said.     He continued, “Well, things got better for us right after that. I got a great new job. We’re back on our feet and things are going great. I had to go out of town for a few weeks for training for my new job. Now I’m back and the first thing we wanted to do was to come to your church. We want to join your church and be part of this. In fact, if it would be okay, I would like to tell our story to the people this morning and to thank them for what they did to save us.”     And that was the day, the place, and the hour that our church began its turn-around. Maybe even more than that, with the appearance of that family, I think the risen Christ also appeared to us. Christ somehow showed up and he found a way to turn our church from just a volunteer organization that occasionally did nice things for people in need into nothing less than the very body of Christ.     Maybe even more amazing: the faith of a despondent and rather defeated pastor was restored. The risen Christ had taken bodily form before my very eyes. The risen Christ had come and stood among us.

 

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/april-19-2015-jesus-among-us

 

This congregation went from being a social club to one that was actively doing the ministry of God. They became the Christ light for their whole community.

May Foam Lake United Church continue to be the Christ light for our part of the world. Help us Great Spirit to make it so!

Amen.

This Sermon is solely the view of the writer Roland Legge and does not necessarily reflect the official beliefs of Foam Lake United Church or the United Church of Canada

 

I love the United Church of Canada

Today I want to reflect on the United Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada is our countries’ largest Protestant Church that came together in 1925. It was the coming together of most Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregationalist churches. Later on another smaller church joined us. It was a miracle!

Our denomination has continually grown in faith and was never afraid to change when the Spirit called. We are one of the first churches to marry divorced people. We are one of the of the first churches ordain women. We are one of the first churches to openly ordain or commission Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual or Transgendered people. I am proud to be a member of this church. Now many other denominations are having the same conversation.

We have continually sought to re-imagine the church in each era of our short history. In the 1960’s The New Curriculum for Sunday school moved us into a more relational understanding of God. God was part of our lives and no longer a distant force that we feared. We have explored controversial issues such as human sexuality, marriage and much more.

We are a big tent church made up of faithful people who understand God and the Spirit in many ways. We celebrate diversity and respect each other’s opinions. Sometime we have heated debates, but we always are able to work together even when we disagree.

What I love about the United Church is that we don’t have to agree to a certain dogma to be a member of our church.   We seek to welcome all people regardless of where they are on their faith journey with love and a desire to be God’s loving presence in the world.

Our New Creed says it well for me what we believe in the United Church of Canada.

We are not alone,

we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:

who has created and is creating,

who has come in Jesus,

the Word made flesh,

to reconcile and make new,

who works in us and others

by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:

to celebrate God’s presence,

to live with respect in Creation,

to love and serve others,

to seek justice and resist evil,

to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,

our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,

God is with us.

We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

The United Church of Canada, General Council 1968, alt. 1998

As the minister of Foam Lake United Church I seek to encourage each of us on our own faith journey. Sometimes we need to be comforted.  Sometimes we need to be challenged.  When we are able to freely to share our understanding of faith with each other in respectful ways we all have the potential to keep growing in our faith.

I

Resurrection Happens Everyday!

Reflection for Easter Sunday

April 5th 2015

Acts 10:34-43

Corinthians 15:1-11

John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

By Roland Legge

Let’s imagine what it must have been like for the disciples on that first Easter morning. It was bad enough they had lost a good friend. But they had lost much more than that.  The hope that Jesus gave them for a better world was dead now too. I expect you would be feeling down, depressed, angry and sad in their situation.

When have you felt despair?  Remember the times in you life when you felt little hope.  Sometimes we need something dramatic to happen to wake us up into seeing that God has something better planned for us.   This is what happened for Jesus followers on Easter Sunday long ago.

God broke through this hopelessness and despair through the disciple’s encounters with the risen Jesus.  Resurrection came real when the disciples new for sure in their hearts that what Jesus had stood up for, was not dead.  It was resurrection when they could feel the spirit of Jesus alive in their hearts.

No one will ever know exactly what happened, other than something amazing and awesome took place.  Jesus disciples were blessed with experiencing the presence in such a powerful way they could no longer stay in their depression.  They could no longer over look the truth that God had great plans for them.  These were Holy plans to keep on with the journey of faith that Jesus came to begin.

