Being Your Best Self

pexels-photo-347988Wholeness and Relationship

Have you ever referred to your partner as your better half? Does this accurately describe who you are? It does not describe me. You know you are not half a person!  You are a whole human being. When two people come together it takes two whole people to make a healthy relationship. Sadly, two many of do not bring our whole selves to our relationship because we are not aware of what we are capable of being.  In this article, I seek to explore three ways to get in touch with our best self.

Wisdom of the Body

Wisdom

Your body is full of wisdom. One way you can learn more about yourself and world is through paying attention to your body. You have most likely experienced a gut feeling about something happening or about to happen in your life.  Your body will let you know about whether a path in life is the best for you.  If you are not sure slow down and take some time to ground yourself through some form of meditation that will quiet your mind, open your heart and help you to focus on your body.

Paying attention

You might a feel muscles tightening up in your gut, chest, throat or hands. Each of us have certain parts of our body that are more susceptible to stress in our life. What is that for you?  Maybe your shoulders feel like they are trying to hold up the world. Take a deep breath, breathing into the parts of your body that are feeling uncomfortable and as you blow out notice the stress leaving your body.

It feels like I am going crazy

I know this can feel overwhelming at first because of sensations, emotions and thought that have been repressed for years. It might even feel like you are going crazy but I assure you, you are not! Try to be gentle with yourself. Allowing and accepting these intense sensations, emotion and thoughts takes time. The only way is to go through it. Just remember it is best to not do this alone. Find a close friend, family member or professional you can be honest with.

Honesty

Over time you will get to know the difference between what you are frightened of trying and that which is not in your highest interest.  Have you experienced times in your life when you felt ready to try something new in your life and yet feel a little scared? I have had those times and yet somehow, I new that what I was choosing to do whether that be school, a new job or a new relationship that it was in my best interest. I have also experienced times when my body has made it clear that I need to avoid a particular, path. I do well when I pay attention to my body.

Practice

Make a practice of daily of checking in with your body to discover what wisdom it can offer you. The more you do it the easier it will be. You will be so thankful for the wisdom of your body. Your body will help you to discover your higher self.

Wisdom of the Heart

Are you in touch with your emotions?

Are you an emotional person?  How easy do you find it to get in touch with your emotions?   Is it easy for you to cry? Does this embarrass you? You have nothing to be ashamed of! It is gift to have a heart that is open, unless your over sensitivity is getting in the way of you living your life. It is all about balance.

Acceptance

As you move through life it is learning to accept where we are at, in each moment of life.  This is so we do not get stuck in our own insecurity. When our heart is open, we have the capacity to be gentle and forgiving of ourselves. When we can forgive, ourselves we can forgive others.

Heart Truth

Your heart is a window into your inner world. Does it feel open?  If your chest is feeling warm with energy moving around, your heart is open.   If it is feeling cold and dead then you are shut off from this great wisdom. It might feel like you are short circuiting. There is no shame in this. It just means that your heart shut down to help you to survive. But in the long run you will miss so much in life if you allow it to stay closed. How familiar are you with this experience?

Being true to your Heart

Your heart energy is there and just waiting for you to create an environment where it can risk expressing itself. When our hearts are open we not only feel connected to ourselves but also to those around us.

Opening our heart is risky business because we can get hurt or unintentionally hurt another person. But the gift of truly loving another person and being loved out weighs any downside of being hurt. All aspects of the heart are part of the human condition. They are neither good or bad. They simply are.

Connection to the whole World

You are connected to the whole earth and its inhabitants through your heart. We can feel the joy and pain in the people we meet besides our own. An open heart helps us to be open to the needs of others while still caring for ourselves. Our heart reminds us of our humanity repeatedly.

Playing and Working Together

With an open heart, we can find ways of working and playing together in relationship that is beneficial for both. It opens the door for us to show our love for the people in our life through encouraging them to be all they can be.  We no longer get confused thinking we want the best for our partner when we really are doing it out of our own insecurity.  Our open hearts creates space for you to be your best self.

