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Sermon – June 12th 2016
4th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)
By Roland Legge
1 Kings 21:1-21a
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!
Sermon – May 29th 2016
2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)
By Roland Legge
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!!!
Sermon – May 22nd 2016
Trinity Sunday (Year C)
By Roland Legge
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Do you believe in the Trinity? Most of us in the United Church would agree that we believe in the Trinity. But what does this really mean?
Our scripture invites us into a dialogue to discover the many ways we can experience the holy in our lives. In Proverbs we are told about Mother Wisdom who has been with us since the beginning of time. Mother Wisdom or Sophia is the very feminine image of the holy. She is loving, creative, compassionate, wise and just. She is in full relationship with God. Romans reminds us of the person of Jesus who gave us another lens to view God, not unlike Mother Wisdom and God. In the Gospel according to John we are reminded of the Holy Spirit who is again much like Mother Wisdom, God and Jesus.
The doctrine of the Trinity has come to be to help make sense of the mystery of the holy. It suggests that God is both one and three. God is relational. For example, God expresses itself through the Spirit. God expresses itself through Wisdom. God expresses itself through the person and spirit of Jesus and most importantly through each of us. I love this description of the Trinity by Brian McLaren:
“In the early church, one of the most powerful images used for the Trinity was the image of a dance of mutual indwelling. The Father, Son, and Spirit live in an eternal, joyful, vibrant dance of love and honor, rhythm and harmony, grace and beauty, giving and receiving. The universe was created to be an expression and extension of the dance of God – so all creatures share in the dynamic joy of movement, love, vitality, harmony, and celebration. But we humans broke with the dance. We stamped on the toes of other dancers, ignored the rhythm, rejected the grace, and generally made a mess of things. But God sent Jesus into the world to model for us a way of living in the rhythm of God’s music of love, and ever since, people have been attracted to the beauty of his steps and have begun rejoining the dance.” -Brian McLaren, Found in Translation
I imagine God as this creative energy that continues to animate life for each of us and all of Creation. If I just look around I will see, feel, and experience God. I see God in each of you. I feel God within me. I experience God in the sound of the bird, the bark of a dog and the meow of a cat. Where do you experience God?
For me the creative loving force we will call God is a mystery. God is way beyond anything we can comprehend. When we express God we are limited by our humanness. Many of you grew up with the image of God as father. Some of you still appreciate it today. But God is way beyond the image of father. There is no perfect definition of God. Here are some descriptions I use:
And much more.
Feminist are transforming our church and world through their take on how God – Three in One can tear down the barriers that humans have built up through greed, fear, and hunger for power. This is what feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruther says:
Feminists are seeking an alternative understanding of power: power as mutual-empowerment, power that does not dominate, force, or coerce, but heals, reconciles, and transforms. In the presence of such power, we are not demeaned or rendered vile and unworthy, nor made helpless and called to submit; rather we are called into healthy self-esteem, into the power of one’s own creative agency that can affirm the good potential and creative agency of others.
Healing power dissolves the competitive model of power relations where one side’s power is the disempowerment of the other side; where one side’s victory is the defeat of the other side. Healing power repents, forgives, and transforms relationships so that both sides of former conflicts are enlivened, made whole, and enabled to rejoice in one another’s well-being. This is the appropriate understanding of the power of God, not models of power drawn from human relations of domination, war, and violence.
I believe that God is most active in community. When we come together in community doing the work of the Spirit the work we do gets magnified many times over. The mystery that what we do as a community is much more than what the same number of individuals could do alone. Why does this happen? It is because the God energy becomes stronger and stronger when people with the same intent come together. It somehow unleashes the energy of the Holy Spirt on more and more people. It inspires acts of kindness and compassion in more and more people. It spreads the love of God among more and more people.
The wonder of God as father, son and holy spirit or creator, redeemer and sustainer that this force of love continues to open our hearts that of recognizing God in more and more people. We would not be marrying divorce people if it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit. We wouldn’t be recognizing the ability of women to be clergy in our United Church without the Holy Spirit. We wouldn’t have become a welcoming church for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, trans-gendered and two spirited people without the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy weaving in and out of our lives everything life-giving is possible, even the end of violence in our world not only toward people, but toward the whole creation.
