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

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

Do you like Banquets!

Exploring the Word:

Sermon – October 12th 2014

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

Thanksgiving Sunday

By Roland Legge

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

Not Jesus meek and mild again this Sunday.  Matthew continues to reflect the tumultuous times he was living in. Today’s Parable of the Banquet tries to make sense of the events of the time.

First, remember that Matthew is a Jewish Christian.  The original guest invited represent the Jews who do not accept Jesus. Matthew was grieving that so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters were not accepting Jesus as the Messiah. He couldn’t understand why when it was so obvious to himself.  He wants his Jewish friends to realize that there are serious consequences if they cannot see Jesus as he truly is for Matthew.

The second set of guest represent the Gentiles. Matthew is also trying to make sense of the many Gentile converts.  I expect he is so excited by their interest in Jesus. Yet he is confounded that they too don’t always totally get Jesus.  Matthew wants them to know that there are consequences for their sinfulness.

So again this is no justification for hurting our Jewish brothers and sisters.  It is more about the radical call of God that invites all to the great heavenly banquet where all are welcome!  Where all will be held accountable!

As today is, Thanksgiving Sunday, I think this is a great day to reflect on the Banquet we are being invited to participate in.  First, I do not believe in a God of wrath.  The God I believe in welcomes us all to the table.  The God I believe in calls on us to practice radical gratitude.  To recognize that of God in each and every person we meet no matter what prejudices we may hold.

I think my Mother had it right.  She knew about the Banquet! Every special day of the year such as at Thanksgiving she would always invite someone from the Friends Meeting church to come and have dinner with us who otherwise would have been alone. As a kid I didn’t understand this.  I just wanted dinner alone with my family.  But now I see the love of God in my mother.  She welcomed people to the Banquet throughout her life.

What does this Banquet look like here at Foam Lake United Church?  Every Sunday should be like the Banquet.  Do we make it clear to our community that everyone is welcome at our church and really mean it?  Do we take an interest in everyone that is connected through our church?  Do we tell them how glad that they are with us?  Do we thank them for all they do?  Do we make an intentional effort to welcome those who are more isolated in our community such as people living with disabilities and or mental illness?  Do we show the children how much we love them? Do we show their parents the love support they need as they raise their children in a crazy world?

Living in the way of Jesus is a lifelong goal.  We are living in the Kindom of God and yet it is still to come.  We are at the Banquet and yet not all people have been welcomed to the Banquet!

There are so many people who have been kept out of the Banquet.  I think of the millions of people in the Middle East who are forced into living conditions that are hell right here on earth.  We in the west have much to atone for.  Right now our government is participating in the bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq.  While I have no easy solution to the problems in the Middle East I know that the bombing is only going to make things worse.  The only way to resolve things is for us to have people in the Middle East working with their own people to resolve conflict through non-violent means.  It means stopping the trade in armaments.  It means ending the manipulation of Super Powers in the world.  It means ending poverty!  It means ending the abuse of power by a few people.  It means naming extremist for what they are!  It is about bringing the religions of the world together to build peace and justice.

It is going to take people like Malala Yousafzai who just received the Nobel Peace prize for her work in calling for all girls to receive a good education.  That girls should be able to live free of fearing sexual abuse and rape.  Malala is inviting people to the Banquet.

It is going to take people like you and I practising Radical Gratitude really being thankful for all that we have been blessed with.  It is going to be important that Congregations like Foam Lake United Church focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have. It is going to be about practising real community where we really care for each other.  Where we go out in to our community and let others know how much they are loved by God and that we really care about them.

Over the years I have had glimpses of the Banquet that Jesus is talking about.  I remember one summer when was I working in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.  I remember going to a funeral for a fellow who lived on the streets.  I was surprised by how I was moved to tears by this service.  Many people got up and told stories about this person and what he meant to them. It was beautiful!

I experienced the banquet when I was welcomed into a First Nations family home because I had the opportunity to be part of a program where parents who are in prison can give Christmas presents to their children.  It was an honor to be in their home and receive their hospitality.  It was an honor to hear some of their life story. I learned that they are not much different from me.

I experienced the Banquet through the people I have met through the Enneagram.  I have been welcomed into a community where every person is honored and encouraged to be their true Spirit selves.  It is a place to be real.  It is a place to be vulnerable.  It is place to allow your emotional walls to come tumbling down and be received by the community in love.

I experience the Banquet every Sunday when we come together to worship the Creator.  I especially feel it when we share the Peace, sing together, enjoy  a pot luck meal and when we share communion.

How do you experience the Banquet?  How do you experience the Love of God?  God wants us all to wake up to our higher selves.  God wants each of us to find meaning and joy in our lives.

