God Loves David’s and Goliath’s

Sermon – June 21st 2015

4th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Mark 4:35-41

 

We all remember the story of “David and Goliath”! It is one of those feel good stories of the good guy defeating the bad guy. It is a good story if you are one of the oppressed. It is good if you are one of the lowly. How do you think the rich and powerful experience this story?

For them it would not be good news. They do not want to lose their power. They enjoy the privileges they have. They would use whatever they have available to them as their weapon to keep the status quo. Would you want to fight “Goliath”? I don’t think I would.

We always like to cheer on the underdog. Do you remember how we all got behind the Jamaican Bobsled team at the Calgary Olympics in 1988? We all knew they were not going to win any medals but we cheered them like they were our home team.

Desmond Tutu is one of my favorite underdogs. Desmond Tutu was the Archbishop of South Africa for the Anglican Church and was very involved in bringing Apartheid to an end. He inspires me to live faithfully. He inspires me to live with courage. He is like the mustard seed we talked about last week who has grown into a courageous man of faith. A man of faith who is not afraid to challenge the powers and principalities and to put the needs of the Creation ahead of profit and power. William Willimon says this:

Bishop Desmond Tutu is a man of short stature, but he is a giant when compared to most of us, spiritually speaking. Tutu was walking by a construction site on a temporary sidewalk the width of one person. A white man appeared at the other end, recognized Tutu, and said, “I don’t give way to gorillas.” At which Tutu stepped aside, made a deep sweeping gesture, and said, “Ah yes, but I do.”

Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-21-2015-god-losers

For me Jesus is one of the greatest underdogs to have lived. No one expected so much from this Galilean peasant. He was from Galilee, one of the poorest parts of the world. The local joke was that nothing good could come from Galilee. Yet Jesus had a way of helping people to discover how others experienced them. Jesus had a way of bringing the best out in people. Jesus had a way of helping people to discover the holy in themselves. His call to wake us up to the holy essence of life wasn’t always well received. Some people liked what he was doing. Others felt very threatened and joined with others to attack him.

But what was even more surprising that his movement did not end when he died like a criminal. In fact the movement became stronger when he died. It is a miracle that Jesus with a dubious background become a great spiritual and political leaders. Had you ever thought of Jesus as an underdog?

Who are the “Goliaths” of the world today? For me these are the people addicted to power and privilege. These are the people who lose their moral compass. They are the people caught in the military industrial complex who rely on this unjust system to give them a job.

The armies of Canada, the United States and Russia are a few examples of who uses their power to keep the status quo and/or give their own nations even more power and privilege often at a great cost to others.

In our time, the leaders of Corporations have become the “Goliaths” of our times. Many transnational companies such as Walmart have more money and power than most nations. They are in this to make as much money as possible at all costs’. Many people’s lives and even nations have been hurt by this mentality of profit at all costs.

There are many people, often the poor, who are asked to do these jobs of violence. Many poor men and women end up in our armies because they have no other options. Then with the sophisticated weapons of war, more and more men and women are being physically, emotionally and spiritually hurt in practise and in battle which makes it difficult to function in life. Marriages end. Children lose one of their parents or both. The memories and the nightmares are hard to overcome. The individual is left try and survive. Many end up on the streets. Many of them die from addictions, and depression. Suicide is not un-common.

God loves both “David’s” and “Goliaths”!   God calls on Goliaths to have a change of heart. To discover what is really important for them. To learn that love is the only way to transform the world that is lasting. Joy that comes from being co-creators with God is way more satisfying than the endless desire for more power that never gets satisfied.

There are “Goliaths”, people with great power, who do use their power well. One example would be the creator and owner of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who has put a lot of money and effort into social and economic development around the world. God would say well done good and faithful man. You see Bill Gates has a vast network of “David’s” who he chooses to join in their projects for social change.

God cheers on “David’s” who won’t let anyone stop them from doing God’s work. “David’s” are God’s agents for change and transformation. “David’s” are like the Buddhist monks who build a peace pagoda right by the border with an American Nuclear base in Washington State. They do it to unsettle the community and remind Americans of their responsibility to build peace and justice around the world through peaceful means.

God celebrates “David’s,” like the National Chief, Perry Belgrade, who are working in our country to end the racism and imperialism that have oppressed the first people of Canada and the United States.   The Spirit calls upon us to join with these people to build relationships with our First Nations peoples so that we can all affirm that we are to share this Planet earth in ways that honor all peoples of the world.

While most of us would not see ourselves as powerful and influential people. However, many people in the world would see us as part of the rich and powerful nations. Much of what we choose to do in our world affects poor people worldwide. As Canadians we have great power vested in us to transform the world because we are so blessed with riches. We are part of a block of “Goliath” Nations. We must become humble and choose to let go of some of our wealth so we can share this with the world.