May we unleash the power of the Holy on Foam Lake and continue to break down the barriers in our community whether they be social, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, and age that prevents us from truly being the people of God. The Spirit will guide us on our way.
Sermon – May 15th 2016
Pentecost Sunday (Year C)
By Roland Legge
In the prairies we can relate to wind! Wind has a way of stirring everything up. It can be both a refreshing breeze on a hot day or make it frigid on some cold days in the winter. Wind can push us around. I remember when I lived in downtown Toronto I would have to be very careful when I would be walking down Bay street with the cold winds coming off Lake Ontario making it extremely difficult to walk. Think for a moment of your own stories of wind.
On this day long ago the wind of the Holy Spirit woke up a lot of people. It opened people’s minds, hearts and bodies into the fullness that the Spirit created us to be. Pentecost was not just a one-time event but one that takes place every day if we pay attention.
Pentecost is about awakening to the reality that God has given us everything we need to live faithfully and fully in the world. Instead of being threatened by this reality the spirit of Pentecost helps us to embrace this Good News. Now everything good in the world that we thought to be impossible is now possible.
I invite each of you to find the Pentecost spirit right in you. The Spirit is awakened in us when we are able to quiet our minds. The Spirit is awakened in us when we retreat into our inner world to find out what is going on. Miraculously, the Spirit speaks to us through the sensations we are experiencing in our minds, bodies and hearts. So God is never far away. Now isn’t that Good News!
The spirit sure shook up the early followers of Jesus. Suddenly religious, social, cultural and gender walls began tumbling down. Jews who were following Jesus wanted to begin sharing this radical new way of living with Gentiles, women, and many people on the fringes of their communities. This was radical!
In the ministry of Paul and other early leader’s women became a vital part of this ministry not only in preaching, doing social justice, but in the financing of this ministry. Peter had the audacity of baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch! Saint Thecla began a movement to liberate women who wanted to be free to do the work of God without the oppression of the men in their lives. Many people living in abject poverty no longer were willing to be oppressed and started to challenge their oppressors with courage and confidence. Why was this happening? It was happening because of the belief that Jesus passed on that all people are equal in the “eyes” of God.
Sadly, as Christianity was embraced by the ruling elite, our church lost its radical hospitality. Patriarchy took over again. It didn’t take long to come back. We were back to the status quo probably about 100 years after Jesus died. But there has always been a fringe that wanted to take us back to the intentions of Jesus and the early Christian community.
I am not saying the early Christian community was perfect. We can tell from the letters of Paul there were many disagreements. People held strongly held opinions and yes there was much acrimony. But the acrimony mostly came from the teachings of Jesus that challenged those with power and privilege.
Today much of the Christian church is trying to reclaim that Pentecost Spirit that breaks down the walls instead of putting them up. Young people around our world are hungry for meaning, purpose and making the world a better place. For them church needs to be about community where we encourage each other to build up the Kindom of God over and over again. They want to be part of something that is really going to make a difference in their lives. They want to make a difference in the world.
Today I am experiencing the radical hospitality of the Spirit just as much outside the church as it is in it. I am meeting people from all walks of life. People are hungry to clean up the environment. People are hungry to end the many conflicts in the world. People are hungry to stop bullying. People are hungry to end domestic violence. There is so much good going on in our world if we just look for it. This is the power of Pentecost in action.
I feel like I am living in the midst of Pentecost winds. My life is going through radical change and I am so excited. It feels like a lot of the walls I have put up in the past are coming down and I am finding new life beyond it. Before I was too scared to try. What would you like to do, but too scared to try?
Some of the great religious/social movements have been fueled by the winds of Pentecost. The end of slavery in the western world came thanks to many faithful courageous people. Human rights for African Americans came from millions of faithful people of all races. The Spirit kept the people going when it was very difficult. The end of Apartheid in South Africa ended because of millions of people around the world forcing the South African government to change and great spiritual leaders such as Desmond Tutu helped to make it as peaceful a revolution as possible.
