What is this Jesus Really About!

Sermon – September 20th 2015

By Roland Legge

Proverbs 31:10-31 
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

What does it mean for you to be a Christian?  Right from the beginning the Disciples struggled with what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.  In today’s reading from Mark the Disciples do not want to hear what Jesus had to say.  They are still living in denial.   They want Jesus to be the great leader who will fix their problems.  They want him to fix their problems without them having to make any changes.  What are your expectations of Jesus?

I have a lot of sympathy for the Disciples.  Jesus was asking a lot of them.  But what I love about Jesus is that he invited them to join him.  He used no coercion. He lays everything out so there are no surprises.  If people are to follow him they must be willing to turn their lives around and put their faith into the love of God.  They must put wisdom of God before anything else.  They must be willing to find strength in vulnerability.  They must be willing to mix with those on the edges of society who are living in poverty, violence and all forms of abuse.  Jesus was challenging them to walk their talk.

It is ironic that the first people who really understood what Jesus was about were the people who were threatened by him such as Pilot.  So why was it that the people who were trying to kill him understood who he was while the Disciples who followed him did not?  I think they understood because they could grasp the huge cost the Jesus movement was going to have on, them.   It took Jesus disciples a long time before they fully understood.  They didn’t get it until well after Jesus death and resurrection.

Jesus struggles to get our attention today.  Many of us don’t want to hear what he has to say.  We like the disciples, metaphorically, don’t want to get our hands dirty.  We want someone else to fix our problems.  But yet Jesus never gives up on us.  He keeps calling us to true discipleship.  He does without judgement always hoping that one day we will be ready to be transformed.

Are we ready to be transformed?  Are we ready to be born again?  There is nothing magical about this process.  It is all about finding the Christ self, our higher self within us.  The Christ self is a gift from God and we all have within us.

There are many ways to access the higher power within us.  It is always helpful to quiet our minds so the Spirit can mold us.   Reading scripture in community can help us to discern our call to heal the world.  For me the Enneagram is a great tool to reveal our Christ self because it helps us to release behaviours that are not of service to the world. It helps us to see the difference between our egos, our fake selves, with our truth that comes from wisdom and true presence.  Presence coming from when we are able to release all our insecurities, greed, fear and hopelessness and fill that void with the love of God.

The Good News is that we don’t have to wait for anyone else to join us in our mission to transform the world.   One person can begin to make a huge difference just by changing the way they act.  In Systems theory it shows us that one person can begin to affect change in any organization by acting in ways that they expect their colleagues to act.  One person, destructively acting out, can show us where the organizational system is not healthy by asking these question.  Where is their discord?  Where in the organization are people not having their needs met.  Where in the organization are the members not being heard and respected?  Often once these problems are resolved the person will ether change their behaviour or leave.  Have you ever experienced this?

What will be most surprising are the people who we will meet on our faith journey. Sometimes they will be the people we least expect.  Maybe a person from another faith will want to join us.  Maybe it will be wealthy business person who is wanting to make the world a better place.  Maybe it will be a person who has a criminal record who is eager to help.  God has called us all to transformation, are we ready to receive those who are hungry for experiencing the Kingdom of God?

How are we at we at Foam Lake United Church trying to transform the world.  Individually many of you volunteer in our community.  Know that your dedication really does make a difference. But what are we doing as a congregation?

There are people in our community who are eager to make a difference in the world.  I believe that part of our mission is to invite community members to join us in some community mission that will do something positive for our community and world such as services for children and young families, cleaning up the environment, ending prejudice, building relationships with first nation brothers and sisters. This would strengthen our community, giving us a purpose and encourage those in our community who are looking for a spiritual home where they get to live out their faith.  A place where people get to make a difference.

When we allow our maker to engage us in ministry our lives are changed for ever.  The things that used to bother us are no longer giving us sleepless nights.  We no longer worry who is better or worse than us.  We no longer worry about who is good and who isn’t good.  We no longer worry about who has the right doctrine because we are living out our faith.  We no longer worry about having enough money because we will receive whatever we need to do God’s work because of the Creators abundance that there is enough for all. We no longer need someone else to tell us what to believe because our faith is now etched in our hearts.  You cannot help but know what we believe by what we do and say.

