Holy Mystery

Monsal Dale UK July 2011 (3)

Sermon – May 22nd 2016

Trinity Sunday (Year C)

By Roland Legge

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

 

 

 

Do you believe in the Trinity?  Most of us in the United Church would agree that we believe in the Trinity.  But what does this really mean?

 

Our scripture invites us into a dialogue to discover the many ways we can experience the holy in our lives.  In Proverbs we are told about Mother Wisdom who has been with us since the beginning of time. Mother Wisdom or Sophia is the very feminine image of the holy.  She is loving, creative, compassionate, wise and just.  She is in full relationship with God. Romans reminds us of the person of Jesus who gave us another lens to view God, not unlike Mother Wisdom and God.   In the Gospel according to John we are reminded of the Holy Spirit who is again much like Mother Wisdom, God and Jesus.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity has come to be to help make sense of the mystery of the holy.  It suggests that God is both one and three.  God is relational. For example, God expresses itself through the Spirit.  God expresses itself through Wisdom.  God expresses itself through the person and spirit of Jesus and most importantly through each of us. I love this description of the Trinity by Brian McLaren:

“In the early church, one of the most powerful images used for the Trinity was the image of a dance of mutual indwelling. The Father, Son, and Spirit live in an eternal, joyful, vibrant dance of love and honor, rhythm and harmony, grace and beauty, giving and receiving. The universe was created to be an expression and extension of the dance of God – so all creatures share in the dynamic joy of movement, love, vitality, harmony, and celebration. But we humans broke with the dance. We stamped on the toes of other dancers, ignored the rhythm, rejected the grace, and generally made a mess of things. But God sent Jesus into the world to model for us a way of living in the rhythm of God’s music of love, and ever since, people have been attracted to the beauty of his steps and have begun rejoining the dance.” -Brian McLaren, Found in Translation

 

I imagine God as this creative energy that continues to animate life for each of us and all of Creation.  If I just look around I will see, feel, and experience God.  I see God in each of you.  I feel God within me.  I experience God in the sound of the bird, the bark of a dog and the meow of a cat.  Where do you experience God?

 

For me the creative loving force we will call God is a mystery.  God is way beyond anything we can comprehend.  When we express God we are limited by our humanness.  Many of you grew up with the image of God as father.  Some of you still appreciate it today.  But God is way beyond the image of father.   There is no perfect definition of God. Here are some descriptions I use:

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Friend
  • Creator
  • Redeemer
  • Saviour
  • Healer
  • Child
  • Lover

And much more.

 

Feminist are transforming our church and world through their take on how God – Three in One can tear down the barriers that humans have built up through greed, fear, and hunger for power. This is what feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruther says:

 

Feminists are seeking an alternative understanding of power: power as mutual-empowerment, power that does not dominate, force, or coerce, but heals, reconciles, and transforms. In the presence of such power, we are not demeaned or rendered vile and unworthy, nor made helpless and called to submit; rather we are called into healthy self-esteem, into the power of one’s own creative agency that can affirm the good potential and creative agency of others.

Healing power dissolves the competitive model of power relations where one side’s power is the disempowerment of the other side; where one side’s victory is the defeat of the other side. Healing power repents, forgives, and transforms relationships so that both sides of former conflicts are enlivened, made whole, and enabled to rejoice in one another’s well-being. This is the appropriate understanding of the power of God, not models of power drawn from human relations of domination, war, and violence.

https://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/image-gods-goodness?parent=46596

 

I believe that God is most active in community.  When we come together in community doing the work of the Spirit the work we do gets magnified many times over.  The mystery that what we do as a community is much more than what the same number of individuals could do alone.  Why does this happen? It is because the God energy becomes stronger and stronger when people with the same intent come together.  It somehow unleashes the energy of the Holy Spirt on more and more people.  It inspires acts of kindness and compassion in more and more people.  It spreads the love of God among more and more people.

 

The wonder of God as father, son and holy spirit or creator, redeemer and sustainer that this force of love continues to open our hearts that of recognizing God in more and more people.  We would not be marrying divorce people if it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit.  We wouldn’t be recognizing the ability of women to be clergy in our United Church without the Holy Spirit.  We wouldn’t have become a welcoming church for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, trans-gendered and two spirited people without the Holy Spirit.  The power of the Holy weaving in and out of our lives everything life-giving is possible, even the end of violence in our world not only toward people, but toward the whole creation.

