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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Joy and Suffering

Sermon – March 1st 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Mark 8:31-38

 

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

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

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

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

Selma Montgomery March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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