While being a follower of Jesus is not easy.  It also brings us great joy and purpose in life that nothing else can replace.  It is what guides us in what we choose to do.  It gives us amazing community to help us celebrate life and people to help us through the rough times.  It gives us a safe environment to grow beyond our personality.  It brings us together with other people to make the world a better place.  Most importantly it helps us all around the world to come together in peace, love, justice and harmony. To be the new world wide community of love, justice, generosity, and hope that both nurtures people and all of the Created order on this planet and throughout our galaxy.

jesussmhttpthetyee.caCitizentoolkit20041122JesusTrickster

Happy Birthday United Church of Canada

Sermon – June 7 2015

2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

By Roland Legge

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

2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1

Mark 3:20-35

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pulpit Resource Classic by William H. Willimon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Spirit Claims us All

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – May 10th 2015

6th Sunday of Easter

By Roland Legge

Acts 10:44-48

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

universal-love

I love the United Church of Canada

Today I want to reflect on the United Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada is our countries’ largest Protestant Church that came together in 1925. It was the coming together of most Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregationalist churches. Later on another smaller church joined us. It was a miracle!

Our denomination has continually grown in faith and was never afraid to change when the Spirit called. We are one of the first churches to marry divorced people. We are one of the of the first churches ordain women. We are one of the first churches to openly ordain or commission Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual or Transgendered people. I am proud to be a member of this church. Now many other denominations are having the same conversation.

We have continually sought to re-imagine the church in each era of our short history. In the 1960’s The New Curriculum for Sunday school moved us into a more relational understanding of God. God was part of our lives and no longer a distant force that we feared. We have explored controversial issues such as human sexuality, marriage and much more.

We are a big tent church made up of faithful people who understand God and the Spirit in many ways. We celebrate diversity and respect each other’s opinions. Sometime we have heated debates, but we always are able to work together even when we disagree.

What I love about the United Church is that we don’t have to agree to a certain dogma to be a member of our church.   We seek to welcome all people regardless of where they are on their faith journey with love and a desire to be God’s loving presence in the world.

Our New Creed says it well for me what we believe in the United Church of Canada.

We are not alone,

we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:

who has created and is creating,

who has come in Jesus,

the Word made flesh,

to reconcile and make new,

who works in us and others

by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:

to celebrate God’s presence,

to live with respect in Creation,

to love and serve others,

to seek justice and resist evil,

to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,

our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,

God is with us.

We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

The United Church of Canada, General Council 1968, alt. 1998

As the minister of Foam Lake United Church I seek to encourage each of us on our own faith journey. Sometimes we need to be comforted.  Sometimes we need to be challenged.  When we are able to freely to share our understanding of faith with each other in respectful ways we all have the potential to keep growing in our faith.

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Would you invite Jesus for Dinner?

Sermon – March 15th 2015

By Roland Legge

With Thanks from the Online Resource Faith Lens from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Numbers 21:4-9 Ephesians 2:1-10 John 3:14-21

 

Gospel Reflection

Presenting his gospel like a stage play director, John has turned down the lights.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night because John wants us to see that he is in the dark, in sharp contrast to Jesus, the light of the world (see also John 1:9, 8:12, 9:5).

In their conversation, Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus to see things in a different way, but with limited success.  Their disconnect mirrors a passionate divide that runs throughout John’s gospel between those who accept Jesus and those who reject him.  Those who accept him believe, and those who do not “are condemned already” as they shun the light in favor of darkness.

Jesus is like the dress:  the same phenomenon seen very differently, but always sparking a strong reaction.

But John, seeing him differently, would say that Jesus is the light.  The world is the dress.  (The Greek word for world is cosmos, which has various shades of meaning itself—humanity, “the way things are,” the powers that resist God, all of creation.  John, whose writing covers many levels at once, probably intends all of these simultaneously.)  Jesus the light shines upon the world and reveals its true colors.

But Jesus also reveals to us the true colors of God’s heart:  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  God loyally loves the fickle world.  The designer’s eyes consistently see the world as worth saving.

The price tag attached is steep:  Jesus will end up black and blue on the cross.  Yet the colors of Easter are white and gold.  The Light changes everything.

http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286

Discussion Questions

  1.  How do you see Jesus?  How is your view different from how others see Jesus?  Does he bring love or judgment…or both?

I see Jesus in many ways. I see Jesus as a spirit filled man who strived to make the world a better place. Jesus for me was one of the most God conscious persons to have ever lived on this planet. He had a close relationship with the Holy. Yet Jesus responded to the world in a particular time in history. While he was way ahead of his time in how he treated women, children, and people on the fringes of society; I don’t think you could call him a feminist.

How is my view of Jesus different from others? I put an emphasis on his humanity. I can relate to Jesus more if he is human. Can you?

I believe Jesus was a great healer. He spent much of his ministry healing people. I think the church has forgotten this important part of who we are. We too can heal in the name of Jesus. We have the ancient traditions of healing touch, anointment with oil, prayer and presence. Where I differ in my understanding of healing is that curing is not its prime purpose. Healing happens even when a person is not cured of his/her disease. Healing begins to happen when we care for each other in loving community. Healing happen when we recognize that of God in each other.