 

May we unleash the power of the Holy on Foam Lake and continue to break down the barriers in our community whether they be social, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, and age that prevents us from truly being the people of God.  The Spirit will guide us on our way.

 

 

 

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

Prophets Love them or Hate Them

Sermon – Feb 1st 2015

4th Sunday after Pentecost Year B

By Roland Legge

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

I Corinthians 8:1-13

Mark 1:21-28

 

In the Gospel according to Mark we enter the scene where Jesus is exercising demons. In this era we don’t usually think of demons in our lives. Do you? We probably talk more about addictions and mental illness. But the bottom line is that Jesus has come in to the world to heal human suffering . Yet we all struggle with the meaning of pain, suffering and death in our world.

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? I think most of us have. Yet too often we try to make sense of why we or others suffer. Why did Aunt Joan get cancer? Why did Jim get hit by a drunk driver? Why was Alice murdered? Too often we want to explain this away by suggesting that God was responsible for this. This makes me angry because I don’t believe in a God that would do that. To me a God who did this kind of violence should be charged with crimes against humanity. What do you think?

What would you have said to William Sloan Coffin on the death of his son? Here this story by William Willimon?

After his son died when his car plummeted into Boston Harbor, the great preacher William Sloane Coffin preached his most memorable sermon in which he said: When a person dies, there are many things that can be said, and at least one thing that should never be said. The night after Alex died, a woman came by carrying quiches. She shook her head, saying sadly, “I just don’t understand the will of God.”      Instantly I swarmed all over her. “I’ll say you don’t, lady! Do you think it was the will of God that Alex never fixed that lousy windshield wiper that he was probably driving too fast in a storm? Do you think it is God’s will that there are no streetlights along that stretch of road?”      Nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around with his finger on triggers, his fist around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead set against all unnatural deaths. The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is, “It is the will of God.” My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.

Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon for Feb 1st 2015 : http://www.logosproductions.com/content/february-1-2015-suffering-love

 

I totally agree with Willimon and Sloan. I believe the Creator grieves with us when something tragic happens or when a loved one dies whether young or old. God is all about mending the world.

Jesus shows us in Mark how he has been called to help people to live full lives in the here and now. He keeps calling us to mend the world. Jesus calls upon us to participate in the world through the diverse ministries we are called to. In today’s readings we are made aware of the two distinct ministries, one being healing, where Jesus heals the man and the second, prophecy, described to us in the book of Deuteronomy.

Our world is in such great need of healing. There are so many hurting people because of dis-ease, mental issues, hopelessness, violence and poverty. Jesus calls upon us to share the bounty of resources we have been blessed with on our planet earth right now. What are the implications of Jesus call to action?

All of us participate in this important ministry of pastoral care. We care for our children. We reach out to those who are having a hard time. We let people know we are praying for them. We encourage friend, and stranger to do the best they can with what they have been given. What else is God calling us to do? Think about this for a moment. (Silence…..)   I have been given the gift of walking with people on their journey. What gifts have you been given?

Also, we are also called to the prophetic ministry. Today many of us misunderstand prophecy. Too many people think it is about the Bible predicting the future which couldn’t be further from the truth. The ancient and moderns prophets were people called to uphold the covenant we have with God. They are to call his/her people to live up to the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount. They are to warn us what could happen if we continue our sinful ways. They are present to “rock the boat” so much that they will get our attention. They are present in our lives to remind us that we have been given the power to choose between right and wrong. They never make us feel comfortable!   Yet they open us up to the possibility of new life.

Today we are more and more aware that our communities and world need both the pastoral and prophetic ministries for us to remain healthy. We each need pastoral care which includes healing to be fully present in our world and open to the Spirit. But we need the prophetic to remind us that we are our brothers and sisters keeper. When one person suffers we all suffer. The prophets recognize that there are systemic problems in our world such as materialism that needs the light shone on and hearts that need to be opened so that the world can be transformed into Kindom of God.

The Spirit calls upon us to walk our talk by living in ways that do not rely on other people being abused by poor labour practices and violence. It calls upon us to hold our politicians accountable for their actions in whether they are making our country a just place for all.

