Who is welcome to your table?

Table Fellowship

Sermon – June 12th 2016

4th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

By Roland Legge

1 Kings 21:1-21a

Luke 7:36-8:3

By Roland Legge

 

Next Sunday we are going to take part in the sacred meal which we call communion.  Why do we do it?  We do it to remember Jesus.  But even more importantly we do it because it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge that we are all part of God’s amazing family.  This means that every person on earth is part of our family!!

 

Jesus is calling us to love our family even those we do not like. This is no easy task!  But I have no doubt that this is what Jesus expects of us.  Do you agree?

 

Our scripture passages today introduce us to two members of our family the religious people looked down upon.  One of them, the so called “sinful woman” from the Gospel would be no different than a poor person would be today.  Why was she condemned? She had been labeled a sinner.  We do not know what her sins were even though she has been called a prostitute to this very day.  She was certainly a woman that made all the righteous people uncomfortable.

 

We know she was a woman who had been touched deeply by Jesus.  I am guessing that it was Jesus that helped her to recognize that she was loved by God even though she had sinned.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus had helped her to find meaning, purpose and hope in her life.  This woman was so thankful to Jesus that she, with great emotion, shared her heart felt appreciation touching Jesus in intimate ways. This public demonstration of love probably made Jesus host’s even more uncomfortable.

 

Jesus new that she was sorry for her sins because of her genuine penitence, shown in her tears. Through the woman’s brokenness God was able to break through to her.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees were too blinded to see the truth.  Sadly, they could not see the beauty of the transformation taking place because of their denial of their own sinfulness.  Would this sinful woman be welcome at your table?

 

 

Jezebel is a woman who would not be welcome at our table.  Have you ever been called a Jezebel?  If we have most of us would not take this as a complement.  Over the centuries Jezebel has been labeled as evil personified.  She was a woman to take seriously. But was she really as evil as we think?   We are all a mixture of saint and sinner. Maybe if I give you another perspective of Jezebel you might feel more comfortable in inviting her to the family table.

 

Jezebel was a Queen and she took her role seriously. She was also a zealous follower of Baal. Her religion was different from her Jewish husband.  It was an older religion.  It had both male and female gods.  Also, the gods of her religion seemed to be a lot less demanding. So it made sense for her to keep worshiping her god’s.  But then she was seen as a threat by Elijah because she was promoting, what was for him, the wrong god.  Jews were fervent in their belief in a single God rather than a religion of many gods.   Barbara J. Essex sums up well for me a more accurate memory of Jezebel.

She was not a harlot or seductress.  She was not involved in any sexual scenes.  She was a woman from another culture and worldview trying to adjust in a new and strange land.  She was not a villain to be eternally despised—she was religiously committed, politically savvy, determined, self-assured, bodacious, and clever.  She was dedicated to her family and a zealous missionary for Baal.  And she died as she lived—royally!

Bad Girls of the Bible by Barbara J. Essex The Pilgrim Press Cleveland Ohio 1999 pp. 63

Does this question your perspective of her? Are we now ready to invite Jezebel to the table?

 

Now back to our own time. Besides ourselves who are we going to invite to the table.  It is obvious we are going to invite all our friends and family that we get along with.  But who are the people the Spirit wants us to invite that we would rather not?  I know there are people that would make me feel very uncomfortable. What about you?

 

Most weddings I have done in my life have been great.  But once I began to prepare with a bride for a wedding she became very nasty and aggressive.  She decided very quickly that she did not like me and was determined to not have me marry her.  I didn’t.  It was one of the very few times in my life when a person has made accusations against me that were far from the truth.  I was angry and hurt.  I was hurt again when the congregation invited someone I did not respect to be the celebrant for the wedding.    But yet I know that this couple is invited to the table.  I need to remember that the pastor who did the wedding should be invited to the table too.  The miracle is that God invites us to the table no matter how imperfect we are.

 

I remember in grade one when I broke my leg I had the privilege to bring a classmate home after school to play.  I remember there was one girl I did not want to bring home.  But my mother made it very clear to me that she needed to be included.  It would be wrong to exclude her.  That was a powerful lesson for me.  Yes, this girl I wanted to exclude needs to be invited to the table.