I believe that Jesus does bring both love and judgement. However Jesus is not one I fear.   I believe he wants the best for each of us. I would be very comfortable in having him over for dinner. Yet Jesus is much more than meek and mild. He was not afraid to shine the light on the dark. He was not afraid to speak out against injustice.

  1. How do you see the world?  Is it good or evil…or both?  If the world were two colors, what would they be?

I love the book by Matthew Fox called “Original Blessing”. In it Matthew suggests that when God created the world, all of its inhabitants animate and non-animate were blessed. I believe that God is rooted in our whole planet. Whenever an animal, plant or tree is made extinct I believe that God/Spirit is hurt because a part of it has been killed.

I believe that Mother Earth is good in the sense that it was created with love. Nature, the plants, animals, trees, fish, insects, people, minerals, and soil were all created so that all could live in union with each other. While nature is violent and destructive at times it is not evil. Mother Earth is alive and constantly changing. When earth is left to its own natural order life will continue to go on, there will be equilibrium so that the planet can stay healthy. Humankind is just one small part of the Created order.

Sadly we humans have over populated the planet. Over the centuries we thought we could do anything we like. But now more and more people are realizing that we have sinned by abusing our planet home. Sin for me is when we lose our connection with the Holy. We sin when we begin to think that the extinction of species, the poisoning of the air and water is okay. We sin when we begin to think of ourselves as gods who think we can overcome all our problems with technology. We sin because we have forgot the truth that we people are connected to everything on our planet and that every time we hurt the planet we hurt ourselves.

  1. Are there things in your life you keep in the dark because you are afraid they will be exposed?

Yes I have kept certain things in my life in the dark because of feeling embarrassed and ashamed. This is why so many people didn’t like Jesus because he had the natural gift to shine the light on the dark parts of our lives. Another way of saying it is our shadow sides. When I was young I feared that people would find out that I was nervous and anxious most of the time. I didn’t want people to know because I thought they would think I was crazy and a failure in the world. Ironically when I learned that I did not need to hide my problems I felt much better.

I think we all have parts of our lives we like to hide. Many of us think we are the only ones suffering because of some mental, physical, relationship or spiritual matter. It is kind of like trying to carry a huge rock on our back because we feel so exhausted from trying to hold everything in. But when we do let go and share what is going on in our lives we feel much lighter because we have let go of all the burdens we have been holding on to.

However I know many people will find themselves in a situation where it is not safe to share what is going on. In that case people need to find a safe place where they can tell the truth and get the support to work through the issue or issues and the help to discern what relationships which can be redeemed. To find the courage to let go of the relationships that are no longer serving them anymore.

– See more at: http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286#sthash.m4XN8P2n.dpufblack-jesus

Joy and Suffering

Sermon – March 1st 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Mark 8:31-38

 

Jesus was now ready to teach to his inner circle. Jesus new that like most people of his time, his disciples had a very different image of what the Messiah was to be about than what Jesus new to be true.

Jesus wanted to prepare his people for the great struggle ahead. The next few weeks were going to be very difficult. He wanted his disciples to know that he was likely going to be killed for what he believed. He wanted them to know that this was not the end, but just the beginning of the bringing in of the kingdom of God. He laid it on the line by saying that if they want to continue his movement they too must be willing to risk suffering to overcome the principalities and powers of their time. This was hard for Jesus followers to hear.

Not only is it hard for Jesus inner circle, it is hard for us to hear. Most of us don’t want to suffer. It is not pleasant! For many of us we think of church as a place to get away from all the problems of the world. We come to church to feel better. We don’t come to church to be encouraged to suffer.

I don’t believe that Jesus desires us to suffer. But our God calls upon us to bring transformation in our world through vulnerability and suffering because it is the only way overcome the violence in the world. It is only way to overcome violence with a peace that will be lasting.

Selma Montgomery March

This is not a path for sissies! It takes great courage to live in the way of Jesus that calls upon us to share, show compassion, stand up for the least, to not have more than what we need and to recognize that of God in each other. It is not convenient to have no one person, group, race or nation to blame for our own problems. Instead of blaming we are called to seek solutions that are a win, win for all. This takes great integrity!