In the next year we will likely have a federal election. First think what Jesus would have our government live out and then ask questions of the candidates to see which person will do the best for our people in Canada and around the world. If a policy is good for Canada but destructive for the world we need to think twice. But we also must show our appreciation for those willing to serve our country and promise to work with whomever comes into government. When we care for others there is room for dialogue which can open doors to greater unity and purpose.

I invite you to reflect on how you continue to be called into service by God. What ministries of Pastoral Care and Social Justice are you being too called to live out?   What is God calling us as a congregation to be about in our community and world? As we continue to live this out more people will be interested in participating in our church because they want to be part of a community that is making a real difference in people’s lives.

[RL1]romero04

The Power of Intention

Sermon – January 11 2015

Baptism of Jesus Sunday (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Genesis 1:1-5

Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11

 

Today we mark the day of Jesus baptism. It was an important day for Jesus! He felt compelled to follow in the way of John the Baptists. He wanted to start afresh again through the repenting of his sins. He wanted to publicly profess his faith in God! He also wanted to make clear that God was God and Caesar wasn’t.

The story goes that when Jesus is baptized a dove appears, a sign of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. Do you remember when a dove appears in another Biblical story?   If we go way back to the book of Genesis a dove is sent out to find dry land and finally it returns with a leaf in its beak. I think Mark wants us to connect Jesus to Noah. Hence he has a special relationship with God and he is to be trusted.

I believe in the power of intention! Jesus made his intentions known to God in how we was going to live his life. This was his strong desire to spread God’s love and stand is solidarity for justice. However this is much more than our annual New Year’s resolutions. How many of us hold on to our resolutions for more than a month. I don’t think many of us do. Do you?

When we set our intentions we are using all of who we are in mind, heart and body in connection with the Holy. This becomes a powerful force for change. How do we do this? It comes out of our prayer, mediation, and worship, all within community. It comes out of listening to the Spirit within us and around us. It comes from the cries for justice from our brothers and sisters from around the world. It comes from the teachings of Jesus and other wise people. The miracles is that the more we live it out the more right it feels. However it is often not easy.

In the United Church of Canada we mostly baptize our children. I am probably one of a few of you who was baptized as an adult. For most of you the equivalent would be your Confirmation or Re-Affirmation of Faith. It is the time when we proclaim to God and our community of our choice to live in the way of Jesus. It says to ourselves and those around us, that everything comes from God. We have been put here on earth to be good stewards of amazing Mother Earth to whom we are just one small part of.

As follower of Jesus we choose to try out a very different understanding of how humans and Creation are to live in harmony with each other. We say NO to the Domination system that says only the toughest and most violent people will survive. We offer the radical understanding of power through vulnerability and weakness. We follow in the way of Jesus that gives this world an opportunity to pass on this amazing planet and gift of life to many future generations ahead.

Sadly Christianity has been terribly influenced by the Domination System. This had led to horrible violence being let loose on many vulnerable people. Millions of people have been killed in the name of Jesus. If Jesus could speak to us today he would be very angry and sad!

The Jesus Movement is one of compassion! It is also has a peculiar concern for the vulnerable and oppressed! This makes many of us in the West uncomfortable because we have so much. Yet Jesus cares about us all.

His call is for us is to be more generous with all we have been given. It doesn’t matter to God who paid for it or made it. It does matter how it is being used. It does matter that those who are in greatest need benefit from the technology; production of food, clean water, affordable housing. People who are sick such as the thousands of people in Africa who are suffering from Ebola should get the medicine they need whether or not they have money to pay.

God calls all of us into ministry. Ministry is all about spreading the Good News of Jesus. This is not about capitalism, materialism or militarism. In fact it goes against any ideology that gives the power and privileges to a few people. The Good News is that we each have enough! The Good News is that we can all enjoy life when we share more equitably with each other. The Good News is that no one needs to suffer from poverty, violence and or war. The Good News is that there is a better way to live on this planet.

So go and keep spreading the Good News! Jesus has abundant life planned for you! Jesus knows that you have important things to do in this world that will help to make it a better place for all. Jesus has given you everything we need to live well in this world.