The wonder of the Spirit is that it never gives up. When the spirit resides in our hearts we feel called to do our part even if we don’t get to see the fruits of our work. The Spirit is calling us in Canada to bond with our Indigenous neighbours and finally end the oppression against these peoples. The Spirit is calling upon us to clean up our environment to save our world for all of life. In the end the spirit wants each of us to have meaningful work, great friends, good health and hearts bursting with love to share with all we meet. The Spirit wants us to honor all of God’s creation. We are just learning about what this really means for us. When we welcome the Holy Spirit we will have the energy to do what we are being called to do.
May God grant us the grace to embrace the Holy Spirit. When we fully embrace the Holy Spirit Foam Lake United Church will find even more joy, hope, energy and new life. The Good News being that we already have all the resources we need to do this.
Sermon – April 24th 2016
5th Sunday of Easter
By Roland Legge
It seems to be the rage today to talk about the need for change. Some say “change is inevitable”; others say “change or die”; even others say “change must come”.
Yet most of us do not want change. We get used to our routines. Our routines help us to stay calm through all the ups and downs of life. What are your routines? When I get up in the morning I shave and take my shower, eat breakfast, give Abby attention, brush my teeth and kiss Jen. Somehow this daily routine gives me comfort and helps me to face the day.
We have our routines in our churches too. We get comfortable in the ways we operate as a congregation. Every Sunday each of you have a good idea of what worship is going to look like. Our order of service does not change much. We have our favourite hymns. We all have our favourite places we like to sit in the church. We are used to coming to church at 10:30 am on Sundays. Some of us are used to going out for brunch after church.
The way we do the church business has not changed for years. We trust that certain people will do the work of the church so some of us don’t have to worry about it. If something needs to be done, we form a committee. We run our meetings in the way we have been used to for many years. Most of us don’t want to be at the meeting, and yet we spend a lot of time talking. We have our regular social and fund raising events that seem to magically happen every year. We like our routine. But we can not seem to understand why the younger generation often does not want to take part in the life of our church. Too often we want to blame them for not being there.
In the early church the followers of Jesus were also fixated in their old ways even when they were not working well. Peter was struggling with whom he should be ministering too. He had been brought up to only care for the Jews. Jesus had pushed him to love the foreigner, but he was being tempted to go back to his old comfortable ways. Many of his friends and colleagues were being tempted to go back to separating the so called “clean” Jew from the “un-clean” Gentile.
If it hadn’t been for the dream that Peter had he might never have changed. This is what he experienced in his vision:
There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me.
11:6 As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.
11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’
11:8 But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
11:9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’
11:10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.
Acts 11: 5b – 10
So Peter takes a major turn in his ministry. After his vision, he is invited to the home of Simon, a Gentile, to baptize his whole family which he does. When he was there he would have had table fellowship, a meal, with them which was a big NO for the majority of early Christians. Many would see Peter as now being “un-clean”. Yes, Peter was breaking away from the routine. This made a lot of people uncomfortable. It even made people angry.
So in the early times in the new Christian movement there was a lot of conflict between the different Christian groups many whom remained strictly Jewish while others began a growing ministry to the Gentiles until eventually Christianity became a separate religion.
There is nothing wrong with routine and traditions. But it can become a problem if we get too stuck in our ways. In the United Church of Canada, we have become too comfortable with our routines in our style of worship, the way we see ourselves and in the way we organize ourselves.
The world is changing at a phenomenal pace these days and the church is being left behind. Most young people can not relate to us. We are using a “language” that most young people do not understand. It is going to take a lot of courage to re-think who we are, in the context of the time we now live in. I think we need to get back to our routes which is the great commandments. The commandments to love our selves, to love our neighbour and to love our God. Then to reflect and act on how the Spirit is calling us to live this out in our modern times.