So who is Jesus for you? Think about it for a moment (silence). Here are some descriptions that come to mind:

  • Friend – some one that cares about you.
  • Saviour – some one that heals
  • Saviour – some one that protects you from the devil.
  • Liberator – frees people from oppression, poverty and violence
  • Justice maker – some one that stands up for human rights and the inherent value of each person
  • God of mystery – one that connects us with the holy/sacred
  • Oppressor – one that keeps those with power and privilege in power.
  • Military leader – one that commands the army to victory.
  • Lord: one that act likes a political leader whether a king, prince, prime minister or president.
  • Lover – one that loves each person unconditionally no matter whom they are. 

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/march-1-2015-not-knowing-what-we%E2%80%99re-getting

So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today? Why do you come to church? Do you come to be transformed? Do you come to live in Christian Community where we are called to live differently? In our time God is critiquing our Capitalist System that puts value on money where as our faith puts value on people and all of God’s Creation. Do you come to church to share time, talents and love with each other? Do you come to church to be a sign of hope in our world? Are you here to say there is another way of living in the world that makes room for us all?I invite you this week to reflect on what it means for you to be a Christian? There is no one correct answer. But it must reflect the Great Commandment of God which is to love God with all your heart, to love yourself and to love your neighbour as yourself. Then to remember that neighbour is our brothers and sister around the world. Then for us as a congregation to reflect on how we can be God’s light here in Foam Lake and area. What is the Good News that we have to freely share with all people. How can we continue to be the light of Christ in our community?  

Sadly we try to over simplify why bad things happen. Too often we want to blame the sufferers for their own demise. Sometimes we want God to be the reason. What would you say to this preacher who tried to explain the plane accident on the Hudson River in New York City? He believed this was planned by the God so we could experience the wonder of God. But what would he say to families whose loved ones died in a plane crash who did not survive. So what would you say to the family of a person who was killed in a jet crash? I could not say to the family that this was all part of God’s plan. God does not treat us like puppets. God values all lives. God does not pick and choose who lives. There is so much that happens in our world that is even beyond the control of God. But God does enter us through our suffering and grieves with us. God shows us a path to a better way of living.

Jesus demonstrates to us how God enters each of us through our suffering. Bad things do happen to good people for many reasons. It is often through no fault of the sufferer. I strongly believe that God does not desire for any of us to suffer. But suffering is part of the human condition. How could we feel joy if we didn’t know suffering. It is often at these times, when are defenses are down, the Spirit has a much easier time getting through to us. It is at these times we become most aware of how dependent we are on God. How we need each other. It is one time when we discover what the most important parts of life are.

This made Jesus a very powerful man. There were many who worshipped him. There were many who were moved towards starting revolution because Jesus made it clear that God had something much better planned for them. As well, Jesus message was welcomed more by the poor and abused than those who were rich. Yet for those in the pinnacles of power Jesus was looked down upon as a trouble maker. As one that needed to be dealt with even through imprisonment and/or death.

For me Jesus is one the most God conscious persons to have ever lived. Jesus was able to live fully in each moment of his life. He knew himself well so he could be open to others. He didn’t allow his own personal issues to get in the way of helping others. He allowed the Spirit to dwell within him. He had the incredible ability to see what was blocking others from living their lives fully. Jesus could heal through the telling of parables, prayer and healing touch, if people chose to receive Jesus gift.

This made Jesus a very powerful man. There were many who worshipped him. There were many who were moved towards starting revolution because Jesus made it clear that God had something much better planned for them. As well, Jesus message was welcomed more by the poor and abused than those who were rich. Yet for those in the pinnacles of power Jesus was looked down upon as a trouble maker. As one that needed to be dealt with even through imprisonment and/or death.

Jesus demonstrates to us how God enters each of us through our suffering. Bad things do happen to good people for many reasons. It is often through no fault of the sufferer. I strongly believe that God does not desire for any of us to suffer. But suffering is part of the human condition. How could we feel joy if we didn’t know suffering. It is often at these times, when are defenses are down, the Spirit has a much easier time getting through to us. It is at these times we become most aware of how dependent we are on God. How we need each other. It is one time when we discover what the most important parts of life are.

Sadly we try to over simplify why bad things happen. Too often we want to blame the sufferers for their own demise. Sometimes we want God to be the reason. What would you say to this preacher who tried to explain the plane accident on the Hudson River in New York City? He believed this was planned by the God so we could experience the wonder of God. But what would he say to families whose loved ones died in a plane crash who did not survive. So what would you say to the family of a person who was killed in a jet crash? I could not say to the family that this was all part of God’s plan. God does not treat us like puppets. God values all lives. God does not pick and choose who lives. There is so much that happens in our world that is even beyond the control of God. But God does enter us through our suffering and grieves with us. God shows us a path to a better way of living.