 Jesus and Discipleship

Called to Witness

Sermon – January 4th 2014

2nd Sunday of Christmas

By Roland Legge

Hebrew ScriptureJeremiah 31:7-14

Gospel:  John 1 (1-9) 10-18

 

 

Who was John the Baptist?  Scholars believe that John the Baptist had his own movement for liberation.  John was calling on people to turn their lives around well before Jesus came on to the scene.  Many of us believe that Jesus was originally a follower of John.  But as time moved on Jesus got a name for himself.  The scripture we read today is the result of the early followers of Jesus choosing to keep John the Baptist in the story although in a lesser light.  In the end John’s movement eventually joined the Jesus movement.  But this took many year and in the mean time the two groups struggled for acceptance.

In our Scripture reading today, from the Gospel according to John, the author shows us that John the Baptist’ ministry was to be one of witness to Jesus.  Jesus needed John to point to him as the son of God, the Messiah that many Jews had been waiting a long time for.  Why did Jesus need a witness? Because Jesus was so busy healing and proclaiming the Good News that few people understood who he really was.  John was needed to proclaim to the world that Jesus was no ordinary man!  He was indeed the son of God.

While for some Jesus was not big deal because they saw Jesus as some crazy zealot who was trying to free the Hebrews from the Romans.  They didn’t think that Jesus would amount to much.

But then were those who felt threatened by anyone challenging the status quo whether that was the religious officials or the Roman Empire.  It didn’t take long before a group of people, Romans and Jewish officials sought out Jesus to arrest him and kill him.  They were particularly concerned by the many peasants getting excited that God had something better planned for them.   The smell of rebellion was in the air.

In this atmosphere Jesus was calling on his followers to be witnesses for the Good News that Jesus and his disciples were proclaiming.  To be a witness to Jesus was also to be a disciple, choosing to live out this vision through words and actions.

Witness

We all need to discover how we are being called to witness for Jesus.  It won’t be easy!  Every day thousands of people proclaim their witness for materialism and capitalism on all our media devices.  So we need to find ways to get people’s attention.  We need to walk our talk so people will take us seriously.

How do you witness to the power of Jesus in our world? Sometimes it comes from the most unlikely of people, often a child.  I quote from a book by Thomas Long:

Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist, tells the story of the time, early in her practice of medicine, when she was treating a little girl named Anna for leukemia. This was back in the days when the recovery rate was woefully low, and though Anna had gone in and out of remission many times, by the age of seven she was facing the end. At Anna’s side at the last were her parents, a hospital chaplain who favored psychology over theology, and Komp herself, who at the time would have described herself as a “pragmatic post-Christian agnostic.” Komp writes, “Before she died [Anna] mustered the final energy to sit up in her hospital bed and say: ‘The angels – they’re so beautiful! Mommy, can you see them? Do you hear their singing? I’ve never heard such beautiful singing!’ Then she lay back on her pillow and died.”      Anna’s parents reacted “as if they had been given the most precious gift in the world.” The hospital chaplain quickly left the room, leaving the agnostic Komp alone with the grieving Christian family. “Together we contemplated a spiritual mystery that transcended our understanding and experience. For weeks to follow, the thought that stuck in my head was ‘Have I found a reliable witness?’” – Thomas G. Long, Testimony, Talking Ourselves into Being Christian

 

I think of two of my elementary school teachers, Mrs. Gardner and Mrs. Reid who taught me at Edith Cavell Elementary School in Vancouver.  They witnessed to the power of God by the way they taught each of their students.  As a child I could feel the love they had for me and their confidence in my abilities.   I also could feel that they had the same love for each of their students. 

 

I think of Russ Hudson, one of the teachers and researchers at the Enneagram Institute.  He is a witness for the type of world that Jesus desires us to experience where every person will be recognized and honored for the gifts and love they bring.  He points to the way where people of all and no religions of the world can get along with each other.  He points to the truth that God has given us everything we need to live fully in our world.   He shows us how we can begin to access the holy within each of us.  It is a matter of uncovering what we already have.

 

I try to witness to the holiness of each person in our world.  I believe that we are all made in the image of God.  We all have that of God in each of us.  It is even there in some of the most terrible people in the world.  I believe that we all have amazing stories to tell about our lives.  Every story I hear are most amazing stories of love, hope, determination and struggle.  So whenever you share your story with me I feel very blessed.  You all act as witnesses to the holy calling that each of us have been given.  Your stories fill me with hope because I have no doubt that God continues to be active in our world working through each of us.