 

Inviting my ex-wife to the table would make me feel very uncomfortable.  It is very tempting to blame all the problems of our marriage on her.  I have come to a place in my life where I can be thankful for all I learned in my first marriage.  I wouldn’t be as mature today if I had not gone through the trials and tribulations of my first marriage. I know I need to invite Yvonne to the table even if it will be difficult for me.

 

I do not believe that God is calling us to put ourselves in danger.  But I do believe God is calling us to keep breaking down the walls between us.  This is no easy job!! It is a lifelong calling.  We might not get further than trying to see that of God in another person.  It might not be more than naming an abuse which gives the abuser the opportunity to take responsibility for their behavior.

 

Who do you need to invite to the table? Who are the people you most despise?  Who are the people who have a lifestyle that makes no sense to you?  Who are the people that make you feel uncomfortable?  Who are the people you feel inadequate around?  We could fill our church several times over with the people we need to invite to our family table.

 

Are you ready to come to the table?  God is expecting you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healing the Enemy

Healing of the Centurion Slave2jpg

Reflection:

Sermon – May 29th 2016

2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

By Roland Legge

Galatians 1:1-12

Luke 7:1-10

 

Jesus on his travels meets this Centurion man. He comes to Jesus to save the life of a slave whom he greatly values.  This is surprising, that a Roman would come to Jesus to save the life of his slave as the Romans considered the Jews as irritants.  It is also surprising that Jesus would have agreed to help a Roman Military leader because it is they who were making life very difficult for the Palestinian Jews. Why was Jesus in awe of this man’s faith? I believe it was because this man had such faith in Jesus ability to heal and that this some how transcended all the differences in status, nationality and religion between them.

 

Healing, in the way of Jesus, has the power to break down all walls in society.  In ancient times healing was a common occurrence.  There were many people who claimed to be healers. There were the usual variety of people from the honest to the fakes. But, what was unusual about Jesus was that it transcended all ethnic, and religious boundaries.  Jesus was willing to heal any one.  So why do we have hang-ups with healing today?

 

In the United Church of Canada, we are not comfortable with the concept of healing even though it was a focus of Jesus’ ministry.  So, why have we in the traditional churches become so resistant to the ministry of healing?  Our Protestant forbears became so fixated through seeing the world through the rational eyes of science, psychology, philosophy, and medicine that religious mystery was put on the side-line. There was little room left for mystical, non-rational ministry of healing.  We have been hindered by the intellectual walls that we have put up to keep out the mystery.   However, I believe Jesus is calling us to renew our passion for healing.

 

I believe Jesus brings healing through his deep care for the whole person. He also has a deep care and love for the whole world and so desires to heal the world with all its inhabitants.  You can not have one form of healing without the other. When you help to heal an individual you help to heal a family.  When you help to heal a family you help to heal a community.  When you help to heal a community who help to heal a nation.  A simple way to begin a healing ministry is through prayer.

 

But a word to the wise from Morton Kelsey and Francis McNutt in how we pray for healing:

In our enthusiasm for healing prayer, a word of caution seems wise. Since Jesus is the savior and healer, we must always seek his will as we consider praying for healing. Our primary task is to listen for God and to identify where, how, and if God may want to use us as we pray.

The Healing Church by Karin Granberg-Michaelson found in https://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/healing-church?parent=47011

 

I believe that prayer is an important part of healing.  Prayer can help us discern how we can be a healing presence in the lives of those we meet whether it be family, friends or people we do not know.  I suspect the Centurion must have prayed for guidance.  What do you think?  Prayer can help us to find from within ourselves as to what healing we need in our own lives.

 

When we unleash the power of God’s love through prayer we never know what is going to happen.  Healing can happen in so many ways.  It often happens in ways that we least expect it to.  In the end the love of God is a wondrous mystery.  None of us can ever earn it, but we must be open to how ever we receive it.  I believe that when we pray there is healing, yet it is often being not what we were hoping for.