In Foam Lake United Church, we are being called to love our selves, to love our neighbour and God. Many young people want to be part of movements that help them to live this out in their day to day lives. Our challenge is to create a worshiping community that brings us together to spread God’s love in real ways. It is a lot more than sitting in a pew every Sunday. This requires us to create opportunities to grow together, to care for each other, to celebrate together, to walk our talk in our communities and to always remember that we are part of something much greater. We are not only part of the whole Christian church we are part of the human family on planet earth.
In order for this to happen we must welcome all types of people into our community. We must be willing to invite people who are openly Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Trans-gendered. We must be willing to invite people who hold different beliefs than we have. We must be willing to invite people who are physically and/or mentally disabled. We must be willing to invite young families with noisy children. We must be willing to invite people who don’t seem to fit in e.g. The guy with the colored hair and earing and the women with pink hair in a short skirt. We must not only tolerate this we must be able to welcome the holy diversity of God’s creation with openness, welcome and love.
Are you ready to embrace the wondrous, awesome, incredible diversity of God? I am! Are you?
Sermon – April 17th 2016
4th Sunday of Easter
By Roland Legge
Have you ever met a shepherd? Today most of us have never met a shepherd and don’t know what their life would have been like. But in Jesus day shepherds would have been a common sight and thus the followers of Jesus would have known exactly what the metaphor meant. So what does the shepherd metaphor mean in the Biblical story? Do you know?
Shepherds were poor people living on the land tending their sheep. It was not an easy job. I am sure it was monotonous, but also very dangerous. I quote now from Sandy Simpson:
Middle eastern cultures understood what shepherding was all about. It was about feeding the lambs and the sheep, bringing them to good pasture lands and water, grooming and clipping them, delivering new lambs, leading them and teaching them to stay together, going off after the wandering lost ones, and protecting the sheep in the field and in the fold.
There were times when the shepherd would risk their life to protect their flock. They new when there was danger just by the way the animals were behaving because they new their flocks well.
For the early Christians Jesus began to be seen as the Good Shepherd. This was not a job for wimps. It was going to take great dedication, love, generosity, the ability to teach, the courage to protect and the willingness to discipline those who have fallen off the track. Jesus took seriously his call to guide, challenge, inspire, encourage, and love, showing us the path to new life. He new it was risky and would likely lead to his death on the Cross.
In Psalm 23 the Good Shepherd is one in the same as the Holy Spirit. To invite the Spirit to journey with us we need to be fully tuned to the wisdom that is within us and around us. When we have that intimate connection with Spirit we will always find the courage to do what we have been called to do no matter how much our lives may be put at risk. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel fear, but we won’t let that fear block us from doing what needs to be done. We will also have that inner knowing that we are not alone. I think Peter finally discovered this after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Now when bumbling Peter arrives in the Book of Acts, after many struggles to find his faith and courage, finds his Christ self. His true self. He finds that one of his faithful disciples, Tabitha is dead. Tradition says that Tabitha was an independent women of means who supported the ministry of Jesus. Peter was called to her home and found her lying there dead. He immediately calls upon her to get up. There is no debating of what to do. He inwardly new what he needed to do. Do you have that kind of inward knowing?
How do we come that place of inner knowing? Each of us need to find a way to become present enough to feel the power of the Spirit through our bodies, each other and the whole creation. The Good News is that it is available to all of us.
We come to that inner knowing through intentional prayer and meditation. First we can start by taking time out of our busy lives to quiet our minds and open our hearts. But we don’t just have to sit and do nothing. If we start with an intention of prayerful openness and love, anything we do such as cooking, gardening, reading, writing, singing, creating pottery, making wine and so much more can be a form of prayer. This can bring you joy and hope? I invite you to consider what forms of spiritual practise helps you to quiet your mind?
Recently, I have been learning to be more present in the moment. I have been learning to quiet my mind. While I may not always be successful in doing this I have become much better at it. I have done this through meditation, getting Life Coaching, going for massage, body work, eating better, exercising and being much more conscious of what is going on in my head. Up to a few years ago my mind was more like a three ring circus that would never stop. The Spirit would always get a busy signal when it was trying to reach me and now it is often able to get my attention.
