Jesus an agent of Transformation

Sermon – April 24th 2016

5th Sunday of Easter

By Roland Legge

Acts 11:1-18

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:1-6

John 13:31-35

 

 

It seems to be the rage today to talk about the need for change.  Some say “change is inevitable”; others say “change or die”; even others say “change must come”.

 

Yet most of us do not want change.  We get used to our routines.  Our routines help us to stay calm through all the ups and downs of life.  What are your routines?  When I get up in the morning I shave and take my shower, eat breakfast, give Abby attention, brush my teeth and kiss Jen.  Somehow this daily routine gives me comfort and helps me to face the day.

 

We have our routines in our churches too.  We get comfortable in the ways we operate as a congregation.  Every Sunday each of you have a good idea of what worship is going to look like.  Our order of service does not change much.  We have our favourite hymns.  We all have our favourite places we like to sit in the church.  We are used to coming to church at 10:30 am on Sundays.  Some of us are used to going out for brunch after church.

 

The way we do the church business has not changed for years.  We trust that certain people will do the work of the church so some of us don’t have to worry about it.  If something needs to be done, we form a committee. We run our meetings in the way we have been used to for many years.  Most of us don’t want to be at the meeting, and yet we spend a lot of time talking. We have our regular social and fund raising events that seem to magically happen every year.  We like our routine.  But we can not seem to understand why the younger generation often does not want to take part in the life of our church.   Too often we want to blame them for not being there.

 

In the early church the followers of Jesus were also fixated in their old ways even when they were not working well.    Peter was struggling with whom he should be ministering too.  He had been brought up to only care for the Jews.  Jesus had pushed him to love the foreigner, but he was being tempted to go back to his old comfortable ways.  Many of his friends and colleagues were being tempted to go back to separating the so called “clean” Jew from the “un-clean” Gentile.

 

If it hadn’t been for the dream that Peter had he might never have changed.  This is what he experienced in his vision:

There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me.

 

11:6 As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.

 

11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’

 

 

11:8 But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

 

11:9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’

 

11:10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.

Acts 11: 5b – 10

 

 

So Peter takes a major turn in his ministry.   After his vision, he is invited to the home of Simon, a Gentile, to baptize his whole family which he does.  When he was there he would have had table fellowship, a meal, with them which was a big NO for the majority of early Christians. Many would see Peter as now being “un-clean”.  Yes, Peter was breaking away from the routine.  This made a lot of people uncomfortable.   It even made people angry.

 

So in the early times in the new Christian movement there was a lot of conflict between the different Christian groups many whom remained strictly Jewish while others began a growing ministry to the Gentiles until eventually Christianity became a separate religion.

 

There is nothing wrong with routine and traditions.  But it can become a problem if we get too stuck in our ways.  In the United Church of Canada, we have become too comfortable with our routines in our style of worship, the way we see ourselves and in the way we organize ourselves.

 

The world is changing at a phenomenal pace these days and the church is being left behind.   Most young people can not relate to us.  We are using a “language” that most young people do not understand.  It is going to take a lot of courage to re-think who we are, in the context of the time we now live in.  I think we need to get back to our routes which is the great commandments.  The commandments to love our selves, to love our neighbour and to love our God.  Then to reflect and act on how the Spirit is calling us to live this out in our modern times.

 

In Foam Lake United Church, we are being called to love our selves, to love our neighbour and God.  Many young people want to be part of movements that help them to live this out in their day to day lives.  Our challenge is to create a worshiping community that brings us together to spread God’s love in real ways.  It is a lot more than sitting in a pew every Sunday.  This requires us to create opportunities to grow together, to care for each other, to celebrate together, to walk our talk in our communities and to always remember that we are part of something much greater.  We are not only part of the whole Christian church we are part of the human family on planet earth.

 

In order for this to happen we must welcome all types of people into our community.  We must be willing to invite people who are openly Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Trans-gendered. We must be willing to invite people who hold different beliefs than we have.  We must be willing to invite people who are physically and/or mentally disabled.  We must be willing to invite young families with noisy children.  We must be willing to invite people who don’t seem to fit in e.g. The guy with the colored hair and earing and the women with pink hair in a short skirt. We must not only tolerate this we must be able to welcome the holy diversity of God’s creation with openness, welcome and love.

 

Are you ready to embrace the wondrous, awesome, incredible diversity of God?  I am!  Are you?