I want to end with these questions.  How is God calling us to welcome people to the Banquet?  How is God calling us to host the Banquet in Foam Lake?  What are we doing to make this happen?  How can we welcome more people to the Banquet?

Village+Wedding+Feast-1600x1200-2462

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.

Listening_Earhttpcrossinthewilderness.blogspot.ca2012_08_12_archive.html

Courage to Lead

Courage

June 1 2014

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)

 

By Roland Legge

 

Acts 1:6-14

 

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

 

John 17:1-11

 

 

 

Back in Peter’s day the early Christian community was facing persecution, especially from Emperor Nero.  Nero after causing the great fire in Rome in 64 AD found a scapegoat among the followers of Jesus. He blamed the Christians for the crime and began a vengeful persecution. Tacitus the great Roman historian reported that the Christians who confessed to believe in Christ were, and I quote from In Clayton J. Schmit,

 

made subject of sport, being covered with animal skins and attacked by dogs, nailed to crosses, set on fire, even burned at night for the illumination of Nero’s garden parties.

 

Pulpit Resource Vol. 36, No. 2 Year A April, May, June 2008 by William H. Willimon “An Anti-Social Faith” by Clayton J. Schmit Logos Productions Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 21

 

 

 

In this context Peter was encouraging his folks to not let the persecution they were facing to get in the way of living out their faith.

 

 

 

Can you imagine what these early Christians were going through?  I think it is hard for us to imagine, because few of us have suffered terrible persecution for our faith.  The most we face is taunting and teasing.  I am not saying this is not unpleasant but this is nothing compared to risking our lives for our faith.

 

 

 

Yet in the face of this persecution Peter speaks with hope. He calls upon his people see their struggle as like the heat it takes to purify gold and silver; they themselves being, the gold and silver and the persecution being the fire.        Peter new these were not easy times.  But he had faith that God would keep leading them into the Kingdom of God. That nothing could stop this from happening as long as he and his people kept on proclaiming and living the Good News.  The Good News being that God is in control and not Caesar!

 

 

 

Peter wanted to do everything he could to help his people to remain faithful.  Peter gave his people profound instructions such as

 

  • Accept what you can’t control
  • Know that God will liberate you
  • Put your concerns to God and trust in the Creators care
  • Stay disciplined and alert to what is going on around you
  • Remember that you are not alone

 

Page 22

 

He goes on to promise his people that in the end, after the suffering is over, God will restore God’s people both in the world and in the world to come.

 

 

 

We are very fortunate to live in Canada.  Most of us, in this church, have it very good. We find it difficult to answer this question: how have you suffered persecution for Christ?  So how can we relate to this story?  But how about trying to answer the question in another way: Will we be called in the future to suffer for our faith?

 

 

 

I have no doubt we will if we pay attention to the Spirit.  There are Christians around the world today who suffer to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.  Some of these are life threatening and others like the one I am about to mention are more annoying and frustrating.  They are people like Cartoonist Johnny Hart, creator of the B.C. strip, who is well known for being a Christian.  The Los Angeles Times once censored three of Hart’s cartoons because of his message of hope and faith was too obvious.

 

 

 

On the more serious side there have been people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who risked his life to end the evil of Hitler and his regime in Germany during the Second World War.

 

 

 

There are people like Archbishop Oscar Romero who by speaking up for justice.  Here was what Romero said just before his death:

 

We have just heard in the gospel that those who surrender to the service of people through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies.  This hope comforts us as Christian.  We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses, wants and demands.  We have the security of knowing that when we plant, if nourished with Christian hope, will never fail.  This holy Mass, this body broken and blood shed for human beings encourages us to give our body and blood up to suffering and pain, as Christ did—not for self, but to bring justice and peace to our people.  Let us be intimately united in faith and hope at this moment.” Page 24

 

At this point the gun shot exploded and killed Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Why was he killed?  He was killed because what he stood for was threatening those in power.  He was killed for some of the same reasons that Jesus was killed for.

 

 

 

How are we called to suffer for Christ?  Jesus and God want us to love with a reckless abandon!   The Spirit wants us to speak for those who have little power and voice.  The Divine Source wants us care for the Creation.  Jesus, love incarnate, wants us to honor and respect ourselves.  Jesus and God want us to love our neighbor as we love our selves.  The Creator calls upon us to ensure that each us has enough.   The Wise One calls upon us to learn to resolve all disputes in non-violent ways.

 

 

 

 

 

You see, there are many paths to the Kingdom.  I encourage you to reflect on how faithfully we are living out our lives.  None of us will get it perfect.  None of us can do it all.  We each need to discern through prayer and contemplation what God is calling us to live out.  The good news is that the Creator promises to be with us as we do our best to make our world a more just and loving place to be for all of life.  Where has God called you so far?  What plans does God have for you today?  What plans does God have for you in the future?  Then go and continue to live it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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