I have avoided doing a lot of things the Spirit was calling upon me to do because I was too fearful of change. I was fearful of not having enough money. I was fearful of not having a big enough of RRSP. I was fearful of making mistakes. I was fearful at failing at a new career. But for the most part this has gone and I am finally ready to broaden my calling to ministry by reaching out too many people outside the church through my calling to be a Life Coach. I am not worried and I am feeling good. Are you afraid of making changes in your life? I invite you to seek out the wisdom of the Spirit.
None of this can experience transformation without some form of community. I have a number of groups of people who have become family to me that have and continue to enrich my life. I would not be where I am today without them. My wider family is the church, my Enneagram community and the many other people I know. For me God is working its love through these amazing people. I would not be where I am today without them. Who are those people for you in your lives?
Our churches can be places where we come together to shepherd each other and be a sign of the promised New Jerusalem. They can be places to challenge each other into being who we can be. They can be places to support each other through the rough times. They can be places to build strong relationships that will give you the courage to face the many adversities that are thrown our way. They can come places where we welcome all those who are on the fringes of our society. It can be the place where love is felt, experienced and celebrated, especially among the poor, the hungry, the mentally ill, the oppressed and the physically infirm. Churches who are open to the Holy Spirit just naturally do this.
Let it be so!
Sermon – April 10th 2016
3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C)
By Roland Legge
Easter is scandalous! Those in power were sure they had put an end to Jesus. But Jesus would not go away.
Jesus never did anything in the usual way. Wouldn’t a great leader choose the powerful to join him or her? Not Jesus. Instead Jesus chose very ordinary imperfect people to be his disciples, like Peter, you and me.
Peter was an ordinary fisherman before he met Jesus. If you based your perception of Peter from the Gospels, you wouldn’t think Peter to be wise and courageous. Peter had a way of messing up over and over again. He often would not understand what Jesus was meaning. Then during the last few hours of Jesus life, Peter too afraid to admit to the Roman authorities that he knew this man. So it is surprising and remarkable that it was Peter who was to become the “rock” of the church.
So today when we enter the story, Peter is having an encounter with the risen Christ. Now, first notice, that Peter and his friends don’t recognize Jesus at the beginning. I wonder, why. Do you? But once Peter recognizes Jesus he jumps out of the boat with exuberance to the shore to meet Jesus. Peter seems different. Possibly, for the first time in Peter’s life, he takes an exuberant leap of faith out of the boat into a new way of being. Peter is ready to take a risk. It doesn’t say he stops and thinks about it, he just does it. I am willing to guess that Jesus must have had a big smile as he saw Peter maturing in his faith.
Now Jesus asks Peter three times, does he love him. By the third time Peter was feeling hurt. Why would Jesus ask him this three times? Remember now, it was three times that Peter denied Jesus. So it was going to take at least three times to make Peter right with him. But there is more. Walter Wink shares this. He says:
Then sudden poignancy: Peter, do you agapas (the highest, self-giving love, agape) me? Peter: “Yes, Lord;
you know that I philo (to have friendship, affection for) you.” Jesus: “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus asks: Do you agapas me? “Yes Lord; you know that I philo you.” “Tend my sheep.” A third time Jesus asks, Do you phileis me? Peter, grieved that this third time Jesus had adopted his word, replies, “You know everything; you know that I philo you.” “Feed my sheep.”
In this gentle scene of restitution after perfidy, we see enacted the severity and costliness of love: It breaks our heart by accepting our inability to reciprocate. Do I need to move from “liking” God to “loving”?
Walter Wink was professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City when this article appeared. Sojourners Magazine Washington D.C.
Here, Walter reminds us that Jesus is also calling Peter to love much more deeply. Jesus wants Peter to share agape love with all people. Even in this scene Peter fears that he doesn’t have that kind of love in him.
