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Wholeness and Relationship
Have you ever referred to your partner as your better half? Does this accurately describe who you are? It does not describe me. You know you are not half a person! You are a whole human being. When two people come together it takes two whole people to make a healthy relationship. Sadly, two many of do not bring our whole selves to our relationship because we are not aware of what we are capable of being. In this article, I seek to explore three ways to get in touch with our best self.
Wisdom of the Body
Your body is full of wisdom. One way you can learn more about yourself and world is through paying attention to your body. You have most likely experienced a gut feeling about something happening or about to happen in your life. Your body will let you know about whether a path in life is the best for you. If you are not sure slow down and take some time to ground yourself through some form of meditation that will quiet your mind, open your heart and help you to focus on your body.
You might a feel muscles tightening up in your gut, chest, throat or hands. Each of us have certain parts of our body that are more susceptible to stress in our life. What is that for you? Maybe your shoulders feel like they are trying to hold up the world. Take a deep breath, breathing into the parts of your body that are feeling uncomfortable and as you blow out notice the stress leaving your body.
It feels like I am going crazy
I know this can feel overwhelming at first because of sensations, emotions and thought that have been repressed for years. It might even feel like you are going crazy but I assure you, you are not! Try to be gentle with yourself. Allowing and accepting these intense sensations, emotion and thoughts takes time. The only way is to go through it. Just remember it is best to not do this alone. Find a close friend, family member or professional you can be honest with.
Over time you will get to know the difference between what you are frightened of trying and that which is not in your highest interest. Have you experienced times in your life when you felt ready to try something new in your life and yet feel a little scared? I have had those times and yet somehow, I new that what I was choosing to do whether that be school, a new job or a new relationship that it was in my best interest. I have also experienced times when my body has made it clear that I need to avoid a particular, path. I do well when I pay attention to my body.
Make a practice of daily of checking in with your body to discover what wisdom it can offer you. The more you do it the easier it will be. You will be so thankful for the wisdom of your body. Your body will help you to discover your higher self.
Wisdom of the Heart
Are you in touch with your emotions?
Are you an emotional person? How easy do you find it to get in touch with your emotions? Is it easy for you to cry? Does this embarrass you? You have nothing to be ashamed of! It is gift to have a heart that is open, unless your over sensitivity is getting in the way of you living your life. It is all about balance.
As you move through life it is learning to accept where we are at, in each moment of life. This is so we do not get stuck in our own insecurity. When our heart is open, we have the capacity to be gentle and forgiving of ourselves. When we can forgive, ourselves we can forgive others.
Your heart is a window into your inner world. Does it feel open? If your chest is feeling warm with energy moving around, your heart is open. If it is feeling cold and dead then you are shut off from this great wisdom. It might feel like you are short circuiting. There is no shame in this. It just means that your heart shut down to help you to survive. But in the long run you will miss so much in life if you allow it to stay closed. How familiar are you with this experience?
Being true to your Heart
Your heart energy is there and just waiting for you to create an environment where it can risk expressing itself. When our hearts are open we not only feel connected to ourselves but also to those around us.
Opening our heart is risky business because we can get hurt or unintentionally hurt another person. But the gift of truly loving another person and being loved out weighs any downside of being hurt. All aspects of the heart are part of the human condition. They are neither good or bad. They simply are.
Connection to the whole World
You are connected to the whole earth and its inhabitants through your heart. We can feel the joy and pain in the people we meet besides our own. An open heart helps us to be open to the needs of others while still caring for ourselves. Our heart reminds us of our humanity repeatedly.
Playing and Working Together
With an open heart, we can find ways of working and playing together in relationship that is beneficial for both. It opens the door for us to show our love for the people in our life through encouraging them to be all they can be. We no longer get confused thinking we want the best for our partner when we really are doing it out of our own insecurity. Our open hearts creates space for you to be your best self.
Wisdom of the Head
Is your head your enemy?
Does your head feel like it is your enemy sometimes? If you feel this way, remember you have the capacity to befriend it.
Releasing my mind from the chatter
When you quiet your mind, you have access to the wisdom of our head. But you ask, how do I quiet my mind. Most of us find it hard to slow the chatter in our heads. When we have, conversations going on in our heads it is hard for us to pay attention to what is going on in the moment. Most of us can not imagine a quiet mind because we can never remember a time when our mind was calm.