This was truly an amazing event.  But I think we need to be clear that this was not resuscitation, but a resurrection.  What is the difference?  A good example of resuscitation would be the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.  But Jesus story is different.  Remember how the disciples at first did not recognize Jesus when they met because he was changed.  It took Mary to hear his voice before she new who he was.  This was a spiritual body that while real looking to the disciples was not a mortal body.  Jesus could walk through doors.  One moment he would be there the next he wouldn’t.

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  Why?  I do because I have experienced resurrection many times.  For me resurrection happens when a person or community finds new life despite the difficult struggles they are facing.  I found new life after a very difficult first marriage.  I found new life when I decided to give up a career in Accounting which led me to discovering that I had a call to ministry.  I experience resurrection when I overcome a physical, emotional or spiritual issue with the aid of tools like the Enneagram.  I feel resurrection when I discover I am able to do something like Ballroom dancing that I once didn’t think I was capable of doing.

Also, I hear countless stories of resurrection when ever I visit and provide pastoral care.  We all have our times in life when it feels very bleak.  Resurrection takes place when we are able to move on in hope despite the struggles we are facing.  I can remember a family I worked with that faced such adversity.  First the Mom of the family fought cancer and died.  She left her loving husband, two children and mother-in-law.  Then the Mom of the daughter who had died also succumbed to cancer not many years later.  She had been caring for the children while their Mom was sick and then later supported her son by helping to raise the young children. You would think for the father and his children there wouldn’t be any hope left.  Yet this family held strongly together.  There was an amazing love between them that propelled them to new life, resurrection.

Resurrection comes alive in our natural divine nature to shine no matter what the world throws at us.  One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott who through her books tells of all the ups and downs of her life.  She tells of how God keeps breaking through into our life leading her from resurrection to resurrection.  I want to leave you with a short quote from her in her book “Traveling Mercies”.  I will set the scene. She is going to be a single mother. She tells this to her congregation when she is seven months pregnant.  I sense this must have taken some courage for her to announce this at her church, St. Andrews in Oakland California.  One can never know how others will react.  But she was blessed:

When I announced during worship, that I was pregnant, people cheered.  All these old people, raised in Bible-thumping homes in the Deep South, clapped.  Even the women whose grown-up boys had been doing time in the jails or prisons rejoiced for me.  And then almost immediately they set about providing for us.  They brought clothes, they brought me casseroles to keep in the freezer, they brought me assurance that this baby was going to be a part of the family.  And they began slipping me money.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott Anchor Books 1999 Toronto, New York page 101

This was resurrection for Anne because she now new for sure that  she and her son Sam could count on their St. Andrews family to journey through all the ups and downs of life with them.

I invite you to begin naming your resurrection experiences in life.  I invite you to reflect on what gives you hope.  I ask you to make everyday a celebration of Easter because God is always working God’s love in our lives and world.

Van Deusen Botanical Gardens Vancouver B.C. August 2012 (5)

Grounded in Faith

Sermon – March 29th 2015

By Roland Legge

Palm/Passion Sunday (Year B)

Isaiah 50:4-9a:  Philippians 2:5-11:  Mark 14:1—15:47:

 

I am indebted to William Willimon for the idea of today’s sermon.

How many times have you heard this story?  Anyone want to venture a guess?   In all the times I have heard this story I have rarelly focused on the woman in the story who challenges Peter.  So I invite you to join me on reflecting on the importance of what this woman did.

Willimon summarizes the story like this: “It is late at night, toward the end of this Holy Week. It is after the last supper when Jesus had gathered with his disciples in an upper room. The Passion of Christ has begun. The soldiers have seized Jesus and have led him away to the palace. At the palace, Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate and is on trial. But out in the darkness, in the courtyard, down below, another trial takes place. Judge and jury at the trial is a servant girl. And though we don’t know much about her, if she is only a girl, but also only a servant, we know that she is small, insignificant, powerless person. She is not only a woman in a patriarchal culture, but she is also a servant woman. And she is young and you know that also means you are powerless, on the bottom. And this little, powerless girl is the one who puts Peter, the premier disciple, through his paces.