In the end whether we are a “David” or “Goliath” God loves us and will do everything the Spirit can do to reflect God’s love through each of us. Working together David’s and Goliaths can transform the world by bringing us ordinary people along so we can all live in harmony with each other and the earth.

david_and_goliath_outline

Calling the Imperfect

Sermon – June 14th 2015

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 15:34—16:13 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17 Mark 4:26-34

 

 

God is not happy with King Saul. So God decides to be subversive. Yes subversive! God decides to choose another King without Saul knowing about it. In our world most of us don’t feel comfortable with subversive acts because it forces us to see the world in new ways.

Why was God so upset with King Saul?   The story tells us that God was upset with Saul because he wasn’t completely obedient. Samuel tells Saul to kill all the Amalekites. But Saul kills doesn’t kill the king and leaves some of the best cows. So God is angry and declares he will choose a new king.

Thankfully today we know that God wouldn’t call on anyone to kill any people. In some ways Saul showed a tiny bit of compassion by not killing the King and some of the cattle. But to follow the story God sends Samuel on a mission to find a new King.

So I find it interesting what God is looking for in his new leader. He gets Samuel to interview all the members of a family that Samuel came across on his travels. He knew this was the family, but which family member to choose. God seems clear that God is more concerned about the hearts of each of these men. While God was more concerned with the heart, the story tells us David was very handsome. God did see a lot of potential in David. So David is chosen as the new King. Then Samuel, David and God come together and conspire to take over the Kingship. So Samuel on behalf of God anoints David with oil to be the messiah, the chosen one. David eventually become the new King after Saul kills himself in battle.

This is not a nice story. It is about power, war, and violence. We may find it hard to understand but this is how the people of this ancient time experienced their world. The change of power from one king to another often was not peaceful. Even though our so called democratic system is full of problems it is much better than it was then. Thankfully we still have peaceful changes of government.

This story is really all about discipleship. God calls David to be the new King. God calls each of us to be disciples. God saw in David a great leader. God see’s great gifts in each of us.

So God calls us to be bearers of Good News! What does it mean for us to be bearers of Good News? For me an important part of this is that God works most effectively through community. That is why we have churches. In our community here at Foam Lake United Church we are called to encourage each other in doing God’s work. We come together to listen to God because we can help each other discern each other’s callings. We come together to care for each other. We come together to celebrate life. We come together to help our neighbour.

Living in community gives us great courage to live faithfully in the world. Many of you care deeply about our town. United Church people tend to be very involved in our communities and you are no different. I invite you to name out how you support our community………….   All this is part of your ministry. All of this is about our churches ministry.

One thing we can all do is help people discern their calling. Did you know that most ministers became aware of their calling when someone asked them to prayerfully consider it? Did you know that very few of us have direct experiences with God like a voice in the night speaking to us? This is how I experienced my calling to ministry. Linda Irvin and others invited me to consider a call for ministry. If it wasn’t for her and other friends I might not have ever thought about it. When I did start to reflect on this it just felt right. I have now the same feeling about teaching the Enneagram personality system which just feels right. So what is God encouraging you to continue or begin? Being minister is not the only profession people are called to. All of us are called to something and that could be a parent, teacher, engineer etc.

I believe that when we are grounded in faithful community we find a courage to live that we didn’t realize we have. For some of us this might mean that we have the courage to take another path in life. This could mean moving. This could mean changing jobs. This might mean taking better care of ourselves. This might mean a rapid change in diet. It might mean working with people that you don’t feel comfortable with. It might mean going out of your way to help another person. I might mean standing up for another person who has been silenced. It might be to call to raise children whether they are your own, adopted or foster children. Only the Spirit within and around you can help you to know what is right for you.

Sometimes we are called to extraordinary courage. Here is one such example as told by MacKinlay Kantor:

In the middle of a terrible airline crash, an ordinary stewardess named Frankie returned again and again to the crashed plane to retrieve victims. Then the plane exploded, killing this ordinary hero. Her story was described by the author, MacKinlay Kantor: Frankie lies on a hill now. Toward the north is a hill where Central High School looms and where her principal used to talk about heroes. Maybe three miles away to the southeast is the house where she spent the first nine years of her life – and that is on a hill also … You might imagine that Frankie was up there somewhere, waltzing; she’d always loved to dance.     She could be, too … Except that something made her go back into that airplane cabin 11 times, and 11 times was just one time too many.     A crashed airplane is strictly for stalwart men and asbestos suits and masks. It is not for the petite little Miss Pretty – not unless she is a Mary Frances Housley. Then she had such love in her heart that no high-octane explosion can ever blast it out. – MacKinlay Kantor, “A Girl Named Frankie,” Reader’s Digest found on Pulpit Resource http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-14-2015-god%E2%80%99s-messiah 

 

Most of us don’t have these dramatic experiences. But what each of us has been called to do help to help bring the world a little closer to the Kindom of God we have been promised. A place where all will have enough food, shelter and love.