Preaching the Word by William H. Willimon

The more we intentionally choose to witness to the type of world that Jesus desires us to live in, the more faithful our witnessing we will be. The best way to do this is by living as though this is already true. So we love each other for who we are. We speak up for those who can’t. We share everything we have. We care for planet earth because we have been blessed with its providence. We learn to resolve disputes nonviolently. We can have heaven right here on earth. This is the Good News!

What do I want for Christmas

Sermon – December 24th 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

By Roland Legge

Hebrew Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7

Epistle: Titus 2:11-14

Gospel: Luke 2:1-20

 

 

For most of us Christmas is a very special time of year.  It seems to bring out the best in us.

We love to get together with family and friends.  We think of our elderly and disabled who are not able to get easily out of their homes.  We think of the many individuals and families who do not have enough to eat and so donate to food banks.  We seem more generous at this time of year as many non-profit organizations get more donations.  We seem to make a bigger effort to get along with each other. It is said that one night during the 1st World War the soldiers stopped fighting on Christmas Eve and came together for a party playing soccer, sharing some of their rations and showing each other photos of their families back at home.  These are all little miracles.

Now imagine if we lived each day as though it was Christmas. I think the world would be a lot better place. As Christians, followers of Jesus, we indeed are called to live this out each and every day. How do you live this out each day?

As I get older the giving and receiving of material gifts seem to be getting less and less important. What I do value is having time to be with friends and family. I value taking some time to reflect on how I am living out my call from God. What do I need to keep doing? What do I need to let go of? What new thing might the Spirit be calling me to do. I value doing my best along with others to continue to make the amazing planet earth we have been gifted by God a better place where all can enjoy.

There is much I want for Christmas! But not just Christmas but every day. I want human kind to learn how to live more in harmony with Mother Earth. One thing I would like to see are our governments and mining companies take greater responsibility in how they mine the resources and how they treat the local people; many who are being displaced around the world. I would like us to value all of Creation simply because God created it. It doesn’t have to have a financial value to be of worth.

I want to see the end of wars around our world. Violence is such an outdated way of solving disputes. Too many people make huge amounts of money making all the equipment and computer programs to fight these terrible wars. We must not let greed rule our ways. If soldiers can stop fighting for a night we can stop fighting any time we choose too. Jesus did really show us the way to resolve disputes non-violently. Let’s take Jesus seriously and really follow in his ways.

I want to see the great religions of the world to get along with each other. I believe there are many paths to the Divine. Instead of fearing each other let us be open to learning from each other. Let us find ways to work together on issues of importance that we can all agree on such as peace, the environment, healthy people, the economy and much more. Let us enjoy the diversity of people that God created us to be.

I want to see the end of all forms of prejudice whether that be ageism, homophobia, racism and/or gender. We need to keep asking God to help us see that we are all created in the image of God. To be reminded that God is not concerned with all these prejudices but more with how we treat each other and Mother Earth and all that makes it up.

Yes there is much I want for Christmas and for everyday of the year. The Good News is that many acts of love, compassion, reconciliation and justice happen every day. Sadly the media seems to ignore much of this. So remember this when you watch the news. This doesn’t mean we should ignore all the bad things happening around the world.

There are so many challenges our world faces. Yet, if each of us live our lives with the help of our inner and community guidance of the Spirit the world will continue to be transformed. The greatest gift you can give the world is your time and talents in living out the great Commandments to love God, self and neighbour. With each of us doing our part in our personal and corporate lives the world will become more and more healthy. God knows you make a difference! Do you know that?

One of the greatest gifts I have ever received is the relationship I have with my wife Jen. Through her love for me I am learning to be more attentive to the Spirit. She helps me to be my God given self. To be my true self. I am also thankful for my extended family and friends who make it awesome to be me. I treasure each and every one of them. So when I am around Jen, family and friends I feel valued and so feel compelled to make a difference in the world. I want others to feel that same kind of love that melts away fear and hatred.

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope it will be a time to enjoy yourself, your family and friends. I hope it will be a time to reflect on your life and listen to the inner voice of the Spirit that will continue to show you the way. Most importantly I hope we will reflect on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. To ask how is Jesus asking you to live in his way?

May God continue to bless you on this journey.

Christmas

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)

Whom do we choose to live by?