 

Healing comes out of relationships, from solidarity with those who are hurting, from people with compassion for those who are sad and depressed, from the sharing of good food, it comes from having a safe place to live that is affordable, it comes from caring community that shares resources with each other, it comes from loving family that brings out the best in each other, it comes from social transformation through education social action and prayer.  No matter how you look at it, it is the result of the Holy Spirit being at work.

 

So how do we incorporate healing into our own ministry? Morton Kelsey and Frances Mc Nutt gives us some suggestions in how to live this out.

 

1) sharing a call to a particular healing work with others, 2) seeking to know God personally, 3) praying for our own healing and that of others, and 4) offering ourselves to others for their healing. This parallels the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program–finding freedom in sharing one’s confession of weakness and serving others still in bondage to their particular addiction.


I invite us to reflect on how we at Foam Lake United Church can become more and more a healing community.  Already we have many people reaching to those in our community who are sick, grieving and/or lonely.  You offer pastoral care to those who have had a recent death in their family through providing hospitality after the funeral service.  You provide opportunities for folks to come together to play cards and enjoy a luncheon.  How else can we be place of hope and healing in our community?  How can we reach out to our young families?  How can we reach out to the many middle aged people who have stopped coming to church?  How can reach out to the many in our community and/or world who are suffering and struggling in many ways.

 

There is no magic solution to this.  A healing ministry requires the attention of all members of the congregation to make this ministry important in the life of the congregation. Your minister and a few lay leaders can not make this happen alone no matter who they are.

 

The Good News is that in the end our congregation is enlivened when we become known as a place of healing and renewal.  People will notice the difference whether we are long time church goers or new comers.  More and more people will experience a deep connection of the Spirit that is beyond anything we could ever hope to describe.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!  Amen!!!

 

A Very Windy Day

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Sermon – May 15th 2016

Pentecost Sunday (Year C)

By Roland Legge

Acts 2:1-21

 

In the prairies we can relate to wind!  Wind has a way of stirring everything up.  It can be both a refreshing breeze on a hot day or make it frigid on some cold days in the winter.  Wind can push us around. I remember when I lived in downtown Toronto I would have to be very careful when I would be walking down Bay street with the cold winds coming off Lake Ontario making it extremely difficult to walk.  Think for a moment of your own stories of wind.

 

On this day long ago the wind of the Holy Spirit woke up a lot of people.  It opened people’s minds, hearts and bodies into the fullness that the Spirit created us to be.  Pentecost was not just a one-time event but one that takes place every day if we pay attention.

 

Pentecost is about awakening to the reality that God has given us everything we need to live faithfully and fully in the world.  Instead of being threatened by this reality the spirit of Pentecost helps us to embrace this Good News.  Now everything good in the world that we thought to be impossible is now possible.

 

I invite each of you to find the Pentecost spirit right in you.  The Spirit is awakened in us when we are able to quiet our minds.  The Spirit is awakened in us when we retreat into our inner world to find out what is going on.   Miraculously, the Spirit speaks to us through the sensations we are experiencing in our minds, bodies and hearts. So God is never far away.    Now isn’t that Good News!

 

The spirit sure shook up the early followers of Jesus.  Suddenly religious, social, cultural and gender walls began tumbling down.  Jews who were following Jesus wanted to begin sharing this radical new way of living with Gentiles, women, and many people on the fringes of their communities.  This was radical!

 

In the ministry of Paul and other early leader’s women became a vital part of this ministry not only in preaching, doing social justice, but in the financing of this ministry.  Peter had the audacity of baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch!   Saint Thecla began a movement to liberate women who wanted to be free to do the work of God without the oppression of the men in their lives.  Many people living in abject poverty no longer were willing to be oppressed and started to challenge their oppressors with courage and confidence.  Why was this happening?    It was happening because of the belief that Jesus passed on that all people are equal in the “eyes” of God.

 

Sadly, as Christianity was embraced by the ruling elite, our church lost its radical hospitality.  Patriarchy took over again.  It didn’t take long to come back.  We were back to the status quo probably about 100 years after Jesus died.  But there has always been a fringe that wanted to take us back to the intentions of Jesus and the early Christian community.