What is agape love? Here is the definition I found in Harper’s Bible Dictionary:
Agape, because it was used so seldom and was so unspecific in meaning could be used in the New Testament to designate the unmerited love God shows to humankind in sending his son as suffering redeemer. When used of human love it means selfless and self-giving love.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary Harper San Francisco General Editor Paul J. Achtemeier 1985 P.G. 14
I believe Jesus calls us live out all forms of love. But I suspect that agape love is lived out the least in our world as it was in Jesus and Peter’s day.
Our world is so hungry for agape love. A good place to reflect on how well we are doing in this area is to reflect on how well we love those we find most difficult to love. One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, in her book “Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith” shares part of a sermon her minister gave on love and some of her own reflections. She says…
I sat there in church, working this through in my mind, tugging at it, yet hunkered down on the inside to protect myself from having to take it in, and then Veronica said one of the most stunning things I’ve heard her say: When someone is acting butt-ugly, God loves them just the same as God loves the innocent. They are still just as loved by God.” It was outrageous. Veronica said you don’t have to support people’s political agendas, but you do have to love them, if you want to follow Jesus.
Now for some perspective. All throughout her book she talks about her anger with President George Bush. Now she begins to work out how on earth she could try to love him..
In my head I saw the president, marching on an aircraft carrier, with his little squinched-up Yertle the Turtle mouth, like a five year-old whose dad own the ship. Which his dad probably does. Then I saw a photo op, signing papers, and something made me stop. I wasn’t thinking about his legislation or his tax cuts for the wealthy—I just experimented with the idea that God loves him just as much as God loves my niece Clara, that God looks at him in the same way my brother looks at baby Clara. How could this be? It didn’t seem right. But I stuck with it. And after a while I could feel the tiniest of spaces in the knot, the lightest breath between tangled links…….
Driving home, I tried to hold on to what I’d heard that day: that loving your enemies was nonnegotiable. It meant trying to respect them, it meant identifying with their humanity and weaknesses. It didn’t mean unconditional acceptance of their crazy behavior. They were still accountable for the atrocities they’d perpetuated, as you were accountable for yours. But you worked at doing better, at loving them, for the profoundest spiritual reason: You were trying not to make things worse.
Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott Riverhead Books New York P.G. 224-225
Jesus is calling all of us practice agape love every day. This is no easy thing to do. In my job as a minister I meet many people. I am always going to meet people who anger, annoy and frustrate me. I am sure this is the same for all of us. But what I have learned through Peter and Jesus and through Anne Lamott, agape loving is all about being able to see that of God in another person. It is also about being accountable for our choices and actions. So to love is not to ignore sin in the world but to face it with our presence in mind, body and spirit. To speak truth in love to those who offend you. Know that in the end, facing sin and injustice with the presence of the Creator enables us to radiate that love wherever we go.
Sermon –March 20th 2016
Palm Passion Sunday (Year C)
By Roland Legge
Jesus is having a great day. He gets a great welcome when he arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey with people laying down their cloaks in honor of him. On the other side of town, the Roman army is arriving with great military fanfare with soldiers, weapons and war horses to keep the peace during the turbulent times of Passover. The mission of Jesus was so opposite of the mission of the Roman rulers.
Yet the great fanfare of Jesus did not last for long. I think we forget that Jesus was seen as a threat to those with privilege and power. First, Jesus was empowering the poor. The poor were starting to demand change from their rulers. Hence, the risk of insurrection was getting worse and worse as the Roman army oppressed the people more and more. He was a very different threat because he had a different type of power that came from within rather than through external sources such as armies, weapons and money. The Romans thought they could end his movement by killing him, but it didn’t work.
Jesus was also shaking up his own Jewish faith. He wanted to reform it so he used the traditions and stories of his own people to remind them who they were and where they came from. He challenged many of the Pharisaic rules that were getting in the way of people sharing the love of God e.g. not being able to heal a person on the Sabbath. He challenged the behaviour of some the Jewish leadership who were collaborating with the Roman invaders to keep their own power at a great cost to the average Jewish person.