Sermon – October 5th 2014

16th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46

I don’t like today’s passage from Matthew!  It has such violent images.  Why am I using it?  I am using it because it has been used by too many Christians over the centuries to oppress our Jewish brothers and sisters.

First, I think it is important to remember that Jesus was a Jew.  Jesus was an Israelite. Jesus never intended to start another religion he only wanted to reform his own.

The Gospel according to Matthew was written by a Jew in a time when there was a lot of pain between Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and those who didn’t.  It was a painful time—not unlike some of the conflicts we have faced in the United Church of Canada which divided congregations.  These conflicts divided many families, just like conflicts in the early days of Jesus’ ministry.

The parable of the Vineyard was probably adapted from a Parable that Jesus actually said.  In Jesus’ time he was simply wanting to his encourage his followers to keep on going despite the anger by those in power both the Roman Empire and the religious establishment.  I need to be clear that the religious establishment did not represent all Jews.  There were many who were opposed to their intention to keep the power in the hands of a few people—not unlike the Papacy of today or sometime even our General Council of the United Church.

Sadly, this scripture has been used as justification to abuse and kill Jews throughout the centuries.  We must change this way of thinking throughout Christianity.  This is why the United Church of Canada has been working hard to build relationships with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Through these relationships we can better understand each other and find ways to work and worship together.  This doesn’t mean we are always going to agree. No two Christians or Jews will agree on everything.  There is great diversity of views in both religions.

I love this re-telling of the Parable, told by William H. Willimon, which reflects on how Christians have treated Jews. He says:

The church in its dealings with the Jewish people has acted like the bad relations in this parable:
A family, who lived in a beautiful house beside a blue lake, was surprised to hear a knock at the door one morning. There stood at their front door a couple with two children. They were even more surprised when the couple told them, “We are your long-lost relatives from out west. We have come to visit you for just a couple of days. Can we come in?”
The family, though surprised by these relatives whom they had never heard of, graciously received them into their home, and began to graciously entertain them for the next couple of days. After two days had passed, the relatives said that they would like to stay a few days longer. The family graciously agreed.
But then, the family began to notice that their guests, their long-lost relatives, were beginning to behave less like guests and more like permanent residents. The relatives began to redecorate the room they had been given. In fact, they spilled out of the guest room and took over two additional rooms in the house, rearranging the furniture, taking pictures off the walls and putting different pictures there that they had brought with them, and in general, acting as if they owned the place.
Still, the family tried graciously to welcome them and make them feel at home. The trouble was, the guests were beginning to feel a bit too much at home. Two weeks went by, and still the relatives, whom the family thought were only temporary guests, were with them.
One day there was a knock at the door and the family was surprised to see six or seven people standing at the door, holding their suitcases. They had never seen the people before and were startled when their relatives called out from the four rooms they were now occupying in the home, “Oh, those are some of our friends from out west. We told them what a nice house you live in, and invited them to come stay with us and visit. We knew you wouldn’t mind because you are so gracious.”
Well, I won’t go into the rest of the story, but you can probably figure out how it ended. After a couple of months, the family had been reduced to living in only one room of their own house, while their temporary “guests” had taken over the entire house for themselves. Eventually, in dismay, the family – feeling like strangers in their own home – moved away, driven out by those whom they had once received so graciously.
Take this as a parable, akin to the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 21 of the wicked tenants in the vineyard.

 

Sadly, we Christian began to impose our particular ways on our Jewish brothers and sisters and tried to make them look inferior. We would go to great lengths to destroy their communities.  We must not let this happen again.

So what can we get out of today’s Scripture? I think we all fall short of following the way of Jesus and we need to reflect on ourselves.   It is against the ways of Jesus to put down his own people.

I believe the Spirit calls upon us in our families and communities to hold each other responsible for following the Great Commandment: love God with all your heart and soul, to love your neighbour as yourself and to honor and respect yourself as a man/woman of God.  We are the only ones who can change ourselves and we need to focus on ourselves rather than put others down to lift ourselves up.

Canada is becoming more and more a multi-faith country.  I hope we will seek to get to know people of other faiths and philosophies and recognize what we have in common. We can allow our differences to help each of us grow into being more understanding, compassionate and open minded.  May the Creator help us, of different faiths, to work together for a better world and let the Spirit lead us to a just, loving and sustainable world that will honor all of Creation.

 

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