 

I am not saying the early Christian community was perfect.  We can tell from the letters of Paul there were many disagreements.  People held strongly held opinions and yes there was much acrimony.  But the acrimony mostly came from the teachings of Jesus that challenged those with power and privilege.

 

Today much of the Christian church is trying to reclaim that Pentecost Spirit that breaks down the walls instead of putting them up.  Young people around our world are hungry for meaning, purpose and making the world a better place.  For them church needs to be about community where we encourage each other to build up the Kindom of God over and over again.  They want to be part of something that is really going to make a difference in their lives.   They want to make a difference in the world.

 

Today I am experiencing the radical hospitality of the Spirit just as much outside the church as it is in it.  I am meeting people from all walks of life.  People are hungry to clean up the environment. People are hungry to end the many conflicts in the world.  People are hungry to stop bullying.  People are hungry to end domestic violence.  There is so much good going on in our world if we just look for it.  This is the power of Pentecost in action.

 

I feel like I am living in the midst of Pentecost winds.  My life is going through radical change and I am so excited.  It feels like a lot of the walls I have put up in the past are coming down and I am finding new life beyond it.  Before I was too scared to try.  What would you like to do, but too scared to try?

 

Some of the great religious/social movements have been fueled by the winds of Pentecost.  The end of slavery in the western world came thanks to many faithful courageous people.  Human rights for African Americans came from millions of faithful people of all races.  The Spirit kept the people going when it was very difficult.  The end of Apartheid in South Africa ended because of millions of people around the world forcing the South African government to change and great spiritual leaders such as Desmond Tutu helped to make it as peaceful a revolution as possible.

 

The wonder of the Spirit is that it never gives up.  When the spirit resides in our hearts we feel called to do our part even if we don’t get to see the fruits of our work.  The Spirit is calling us in Canada to bond with our Indigenous neighbours and finally end the oppression against these peoples.   The Spirit is calling upon us to clean up our environment to save our world for all of life.  In the end the spirit wants each of us to have meaningful work, great friends, good health and hearts bursting with love to share with all we meet.  The Spirit wants us to honor all of God’s creation.  We are just learning about what this really means for us.  When we welcome the Holy Spirit we will have the energy to do what we are being called to do.

 

May God grant us the grace to embrace the Holy Spirit.  When we fully embrace the Holy Spirit Foam Lake United Church will find even more joy, hope, energy and new life.  The Good News being that we already have all the resources we need to do this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Courageous Woman!

Sermon – September 6th 2015

15th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

Mark 7:24-37

I love the story of the Syrophoenician woman!  This is the only story in the Christian Scriptures where Jesus is challenged and the other person wins the argument.

Many people don’t feel comfortable with this Scripture because Jesus does not look good.  He is having a bad day.  I can only imagine that he is tired from all the traveling and people he helps every day.  He just wants some peace and quiet.  I think we can all relate to that.

Yes Jesus was an amazing man, but he was still a person of his time.  He was impacted by the religious and cultural values of the time that required Jews to have no contact with foreigners, especially women.

Jesus, besides being tired was annoyed by this woman because she was breaking taboos.  For one thing women were not to speak to men.  Even more so that foreign people should not even be recognized as they are believed to be unclean.  I think Jesus was feeling grumpy.  Jesus was having a bad day.  Most men of Jesus time would have reacted this way all the time.

Then there is this amazing gutsy woman who had the courage to ask for Jesus to heal her child.  She had the courage to demand justice.  This was a very risky thing for this woman to do.  She was risking her life.  Yet she had a strong faith that Jesus would come around to her point of view.

What is also momentous is that Jesus had a change of heart.  He could not argue against her come back, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”.  He could not refuse her and still follow God. It was her courage and faith that brought healing to her child.

We don’t know how the end looked and felt like. Was Jesus moved to compassion or did he reluctantly agree to do what she asked.  I would like to think that Jesus was able to give her a big hug at the end.  But we will never know.

