How the Spirit Claims us All

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – May 10th 2015

6th Sunday of Easter

By Roland Legge

Acts 10:44-48

Psalm 981 John 5:1-6 John 15:9-17

Now, imagine that you grew up as a Jew. You have been taught that you are the chosen ones of God. Many have told you that the Jews are the only ones to receive salvation. This can be comforting if all your friends and family are Jews.   However, if you had some good Gentile friends this may feel very uncomfortable.

Can you imagine the inner turmoil that Peter and Philip were facing as God was calling upon them to baptize Gentiles? This went against all they had been taught. So it took some work by the Holy Spirit to open their hearts in ways they had never experienced before. They got to the point they couldn’t find any good excuse to prevent a Gentile from being baptized. Peter proclaimed and I quote from Chapter 10:47 of Acts:

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 10:48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.


As this was repeated over and over again it became obvious to these early followers of Jesus that the Gentiles also were part of God’s great family.

Putting down others who are different from us seems to be a common human trait. Thinking our religion or other set up beliefs is the ultimate truth is another destructive tendency that we humans have. In our modern times the welcoming of the Gentiles makes sense. But still too often our own prejudices get in the way.

Have you ever been told that you are not a proper Christian? It is not pleasant to be told that you are a leading people away from God when you know you are trying your best to show God’s love. I have had people tell me that since I am a member of the United Church I am not a proper Christian. What really makes us a person of faith? Who can decide if we are? I believe only God/Spirit can know this.

I am sad when people use individual texts to justify their particular beliefs especially when they are using it to put the faith of another down. You can misuse the Bible to justify just about anything. Do we own slaves because the Bible tells us it is okay? I don’t think so!

In our Gospel reading we are called to love each other as friends. I now quote from Acts 15:12

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

15:13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

This is where the Religious Society of Friends got its name from, the denomination I grew up in. I believe the Spirit calls upon us to build friendship with everyone we meet. We are to be open to the divine, loving and just qualities in people no matter how similar or different we are.


None of us have been given the responsibility to decide who is good or bad. Each of us are to be the best persons we can be. As followers of Jesus our job is pass on the love of the Spirit to bring the best out in each of us. We must walk our talk.

The Good News for me, is that it is through love, we all have been claimed for the Spirit. Even our worst enemies have been claimed by God. Our job is to be faithful and not worry about the other person unless they are abusing someone. I mean hurting or teaching hatred and/or intolerance. I don’t mean worrying about whether their dogma is right especially if they are a loving and a compassionate person in the world.

In Saskatchewan we now live in a multi faith world. We have people practicing traditional aboriginal spirituality, we have practicing Muslims, and we have practicing Bahia’s. We also have people of the Jewish faith, Hindu faith, Sikh faith, and many who have no particular faith. We are still learning to get along with each other. Then we have our problems right within Christianity where there is too much disharmony. I believe God wants us to be friends with each other. There are so many struggles in our world that we need people of faith coming together to work for the betterment of the world.

I have been blessed to have been part of Ministerial associations in small towns across the prairies and northern Ontario who have brought faith leaders together from a wide range of churches from liberal to conservative. I have come to have great appreciation for my evangelical friends. I remember one minister from the Alliance Church complaining that they could not keep older people. I reminded him that we had the opposite challenge in the United Church of Canada where we struggle to attract young people. We both laughed!

In our association I valued the open conversation about our faith knowing that our friendship could not be threatened by our differences. I also appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my own faith. We found so much we could work together on because were able to respect and love each other despite our differences. In our little groups we truly became friends!

Think of all the disputes that could be resolved if we were open to experiencing the grace of God through many different people, especially the people who are the most different.   Just think of what could happen in our country if we could build friendships with our aboriginal brothers and sisters and our Muslim brothers and sisters. We would no longer fear each other because we would discover that each of these people are not a lot different than us. The love of another person is no different whether or not they are Christian or not. For love is love.

No one has all the answers to faith questions. Sometimes there are no answers. When I share a message with you these are only my understandings. I hope and pray that as you listen to me and yourself you will discern for yourself your own beliefs and even more importantly how you are going to live them out in the world.


Hope in the Midst of Suffering

Easter Four: April 26th 2015

Reflection on Psalm 23:

By Roland Legge



How many times have you heard the 23rd Psalm?  I expect many of us have heard this hundreds of times.  But what does it mean?  Fred Craddock says:

Regardless of how one interprets the psalm, the general picture of what is stressed is quite clear.  One who has known trouble or experienced life-threatening situations has also experienced the protection of the Divine.  The psalm exudes confidence that God protects so that whatever life brings to his people, they will not be overwhelmed.