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/march-1-2015-not-knowing-what-we%E2%80%99re-getting

So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today? Why do you come to church? Do you come to be transformed? Do you come to live in Christian Community where we are called to live differently? In our time God is critiquing our Capitalist System that puts value on money where as our faith puts value on people and all of God’s Creation. Do you come to church to share time, talents and love with each other? Do you come to church to be a sign of hope in our world? Are you here to say there is another way of living in the world that makes room for us all?

I invite you this week to reflect on what it means for you to be a Christian? There is no one correct answer. But it must reflect the Great Commandment of God which is to love God with all your heart, to love yourself and to love your neighbour as yourself. Then to remember that neighbour is our brothers and sister around the world.

 

 

We are the people of Hope!

Sermon – November 30th 2014

Advent One

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 64:1-9 1

1st Corinthian 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37:

 

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Today we focus on hope. Are you hopeful?  Are you looking forward to the future or do you fear the kind of world we are leaving for our grandchildren and great grandchildren? Do you believe that with God’s help we can make the world a better place to live?

Hope is not about wishful thinking.  For Christians hope is about being able to face the realities of the world while believing in every cell of our bodies that with God’s help we can transform the world.  We can transform the world into the Kindom of God where all can live in harmony with each other and God’s creation.

Hope is also means action.  We can’t have hope unless we are willing to live into it.  We cannot have hope unless we are willing to live as though the Kindom of God is already here.

I have hope!  I have hope because I believe that God has given us everything we need for all of humankind and the rest of God’s creation to live in harmony with each other.  I have hope that humans will stop fighting each other in wars.  I have hope that we will stop polluting the world as more and more of us realize that we are part of God’s creation rather than separate.   I have hope because I experience acts of love, generosity and courage every day.

I have hope when:

  • I experience people helping out each other
  • when I see a white police officer hugging a young African American on Facebook
  • when a community celebrates the return of a Mom dog to its puppies that just happened in Saskatoon
  • when we celebrate the love between two people of the same sex that is being celebrated more and more around the world
  • when the Irish Catholics and Protestants come together in peace
  • when children are welcomed into our church and allowed to be children

Our Scripture today from the Gospel according to Mark sends a message of hope to his people.  He says to his people that he knows of their many struggles they are facing trying to remain faithful.  He says to his people he knows of their fear.  He says to his people he knows of their impatience for change.

More so, the author of Mark calls on his people to live as though the world has already been transformed into the Kindom of God. He calls upon them to live with hope even though that hope sometimes is hard to find.  He promises that God has something better for them and the whole world.  There will be a radical change.  There will be disruption that will turn the world upside-down!   Suddenly the lowly will be honored.  Those with much will be humbled.  But he reminds them we will never know when this radical holy intervention will take place.  The challenge is to live as this transformation of love has already happened.  Mark’s message was received with thanksgiving!

Sadly this apocalyptic scripture has been misinterpreted.  Apocalyptic simply means revelation.  It was a message of hope often written during times of great oppression.  It was not intended to be an excuse to ignore the injustices of the world.  It was never intended to set up divisions between the saved and unsaved.  It was never meant to ignore the realities of the world. It was a never an intention to keep the status quo. You see God cares about all people.  God cares about living on this amazing earth.  It is not all about the afterlife!

Many North American Christians have corrupted the scripture into making our faith all about following a particular dogma.  This serious misinterpretation has led to movements so focussed on reaching the hereafter that they ignore the realities of the world.  It is often wealthy people who do not want to give up their privilege that often comes from the abuse of God’s creation; that does not require them to share their own wealth; that doesn’t require them to clean up the earth.  Why would you worry about the health of the world if you can’t wait to leave it in some glorious nuclear war?  Then even to make this even worse they begin to think that nuclear war is good thing because it will get them to Jesus.

So when Mark talks about the new world.  This is not a heavenly world, but one grounded in the here and now.  This is a new world order where human kind will live peacefully, and sustainably.

I want to end with some words from a great speech of Martin Luther King Junior, using apocalyptic speech that talks of the real hope that Jesus was about:

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination . . . So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition . . . Some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells . . . Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive . . . Go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today . . . And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

May we each incarnate the Hope that Jesus has passed on to us making the world the place that God intends it to be.

Amen.

New York City June 2014 (147)

Success or Faithfulness

Sermon – November 2, 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus has had it!  He is tired of these so called Rabbi’s who do not walk their talk.  They work so hard at keeping their outer appearance so pure that they have little energy or commitment left to live out the Love of God in the world.

