Calling the Imperfect

Sermon – June 14th 2015

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 15:34—16:13 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17 Mark 4:26-34

 

 

God is not happy with King Saul. So God decides to be subversive. Yes subversive! God decides to choose another King without Saul knowing about it. In our world most of us don’t feel comfortable with subversive acts because it forces us to see the world in new ways.

Why was God so upset with King Saul?   The story tells us that God was upset with Saul because he wasn’t completely obedient. Samuel tells Saul to kill all the Amalekites. But Saul kills doesn’t kill the king and leaves some of the best cows. So God is angry and declares he will choose a new king.

Thankfully today we know that God wouldn’t call on anyone to kill any people. In some ways Saul showed a tiny bit of compassion by not killing the King and some of the cattle. But to follow the story God sends Samuel on a mission to find a new King.

So I find it interesting what God is looking for in his new leader. He gets Samuel to interview all the members of a family that Samuel came across on his travels. He knew this was the family, but which family member to choose. God seems clear that God is more concerned about the hearts of each of these men. While God was more concerned with the heart, the story tells us David was very handsome. God did see a lot of potential in David. So David is chosen as the new King. Then Samuel, David and God come together and conspire to take over the Kingship. So Samuel on behalf of God anoints David with oil to be the messiah, the chosen one. David eventually become the new King after Saul kills himself in battle.

This is not a nice story. It is about power, war, and violence. We may find it hard to understand but this is how the people of this ancient time experienced their world. The change of power from one king to another often was not peaceful. Even though our so called democratic system is full of problems it is much better than it was then. Thankfully we still have peaceful changes of government.

This story is really all about discipleship. God calls David to be the new King. God calls each of us to be disciples. God saw in David a great leader. God see’s great gifts in each of us.

So God calls us to be bearers of Good News! What does it mean for us to be bearers of Good News? For me an important part of this is that God works most effectively through community. That is why we have churches. In our community here at Foam Lake United Church we are called to encourage each other in doing God’s work. We come together to listen to God because we can help each other discern each other’s callings. We come together to care for each other. We come together to celebrate life. We come together to help our neighbour.

Living in community gives us great courage to live faithfully in the world. Many of you care deeply about our town. United Church people tend to be very involved in our communities and you are no different. I invite you to name out how you support our community………….   All this is part of your ministry. All of this is about our churches ministry.

One thing we can all do is help people discern their calling. Did you know that most ministers became aware of their calling when someone asked them to prayerfully consider it? Did you know that very few of us have direct experiences with God like a voice in the night speaking to us? This is how I experienced my calling to ministry. Linda Irvin and others invited me to consider a call for ministry. If it wasn’t for her and other friends I might not have ever thought about it. When I did start to reflect on this it just felt right. I have now the same feeling about teaching the Enneagram personality system which just feels right. So what is God encouraging you to continue or begin? Being minister is not the only profession people are called to. All of us are called to something and that could be a parent, teacher, engineer etc.

I believe that when we are grounded in faithful community we find a courage to live that we didn’t realize we have. For some of us this might mean that we have the courage to take another path in life. This could mean moving. This could mean changing jobs. This might mean taking better care of ourselves. This might mean a rapid change in diet. It might mean working with people that you don’t feel comfortable with. It might mean going out of your way to help another person. I might mean standing up for another person who has been silenced. It might be to call to raise children whether they are your own, adopted or foster children. Only the Spirit within and around you can help you to know what is right for you.

Sometimes we are called to extraordinary courage. Here is one such example as told by MacKinlay Kantor:

In the middle of a terrible airline crash, an ordinary stewardess named Frankie returned again and again to the crashed plane to retrieve victims. Then the plane exploded, killing this ordinary hero. Her story was described by the author, MacKinlay Kantor: Frankie lies on a hill now. Toward the north is a hill where Central High School looms and where her principal used to talk about heroes. Maybe three miles away to the southeast is the house where she spent the first nine years of her life – and that is on a hill also … You might imagine that Frankie was up there somewhere, waltzing; she’d always loved to dance.     She could be, too … Except that something made her go back into that airplane cabin 11 times, and 11 times was just one time too many.     A crashed airplane is strictly for stalwart men and asbestos suits and masks. It is not for the petite little Miss Pretty – not unless she is a Mary Frances Housley. Then she had such love in her heart that no high-octane explosion can ever blast it out. – MacKinlay Kantor, “A Girl Named Frankie,” Reader’s Digest found on Pulpit Resource http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-14-2015-god%E2%80%99s-messiah 

 

Most of us don’t have these dramatic experiences. But what each of us has been called to do help to help bring the world a little closer to the Kindom of God we have been promised. A place where all will have enough food, shelter and love.

 

Where two or three are gathered httpywmovement.orgwhere-two-or-three-are-gathered

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!