Embracing Change

Tradition: Blessing or Curse

Sermon – Augusts 30th 2015

14th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
James 1:17-27 
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

What do you think of tradition?  How important is tradition?  How do we know when to keep tradition and when to let go of it.

Jesus was trying to answer this very question to the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were concerned that Jesus and his followers were not following all the traditions such as washing their hands before a meal. Jesus felt compelled to challenge these Pharisees who were turning human concepts/traditions into holy laws.

You can imagine how the Pharisees felt after Jesus chastising them.  I don’t think they were feeling very happy.  This didn’t help Jesus popularity.

I don’t think a lot has changed since Jesus day.  Today we still get mixed up as to what we consider appropriate tradition/laws to follow.  For example, in our churches we all have different ideas as to what is proper worship. Think for a moment as to what you believe worship should include.  What songs should we sing?  How often should we have the Peace, if not at all?  How often should we have communion?  How should we offer communion in the pews or up front.  How long should church services last?  What should the minister wear?  Can we challenge some people’s interpretation of the Bible?  How free are we to have open conversations about what we believe?

Throughout my career as a minister I often seem to violate some person’s rules.  I don’t intend to break these rules, other than I stumble into it not knowing what everyone else believes.  I have had people get upset if worship goes a minute over 1 hour.  I have had people get upset when communion is served up front.  I have had people upset if a child makes a noise in church.  I have had people upset when I didn’t move through the communion ritual in the exact way that someone else had decided communion must be done.  I have had people upset when I used a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer.

I think Jesus is trying to suggest that there is no one perfect way to honor God.  There is no perfect way to worship God.  Each of us have our own preferences, but we cannot declare that there is one perfect way to do it.

There is no one perfect way to interpret the Scripture.  While the Bible may be inspired by the Spirit it is still written by people.  It has been translated into many languages and one can never perfectly translate from one language to another.  Always, a nuance of the story is lost.  Some of us will have a certain interpretation of a passage in mind, often something we learned in Sunday school long ago.  But exploring the Scripture is more like a conversation.  It requires each of us to be open to learning anew every time we read the Scripture.  If we stop being open to learning we are in effect shutting out the Spirit from our lives.

Too often we are so stuck in own point of view, preventing us from hearing anything the other person is saying.  I have been guilty of this. So most of us give up when it becomes a one sided conversation.  To continue to spiritually grow we must be open to really listening to what another person is saying.  We don’t have to agree, but we need to really listen and be open to the possibility of changing our minds whether that is a small or big change.

Our whole denomination is now being asked to explore what it means to be church for today. It means, changing how we organize our self as the United Church of Canada.  We are being asked to let go of the many ways we have organized ourselves as church to re-create a more vibrant church that is better able to share our Gospel story in a very different world.  For some of us this will feel like we are breaking the rules, going against tradition!  Yet Jesus message to us calls upon us to open our hearts and minds to seeing the world with fresh new eyes so we can bring healing and hope back to God’s Creation.

I know for many of us, including myself, this can be a scary time, because we are being asked to go forward without knowing he we are exactly going to be doing it.  We will have the wider church, General Council, regional groupings which may be for us Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario.  Then each congregation will become much more independent.  The Spirit is moving us to become more Spirit driven than run by a bureaucracy.

Are you ready for this new freedom?  What is Foam Lake United Church going to look like in 10 years?  Are you ready to face the reality that most young people are not moved to be part of a church that still runs like it did in the 1950’s?  Are you ready to accept that if we continue to operate as usual our church is on a path to death?  But are you ready to experiment?

If we are ready to experiment, the potential for a continuing strong faith community is very possible.  I could suggest many ideas to you.  But to hear them from me is not enough.  For them to make a difference they must come from you the congregation.  I wonder if we need to go back to house churches like the early Christians did.  What do you think?

If we continue to act out of love we cannot go wrong.  If we can assume that we all are trying our best to live out our faith.  If we can continue to build a strong faith through not being afraid of asking questions of ourselves, God and others we can live as a community that respects both unity and diversity.

Living through the Spirit is what Jesus continues to call us to do.  Living out of love that comes out of respect for diversity and a hunger for truth makes us stronger.  Trusting that God works through each of us we can encourage and support each other in making meaning out of our lives and finding the courage to live out the great commandments to love self, neighbor and God will bring hope, peace and justice to the whole world.Tradition from Fidler on the Roof

Jesus and Healing

Message:

Sermon – June 28th 2015

5th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Mark 5:21-43

A big focus of Jesus’s ministry was all about healing. How comfortable are you with it? I continue to grow in my understanding of healing. It happens in so many ways through prayer, touch, anointing and all the different medical interventions we can make today. It also happens through economic justice. What do I mean by economic justice? I believe that Jesus calls us to share our resources so that the people who have a lot do not have too much and those who have too little have enough.