“It is important to note that Jesus critiqued as a Jew and follower of Judaism — as a prophet — and so his critique is coming from within.  Jesus does not critique the teaching or the clothing of the Pharisees — their outward signs of piety.  Jesus upholds the Pharisees as good teachers, but poor models.  He observes how the meaning of some outward symbols of piety has taken on new and less noble meaning because the Pharisees are not “walking the talk.”

Yet these devotions were not all bad.  The Pharisees worked hard on their outward appearance partly in order to maintain the Jewish identity by wearing powerful symbols of the Jewish faith.  This probably helped the Jews to maintain their distinctiveness during a time when there was great pressure for them to merge with the powerful dogmas of the time.

Jesus was calling for a new community where each of us is set free to be our God given selves.  He believes that words and actions need to be in harmony.  He wants his disciples to walk their talk and help each other with their challenges. Jesus calls on his followers to be humble finding strength through vulnerability.

Sadly, many of us in North America and Western Europe also get caught up in how we look.  I expect that you have noticed the many commercials that keep telling us over and over again how happy we can be if we would just consume their product.  How happy we would be if we wore a certain brand of clothes, perfume, after shave or drove a certain type of car or had a particular credit card.  The list goes on and on.

Yes, Jesus wants us to be free. To bet set free from all the false gods of consumerism and power. Free from ways of living that come out of worshiping false gods such as lust, greed and self-delusion that can never truly bring hope, joy and meaning.

To be set free is also not to get caught up in our guilt.  A little guilt is okay if it spurs us on to new life but too much can make us powerless.  Thus I hope today’s sermon and service is helping to waken up within each of us who God wants us to be.

But this does not mean we are to do more.  It could mean that we are to do something different.  It could mean making a change in our life whether small or big. Yes, small changes can dramatically alter our attitude from hopelessness to hope.

But often before we move on, we first need to see where we are not living in harmony before we can begin to make that change. Can we answer these three questions: 1. Do our inner lives connect with our outer lives?  2. Do people see and experience the real us?  3. Which definition of success do we live by?

Sadly, many of us have a warped understanding of what it means to be successful. We too often think that success means to be married, have two children, make lots of money, and own a big house, two cars, a motor boat and a quad.

I believe that as a church and a society we need to redefine what success is. Here is what Mother Teresa says about success.

 “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke of success.  He spoke only of faithfulness in love.  This is the only success that really counts.”

(Aha Creative Resources for Preachers Oct/Nov/Dec 2002 Vol. 12 #1)

Also Molly Blythe Teichert tells the story of John Kamm a successful businessman in Hong Kong who learned that working for human rights is more important than making money. I quote:

“When people looked at John Kamm they saw a successful businessman, the president of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of a multinational corporation.  They saw a man who lived in a luxury apartment, drove a Mercedes, and employed two maids.  But God saw an advocate for freedom.

 

Shortly after the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese held a banquet to honor American businessmen working to help China attain most-favored-nation status.  As the host of the banquet was publicly thanking Kamm for his efforts, Kamm took the opportunity to ask for the release of political prisoner Yao Yongzhan.  The host of the banquet stormed off stage and Kamm was reprimanded for humiliating his host. Yet two weeks later, Yongzhan was released from prison.  Kamm decided to try again. He inquired with a local official about the possibility of releasing brothers Li Lin and Li Zhi.  He says that a week after their release, he and his wife had dinner with them in Hong Kong.

 

“They told me the day I got involved was the day their situation improved.  I wept.  That’s when I started to think that I could talk to the Chinese about freeing prisoners, and they would do it.”

 

Apart from any official human rights agency, John Kamm has helped to facilitate the release of more than 250 political prisoners in China – more than any other organization or government in the world.”

                Molly Blythe Teichert, Information from New York Times, “Kamm’s List” Aha pg. 26

 

I hope you noticed that Kamm had a passion for what he was doing.  I don’t believe that Kamm had his arm twisted to get him to do it.  I hope that we in our church communities can encourage each other to discover our passions.  We must get away from the old model of “twisting people’s arm until they do what the church board, Presbytery or Conference wants them to do.

What passions do you have?  Do you love to work, play and teach with children?  I certainly notice that among our church school teachers.  I notice how our musicians love musicI see how our gardeners and our volunteer custodians keep our church looking good.  I can often smell fresh coffee and food at church gatherings as many people share with us their passion to cook.  We have some fine artist in our communities. We have carpenters, teachers, nurses, doctors, homemakers and the list goes on.

To have a passions does not mean were going to enjoy every minute of what we do but we will have at least a sense of satisfaction that we were able to help out our church, community, family and thus God.   What ever we did will have a sense of rightness about it that no “arm twisting” could ever accomplish?