Jesus was also challenging people’s attitudes toward women. While I wouldn’t consider Jesus a feminist he showed great respect and love for women. The scripture tells us that women played a very important roll in his movement. Some of his most courageous leaders were women even though non of them of were named as Disciples. He called on men to treat women in the same way that women are expected to treat men. I am sure this made a lot of people upset. It would be on the same level as how controversial it has been for the church to accept the GLBQ community as equal members of the church and even more importantly equally loved by God. Jesus riled up a lot of people.
Jesus also loved so many people on the fringes of society. He was able to recognize the spirit in every person he met whether they were tax collectors, women, prostitutes, a soldier, and any person that was considered by Jewish custom “un-clean”. He could talk and touch any one. He was able to see into a person’s heart and soul that made a lot of people uncomfortable. You couldn’t hide from Jesus.
Many people were looking forward to getting rid of Jesus. Finally, when he made his trip to Jerusalem the Romans had had enough. They set in motion the plan to kill him on a cross.
Jesus did not die to fulfill the scripture as the Bible says. Why does the Bible say this? People tried to make sense of how their Messiah could die like a criminal. The read back into their own scriptures to make sense of what happened. If they didn’t find some divine reason for his death on a cross they would not be taken seriously because no Messiah would die like Jesus did. So why did Jesus die? He died because he was a thorn in the side of the powerful just like Martin Luther King Junior died for his challenging the status quo of his time. The Roman invaders had to get rid of him and some of the religious authorities would be happy to see him gone because he was shaking up their faith.
Who in the end was responsible for Jesus death? It was the Romans’! The writers of the Gospels, Paul and his imitators had to get along with the Romans so they tried to put more of the blame on the Jews especially after the Christians were thrown out of the Synagogues. At the beginning it was like a family feud between the Jews who believed Jesus to the Messiah and those who did not. Sadly, these scriptures have been used as justification for violence against Jewish people and communities. It was this belief that paved the way for the Holocaust in Germany. In the end it was only the Romans who had the power to crucify a person. For the Romans Jesus would have been seen as a trouble maker.
For me it is important that we remember the story of Jesus crucifixion. I think we can all relate to the hopelessness that the early followers of Jesus felt. How they must have thought that this new and exciting movement was going to end with Jesus death.
There are many people in our world today who face the same kind of suffering that Jesus experienced. People are killed for their work in human rights, their religious views, feeding the poor, freedom, building democracy and much more. There are millions of people who can relate to the despair of the early followers. But we know that Easter does happen. Easter is no figment of our imagination. The love of Jesus was not stopped by his horrible death on the cross. In fact, the Jesus movement became magnified many times over bringing hope to thousands and thousands of people.
So I hope this Holy Season we will remember what Jesus was really about. Jesus was offering us no magical solution to solve our problems. He was offering us a way of life that can bring to life the Kingdom of God. A place where everyone has enough. A place where people are treated justly. A place where people are held accountable for their behaviour. A place where know one feels alone. A place where everyone feels loved. A place where the nations, nationalities, ethnic groups, people of different sexual orientations, able bodied and disabled, young and old can all get along with each other. But the bottom line being we need to have the faith and courage to live this out no matter what we face. We don’t need to get it perfect, but we do need to try. The miracle is that when we try the Spirt will help us along the way.
Sermon – March 13th 2016
Lent 5 (Year C)
By Roland Legge
We enter today’s Gospel story with Martha busy in the kitchen getting the meal ready for everyone to enjoy. Much to the annoyance of Martha, Mary is hanging out with Jesus in the living room. Have you ever felt left alone in the kitchen? In Jesus day it was the expectation that women would help to get the meal ready. Mary was breaking the rules.
Mary was so touched by Jesus. She new what was about to happen to him while the rest of them were living in denial. Jesus was about to be killed. She wanted to soak in as much as possible of his teachings, energy and presence before he left this earth. I like to think the Spirit took her over, that day, and led her to prepare him for his burial. She did this with her love for him, and sharing the costly perfume that she had saved for a special day. What Mary did was scandalous! Judas complained that she could have helped a lot of poor people if she had sold that expensive perfume. He raises a good question as to how we are all called to be good stewards of what we have been blessed with.