Radical Mary Mother of Jesus

Sermon – December 21st 2014

Advent Four – Year B

By Roland Legge

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16: 

Luke 1:47-55  Luke 1:26-38: 

 

Can you imagine being Mary, mother of Jesus?  I wonder if the story we heard in the Bible today was really so straight forward.  Do you think she would have accepted the news that she was going to have a baby out of wedlock so well and so quickly?  What do you think?

I don’t want to denigrate the story of Mary because I believe she was a very courageous woman.  But I think the over simplification of her story does not reflect the strong faith and courage she had.

Now let’s imagine that you are Mary.  You are young. You are soon to be married.  You don’t have a lot of choice about how you will live your life.  You are feeling very vulnerable. The man you are to marry is a kind and gentle man.  But he is a man of his times.  You have to be careful in how you treat him.  You have to be careful in what you say.

So when an angel visits  you with the so called, Good News, that you are to give birth to the son of God you at first are shocked.  You think: How could this be?  I am not ready for this!  I am in so much trouble!  This could mean the end of my chance to marry Joseph.  This may be the end of my life.  You can’t help but cry!

Mary could have run away and I wouldn’t have blamed her.  But Mary shows us the courageous woman she is. She does feel strongly called to bring this child into the world.  She somehow knows he is going to be special.  But she makes this choice knowing she is doing this at great risk to herself, the baby and the rest of her family.  Mary is far from being gentle and innocent.  She has a fire within her, the Holy Spirit that leads her forth into the chaos of the world.

I love the Magnificat, Luke 1:47-55, which for me describes her faith.  This shows us the radical side of Mary. It turns upside down the traditional understanding of her.

 

Sadly the Christian church has changed Mary into this quiet obedient women that no woman could ever hope to emulate.  Why?  She has been shaped through theology to represent the male feminine. These represent the feminine qualities that males suppress in themselves and then project onto women.  I quote from Rosemary Radford Reuther:

To a large extent, Mary has been simply a cultural and religious symbol of this projection.  She becomes the idealized nurturant mother, cut off from the qualities of sexuality and wifehood that are despised by men. When women try to model themselves after that understanding of Mary, they receive something very distorted and alienating for them—an act that is impossible for any women to follow.  Virginal motherhood is not something any woman can actually accomplish.

Sojourners Preaching the Word: http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/onehumanity?parent=41145#PTWadvent4B

I choose to believe in the revolutionary Mary who lives with great courage. She stands up for God in calling forth people to repentance standing in solidarity with those who live in poverty, violence, war and oppression.  She does not call women to live a life that does not reflect all of who they are and who they are capable of being.  If Mary was living today I think she would a strong feminist!  What do you think?

I believe that God calls upon us to live with the same courage Mary had.  Can you think of a time in your life when love has been birthed as a result of some ones courage and vulnerability?

I remember when Terry Fox was running across our country to raise money and awareness of cancer.  Because of his courage and vulnerability he dramatically increased the research going into the prevention and cure for cancer.

His heart for life touched a lot of other hearts not only in Canada but around the world. He continues to make a difference.

I think of Malala as a contemporary Mary who continues to raise the awareness of the importance of the education of girls around the world and in the importance of respecting and honoring human rights around the world.  She is turning the world upside down.

I think of Louis Wilson, former Moderator of the United Church of Canada and former member of the Canadian Senate who continues to work for social justice in our country and around the world.  She took on National Sea Products in Lunenburg Nova Scotia when they were negatively impacting the local fisherman and fish factories.  She stood up for the rights of women in the United Church of Canada.  She challenged the Canadian government to build healthy relationships with countries around the world that respect human rights and to challenge those who didn’t.  Lois will never be forgotten.

I think of my Aunt Jean who never gave up on her church and Presbytery raising funds for the Mission and Service Fund.  She was the very opposite of meek and mild.  She made sure you never forgot about the importance of the Mission and Service fund.  She walked her talk through many years of working for the YWCA and as social worker.  She has changed me for ever.

In essence Mary was the first disciple of Jesus.  Jesus got much of his values from Mary.  If it hadn’t been for Mary’s courage Jesus may never have been born.  So I give thanks for the mission and ministry of Mary.  It was through her courage, and the courage of many other people there is much to celebrate in our world today.  There is also hope for the future.  Merry Christmas!

 

Mary

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)

Thank Goodness for Doubting Thomas!

harmon_faith-2Easter – April 24, 2011

By Roland Legge

Based on Matthew 28:1–10

 

Easter is probably one of the most earth shattering experiences humankind has experienced.  Whether we believe the resurrection to be metaphor or actual fact, millions of people’s lives have been changed.   No one can deny this reality if they have eyes to see and ears to hear.