I feel empowered by this story because Jesus shows me there is nothing wrong in saying that I am wrong when I am.  Experiencing Jesus imperfection in this story gives me hope that I can follow in the way of Jesus.  Not many men in Jesus time could admit they were wrong, especially when it was a women who is challenging their perspective.

Who are the marginalized in my world whom I need to be transformed by?  This week the tragic death of a young child in the Mediterranean Sea has woken the world up to the continuing terrible tragedy of thousands and thousands of people who are trying to escape from war torn countries such as Syria.  It is sad that it takes the picture of a young drowned child on a beach that finally wakes up the world.  Then how long will it stay in the memory of the people of the world after some other big news story comes along.

One of the largest groups to help refuges come to our country is the church.  I believe that the voice of people of faith across our country and world need to speak up even louder putting pressure on our government to welcome more refugees who are leaving their homelands to survive.  Congregations and parishes such as ourselves are being called to sponsor even more refugees.  Yes it is a lot of work, but I believe we are called to help our brothers and sisters from around the world when they are distress as we would expect them help us if needed.

I remember when I was growing up how the Vancouver Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends welcomed a large family Vietnam, one of the families of boat people.  It was a rich experience for the congregation to get to know them and learn of their story.  It took a lot of courage for them to find their way to Canada.  We helped them to learn how to live in Canada and they offered us their friendship and appreciation.

There are many marginalized people in our country.  It is not only people of different races and nations but it includes the mentally ill, people living with disabilities, gay, lesbian, transgendered and bi-sexual people.  The Syrophoenician woman shows us how the Spirit keeps on calling us to recognize all people as children of God.  There is no such person as an enemy.

I have been blessed by people who have challenged my prejudices and racist views.  I once had qualms about same gendered couples having children.  Some friends of mine challenged me on this, just like the Syrophoenician woman did for Jesus.  After conversations with them I could no longer hold the same point of view.

What do you think the Syrophoenician woman would say to us at Foam Lake United Church?  I wonder if she would call upon us to accept all people even if we don’t agree with all the choices they have made in life.  I wonder if she would call upon us in the United Church of Canada to never divide the world into the good and bad, the sheep and goats because the Spirit never does .  Instead of wanting to blame others, she would want us to look at our own shadow side, the parts of us that are need of healing.  I wonder if she would call upon us to really listen to each other.  To take a risk of being transformed by another person as Jesus was transformed by this woman.

I pray that we can all learn something new from this courageous woman to care for those we would otherwise walk away from.  I hope we can learn from Jesus that to admit, when we are wrong, is a sign of courage.

Sometimes we do need to take a stand like the Syrophoenician woman when our hearts burns with love.  Sometimes we need to admit it that we got it wrong.  We all need to keep expanding our understanding of God’s love. God’s love is always much bigger than we think or want to admit.Syrophonecian Woman

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

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)

Grounded in Faith

Sermon – March 29th 2015

By Roland Legge

Palm/Passion Sunday (Year B)

Isaiah 50:4-9a:  Philippians 2:5-11:  Mark 14:1—15:47:

 

I am indebted to William Willimon for the idea of today’s sermon.

How many times have you heard this story?  Anyone want to venture a guess?   In all the times I have heard this story I have rarelly focused on the woman in the story who challenges Peter.  So I invite you to join me on reflecting on the importance of what this woman did.

Willimon summarizes the story like this: “It is late at night, toward the end of this Holy Week. It is after the last supper when Jesus had gathered with his disciples in an upper room. The Passion of Christ has begun. The soldiers have seized Jesus and have led him away to the palace. At the palace, Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate and is on trial. But out in the darkness, in the courtyard, down below, another trial takes place. Judge and jury at the trial is a servant girl. And though we don’t know much about her, if she is only a girl, but also only a servant, we know that she is small, insignificant, powerless person. She is not only a woman in a patriarchal culture, but she is also a servant woman. And she is young and you know that also means you are powerless, on the bottom. And this little, powerless girl is the one who puts Peter, the premier disciple, through his paces.