The good news is that you can quiet your mind with practice. There are many ways to do this from meditation, listening to music, singing, creating art and much more. This does not mean that you get to the point of emptying your thoughts, but to a place where you do not get stuck in your fears and insecurities.
Have you ever just woken up one morning and new what you needed to do. You somehow just know this is the next step you need to take. Trust this wisdom, because it is a gift to be embraced. Do not bother trying to justify your decision. If you know it is the write thing to do go for it. I have experienced breakthroughs like this when I am so tired my mind can no longer can try to control things. What has been your experience?
On the path to transforming Relationships
Synergy in Three
When your three energy centers are in harmony with each other you will be on the path to being your best self; a blessing to yourself and those you choose to be in relationship with you. Life will still have its challenges, but there will be a gentler flow and energy because you will be present in each moment to make the best decisions for you and those you love.
Freedom to be me
You will attract people with the same level of health. Relationships will no longer be a struggle because you are being fully open to yourself and your partner. There will no longer be manipulation by ether party. Each of you will be honest and want to make choices that will be beneficial to you both.
Joy in being with your own company
But even in times when you find yourself single you will be able to enjoy this time in life whether it short term or permanent because you will find ways to meet your own needs. You will have the blessing of great friendships that will bring out the best in you.
Finding your soulmate
If you do find your soulmate, there will be a synergy that creates the best type of relationship that grows from two healthy people. When two people come together in mutual love and respect the two create something even greater than two people could do individually. They create a beautiful mosaic that not only enhances, both, but the whole world.
Roland Legge is a coach and founder of REL Consultants offering to help individuals, couples, families and executives to discover the wisdom that is already within them. Call Roland today at 1 306 620-7478 to arrange for a free 30-minute discovery call or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a private discussion about how he can help.
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 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 –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 – Lent 4
March 6, 2016
By Roland Legge
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
You know the story of the prodigal son. Over and over we have been told that this story is about how God chooses to forgive repentant sinners. So it was a big surprise when I heard this story told in a very different way, by a man named Richard Rohrbaugh.
If we made a new title for this story it might be called: “The Prodigal Son: “A Dysfunctional Family and its Neighbors”. Now you might be wondering if this could be the same story. You see Richard Rohrbaugh has spent much of his life studying Middle Eastern Culture and the Mediterranean Peasant culture at the time of Jesus. It is through the eyes of Jesus contemporaries that we now view the story. Mediterranean Peasant culture was an honor shame culture which is very different from what we experience in North America.
In our culture we focus on the individual. In Jesus time he and his contemporaries focused on the wellbeing of the community. So if you did something really good it would have a positive effect on yourself and the whole community. But if you did something wrong then you, your family and the whole community would pay the consequences. You might even risk being thrown out of your community or even worse killed.
The father looked foolish for distributing the inheritance before he died. But even more, when the prodigal goes off and waste all his share of the inheritance, this shamed the community even more. So by the time the prodigal returns home, the community would not have been pleased to see him. Hence he would have been in danger upon his arrival home. Kenneth Bailey explains why the father runs out to greet him:
In the Mediterranean old men do not run. It is not only shameful (ankles show), it also indicates lack of control. They certainly do not run to meet or welcome anyone, and especially not their children. But if an emergency exists, perhaps that is another matter. Obviously the father acts in this way because the boy is in trouble. The villagers would be angry and the father’s compassion’ is well placed… The embrace and kiss are not first of all signs of welcome; they are signs of protection.
“A Dysfunctional Family and its Neighbors” found in the collection Jesus and His Parables Edited by V. George Shillington p.g. 156
The father could have chosen to punish his sons. This would have been the expected action of the father. But he chooses to have compassion even at the risk of losing face. Yet he goes even further by calling a party and welcomes the whole community. How do we know the village was invited? If it had just been the family a goat would have been killed. The killing of the fatted calf suggests that the whole village was invited. This party was to encourage reconciliation between the village and his family. It seems to be working as when the older son comes to the home he sees people dancing. But the problem is the older son will not reconcile with brother and father. This again would have been a great shame to the family. In the end we do not know how things work out.
So why, would Jesus have written this parable?
Because as Rohrbaugh says, it’s something peasants could identify with and understand, “commending the valiant struggle of a beleaguered if foolish father” (p.g. 163).
