Would you invite Jesus for Dinner?

Sermon – March 15th 2015

By Roland Legge

With Thanks from the Online Resource Faith Lens from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Numbers 21:4-9 Ephesians 2:1-10 John 3:14-21

 

Gospel Reflection

Presenting his gospel like a stage play director, John has turned down the lights.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night because John wants us to see that he is in the dark, in sharp contrast to Jesus, the light of the world (see also John 1:9, 8:12, 9:5).

In their conversation, Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus to see things in a different way, but with limited success.  Their disconnect mirrors a passionate divide that runs throughout John’s gospel between those who accept Jesus and those who reject him.  Those who accept him believe, and those who do not “are condemned already” as they shun the light in favor of darkness.

Jesus is like the dress:  the same phenomenon seen very differently, but always sparking a strong reaction.

But John, seeing him differently, would say that Jesus is the light.  The world is the dress.  (The Greek word for world is cosmos, which has various shades of meaning itself—humanity, “the way things are,” the powers that resist God, all of creation.  John, whose writing covers many levels at once, probably intends all of these simultaneously.)  Jesus the light shines upon the world and reveals its true colors.

But Jesus also reveals to us the true colors of God’s heart:  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  God loyally loves the fickle world.  The designer’s eyes consistently see the world as worth saving.

The price tag attached is steep:  Jesus will end up black and blue on the cross.  Yet the colors of Easter are white and gold.  The Light changes everything.

http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286

Discussion Questions

  1.  How do you see Jesus?  How is your view different from how others see Jesus?  Does he bring love or judgment…or both?

I see Jesus in many ways. I see Jesus as a spirit filled man who strived to make the world a better place. Jesus for me was one of the most God conscious persons to have ever lived on this planet. He had a close relationship with the Holy. Yet Jesus responded to the world in a particular time in history. While he was way ahead of his time in how he treated women, children, and people on the fringes of society; I don’t think you could call him a feminist.

How is my view of Jesus different from others? I put an emphasis on his humanity. I can relate to Jesus more if he is human. Can you?

I believe Jesus was a great healer. He spent much of his ministry healing people. I think the church has forgotten this important part of who we are. We too can heal in the name of Jesus. We have the ancient traditions of healing touch, anointment with oil, prayer and presence. Where I differ in my understanding of healing is that curing is not its prime purpose. Healing happens even when a person is not cured of his/her disease. Healing begins to happen when we care for each other in loving community. Healing happen when we recognize that of God in each other.

I believe that Jesus does bring both love and judgement. However Jesus is not one I fear.   I believe he wants the best for each of us. I would be very comfortable in having him over for dinner. Yet Jesus is much more than meek and mild. He was not afraid to shine the light on the dark. He was not afraid to speak out against injustice.

  1. How do you see the world?  Is it good or evil…or both?  If the world were two colors, what would they be?

I love the book by Matthew Fox called “Original Blessing”. In it Matthew suggests that when God created the world, all of its inhabitants animate and non-animate were blessed. I believe that God is rooted in our whole planet. Whenever an animal, plant or tree is made extinct I believe that God/Spirit is hurt because a part of it has been killed.

I believe that Mother Earth is good in the sense that it was created with love. Nature, the plants, animals, trees, fish, insects, people, minerals, and soil were all created so that all could live in union with each other. While nature is violent and destructive at times it is not evil. Mother Earth is alive and constantly changing. When earth is left to its own natural order life will continue to go on, there will be equilibrium so that the planet can stay healthy. Humankind is just one small part of the Created order.

Sadly we humans have over populated the planet. Over the centuries we thought we could do anything we like. But now more and more people are realizing that we have sinned by abusing our planet home. Sin for me is when we lose our connection with the Holy. We sin when we begin to think that the extinction of species, the poisoning of the air and water is okay. We sin when we begin to think of ourselves as gods who think we can overcome all our problems with technology. We sin because we have forgot the truth that we people are connected to everything on our planet and that every time we hurt the planet we hurt ourselves.

  1. Are there things in your life you keep in the dark because you are afraid they will be exposed?

Yes I have kept certain things in my life in the dark because of feeling embarrassed and ashamed. This is why so many people didn’t like Jesus because he had the natural gift to shine the light on the dark parts of our lives. Another way of saying it is our shadow sides. When I was young I feared that people would find out that I was nervous and anxious most of the time. I didn’t want people to know because I thought they would think I was crazy and a failure in the world. Ironically when I learned that I did not need to hide my problems I felt much better.

I think we all have parts of our lives we like to hide. Many of us think we are the only ones suffering because of some mental, physical, relationship or spiritual matter. It is kind of like trying to carry a huge rock on our back because we feel so exhausted from trying to hold everything in. But when we do let go and share what is going on in our lives we feel much lighter because we have let go of all the burdens we have been holding on to.

However I know many people will find themselves in a situation where it is not safe to share what is going on. In that case people need to find a safe place where they can tell the truth and get the support to work through the issue or issues and the help to discern what relationships which can be redeemed. To find the courage to let go of the relationships that are no longer serving them anymore.