Even more scandalous was the intimacy she showed Jesus. First she let her hair down which was improper for a woman to do in public, especially with a man she was not married too. Then she had the audacity to end the ritual anointing, using her hair to dry off Jesus feet. This would have made the people around her very uncomfortable. This was a great act of love and prophecy.
Mary understood the consequences of living in the way of her friend Jesus. She wasn’t afraid to follow her master. Jesus was grateful for Mary’s love and for her courage to act this out in a world that was hostile to women.
Sadly, the comment made by Jesus that “we will always have the poor with us” has been taken out of context. I like how one theologian has said it should read “you will always be around the poor but you will not always have me (Jesus) with you. Mary new this was an important time to acknowledge that something major was going to happen. The love of God was about to be unleashed on the world in ways that it had never been experienced before through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Hence, this line was no excuse to it ignore the cries of the poor for justice. It was more a reminder that we need to stay spiritually, physically and emotionally grounded through our lives to be able to keep doing the Spirit’s work. This is what Mary was doing.
I also think that Judas keeps getting a bad rap. Yes, Judas was the holder of the money. I don’t think he was as corrupt as some people make him out to be. He asked a good question as to whether the spreading of the expensive perfume on Jesus feet was the right thing to do when it could have been sold and the money given to those who had little. I think this is a question we all need to be asked. Are we being good stewards of what we possess, of what we have been gifted? When are the times that justify the spending of money on things that are beautiful such as stained glass windows, organs, computers? When are the times we need to share all we have? We need to listen to God in our hearts to know what we need to do.
I think Spring is always good time to assess what we own. Is there anything we can give away because it no longer serves us, such as clothes we haven’t worn for along time, books we know we will never get around to reading, and anything else in our homes we no longer need.
At least once a year it is a good thing to reflect on how well we are using our money. Are we giving enough to organizations that are doing the work of Jesus? This doesn’t just to have to be Christian organizations. It can be any organization making a difference in the world. As well, are we taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually? Are we spending money on unnecessary things that hold us back?
It is also good to think about how we use our time. Do we spend enough time taking care of our bodies, eating good food and getting enough sleep? How good are we at volunteering our time? Do we work too hard at our jobs? Do we have enough time to spend with family and friends? Do we take time to quiet our minds? Do we take time to nurture our souls so that our hearts are always full of love to share? How balanced are our lives? What do we need to do to get our lives back in balance again?
We not only need to do this reflecting for our personal lives but for our churches too. If we could get down to what being a member of Foam Lake United Church or any church is all about. Why do we exist? What is our purpose? I want you to think about this for a minute. What is the Good News we have to bring to Foam Lake that will really make a difference in peope’s lives? We can be ether like the majority of the disciples who were not willing to admit the cost of following Jesus or be like Mary who was committed to living in the way of Jesus no matter what the consequences were.
Good News is life renewing. It is not about judgement and condemnation. Good News is about creating a community where all people are truly welcomed. Where the community is vibrant in bringing people together for worship, work, celebration and mission. It is about making the community a more just and compassionate place. It is all about bringing out the best in people. It is all about accompanying and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ in being all we can we be. Good News is about the sharing of the bounty of the earth, which has been given to us as a gift of God. It is about ensuring that we each have enough and no one is ever left alone.
I believe that when our churches can find again the faith of Mary of Bethany we will find new life. We will be better able to discern what is important. Our focus will be to bring good news that is really good news, bringing abundant life to all people of the world. Not the bad news that you are going to hell, something that I have never believed. It will be a ministry that builds each other up. It will be a ministry that really welcomes all people no matter their dress, ethnicity, color of skin, class, gender, sexual orientation, race or anything else. It will be a place of celebration, embrace and hope. It will be place to discern with each other how God is speaking to us today and what God is calling us to live out. It will be a place of accountability where we ensure that each of us follows our callings.