The story affirms our need to be loyal to both kin and village even when sin has gone rampant. The surprise is how the father does it. The father counters his own disloyalty with foolishness of his own. (lorenrosson.blogspot.com) He sets an example of how we are called to respond. Instead of responding to his younger son with anger, rage and violence he embraces him with compassion and love even when it makes himself look like the fool.
This parable is not about repentance/forgiveness taught today in most churches. The key is not to equate the father in the story with God. This is more an earthy story with a heavy meaning rather than a heavenly meaning. Likely, the readers of this story would have believed that the apocalypse was imminent. So Jesus in this context calls on his people to radically change their behavior – like this father, to become asses and fools of the kingdom.
While today most of us don’t believe in an imminent apocalypse; are there not enough serious problems in our world that beckon us to radically change how we live our lives? Are we not called to find creative ways to live out our love for family, friends and all God’s creation? I do!! I believe this is all an important part of our call to radical loving. A radical living that may look like foolishness to the rest of the world. What is God calling you to change?
I know for myself that God is continually calling me to pollute less in the world. This is not an easy thing to do. First I am becoming much more conscious of how I am polluting. I can’t change anything that I am not aware of. This is a big first step. Jen and I continue to explore ways of being better stewards. We try to recycle a lot. I do have a small car, but I think twice now before I use my car. In town I try to walk when possible. Sometimes this means I just need to get up a little earlier so I have the extra time to walk. Sometimes I am good at this but there are other times when I succumb to the car. What are you doing for the environment?
What else can we all do? Building community in our families and churches is going to make the difference. This can lead us to mission, people working for peace and justice in our world. This is a human community where God becomes most active just as God became active in this very human imperfect father. One person who expresses this well is Jean Vanier.
Community is the place to share together that we are obstacles. That is to say, we’re not perfect. Maybe our wounds from the past, the wounds that cause blockages in our relationships, maybe these will always be with us. Jesus can heal these, but it seems to me that the first thing is to be able to talk about the wounds and the blockages—to talk about them without being threatened.
Reflections on Christian Community. by Jean Vanier. Sojourners Magazine, December 1977
So let us go out and celebrate life with our family, friends, community and world. Let us go out and be fools for God. Let us go out and love the unlovable. Let’s hang in with people that are sabotaging themselves and others. Let us stand in solidarity with the oppressed. Most of all let us do what God would want us to do even if others are going to think we are fools.
Sermon – January 10th, 2016
1st Sunday after Epiphany – Baptism of our Lord
Acts 10: 34-43
By Roland Legge
Have you ever had a quarrel with God? I believe that most of us have, at some time. Thankfully if anybody can handle anger it is God! In our world of today we have lots to quarrel with God. We wonder, how can there be so much violence in our world if God is all powerful? We wonder, why God allows so much evil to happen?
We are living in a time again when it seems that the world has gone into complete madness. Not unlike it was in the time of 1st and 2nd Isaiah. “First Isaiah was written to the Hebrews before they were taken into captivity in Babylon. Second Isaiah comes when the [Hebrews] are about to come home, and the prophet, convinced that they may have forgotten who God is, reminds them.
Our reading today comes from the time of 2nd Isaiah. 2nd Isaiah calls upon Israel to take heart. He promises that at last, Israel’s cries to God have been heard. He proclaims that God is sending a “servant” who will lead the people back.” Do we need to hear that God is still with us and in ultimate control?
“I know that I still need to hear that message. However, we need to be careful in how we interpret the scripture. Taking a passage out of context is idolatrous. 2nd Isaiah felt compelled to refresh his people’s faithful memory. To knock down the false images of God that we create and project upon God, and to irrigate the fields of our religious imagination with the truth of the way God really is in the world.”
So what do we mean when we say that we are called to bring down God’s justice on the world? First I think we often forget that, we are broken and vulnerable.
Secondly, God wants us to remember that God sent Jesus to transform the world through weakness and vulnerability.
None of us are perfect. Each of us has been bruised. But God calls us to be God’s light in the dark no matter how weak or strong the light is. Our calling is to be the light for the world.