 

 

St. Julians Church Norwich England July 2011 (4)

The Beauty of Grey

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – October 26th 2014

20th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians

Matthew 22:34-46

We live in a very complex world.  We are often trying to simplify our lives.  So it can be very tempting to join a church that will tell you what to do in every circumstance.  To paint the world as though it is black and white.  To paint a world where everything is either good or evil, clean or dirty.

Why should we believe in our/Christian Jewish religion?   Jesus said religion is not there to be our moral code which defines who is good and who is bad.  It is not there to turn us into obedient people.  Rather it is there to compel us to love with all our heart.

In his time, Jesus wanted people to get down to the basics of their faith.  Why? Because people were getting confused.  People were getting confused because of the hundreds of rules that had been created to help people to stay on the narrow path of faith. It almost became impossible to remain faithful because you couldn’t help but break a rule because there were so many.  Sadly those who were privileged used these rules to keep their positions of power and the money in their pockets.  Those in power were also using the rules to rob the masses of their potential to confront the powers and  principalities.

So Jesus reminds his people of the great commandment that was passed onto him through his Jewish faith community.  He says that if you live by this commandment you will have fulfilled the Law.

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” —Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus says along with other Jews that the great commandment is one that sums up all their beliefs. It gets to heart of how we are to live our lives faithfully. If you love the Lord your God, you love yourself and love your neighbour then you are meeting all the expectations of God.  Jesus took it even further in saying that we should love all people whether they are Jew or not.  When you have done this you have truly fulfilled the Law.

How do we do this?  I appreciate how author Stacy Martin expresses this in an article she wrote for Sojourners magazine.  She shows how we can remain faithful through the following of the Great Commandment which includes these spiritual gifts.

Grace is the first gift of Christian faith.  For me grace is all about giving myself and others the room to learn through the trials and errors of life.  It is about reminding ourselves that none of us are perfect.  It is about acknowledging the light of God in each person we meet.   It is being open to God/Spirit working miracles of transformation through our lives even when at times we feel there is little hope.

Relationships is another gift of faith.  It is acknowledging that we relate to the Created order through God.  How God is always part of the picture.  So whatever we choose to do in this world whether that is mining, forestry, and/or trying to support our families we cannot create a hierarchy of God’s Creation to justify its destruction. It is all  GOOD!  I believe that when ever we show our love for God, ourselves and each other we will treat the world with greater compassion.  The world indeed will get closer to being the Kindom of God.

Forgiveness is another gift of faith.  Acts toward forgiveness free us up to keep living out the great commandment.  Acts towards forgiveness free our children from holding on to the same negative/destructive feeling creating new opportunities for healthier relationships.  Acts of forgiveness open up our hearts to love some of the more challenging people in our lives.

Community is the last gift of faith.  God’s call to community reminds us that we cannot live without each other.In a world where we live with the misconception that we can be successful on our own we are challenged to say with conviction that we need each other.  That when one person is hurting we all hurt.  When one person is celebrating we all celebrate.  We are the body of Christ!  Every one of us has something to offer this world.  Every one of us is loved by God!

Living out the Great Commandment is a lifelong goal.  It is never easy because sometimes we will miss the mark. However, I dream of a more loving world.  This isn’t a pie in the sky dream!  It is a dream that becomes true day in and day out.  Every time you and I intentionally choose to live in the way of Jesus, loving God, loving ourselves and each other, the world will continue to be transformed.

One way that I try to live out this commandment is to use the gifts I have been given.  I believe that is true for all of us.  So I invite all of us in our congregation to reflect on how we continue to live out love in Foam Lake and area and the rest of the world.  How do we show the grace of God?    How do we emphasize the importance of community so we can find a greater richness in life and be motivated to share our gifts with our brothers and sisters around the world?  How do we show the power of forgiveness?  A great place to start would be to forgive ourselves so we can feel the expansive love of God within us and around us.

Then, how do we forgive others while not allowing ourselves to be a door mat to be abused again and again!  Finally the last one is community.  How do we as a congregation seek to be community?  How do we create space for truly sharing who we are with others so we can be there for each other in all the ups and downs of life?

I end with this thought.  I have found it important to forgive myself.  I have been my own greatest enemy.  I continue to learn that it is okay not to be perfect.  I continue to learn that I don’t always need to have the answers.  But the miracle is that the more I come to live in harmony and love with myself I find it easier to open my heart to others.

I invite you to take some time in this coming week to spend some intentional time forgiving yourself.  If you need some help, do it with a friend you love.  If you need some help, pray for help from the Spirit.  Always remember that God loves you unconditionally.  Nothing can every change the mind of God.