Wisdom of the Head

Is your head your enemy?

Does your head feel like it is your enemy sometimes? If you feel this way, remember you have the capacity to befriend it.

Releasing my mind from the chatter

When you quiet your mind, you have access to the wisdom of our head. But you ask, how do I quiet my mind. Most of us find it hard to slow the chatter in our heads. When we have, conversations going on in our heads it is hard for us to pay attention to what is going on in the moment. Most of us can not imagine a quiet mind because we can never remember a time when our mind was calm.

Good News

The good news is that you can quiet your mind with practice. There are many ways to do this from meditation, listening to music, singing, creating art and much more.  This does not mean that you get to the point of emptying your thoughts, but to a place where you do not get stuck in your fears and insecurities.

Just Knowing

Have you ever just woken up one morning and new what you needed to do. You somehow just know this is the next step you need to take. Trust this wisdom, because it is a gift to be embraced. Do not bother trying to justify your decision. If you know it is the write thing to do go for it. I have experienced breakthroughs like this when I am so tired my mind can no longer can try to control things. What has been your experience?

On the path to transforming Relationships

Synergy in Three

When your three energy centers are in harmony with each other you will be on the path to being your best self; a blessing to yourself and those you choose to be in relationship with you. Life will still have its challenges, but there will be a gentler flow and energy because you will be present in each moment to make the best decisions for you and those you love.

Freedom to be me

You will attract people with the same level of health. Relationships will no longer be a struggle because you are being fully open to yourself and your partner. There will no longer be manipulation by ether party. Each of you will be honest and want to make choices that will be beneficial to you both.

Joy in being with your own company

But even in times when you find yourself single you will be able to enjoy this time in life whether it short term or permanent because you will find ways to meet your own needs. You will have the blessing of great friendships that will bring out the best in you.

Finding your soulmate

If you do find your soulmate, there will be a synergy that creates the best type of relationship that grows from two healthy people. When two people come together in mutual love and respect the two create something even greater than two people could do individually.  They create a beautiful mosaic that not only enhances, both, but the whole world.

Roland Legge is a coach and founder of REL Consultants offering to help individuals, couples, families and executives to discover the wisdom that is already within them. Call Roland today at 1 306 620-7478 to arrange for a free 30-minute discovery call or email him at rolandlegge@relconsultants.com for a private discussion about how he can help.

Nine Ways to Stay Healthy when Your Relationship is in Trouble

Moody yong woman sitting at home

You are facing one of the most difficult times in your life. You feel lonely and abandoned. How do you choose to live during this chaotic time? Here are nine ways to access your inner strength which will help you to move through this time of uncertainty.

1. Relaxation

Spend time each day doing something you enjoy. What hobbies do you have? Do you like to read or listen to music? Spending time doing an activity that you enjoy helps to relax your muscles and quiet the mind.

 2. Diet

Eat good food to keep up your strength. Make eating fun and pleasurable. With all the stress in your life now it is important to keep the body and mind in good shape with regular meals and nutritious food. A little comfort food won’t hurt you and might even raise your spirits. You are worth the effort!

3.  Meditation

Find a mindfulness practice that feels right for you. It is learning to allow the thoughts of your head to pass by like the credits at the end of a movie rather than get attached to any one of them.  This all helps you to be able to focus your attention on what ever you are doing instead of getting caught in the fear of the past or the anxiety of the future.  You might want to check out the App “Insight Timer” that you can get at the App Store and Google Play.

 4. Journaling

Have you even reflected on what is important for you in life? This would be a good time to journal on what you need in your life personally, in your relationship and in your working life. What do you need to change in your life to make these goals a reality?  What would need to change in your relationship for you to live out your dreams?

 5. Active Listening

Active listening means giving all our attention to the person we are talking to. One person speaks at a time and at the end the other person is asked to say to what they have heard their spouse say.  If the one has not heard correctly it is easy to correct with the spouse clarifying what they had already said. You do this until both people completely understand each other.