Thomas Long in a sermon on this same scripture from Isaiah told a story of from Pierre Von Paso’s book about the rise of the Third Reich. It is a story of a rabbi who refused to give up the light of God no matter how bruised be became. “Von Passo describes a day when a group of Nazi Brown Shirts captured a rabbi in his study as he was preparing his Sabbath sermon. They mocked and humiliated him; they stripped him and flogged him. As they did they laughed and said, “This lash is for Abraham; this one is for Jacob; this one is for Isaac.” When he we numbed with the whipping, they took out scissors and they sheared his locks and his beard and mocked him, “Say something to us; say something in Hebrew; yes, say something in Hebrew; Standing there shivering the rabbi said in Hebrew, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart and mind and soul.” But he didn’t even finish before they interrupted him with more mocking, “you were preparing your sermon, weren’t you? Preach us your sermon…Weren’t you preparing your sermon?
“Yes,” said the rabbi.
“Well then preach it in your synagogue; we burned your synagogue, preach to us now.”
“Give me my hat,” said the rabbi.
“You can’t preach without your hat,” they howled with laughter, “Give him his hat.”
They gave him his hat; he put it on and they laughed all the harder…the sight of a naked man wearing a rabbi’s hat.
“God created man in his image” said the rabbi “in the image of God he created him, that is the text for my sermon this sabbath.”
Long says that all of this destruction that human being commit toward each other is an attack on creation. God will not rest until justice has been established.”
We can also keep the light of God’s love burning by how we choose to LOVE, HONOR and CHERISH our families. This is another story from, master preacher, Tom Long: “Late one spring a former student came by Tom’s office for a cup of coffee. They chatted about this and that and then she said, “I have a secret to tell you.”
“What is it, “Tom said.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
He was overjoyed. She and her husband had a seven year-old daughter, and they had been trying since their daughter had been born to have another child, but had been unsuccessful and had finally given up. Now she was pregnant.
“That’s wonderful news,” Tom said.
“We just got the test results and we know two things about our child. Our child will be a boy, and will have Down’s syndrome.”
Tom said that he knew she must be a bruised reed and a dimly burning wick.
“I don’t now how we are going to handle it,” she said, “but we are trusting in God to help us.”
A few weeks [later] he had received their Christmas letter and in it she wrote, “After nine long months of unmitigated discomfort, at four in the morning on August 18, I knew the magic moment had come. At last at 10:55 a.m. Timothy Andrew took his first breath and let our a hearty yell, he was whisked off to neo-natal intensive care where he spent the next three days before coming home. He’s strong, alert, beautiful. He has the sweetest disposition. He shatters daily our images of handicapped and special needs. He may need special help, but already he is no slouch in giving a special love. We are blessed. Kate (that’s their eight-year old) is Tim’s champion.
Hearing our concerns about how well Tim might be accepted by other kids, Kate informed the kids on our block, ‘My brother has Down’s syndrome and everybody’s going to play with him or else! One evening we overheard her talking to Tim.
“I’m so glad you’re here, Timothy, I will always love you, I’ll never leave you, I’ll always be nearby.’
“Christ came to identify with us especially those most in need. We know miraculous blessings. We’ve experienced them first hand.”
What has got in the way of shining God’s light in the world? Each of us will continue to discover ourselves, how God is calling us to keep the candle burning. Sometimes, for me, it is no more than being hopeful for our church, our community and world. Hope is such a powerful light in the world dark despair.
Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon Vol. 30, No.1. Year A January, February, March 2002 Logos Productions Grove Heights MN pg. 10 – 12
Sermon – March 29th 2015
By Roland Legge
Palm/Passion Sunday (Year B)
Isaiah 50:4-9a: Philippians 2:5-11: Mark 14:1—15:47:
I am indebted to William Willimon for the idea of today’s sermon.
How many times have you heard this story? Anyone want to venture a guess? In all the times I have heard this story I have rarelly focused on the woman in the story who challenges Peter. So I invite you to join me on reflecting on the importance of what this woman did.
Willimon summarizes the story like this: “It is late at night, toward the end of this Holy Week. It is after the last supper when Jesus had gathered with his disciples in an upper room. The Passion of Christ has begun. The soldiers have seized Jesus and have led him away to the palace. At the palace, Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate and is on trial. But out in the darkness, in the courtyard, down below, another trial takes place. Judge and jury at the trial is a servant girl. And though we don’t know much about her, if she is only a girl, but also only a servant, we know that she is small, insignificant, powerless person. She is not only a woman in a patriarchal culture, but she is also a servant woman. And she is young and you know that also means you are powerless, on the bottom. And this little, powerless girl is the one who puts Peter, the premier disciple, through his paces.