 

Where two or three are gathered httpywmovement.orgwhere-two-or-three-are-gathered

Happy Birthday United Church of Canada

Sermon – June 7 2015

2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

By Roland Legge

1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20; (11:14-15)

2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1

Mark 3:20-35

 

 

On June 10th the United Church of Canada will be 90 years old. We are really a very young church that was birthed out of our Canadian context. We have much to celebrate about our denomination. Up to now we have been a very courageous church taking strong stands on issues of social justice before most other churches confronted the issues.

  • It was miraculous that the United Church came into being. This was a very controversial topic in the time. As many of you know many Presbyterian chose not to join the United Church. I can’t imagine three denomination coming together today.
  • Then the United Church decided to ordain women. Lydia Gruchi from Saskatchewan was the first woman to be ordained. Many people left the United Church because of saying that women should be able to be ordained.
  • In 1962 ministers were given permission to marry divorced people. More people left the United Church over this issue.
  • In the 1960’s the New Curriculum came out and portrayed God in a much more human way. This again was controversial and more people left the church.
  • In 1988 the United Church was asked to prevent those who are homosexual from being able to seek ordination and commissioning. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit the General Council decided to change nothing thus allowing any person to test their call for ministry. We all know how hard this was for many church communities. Again more people left the church.

There continue to be changes to this very day. But people often forget that there are many new people coming to the United Church because of the United Churches strong stance on these social justice issues. I am one such person. So while it is sad we have lost many people we can rejoice because we have gained many more.

Back in the days of Samuel Israel was going through rapid social change just as we are today. The country was moving away from being a tribal society to a monarchy. Samuel, one of God’s prophets, felt called to remind people of their unique relationship with God. Samuel felt his people and his government were getting caught up in greed and too hungry for power. The story was intended to provoke questions of morals and ethics. Here is what William H. Willimon has to say:

The story is surely meant to provoke tension in our settled arrangements with the powers that be – to make each of us ask, in whom do I trust for my protection? Which god is the real object of my worship?

     In Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on this passage (Interpretation: 1 and 2 Samuel) he reminds us, “From its inception at Sinai, it was understood that Israel was chosen by Yahweh and that this chosen community of covenant was not to be like the other nations. Rather, Israel was to order its life in the odd and demanding ways of torah and to rely on the inexplicable love and remarkable promises of Yahweh (Ex. 19:4-6; Deut. 7:7-11).”

Pulpit Resource Classic by William H. Willimon

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-7-2015-everybody-else

Today our United Church among many other denominations are facing difficult times amid huge social change. This summer our General Council will be meeting in Corner Brooke Newfoundland.   Our church is bringing in much less money through the Mission and Service fund so we need to dramatically change the way we run the church. Over the past couple of years a committee have been working with people all across our church to make a suggestions that will help our United Church to get back on our feet again. I invite all of us to pray for our General Council Commissioners who will have some hard work to do this summer. Just like congregations the General Council has put off change for many years and we are now paying for that inaction. So what we have been used to will look very different in the next few years which will impact all of us in the United Church be it good or bad.

Many congregations across our country are suffering too. Foam Lake United Church is not alone. At our Council meeting last week we began talking about what we are going to need to do as we only have enough money to have full time ministry for another year. Ether we will need to get more people involved in sharing their talents and increasing our financial giving’s or we will need to go to part time ministry. Next year will be a challenging year. I hope we can see this as an opportunity to grow rather than a curse.

Just like back in Samuel’s time we need to hold on to traditions that continue to be life giving and that keep our roots strong.   But we must learn to reach out to people in a new way as our culture and technology have dramatically changed. Think for a moment as how many things you could have done this morning other than going to church.

I think God is calling us just like in Samuel time to find new ways of being church that will enable us to pass on the story of faith to our younger people of today. One way to start is by asking what our younger people (people 60 and under) would like. What type of worship experiences would they appreciate and not necessarily on Sunday mornings?

I end today’s sermon with this video from Rachel Held Evans. Rachel is a young evangelical woman who has moved over to be in the Episcopal Church in the United States. I think she offers a fresh perspective on what young people are looking for in church. I invite you to reflect on what she says. What questions does she raise for you? Is there anything that we can take from her reflections to re-inspire our church community.

I hope you will begin to reflect personally and together as to what is important for you in our congregation. Would you rather increase giving’s and participation or reduce the hours of your minister and take on the responsibility for the things the minister will no longer have time to do. How much energy do you have to experiment if any? Does it feel like the best option is to keep going as we are and keep the church open as long as we can? There is no wrong or right answer. It is more about what God is calling us to be about in this community.Crest_2012