In today’s epistle reading Jesus is in a big crowd. There is a woman who has bled for years seeking healing. In the crowd she finds the courage to touch Jesus. Jesus is moved by the determination of this woman that he tells her that her faith has made her well.   This was very risky for the woman because she was never to touch a man unless he was her husband and especially because she was sick. She could get into a lot of trouble. It was also risky for Jesus to acknowledge that this had happened because he could be labeled as unclean forcing him to go into hiding.

How she is healed is a mystery. What did happen? She found the courage to touch Jesus. She believed that Jesus could heal her, and that Jesus accepted her touch. Touch can be so healing when it is welcome. Through Jesus’ compassion and openness this woman was slowly welcomed back into community. She was no longer isolated.

Jesus did have a healing energy that came from the centre of his being. Whenever people were able to access this healing energy whether close or distant something amazing happened. We all have the same potential to heal in the way of Jesus.

A number of years ago I took healing touch training. This is a healing modality that helps to smooth out the energy of our bodies to enhance our health.   Jen is the only person I have done it with, but it seems to help her whether she has a headache or sore muscles. Think about a time when you felt the energy of another person. Have you ever noticed that when you visit some people you go away exhausted and while others you come away full of life. Each of us gives off energy. Illness is often caused when energy is being blocked in our bodies.   So by freeing the energy to flow in our bodies we can be healthier.

I think we have lost touch with the healing ministry of Jesus. I don’t believe we should allow the charlatans to get in the way of us doing this important healing ministry. I know I have been turned off by people claiming to heal you from illness through elaborate schemes that earn them a lot of money and celebrity.

Early on in my ministry I remember being asked by a paid care giver to come and heal this man from his illness. I discovered this was more about what this woman wanted him to do than what the ill person was really wanting. I was not comfortable with being asked. I discussed what we could do through the ancient practises of prayer, anointing with oil, and the laying on of hands. I also talked with them that healing is a mystery. We do not always get the healing that we would want. To not get healed in the way we would like does not mean that we are not good enough. In the end I never got to do it before the man died.

Later on I did get the chance to work with a woman who was dealing with cancer. We spent time getting to know each other, and then we had a healing circle of friends at the hospital. It was a beautiful and meaningful service. This woman still died of cancer but there was the presence of the Spirit that brought us all together in a very intimate way. In that brief period of time our grief both deepened and yet was transformed into a love that filled us with gratitude for life.

The Good News is that we can be healers every day. We heal ourselves and others by providing healthy food, by exercising, by taking time to play with friends and family. We heal ourselves and each other by doing things that feed our soul whether that be cooking, drawing, painting, gardening, carpentry, writing, singing and the list goes on.

We heal each other by taking care of the planet earth we have been blessed with to live on. Every time we love the Creation we love God. Think of all the things we are doing to keep Foam Lake a healthy place to live. We do this through:

  1. Planting Gardens
  2. Recycling
  3. Polluting as little as we can
  4. Walking when possible
  5. Treating animals both tamed and wild with respect
  6. Providing opportunities for service in our community
  7. these are but a few of the things we can do.

We heal by working to end poverty and greed. Jesus calls us to address these difficult and troubling questions. For example why do Aboriginal children receive less money for education than the rest of us do? Why do we have so much poverty when we are such a wealthy country? I think most of us know the answers.

It happens because of the choices we make. It happens because of the policy of our governments. It happens because many people like to blame the people who are already suffering suggesting they are poor because of who they are. Our capitalist society likes to think that anyone can get ahead if they try hard enough. Yet there are plenty of studies to show that life is not that easy. Yes a few move from poverty to wealth. But the majority do not. We can help to heal the world by being more willing to share the wealth that we have been blessed with and show more compassion to those who do not have enough.

Jesus spent most of his ministry working with the poor and oppressed. He still loved the Goliaths of the world but he did have a soft spot for the poor. He knew that by challenging the world to share resources so that all would have enough could heal many people.   This is what Jesus spent the majority of his life doing. How are we trying to alleviate poverty here in Foam Lake?