Pulpit Resource Vol. 36 No. 1 Year A January, February, March 2008 by William H. Willimon Published by Logos Production Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 46
This oppressed, simple girl challenges the faithfulness of Peter, the one Jesus is to call the rock of the church. She challenges him and he fails miserably. He claims to her that he never knew Jesus. He does this to save his own life. But soon Peter realizes the terrible error of his ways and begins his healing process. In effect this girl is the one that challenges Peter into being the person he claims to Jesus and the other disciples to be. This girl was challenging Peter to walk his talk. It was a tough lesson for Peter to learn. It was even harder to learn from a person that society had impoverished, oppressed and ignored. But he had to move on. Why? Jesus wasn’t going to let him off the hook!
We all need people in our lives to ensure we remain grounded in our faith. We all need people to challenge us to walk our talk no matter how hard or easy life seems to be. Willimon tells of this student:
A few years ago a student was telling me that he and his roommate were not getting along too well. I asked him why, and he said, “Because he is a Muslim and I’m not.” I asked him how that made a difference. And he said, “When we moved in together, he asked me what my religion was. I told him that I was a Christian. A Lutheran—I told him that my family wasn’t the very best of Christians and that we only went to church occasionally and it wasn’t that big a deal to me. My roommate has this nasty habit of asking embarrassing questions.” “What sort of question?” I asked. “Well after we had roomed together a few weeks, he asked me, “Why do you Christians never pray?”
“I told him, ‘We pray a lot. We just sort of keep it to ourselves.”
“He said, ‘I’ll say that you do.
I’ve never seen you pray.’ He prays like a half dozen times a day on his prayer rug in our room, facing the East. When I came in last Saturday morning, and he asked me, ‘Doesn’t your St. Paul say something about joining your body with that of a prostitute?”
I told him, “Look, she is not a prostitute, she is Tri Delta. I told you I am not the best Christian in the world. You shouldn’t judge the Christian faith by me!”
And I, hearing of his torment said, “Well how should he judge the Christian faith? I think I need to write your Muslim roommate a thank-you note. If he keeps working on you with these questions, he may make you into a real Christian.”
Pulpit Resource page 47
I hope this person learnt from his Muslin roommate. He was giving him the opportunity to grow in his faith. If he engages his roommate by choosing to learn more about his own faith this relationship could turn from being a curse to being a blessing. I wonder if Peter was ever able to look back and see the encounter he had with the young girl as a blessing. What do you think?
Most of us have had experiences with people who drive us crazy. There are people out there who will push all the “buttons” we have. These are people who have much to teach us; if, only we would listen.
When I was training for ministry I was in a class called “Basic Christian Beliefs”. Every week I was part of a seminar group. We were made up of Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church and possibly Mennonite. We were definitely a diverse group. What has stuck in my mind from my seminar group was the Catholic sisters understanding of communion and why open communion was not acceptable to them.
This was challenging for me because I believed as I do today that communion should be open to everyone. For me it is so tragic that Roman Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox cannot have communion together on a regular basis. I say how you can break up the Christian family! But by the end of the seminar gatherings I could respect my Catholic sisters in the group. You see the Roman Catholics believe that in the bread and wine is the real physical and spiritual essence of God and Jesus. This is one of the main ways for Catholics to connect with the Holy, So to have Communion with Protestants, who understand communion as an active remembrance of Jesus, takes away some of sacred power for Roman Catholics. While I do not agree with my Catholic sisters I came to understand them much better and learned a lot more about my own understanding of communion. I am thankful for my encounter with them even though it was not easy.
Who have been the people in your lives who have challenged you into being more the person God calls you to be, just like the young woman did for Peter?
God will always ensure that there will be irritating and challenging people in our lives to challenge us to be even more authentic Christians and people of planet earth. May God give each of us the wisdom to learn from these occurrences. May we never fear the light of God being shone on us by people like the woman who challenged Peter.
The second half of Mark’s first chapter is all about healing. Early on we see that Jesus has both the power and the ability to make people whole. These miracles not only gave hope to the people who were healed, it also put Jesus in the precarious position of being in the spotlight.
In today’s story of the cleansing of the leper, we see that it is the man’s faith in Jesus that opens the door to his healing. Yet it is Jesus who chooses to cleanse the man of leprosy. By removing the leprosy, Jesus also removes the social stigma that came with it. Leprosy is a highly contagious disease. In those days the only way to prevent the spread of leprosy was to isolate people with the disease. They were cast off from their friends, family, and religious community. A leper lived a painful, shameful, and lonely life. Imagine the immense joy felt by this man who was healed by Jesus.