Pulpit Resource Vol. 36 No. 1 Year A January, February, March 2008 by William H. Willimon Published by Logos Production Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 46

This oppressed, simple girl challenges the faithfulness of Peter, the one Jesus is to call the rock of the church.  She challenges him and he fails miserably.  He claims to her that he never knew Jesus.  He does this to save his own life. But soon Peter realizes the terrible error of his ways and begins his healing process.  In effect this girl is the one that challenges Peter into being the person he claims to Jesus and the other disciples to be.  This girl was challenging Peter to walk his talk.  It was a tough lesson for Peter to learn.  It was even harder to learn from a person that society had impoverished, oppressed and ignored.  But he had to move on.  Why?  Jesus wasn’t going to let him off the hook!

We all need people in our lives to ensure we remain grounded in our faith.  We all need people to challenge us to walk our talk no matter how hard or easy life seems to be.  Willimon tells of this student:

A few years ago a student was telling me that he and his roommate were not getting along too well.  I asked him why, and he said, “Because he is a Muslim and I’m not.” I asked him how that made a difference.  And he said, “When we moved in together, he asked me what my religion was. I told him that I was a Christian.  A Lutheran—I  told him that my family wasn’t the very best of Christians and that we only went to church occasionally and it wasn’t that big a deal to me.  My roommate has this nasty habit of asking embarrassing questions.” “What sort of question?” I asked. “Well after we had roomed together a few weeks, he asked me, “Why do you Christians never pray?”

“I told him, ‘We pray a lot.  We just sort of keep it to ourselves.”

“He said, ‘I’ll say that you do.

I’ve never seen you pray.’ He prays like a half dozen times a day on his prayer rug in our room, facing the East.  When I came in last Saturday morning, and he asked me, ‘Doesn’t your St. Paul say something about joining your body with that of a prostitute?”

I told him, “Look, she is not a prostitute, she is Tri Delta. I told you I am not the best Christian in the world.  You shouldn’t judge the Christian faith by me!”

And I, hearing of his torment said, “Well how should he judge the Christian faith?  I think I need to write your Muslim roommate a thank-you note.  If he keeps working on you with these questions, he may make you into a real Christian.”

Pulpit Resource page 47

I hope this person learnt from his Muslin roommate.  He was giving him the opportunity to grow in his faith.  If he engages his roommate by choosing to learn more about his own faith this relationship could turn from being a curse to being a blessing. I wonder if Peter was ever able to look back and see the encounter he had with the young girl as a blessing.  What do you think?

Most of us have had experiences with people who drive us crazy.  There are people out there who will push all the “buttons” we have.  These are people who have much to teach us; if, only we would listen.

When I was training for ministry I was in a class called “Basic Christian Beliefs”.  Every week I was part of a seminar group.  We were made up of Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church and possibly Mennonite. We were definitely a diverse group. What has stuck in my mind from my seminar group was the Catholic sisters understanding of communion and why open communion was not acceptable to them.

This was challenging for me because I believed as I do today that communion should be open to everyone.  For me it is so tragic that Roman Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox cannot have communion together on a regular basis.  I say how you can break up the Christian family! But by the end of the seminar gatherings I could respect my Catholic sisters in the group.  You see the Roman Catholics believe that in the bread and wine is the real physical and spiritual essence of God and Jesus.  This is one of the main ways for Catholics to connect with the Holy,   So to have Communion with Protestants, who understand communion as an active remembrance of Jesus, takes away some of sacred power for Roman Catholics.  While I do not agree with my Catholic sisters I came to understand them much better and learned a lot more about my own understanding of communion.  I am thankful for my encounter with them even though it was not easy.

Who have been the people in your lives who have challenged you into being more the person God calls you to be, just like the young woman did for Peter?

God will always ensure that there will be irritating and challenging people in our lives to challenge us to be even more authentic Christians and people of planet earth.  May God give each of us the wisdom to learn from these occurrences.  May we never fear the light of God being shone on us by people like the woman who challenged Peter.1-donkeyhttptheblogthatwasthursday.wordpress.com20120403a-two-day-late-palm-sunday-reflection