Let us be a force for healing change in our community and world. Amen!universal-love

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

Hope in the Midst of Suffering

Easter Four: April 26th 2015

Reflection on Psalm 23:

By Roland Legge

 

 

How many times have you heard the 23rd Psalm?  I expect many of us have heard this hundreds of times.  But what does it mean?  Fred Craddock says:

Regardless of how one interprets the psalm, the general picture of what is stressed is quite clear.  One who has known trouble or experienced life-threatening situations has also experienced the protection of the Divine.  The psalm exudes confidence that God protects so that whatever life brings to his people, they will not be overwhelmed.

Preaching the New Common Lectionary Year B Lent, Holy Week, Easter by Fred Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay and Gene M. Tucker P.G. 190

 

But, how does this prayer make you feel?  Does it make you feel safe?  Does it help you to feel God’s presence?  Does it help you to remember that God promises to never abandon us? Does it give you comfort?  Does it help to free you of your pain?

For me it does all of what I mentioned except take the pain away.  I like how Craddock shows how the author of Psalm 23 honestly presents the human predicament:

This psalm presents the human predicament without any illusion about persons beings superhumans and above pain, loneliness, and lostness; yet the symbol of God as protector and even corrector affirms the potential of a tranquil life lived amid adversaries and the harsh realities that are the ingredients of every life.

Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary P.G. 190-191

While it does not take our pain away it gives us more confidence to move ahead even though there will be times of pain and difficulty. It helps us to stay more attuned to the spirit present and available to each of us in our own bodies, minds and souls.  Do you have that connection with the Divine, the Holy, the Sacred that the author of Psalm 23 seems to have?

The language of shepherding may not be a useful image for us today, because most of us don’t know shepherds. To give us a sense of Shepherding in Ancient times in the Middle East, Matthew Penny says this on The Worship Place, a United Church on-line community:

In fact Shepherds were often hired hands who were indentured to a rich landowner almost in perpetuity.

They were not popular.  They were looked down upon as being less than whole. Knowing this about shepherd what metaphors would you use today that we are familiar with?

Today this very day many people have written their own interpretations of the 23rd Psalm.   I share two with you today as one of many tools to deepen our understanding of this awesome Psalm.   The first is written by Julia Esquivel who opens his heart to us and showing us what Psalm 23 meant for him on that day he wrote it.

When the hour comes,

you shall change my desert into a waterfall,

you shall anoint my head with fresh oil

and your strength shall overcome my weakness.

 

You shall guide my feet into your footsteps

and I will walk the narrow path

that leads to your house.

 

You shall tell me when and where

I will walk your path totally bathed in joy.

In the meantime,

I ask you, Lord, you who awaken

in the most intimate place in my soul

the Feast of Life!

That of the Empty Tomb!

That of the Victorious Cross!

 

Let your voice mistaken as the Gardener’s

awaken my hearing every morning

with news that’s always fresh:

“Go and tell my brothers and sisters

that I have overcome death,

that there is a new place for everyone

there where the New Nation is built.

 

There, where neither earth, love, or joy

can be bought or sold,

where wine and milk

are shared without money and without price.”

Julia Esquivel, Threatened with Resurrection, The Brethren Press.

 

Then on the lighter note but yet powerful is Jim Taylor’s version:

Blessed relief

God keeps a cool café. What more could I ask?

She provides a comfortable chair to take the weight off my weary feet;

she puts up an umbrella to shade me from the sun;

she serves me iced tea.

Though I have battled with the crowds at the bargain counters,

though I have suffered the scent of too many sweaty bodies,

I don’t care.

I know what’s waiting for me at the end of the day.

An ice cream cone. It drips over the edges, and I lick it up gratefully.

I close my eyes;

the sound system plays the gentle chuckles of waves lapping on a shore.

I am content.

I would love to sit here forever.

In God’s cool café.

James Taylor, Everyday Psalms, © 1994 Wood Lake Books. Used by permission.

 

Which of these two different versions speak to you most today?  For me they both focus on the presence of God through the Holy Spirit.

I hope that our congregation can become more and more the place where we will feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that it will become so abundant that it will spill over into the rest of our lives.  But we all need to keep sharing our love, talents and time.  God can not do it alone.