6. Communication

Share with your spouse what is going well in your relationship and what is not going well. Using your active listening skills to honestly name the strengths and growing edges in your relationship. This creates an opportunity to work through the issues to come up with a win win solution.

 7. Honesty

Let your spouse know what changes you need in your relationship. To be fair to your spouse you need let them know as clearly as possible what are the essentials for you to have a happy marriage. It is important to name how you are going to change and be clear about your expectations of your spouse.

8. Friends and Family

Who are the people in your life you can be yourself with and who can be honest with you?  Think of the people who will love you through thick and thin?  It lightens the load when we have people to walk with us through the rough times in life.

9. You

Remind yourself over and over that the only person you can change is yourself.  Do not waste your time trying to change others.  It never works! But when we change ourselves people will act differently around us.

 

Thankfully there is much you can do to help yourself through rough times in your relationship. It is all about self care, honesty with self and partner, excellent communications and self awareness.  The good news is that with support and encouragement you can move beyond old habits and thoughts into a new paradigm where you can freely express your true self not only as an individual but as a couple.

 

Roland Legge is a coach and founder of REL Consultants offering to help individuals, couples, families and executives to discover the wisdom that is already within them. Call Roland today at 1 306 620-7478 to arrange for a free 30-minute discovery call or email him at rolandlegge@relconsultants.com for a private discussion about how he can help.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus an agent of Transformation

Sermon – April 24th 2016

5th Sunday of Easter

By Roland Legge

Acts 11:1-18

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:1-6

John 13:31-35

 

 

It seems to be the rage today to talk about the need for change.  Some say “change is inevitable”; others say “change or die”; even others say “change must come”.

 

Yet most of us do not want change.  We get used to our routines.  Our routines help us to stay calm through all the ups and downs of life.  What are your routines?  When I get up in the morning I shave and take my shower, eat breakfast, give Abby attention, brush my teeth and kiss Jen.  Somehow this daily routine gives me comfort and helps me to face the day.

 

We have our routines in our churches too.  We get comfortable in the ways we operate as a congregation.  Every Sunday each of you have a good idea of what worship is going to look like.  Our order of service does not change much.  We have our favourite hymns.  We all have our favourite places we like to sit in the church.  We are used to coming to church at 10:30 am on Sundays.  Some of us are used to going out for brunch after church.

 

The way we do the church business has not changed for years.  We trust that certain people will do the work of the church so some of us don’t have to worry about it.  If something needs to be done, we form a committee. We run our meetings in the way we have been used to for many years.  Most of us don’t want to be at the meeting, and yet we spend a lot of time talking. We have our regular social and fund raising events that seem to magically happen every year.  We like our routine.  But we can not seem to understand why the younger generation often does not want to take part in the life of our church.   Too often we want to blame them for not being there.

 

In the early church the followers of Jesus were also fixated in their old ways even when they were not working well.    Peter was struggling with whom he should be ministering too.  He had been brought up to only care for the Jews.  Jesus had pushed him to love the foreigner, but he was being tempted to go back to his old comfortable ways.  Many of his friends and colleagues were being tempted to go back to separating the so called “clean” Jew from the “un-clean” Gentile.

 

If it hadn’t been for the dream that Peter had he might never have changed.  This is what he experienced in his vision:

There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me.

 

11:6 As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.

 

11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’

 

 

11:8 But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

 

11:9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’

 

11:10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.

Acts 11: 5b – 10

 

 

So Peter takes a major turn in his ministry.   After his vision, he is invited to the home of Simon, a Gentile, to baptize his whole family which he does.  When he was there he would have had table fellowship, a meal, with them which was a big NO for the majority of early Christians. Many would see Peter as now being “un-clean”.  Yes, Peter was breaking away from the routine.  This made a lot of people uncomfortable.   It even made people angry.