– See more at: http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286#sthash.m4XN8P2n.dpufblack-jesus

Do you like Conflict?

Exploring the Word:

 

 

Sermon – September 7th 2014

13th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

 

 

How many of us love conflict?  I think the majority of us do not like it, except for a few people who thrive on it.  Yet conflict has an important role to play in our communities.  If we never had conflict there wouldn’t be any personal growth. If we didn’t have conflict we would not have healthy relationships.  If we didn’t have conflict we would stop growing as God’s people.

 

Jesus knows this only too well! So in our Gospel lesson we learn how faith communities can grow from conflict.  The trouble is that many of our churches try to hide from conflict which only makes things worse.  It makes things worse because avoidance doesn’t resolve the conflict.  The energy created by conflict is just left to fester making it come out at unexpected times on issues that have nothing to do with the original issue.  When conflict is hidden it often will come out in very destructive ways.

 

Jesus shows us a simple way to resolve conflict.  The first one is to go and talk to the person you have conflict with, using “I” statements to clearly name what upset or hurt you.  So for example, if you were upset because you felt excluded from the decision about what color to paint the basement of the church, here is what Jesus would suggest you do: first you would clarify what you were upset about. If you still deemed the issue serious enough you would go and talk to the chair of the Property Committee.  If you have good reason to be upset and the person does apologise to you after a conversation where each party was allowed to share their point of view you are to forgive them. However, if they don’t forgive you, you are go to the next step.

 

Jesus then suggests that you find two or three people, such as our Ministry and Personnel Committee.  Remember God says when two or three people are together God is present. The idea is that through prayer and open conversation the conflict can begin to be resolved. If you are able to resolve the issue at this level you again forgive and reconcile with the person or persons.

 

But what do you do if it does not get resolved through the Ministry and Personnel Committee?  Jesus suggests that you need to take it to the whole church. In our United Church Polity it would need to go to the Board or to the Presbytery.

 

At all these levels, conflict needs to be addressed with great care.  Again we need to speak very clearly and from our own point of view.  We are not to call each other names.  We need to respect the fact that it is normal to have different opinions.  We need to find solutions that are respectful of all who are involved. It needs to be a win-win solution.

 

Resolving conflict takes time.  I love how the Religious Society of Friends uses Consensus Decision Making as a process to decide the direction of each Friends Meeting or Yearly Meeting which is like our General Council.  When a proposal is made, people get to ask questions for clarification.  They get to ask questions about why this proposal is important.  They get to discuss if there are better ways to do this.  They patiently wait until everyone has had their say. Throughout the process people need to keep checking to see if consensus has been reached.  There may need to be amendments made to make the proposal acceptable to everyone.  But once people come to a place where everyone can live with the decision then consensus is reached.  What I like about consensus is that when the decision is made everyone can get behind it and make it happen.  You will no longer have any 51 % to 49% decisions that can seriously divide the community.

 

Often forgiveness takes time too.   It is more often a process that allows us the time to forgive ourselves and others.  If it is a serious offense we may get no further than not allowing the negative/destructive energy of the offense to hurt our present and future relationships.  Forgiveness does not always mean that we can renew the relationship.

 

I believe Jesus calls us to be a community where we can openly struggle, laugh, pray our way to decisions that will be of benefit to the whole community.  It doesn’t mean we get it right all the time.  But when we don’t get it right we will rise to the occasion and make the changes needed.  But in order to find consensus we all need to be willing to give and take. The bottom line is that we need to be able to live with the decision.

 

God has blessed each of us with power. Power in and of itself is neither good nor bad.  More important is how we use that power.  We all want to be able to impact the world around us.  God desires for us to share our power with others and come up with solutions that seek the highest good for the community.

 

I can think of one conflict that took place in the Vancouver Friends Meeting.  In 1983, when Vancouver hosted the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Friends (Quakers) participated.  At the end of the Assembly, each participating church who helped to organize the gathering in Canada received a chalice.  For Quakers this raised a serious question as “Friends” don’t have communion as a ritual.  Some people were incensed and wanted to return it. Some people wanted to keep it. Those who wanted to keep it had various ideas as to what to do with it.  The whole event created a lot of controversy.  But after a lot of prayerful deliberation it was decided to put the chalice into the Quaker Museum at the Friends Meeting House in Toronto.  In the end everybody was able to live with decision.

 

In the months and years ahead we as a congregation will have some major choices to make.  The Spirit may be calling us to talk about things that many of us won’t feel comfortable in talking about.  Yet God calls us too openly and compassionately to talk about things prayerfully—even if we have to risk conflict.  Conversations may free us up to be the church in new ways that will be inviting to our younger generations, many of whom have moved away from the church.  What are those sensitive subjects in our church?

 

I pray that we will take seriously the teachings of Jesus that will show us the way to the Kindom of God.  May the Spirit give us the courage to speak what we think and yet be given the openness and tenderness to hear different points of view. May we be given the wisdom to seek new paths for our church and world.  May we be given the courage to experiment with new ways of being church. May we continue to pass on the Good News of Jesus!  The Good News is that there is a better and more joyful and just way to co-exist in this world with all of God’s Creation. So be it!  Amen.

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