 

Easter becomes real, when we the people of God, live out God’s commandment to love self, neighbour and God.  Every act coming out of love, hope, a hunger for peace, and a hunger for justice are like mini resurrections in themselves.  Each act no matter how small or big says no to our death focussed culture and yes to life abundant.

 

We don’t know a lot about what happened at Jesus resurrection.  No one saw it.  But we know the tomb was empty and Mary Magdalene found new life and hope after experiencing Jesus. It touched her so deeply that she had the courage to tell the male disciples that he indeed had risen.  Neither do we know a lot about Mary Magdalene.

 

What we do know that Mary was likely the leader of a group of women who followed Jesus.  Some believed that Mary was a prostitute even though there is no evidence of that in the Bible.  It seems to some theologians Mary was among a group of independent women who provided resources for Jesus ministry.  These were women who chose to share their financial wealth and property with Jesus and his movement. What is important is that Mary and these other women were living out a diaconal ministry of service as equals with the male disciples.

 

But the miracle is that upon Jesus death and resurrection on the cross these women became the prime movers of this new Jesus movement which finally claimed the ministry they had been called to after Jesus death and resurrection.  They were more than followers of Jesus.  They had taken on this ministry themselves.  They finally understood what Jesus had been telling them that they have all they need and more to live out their calling from God.

 

To be a resurrection people is not easy.  Jesus and his followers know this only too well.  In the resurrection the spiral of life radiates out love as shown to us by Jesus.  When the love of Christ is let loose there is nothing that can stop it.  However, this life affirming way of living challenges and conflicts with our culture which led to Jesus death by the Empire of his day.

 

It is sad to think how much time and effort goes in trying to snuff out God’s vision for the abundant life by the powerful in our world.  Some people have so much to lose in wealth and power.  They are too scared to change their way of life and to risk losing control of their kingdom.   It is easy for them and for us to justify to God our comforts of life.  Of course, we say, we deserve them.  But do we really deserve them more than anyone else?

 

We all have had resurrection experiences.  What have been the times in your life when an experience, feeling, emotion, relationship, connection with another person suddenly helped you to discover hope, new ways of being, courage or whatever you needed to overcome an obstacle you were facing in life.   Diana Butler Bass shares a story how her congregation, Epiphany in Washington D.C. and a homeless woman found power in the resurrection:

There is a woman in my church in Washington, D.C., who was homeless for 15 years. Several years ago, she came to Epiphany Church and was welcomed by the congregation’s ministry to homeless people. “It was the first time,” she told me, “that I came into a church and no one looked at me as if I was going to steal something.” Epiphany’s people respected her humanity, fed her, listened to her, and helped her – all in the name and power of Jesus. Eventually, she moved off the street into Section 8 housing, secured both work and support, and pulled her life together. An active member of Epiphany, she helps run the homeless ministry, serves as a Sunday reader, and usher.

This article is reprinted from Godspolitics on Beliefnet.com. Diana Butler Bass (http://www.dianabutlerbass.com/) was the author of Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper San Francisco) when this article appeared. This was found at www.sojo.net .

 

It is good news that resurrection is still happening today.  I say AMEM to that!   How is it happening at Foam Lake United Church?

 

A few years ago I saw a film on PBS called Unlisted: A story of Schizophrenia.  

 

This is a moving first person account of a woman’s troubled relationship with her father and his mental illness. Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, whose own father, Richard Ruston, has paranoid schizophrenia and at times lived on the street, takes viewers along on a deeply personal journey to reconnect with her estranged father.

http://video.kcts9.org/video/1779716157#

 

I experienced moments of resurrection in this story when film maker Delaney Ruston has moments of deep connection, sacred time, with her father and experiences her father as grandfather for her son.  There is a shot of her, her Dad and her son walking together just enjoying being together something she had craved so much as a child. She feels the pain of missed times with him.  Especially as a young girl when she needed a stable relationship with her father.  She starts to see the beauty of his sole through their open sharing. While this is all painful, it helps her to release years of pent up sadness and hurt that has burdened her life. Out of her courage to re-claim her relationship with her father she experiences moments of resurrection that helps her to live her life more fully.

 

I have had moments of resurrection throughout my life.  They often happen in small ways when I am at home with Jen, talking with a friend on the phone, keeping connected to family.  When I was on the Central Committee for the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, I felt a strong presence of the Spirit among the Council, staff and students.  It is hard to describe other than a deep sense of hope despite all the challenges theological schools are facing in Canada.   I say AMEN to that!

 

How do we live out the Easter story each day?  Imagine the transformation that could happen in our country if all Canadians, including our politicians, focussed on living compassionate lives.  Stories of resurrection would multiply as the compassion of the few turned into the compassion of the many. I challenge each of us to bring our life affirming values to all we do in life. Each time we do this will be a small but powerful act of resurrection.