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Whom do we choose to follow?

Sermon – October 19, 2014

19th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Matthew 22:15-22

 

The conflict between Jesus and his critics had been getting worse over time, since the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. The Herodian’s being a political movement who totally supported the rule of Rome wanted to expose Jesus’ anti Rome/anti tax beliefs because they saw him as a threat to the status quo. The Pharisees, who while not believing in the tax, had come to accept it as a reasonable cost to having the freedom and security to function in the Roman world.  They saw Jesus as a threat to the status quo which gave them power and privilege.  So some Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus a difficult question with the intention to get him in trouble which in essence goes like this: “To whom should they give their loyalty—to God or to Caesar?”

Now Jesus was very wise in how he answered the question.  First he asks for a coin because he does not have one.  Only his critics have a coin. They have in their pockets coins with the idolatrous image of Caesar stamped upon it. Then he says the famous words which is “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to give unto God what is God’s”. So what does Jesus really mean?

Sadly Jesus words have been misinterpreted many times with people claiming that Jesus wants us to pay our taxes to government unquestionably.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I think it is important to note that Jesus does not specify just what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.  He doesn’t have to.  He is talking with people who know scripture by heart and know this psalm: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.” (Ps 24:1)

What Jesus was saying in his time was that if you have chosen to worship Rome then it only seems right then for you to pay taxes to Rome.  However if you choose to follow God then you have no responsibility to pay money to Caesar.  Note that Jesus did not have any coins with the image of Caesar on them.  He is showing clearly where he puts his trust.

Who do we worship today?  Where do we put our trust? Do we worship God?  Or do we worship money, power, armies, bombs, alcohol, drugs etc.   This is a hard question because I think we all want to say that we worship God more than anything else.  But do we?

Our actions often speak louder than our words.  In recent federal elections I suspect that many people put the god of financial security as more important than following our Creator God.  Many have seemed to forgotten Psalm 24:1.  Remember it: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”  The environment seems to become less important when ever we realize there is a financial cost to cleaning it up.  Christians often forget to ask the question as to what does God call upon Canadians and their government to do in the short term and long term.   We look at our economy in every possible way other than what God’s economy might look like.

The challenge for Christians today is to become politically active like Jesus was.  Yes Jesus was politically active. He stood up for God’s economy.  This included hanging out with people that were looked down upon by the religious of his day.  It included speaking the truth when most did not want the truth to be spoken.  It included practicing civil disobedience when he became so angry by the abuse of those who benefited from money that came into the Temple.  Remember that time when Jesus turns over the tables in the Temple?

Jesus was part of a larger movement that was exposing the evil of the Roman Empire.  He was always challenging people to follow God and not Caesar.  The poor and oppressed were empowered by his message because he was giving them permission to challenge Caesar when Caesar was going against God. This was more than enough to get him killed on a cross.

In Canada today we talk about the rule of law.  I don’t think Jesus would disagree with countries having rules of law.  However Jesus would be very angry at any government saying we have to follow all laws without question.  There are many laws we should follow because they help to bring about God’s economy; that being a world where people have access to basic human rights such as food, shelter, education and community.  However Governments have too often let power become their god.  When this happens they will bring in laws that are unjust, immoral, violent and destructive.  Jesus says we are to refuse to follow such laws as long as we are willing to face the consequences.

For example, my father strongly believed this.  He for many years up to his death was part of the Canadian Peace Tax Fund.  Every year this organization figured out what percentage of our taxes go to war.  Then my father would deduct that amount from what he sent to the government and remit the rest to the peace tax fund.  He strongly believed that we need to put money into peacemaking rather than war making. He was following in the path of Jesus.

Would I every break the law for God?  I hope if the opportunity comes along I will have the guts to do it.  But I know there are so many ways for Christians to stand in solidarity with the oppressed.  This is why I am not afraid to raise controversial topics because I know that is what Jesus would have done if he was here today.  This is why I am not afraid to meet people who society have looked down upon.  What do you do when you are confronted with injustice?

The world is a complex place.  It is not easy to make these tough decisions.  Sometimes it is hard to know what God wants.  But with prayer, worship and community we can together make choices each day that are more congruent with our creator.  These would be decisions that will show others that it is the Creator God who we truly worship.

I believe with God there is always hope.  A hope that says we can make a difference in the world; a promise that we will not be left alone. I believe that God will show us the way if we would only listen.

All quotes except for when it is stated otherwise come from Pulpit Resource Vol. 36, No. 4 Year A & B A October, November, December 2008 by William Willimon Logos Productions Inver Grove Heights MN pages 1316

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