Preaching the New Common Lectionary Year B Lent, Holy Week, Easter by Fred Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay and Gene M. Tucker P.G. 190


But, how does this prayer make you feel?  Does it make you feel safe?  Does it help you to feel God’s presence?  Does it help you to remember that God promises to never abandon us? Does it give you comfort?  Does it help to free you of your pain?

For me it does all of what I mentioned except take the pain away.  I like how Craddock shows how the author of Psalm 23 honestly presents the human predicament:

This psalm presents the human predicament without any illusion about persons beings superhumans and above pain, loneliness, and lostness; yet the symbol of God as protector and even corrector affirms the potential of a tranquil life lived amid adversaries and the harsh realities that are the ingredients of every life.

Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary P.G. 190-191

While it does not take our pain away it gives us more confidence to move ahead even though there will be times of pain and difficulty. It helps us to stay more attuned to the spirit present and available to each of us in our own bodies, minds and souls.  Do you have that connection with the Divine, the Holy, the Sacred that the author of Psalm 23 seems to have?

The language of shepherding may not be a useful image for us today, because most of us don’t know shepherds. To give us a sense of Shepherding in Ancient times in the Middle East, Matthew Penny says this on The Worship Place, a United Church on-line community:

In fact Shepherds were often hired hands who were indentured to a rich landowner almost in perpetuity.

They were not popular.  They were looked down upon as being less than whole. Knowing this about shepherd what metaphors would you use today that we are familiar with?

Today this very day many people have written their own interpretations of the 23rd Psalm.   I share two with you today as one of many tools to deepen our understanding of this awesome Psalm.   The first is written by Julia Esquivel who opens his heart to us and showing us what Psalm 23 meant for him on that day he wrote it.

When the hour comes,

you shall change my desert into a waterfall,

you shall anoint my head with fresh oil

and your strength shall overcome my weakness.


You shall guide my feet into your footsteps

and I will walk the narrow path

that leads to your house.


You shall tell me when and where

I will walk your path totally bathed in joy.

In the meantime,

I ask you, Lord, you who awaken

in the most intimate place in my soul

the Feast of Life!

That of the Empty Tomb!

That of the Victorious Cross!


Let your voice mistaken as the Gardener’s

awaken my hearing every morning

with news that’s always fresh:

“Go and tell my brothers and sisters

that I have overcome death,

that there is a new place for everyone

there where the New Nation is built.


There, where neither earth, love, or joy

can be bought or sold,

where wine and milk

are shared without money and without price.”

Julia Esquivel, Threatened with Resurrection, The Brethren Press.


Then on the lighter note but yet powerful is Jim Taylor’s version:

Blessed relief

God keeps a cool café. What more could I ask?

She provides a comfortable chair to take the weight off my weary feet;

she puts up an umbrella to shade me from the sun;

she serves me iced tea.

Though I have battled with the crowds at the bargain counters,

though I have suffered the scent of too many sweaty bodies,

I don’t care.

I know what’s waiting for me at the end of the day.

An ice cream cone. It drips over the edges, and I lick it up gratefully.

I close my eyes;

the sound system plays the gentle chuckles of waves lapping on a shore.

I am content.

I would love to sit here forever.

In God’s cool café.

James Taylor, Everyday Psalms, © 1994 Wood Lake Books. Used by permission.


Which of these two different versions speak to you most today?  For me they both focus on the presence of God through the Holy Spirit.

I hope that our congregation can become more and more the place where we will feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that it will become so abundant that it will spill over into the rest of our lives.  But we all need to keep sharing our love, talents and time.  God can not do it alone.

God needs each of us to do our part.  That might mean we need to call someone up to see how they are if we have not seen them recently at church.  It might mean that we need to invite someone to a church service or some other activity.  Probably one of the most profound ways to share God’s love with another person is to simply spend time with them being fully present to them, whether that be sitting quietly next to them, possibly holding their hand, and listening to what ever they need to say. The story I am going to talk later about on the hospitality shown through the two cups of coffee are perfect examples of what I am talking about here.    I can think of many times when people have given me exactly what I needed at the time.  These were people who were following their calling by listening to their hearts, minds and intuition.

In the end God’s promises us is to journey with us and give us the signs we need to know the direction that God calls us to be going.  But what is even more amazing is that when and if we make a mistake God will use that to bless the world and give us countless more opportunities to turn our lives around.