God needs each of us to do our part.  That might mean we need to call someone up to see how they are if we have not seen them recently at church.  It might mean that we need to invite someone to a church service or some other activity.  Probably one of the most profound ways to share God’s love with another person is to simply spend time with them being fully present to them, whether that be sitting quietly next to them, possibly holding their hand, and listening to what ever they need to say. The story I am going to talk later about on the hospitality shown through the two cups of coffee are perfect examples of what I am talking about here.    I can think of many times when people have given me exactly what I needed at the time.  These were people who were following their calling by listening to their hearts, minds and intuition.

In the end God’s promises us is to journey with us and give us the signs we need to know the direction that God calls us to be going.  But what is even more amazing is that when and if we make a mistake God will use that to bless the world and give us countless more opportunities to turn our lives around.

 

 

 mycuprunnethoverwater

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.

I

Resurrection Happens Everyday!

Reflection for Easter Sunday

April 5th 2015

Acts 10:34-43

Corinthians 15:1-11

John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

By Roland Legge

Let’s imagine what it must have been like for the disciples on that first Easter morning. It was bad enough they had lost a good friend. But they had lost much more than that.  The hope that Jesus gave them for a better world was dead now too. I expect you would be feeling down, depressed, angry and sad in their situation.

When have you felt despair?  Remember the times in you life when you felt little hope.  Sometimes we need something dramatic to happen to wake us up into seeing that God has something better planned for us.   This is what happened for Jesus followers on Easter Sunday long ago.

God broke through this hopelessness and despair through the disciple’s encounters with the risen Jesus.  Resurrection came real when the disciples new for sure in their hearts that what Jesus had stood up for, was not dead.  It was resurrection when they could feel the spirit of Jesus alive in their hearts.

No one will ever know exactly what happened, other than something amazing and awesome took place.  Jesus disciples were blessed with experiencing the presence in such a powerful way they could no longer stay in their depression.  They could no longer over look the truth that God had great plans for them.  These were Holy plans to keep on with the journey of faith that Jesus came to begin.

This was truly an amazing event.  But I think we need to be clear that this was not resuscitation, but a resurrection.  What is the difference?  A good example of resuscitation would be the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.  But Jesus story is different.  Remember how the disciples at first did not recognize Jesus when they met because he was changed.  It took Mary to hear his voice before she new who he was.  This was a spiritual body that while real looking to the disciples was not a mortal body.  Jesus could walk through doors.  One moment he would be there the next he wouldn’t.

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  Why?  I do because I have experienced resurrection many times.  For me resurrection happens when a person or community finds new life despite the difficult struggles they are facing.  I found new life after a very difficult first marriage.  I found new life when I decided to give up a career in Accounting which led me to discovering that I had a call to ministry.  I experience resurrection when I overcome a physical, emotional or spiritual issue with the aid of tools like the Enneagram.  I feel resurrection when I discover I am able to do something like Ballroom dancing that I once didn’t think I was capable of doing.

Also, I hear countless stories of resurrection when ever I visit and provide pastoral care.  We all have our times in life when it feels very bleak.  Resurrection takes place when we are able to move on in hope despite the struggles we are facing.  I can remember a family I worked with that faced such adversity.  First the Mom of the family fought cancer and died.  She left her loving husband, two children and mother-in-law.  Then the Mom of the daughter who had died also succumbed to cancer not many years later.  She had been caring for the children while their Mom was sick and then later supported her son by helping to raise the young children. You would think for the father and his children there wouldn’t be any hope left.  Yet this family held strongly together.  There was an amazing love between them that propelled them to new life, resurrection.

Resurrection comes alive in our natural divine nature to shine no matter what the world throws at us.  One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott who through her books tells of all the ups and downs of her life.  She tells of how God keeps breaking through into our life leading her from resurrection to resurrection.  I want to leave you with a short quote from her in her book “Traveling Mercies”.  I will set the scene. She is going to be a single mother. She tells this to her congregation when she is seven months pregnant.  I sense this must have taken some courage for her to announce this at her church, St. Andrews in Oakland California.  One can never know how others will react.  But she was blessed:

When I announced during worship, that I was pregnant, people cheered.  All these old people, raised in Bible-thumping homes in the Deep South, clapped.  Even the women whose grown-up boys had been doing time in the jails or prisons rejoiced for me.  And then almost immediately they set about providing for us.  They brought clothes, they brought me casseroles to keep in the freezer, they brought me assurance that this baby was going to be a part of the family.  And they began slipping me money.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott Anchor Books 1999 Toronto, New York page 101

This was resurrection for Anne because she now new for sure that  she and her son Sam could count on their St. Andrews family to journey through all the ups and downs of life with them.