Jesus instructed the cleansed leper to do two things – (1) don’t tell anyone, and (2) present yourself to the priest. At this point in time Jesus was already starting to become overwhelmed with the crowds that were following him. These large gatherings may have been somewhat inconvenient, but they also presented a security risk for Jesus. The more his popularity grew, the more likely it was that government and religious leaders would see him as a threat. Jesus was attempting to keep the crowds small while also telling the religious leaders that he comes in the name of the same God they believe in.
It’s not surprising to read that the man couldn’t keep this news to himself. How can someone keep quiet when their life has been forever changed?! The man told everyone who would hear, which made life more difficult for Jesus. He would continue his ministry of healing and teaching, but it was a very different existence from then on.
- Have you ever seen a miracle happen to someone?
Yes I have I have seen miracles in people’s lives. They are not like the miracle that happened for the man in the Scripture reading today. I remember one miracle when I was working at My Brother’s Place a halfway house in Toronto for people with no place else to go. One fellow was living with schizophrenia. It was a miracle every day when he got up, brushed his teeth and dressed. One day I was asked to help him go shopping for some jeans. We came back with the things he was needing. The staff were amazed. Now isn’t that a miracle.
In a church long ago that was not known to be a happy place. One Sunday morning I came up to this church and heard laughter. I couldn’t believe it. What was going on? To my amazement two men had come back to church. They totally changed the atmosphere of this church. They liked to tease each other and their laughter transformed that congregation into a much more joyful place to be. Now that was a miracle!
It was a miracle how Jen and I met. She had asked the chair of the Sexual Abuse Prevention Committee to do a workshop for youth leaders on appropriate boundaries. Laura, the chair was not able to do it. So I was called and we planned this workshop. By the way when we talked on the phone we talked about lots of things way beyond what we needed to talk about the workshop. Then when it came time to facilitate this workshop at Conference no one came. We offered it twice and no one came. This gave us some private time to get to know each other. Our relationship bloomed very quickly. Now that is a miracle.
Think about the miracles you have experienced in life.
- When have you felt desperate for healing or change in your life?
I felt desperate for healing in my life in the summer of 1983. At the time I was training to become an Accountant. I was not a happy person. My teacher was rude, crude and nasty and I was just passing. So in the spring of 1983 I went to the UK and the European Continent for two months. It was an amazing trip where I learned a lot more self-confidence. Then soon after I got back I worked as a volunteer at the Peace and Justice Coffee House at the World Council of Churches Assembly at U.B.C. I loved the people I met! I heard some amazing speakers. I met Desmond Tutu from South Africa for the first time. I hadn’t been so excited in a long time. Then after that summer I realized that Accounting was not for me. So I ripped up my membership in the Society of Management Accountants and felt elation. This was all part of my journey to being called to Diaconal Ministry in the United Church of Canada.
A couple of years ago I was feeling very unsettled. There was a strong feeling in me that I had more to do. There were new things I needed to learn. I had this feeling for a while, but was afraid of addressing it. So on our trip to the UK one night when I was having trouble sleeping I woke up one morning knowing what I needed to be focussing on the Enneagram. The neat thing was that when I went home everything opened for me to be able to do this. Working on the Enneagram has helped me to begin a healing process helping me to recognize that I had more gifts that I needed to share within and outside the church. This continues to be a healing process.
- How would you respond to Jesus’ healing if you were a leper?
I hope I would be open to it. But I know I would be afraid of getting too close to the infected person and thus get infected myself. I can relate this to people who are living with AIDS. It was not an easy time for me and my friends to support our friend Craig who was suffering with AIDS. With a lot of prayer and intentionality we were able to be supportive of Craig and each other. We had to face our own fears and remind ourselves over and over that it was not an easy disease to get. So I hope with some help from Jesus I would have been there too for the man living with Leprosy. What would you have done?
- Why do you think Jesus wanted the man to not tell anyone?
I wonder if Jesus didn’t want him to tell anyone because he knew it would bring more people to see him and he already was exhausted. I have felt exhausted at times wondering how I could help another person who was in great need. I don’t doubt that Jesus was feeling that. Why do you think Jesus told this man not to share this Good News with any one?