Who is welcome to your table?

Table Fellowship

Sermon – June 12th 2016

4th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

By Roland Legge

1 Kings 21:1-21a

Luke 7:36-8:3

By Roland Legge

 

Next Sunday we are going to take part in the sacred meal which we call communion.  Why do we do it?  We do it to remember Jesus.  But even more importantly we do it because it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge that we are all part of God’s amazing family.  This means that every person on earth is part of our family!!

 

Jesus is calling us to love our family even those we do not like. This is no easy task!  But I have no doubt that this is what Jesus expects of us.  Do you agree?

 

Our scripture passages today introduce us to two members of our family the religious people looked down upon.  One of them, the so called “sinful woman” from the Gospel would be no different than a poor person would be today.  Why was she condemned? She had been labeled a sinner.  We do not know what her sins were even though she has been called a prostitute to this very day.  She was certainly a woman that made all the righteous people uncomfortable.

 

We know she was a woman who had been touched deeply by Jesus.  I am guessing that it was Jesus that helped her to recognize that she was loved by God even though she had sinned.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus had helped her to find meaning, purpose and hope in her life.  This woman was so thankful to Jesus that she, with great emotion, shared her heart felt appreciation touching Jesus in intimate ways. This public demonstration of love probably made Jesus host’s even more uncomfortable.

 

Jesus new that she was sorry for her sins because of her genuine penitence, shown in her tears. Through the woman’s brokenness God was able to break through to her.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees were too blinded to see the truth.  Sadly, they could not see the beauty of the transformation taking place because of their denial of their own sinfulness.  Would this sinful woman be welcome at your table?

 

 

Jezebel is a woman who would not be welcome at our table.  Have you ever been called a Jezebel?  If we have most of us would not take this as a complement.  Over the centuries Jezebel has been labeled as evil personified.  She was a woman to take seriously. But was she really as evil as we think?   We are all a mixture of saint and sinner. Maybe if I give you another perspective of Jezebel you might feel more comfortable in inviting her to the family table.

 

Jezebel was a Queen and she took her role seriously. She was also a zealous follower of Baal. Her religion was different from her Jewish husband.  It was an older religion.  It had both male and female gods.  Also, the gods of her religion seemed to be a lot less demanding. So it made sense for her to keep worshiping her god’s.  But then she was seen as a threat by Elijah because she was promoting, what was for him, the wrong god.  Jews were fervent in their belief in a single God rather than a religion of many gods.   Barbara J. Essex sums up well for me a more accurate memory of Jezebel.

She was not a harlot or seductress.  She was not involved in any sexual scenes.  She was a woman from another culture and worldview trying to adjust in a new and strange land.  She was not a villain to be eternally despised—she was religiously committed, politically savvy, determined, self-assured, bodacious, and clever.  She was dedicated to her family and a zealous missionary for Baal.  And she died as she lived—royally!

Bad Girls of the Bible by Barbara J. Essex The Pilgrim Press Cleveland Ohio 1999 pp. 63

Does this question your perspective of her? Are we now ready to invite Jezebel to the table?

 

Now back to our own time. Besides ourselves who are we going to invite to the table.  It is obvious we are going to invite all our friends and family that we get along with.  But who are the people the Spirit wants us to invite that we would rather not?  I know there are people that would make me feel very uncomfortable. What about you?

 

Most weddings I have done in my life have been great.  But once I began to prepare with a bride for a wedding she became very nasty and aggressive.  She decided very quickly that she did not like me and was determined to not have me marry her.  I didn’t.  It was one of the very few times in my life when a person has made accusations against me that were far from the truth.  I was angry and hurt.  I was hurt again when the congregation invited someone I did not respect to be the celebrant for the wedding.    But yet I know that this couple is invited to the table.  I need to remember that the pastor who did the wedding should be invited to the table too.  The miracle is that God invites us to the table no matter how imperfect we are.

 

I remember in grade one when I broke my leg I had the privilege to bring a classmate home after school to play.  I remember there was one girl I did not want to bring home.  But my mother made it very clear to me that she needed to be included.  It would be wrong to exclude her.  That was a powerful lesson for me.  Yes, this girl I wanted to exclude needs to be invited to the table.

 

Inviting my ex-wife to the table would make me feel very uncomfortable.  It is very tempting to blame all the problems of our marriage on her.  I have come to a place in my life where I can be thankful for all I learned in my first marriage.  I wouldn’t be as mature today if I had not gone through the trials and tribulations of my first marriage. I know I need to invite Yvonne to the table even if it will be difficult for me.

 

I do not believe that God is calling us to put ourselves in danger.  But I do believe God is calling us to keep breaking down the walls between us.  This is no easy job!! It is a lifelong calling.  We might not get further than trying to see that of God in another person.  It might not be more than naming an abuse which gives the abuser the opportunity to take responsibility for their behavior.