Pulpit Resource Vol. 36 No. 1 Year A January, February, March 2008 by William H. Willimon Published by Logos Production Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 46

This oppressed, simple girl challenges the faithfulness of Peter, the one Jesus is to call the rock of the church.  She challenges him and he fails miserably.  He claims to her that he never knew Jesus.  He does this to save his own life. But soon Peter realizes the terrible error of his ways and begins his healing process.  In effect this girl is the one that challenges Peter into being the person he claims to Jesus and the other disciples to be.  This girl was challenging Peter to walk his talk.  It was a tough lesson for Peter to learn.  It was even harder to learn from a person that society had impoverished, oppressed and ignored.  But he had to move on.  Why?  Jesus wasn’t going to let him off the hook!

We all need people in our lives to ensure we remain grounded in our faith.  We all need people to challenge us to walk our talk no matter how hard or easy life seems to be.  Willimon tells of this student:

A few years ago a student was telling me that he and his roommate were not getting along too well.  I asked him why, and he said, “Because he is a Muslim and I’m not.” I asked him how that made a difference.  And he said, “When we moved in together, he asked me what my religion was. I told him that I was a Christian.  A Lutheran—I  told him that my family wasn’t the very best of Christians and that we only went to church occasionally and it wasn’t that big a deal to me.  My roommate has this nasty habit of asking embarrassing questions.” “What sort of question?” I asked. “Well after we had roomed together a few weeks, he asked me, “Why do you Christians never pray?”

“I told him, ‘We pray a lot.  We just sort of keep it to ourselves.”

“He said, ‘I’ll say that you do.

I’ve never seen you pray.’ He prays like a half dozen times a day on his prayer rug in our room, facing the East.  When I came in last Saturday morning, and he asked me, ‘Doesn’t your St. Paul say something about joining your body with that of a prostitute?”

I told him, “Look, she is not a prostitute, she is Tri Delta. I told you I am not the best Christian in the world.  You shouldn’t judge the Christian faith by me!”

And I, hearing of his torment said, “Well how should he judge the Christian faith?  I think I need to write your Muslim roommate a thank-you note.  If he keeps working on you with these questions, he may make you into a real Christian.”

Pulpit Resource page 47

I hope this person learnt from his Muslin roommate.  He was giving him the opportunity to grow in his faith.  If he engages his roommate by choosing to learn more about his own faith this relationship could turn from being a curse to being a blessing. I wonder if Peter was ever able to look back and see the encounter he had with the young girl as a blessing.  What do you think?

Most of us have had experiences with people who drive us crazy.  There are people out there who will push all the “buttons” we have.  These are people who have much to teach us; if, only we would listen.

When I was training for ministry I was in a class called “Basic Christian Beliefs”.  Every week I was part of a seminar group.  We were made up of Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church and possibly Mennonite. We were definitely a diverse group. What has stuck in my mind from my seminar group was the Catholic sisters understanding of communion and why open communion was not acceptable to them.

This was challenging for me because I believed as I do today that communion should be open to everyone.  For me it is so tragic that Roman Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox cannot have communion together on a regular basis.  I say how you can break up the Christian family! But by the end of the seminar gatherings I could respect my Catholic sisters in the group.  You see the Roman Catholics believe that in the bread and wine is the real physical and spiritual essence of God and Jesus.  This is one of the main ways for Catholics to connect with the Holy,   So to have Communion with Protestants, who understand communion as an active remembrance of Jesus, takes away some of sacred power for Roman Catholics.  While I do not agree with my Catholic sisters I came to understand them much better and learned a lot more about my own understanding of communion.  I am thankful for my encounter with them even though it was not easy.

Who have been the people in your lives who have challenged you into being more the person God calls you to be, just like the young woman did for Peter?

God will always ensure that there will be irritating and challenging people in our lives to challenge us to be even more authentic Christians and people of planet earth.  May God give each of us the wisdom to learn from these occurrences.  May we never fear the light of God being shone on us by people like the woman who challenged Peter.1-donkeyhttptheblogthatwasthursday.wordpress.com20120403a-two-day-late-palm-sunday-reflection

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