I invite you to begin naming your resurrection experiences in life.  I invite you to reflect on what gives you hope.  I ask you to make everyday a celebration of Easter because God is always working God’s love in our lives and world.

Van Deusen Botanical Gardens Vancouver B.C. August 2012 (5)

The Spirit Sets you Free

Sermon – March 22nd 2015

Lent 5 (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Jeremiah 31:31-34 John 12:20-33

 

How beautiful is the passage from Jeremiah today. Jeremiah and his people are living in difficult times. They have been away from their home county for a long time. They are sad, depressed, tired and feeling abandoned by their God.

God says to them that the Spirit is about to begin a new covenant which will be different from the last one. Now God will write the Law, on each person’s heart. Hence, God will speak directly to each person through their body, mind and spirit.

Can you imagine the delight of the people in hearing this Good News! They now had something to look forward to. There was something to live for. Life was going to get better!

How do you experience God in your life? Do you really believe that God is right within you? I think many of us don’t really give God a chance to speak to our hearts, minds and souls. Our lives are too full of noise and chatter. But when we do quiet our minds the Spirit does speak to us in ways that helps us to know what is really important in our lives and how we are called to live it out.

Now most of us don’t hear an actual voice, but we do get intuition, feeling, thoughts that can help us to find our way. Can you remember a time when you suddenly realized what you needed to do? It has happened for me. Once in a while I wake up in the morning and know what I need to do or a thought arises and it won’t go away until I act on it. I don’t know where the thoughts come from. I just know it feels right. When I begin to live this out everything starts falling into place.

Now when we choose to follow the Spirit is never easy! It always takes some courage. But when we do open our hearts we find the strength in ourselves to face our own fears. I believe Jesus must have been frightened at times. He knew what he was saying and doing was making a lot of people upset.   He told his disciples that a seed must die before it can bring new life. He was trying to tell his followers that in order to transform our world we must be willing to risk in our own lives, never giving into greed, fear and violence.

Not only must we be willing to risk our lives we must be willing to let go of old ways that no longer benefit us and our world. We must lead by example in being willing to show people a radically different way to live that is based on sharing, responsible stewardship of the earth, and having enough. In the end we must never give in because there will always be some people who will resist this change because for them they have too much to lose. They prefer the devil they know than the one they don’t know.

We all have God’s Laws written on our hearts, the law of love! It is our choices whether we listen to it or not. Thankfully many people do listen. Here is one such extraordinary story of courage and faith:

Orlando Letelier served in the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile; after the 1973 coup, he was tortured and exiled by the military dictatorship, against whose human rights abuses he continued to speak out. On September 21, 1976, he and a co-worker were killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. Several operatives of the Chilean secret police were later convicted of his murder.

http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/bishops-homily-letelier-funeral?parent=41164

We give thanks for those who will never be silenced in the job of shining the light of Social justice wherever there is the abuse of power.

Another great person was Clarence Jordan who started the Koinonia community (http://www.koinoniafarm.org/) where people of faith can come together to build up the Kindom of God where all people would be recognized as the people of God. A place where the community would help to bring out the best in each other. A place where people could come together to talk about very difficult issues plaguing the world. A place where humans could learn to live in harmony with the earth. It is still there.

He is also known for his creation of the Cottage Patch Gospels. Here is the introduction he wrote for his

Clarence states:

Jesus has been so zealously worshiped, his deity so vehemently affirmed, his halo so brightly illumined, and his cross so beautifully polished that in the minds of many he no longer exists as a man. He has become an exquisite celestial being who momentarily and mistakenly lapsed into a painful involvement in the human scene, and then quite properly returned to his heavenly habitat. By thus glorifying him we more effectively rid ourselves of him than did those who tried to do so by crudely crucifying him.

http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/scandalous-life-faith?parent=41164

Clarence was a man of vision and faith.  He has helped thousands of people to find their faith and vocations in life.  His story still speaks to us today!

 

Most importantly Jeremiah and Jesus are calling upon us to be 24 hours seven days a week Christians.  But if we are to faithfully live this out we must remain open to the wisdom of the Spirit through taking time to listen to the Holy within and around us.  Jesus promises us that when we do this we will continue to find abundant life.  Leaving us with feelings of joy deep within our hearts that gives us strength, patience and love to face any challenge in the world.

 

Summer 2012 Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba 055

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