 

Who do you need to invite to the table? Who are the people you most despise?  Who are the people who have a lifestyle that makes no sense to you?  Who are the people that make you feel uncomfortable?  Who are the people you feel inadequate around?  We could fill our church several times over with the people we need to invite to our family table.

 

Are you ready to come to the table?  God is expecting you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healing the Enemy

Healing of the Centurion Slave2jpg

Reflection:

Sermon – May 29th 2016

2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

By Roland Legge

Galatians 1:1-12

Luke 7:1-10

 

Jesus on his travels meets this Centurion man. He comes to Jesus to save the life of a slave whom he greatly values.  This is surprising, that a Roman would come to Jesus to save the life of his slave as the Romans considered the Jews as irritants.  It is also surprising that Jesus would have agreed to help a Roman Military leader because it is they who were making life very difficult for the Palestinian Jews. Why was Jesus in awe of this man’s faith? I believe it was because this man had such faith in Jesus ability to heal and that this some how transcended all the differences in status, nationality and religion between them.

 

Healing, in the way of Jesus, has the power to break down all walls in society.  In ancient times healing was a common occurrence.  There were many people who claimed to be healers. There were the usual variety of people from the honest to the fakes. But, what was unusual about Jesus was that it transcended all ethnic, and religious boundaries.  Jesus was willing to heal any one.  So why do we have hang-ups with healing today?

 

In the United Church of Canada, we are not comfortable with the concept of healing even though it was a focus of Jesus’ ministry.  So, why have we in the traditional churches become so resistant to the ministry of healing?  Our Protestant forbears became so fixated through seeing the world through the rational eyes of science, psychology, philosophy, and medicine that religious mystery was put on the side-line. There was little room left for mystical, non-rational ministry of healing.  We have been hindered by the intellectual walls that we have put up to keep out the mystery.   However, I believe Jesus is calling us to renew our passion for healing.

 

I believe Jesus brings healing through his deep care for the whole person. He also has a deep care and love for the whole world and so desires to heal the world with all its inhabitants.  You can not have one form of healing without the other. When you help to heal an individual you help to heal a family.  When you help to heal a family you help to heal a community.  When you help to heal a community who help to heal a nation.  A simple way to begin a healing ministry is through prayer.

 

But a word to the wise from Morton Kelsey and Francis McNutt in how we pray for healing:

In our enthusiasm for healing prayer, a word of caution seems wise. Since Jesus is the savior and healer, we must always seek his will as we consider praying for healing. Our primary task is to listen for God and to identify where, how, and if God may want to use us as we pray.

The Healing Church by Karin Granberg-Michaelson found in https://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/healing-church?parent=47011

 

I believe that prayer is an important part of healing.  Prayer can help us discern how we can be a healing presence in the lives of those we meet whether it be family, friends or people we do not know.  I suspect the Centurion must have prayed for guidance.  What do you think?  Prayer can help us to find from within ourselves as to what healing we need in our own lives.

 

When we unleash the power of God’s love through prayer we never know what is going to happen.  Healing can happen in so many ways.  It often happens in ways that we least expect it to.  In the end the love of God is a wondrous mystery.  None of us can ever earn it, but we must be open to how ever we receive it.  I believe that when we pray there is healing, yet it is often being not what we were hoping for.

 

Healing comes out of relationships, from solidarity with those who are hurting, from people with compassion for those who are sad and depressed, from the sharing of good food, it comes from having a safe place to live that is affordable, it comes from caring community that shares resources with each other, it comes from loving family that brings out the best in each other, it comes from social transformation through education social action and prayer.  No matter how you look at it, it is the result of the Holy Spirit being at work.

 

So how do we incorporate healing into our own ministry? Morton Kelsey and Frances Mc Nutt gives us some suggestions in how to live this out.

 

1) sharing a call to a particular healing work with others, 2) seeking to know God personally, 3) praying for our own healing and that of others, and 4) offering ourselves to others for their healing. This parallels the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program–finding freedom in sharing one’s confession of weakness and serving others still in bondage to their particular addiction.


I invite us to reflect on how we at Foam Lake United Church can become more and more a healing community.  Already we have many people reaching to those in our community who are sick, grieving and/or lonely.  You offer pastoral care to those who have had a recent death in their family through providing hospitality after the funeral service.  You provide opportunities for folks to come together to play cards and enjoy a luncheon.  How else can we be place of hope and healing in our community?  How can we reach out to our young families?  How can we reach out to the many middle aged people who have stopped coming to church?  How can reach out to the many in our community and/or world who are suffering and struggling in many ways.

 

There is no magic solution to this.  A healing ministry requires the attention of all members of the congregation to make this ministry important in the life of the congregation. Your minister and a few lay leaders can not make this happen alone no matter who they are.

 

The Good News is that in the end our congregation is enlivened when we become known as a place of healing and renewal.  People will notice the difference whether we are long time church goers or new comers.  More and more people will experience a deep connection of the Spirit that is beyond anything we could ever hope to describe.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!  Amen!!!