 

So in the early times in the new Christian movement there was a lot of conflict between the different Christian groups many whom remained strictly Jewish while others began a growing ministry to the Gentiles until eventually Christianity became a separate religion.

 

There is nothing wrong with routine and traditions.  But it can become a problem if we get too stuck in our ways.  In the United Church of Canada, we have become too comfortable with our routines in our style of worship, the way we see ourselves and in the way we organize ourselves.

 

The world is changing at a phenomenal pace these days and the church is being left behind.   Most young people can not relate to us.  We are using a “language” that most young people do not understand.  It is going to take a lot of courage to re-think who we are, in the context of the time we now live in.  I think we need to get back to our routes which is the great commandments.  The commandments to love our selves, to love our neighbour and to love our God.  Then to reflect and act on how the Spirit is calling us to live this out in our modern times.

 

In Foam Lake United Church, we are being called to love our selves, to love our neighbour and God.  Many young people want to be part of movements that help them to live this out in their day to day lives.  Our challenge is to create a worshiping community that brings us together to spread God’s love in real ways.  It is a lot more than sitting in a pew every Sunday.  This requires us to create opportunities to grow together, to care for each other, to celebrate together, to walk our talk in our communities and to always remember that we are part of something much greater.  We are not only part of the whole Christian church we are part of the human family on planet earth.

 

In order for this to happen we must welcome all types of people into our community.  We must be willing to invite people who are openly Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Trans-gendered. We must be willing to invite people who hold different beliefs than we have.  We must be willing to invite people who are physically and/or mentally disabled.  We must be willing to invite young families with noisy children.  We must be willing to invite people who don’t seem to fit in e.g. The guy with the colored hair and earing and the women with pink hair in a short skirt. We must not only tolerate this we must be able to welcome the holy diversity of God’s creation with openness, welcome and love.

 

Are you ready to embrace the wondrous, awesome, incredible diversity of God?  I am!  Are you?

Embracing Change

Jesus: A Courageous Man

Jesus_Christ

Sermon –March 20th 2016

Palm Passion Sunday (Year C)

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 23:1-49

 

 

Jesus is having a great day.  He gets a great welcome when he arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey with people laying down their cloaks in honor of him.  On the other side of town, the Roman army is arriving with great military fanfare with soldiers, weapons and war horses to keep the peace during the turbulent times of Passover.  The mission of Jesus was so opposite of the mission of the Roman rulers.

 

Yet the great fanfare of Jesus did not last for long.  I think we forget that Jesus was seen as a threat to those with privilege and power.  First, Jesus was empowering the poor.  The poor were starting to demand change from their rulers.  Hence, the risk of insurrection was getting worse and worse as the Roman army oppressed the people more and more.  He was a very different threat because he had a different type of power that came from within rather than through external sources such as armies, weapons and money.  The Romans thought they could end his movement by killing him, but it didn’t work.

 

Jesus was also shaking up his own Jewish faith.  He wanted to reform it so he used the traditions and stories of his own people to remind them who they were and where they came from.  He challenged many of the Pharisaic rules that were getting in the way of people sharing the love of God e.g. not being able to heal a person on the Sabbath.  He challenged the behaviour of some the Jewish leadership who were collaborating with the Roman invaders to keep their own power at a great cost to the average Jewish person.

 

Jesus was also challenging people’s attitudes toward women.  While I wouldn’t consider Jesus a feminist he showed great respect and love for women.  The scripture tells us that women played a very important roll in his movement.  Some of his most courageous leaders were women even though non of them of were named as Disciples.  He called on men to treat women in the same way that women are expected to treat men.  I am sure this made a lot of people upset.  It would be on the same level as how controversial it has been for the church to accept the GLBQ community as equal members of the church and even more importantly equally loved by God.  Jesus riled up a lot of people.

 

Jesus also loved so many people on the fringes of society.  He was able to recognize the spirit in every person he met whether they were tax collectors, women, prostitutes, a soldier, and any person that was considered by Jewish custom “un-clean”.  He could talk and touch any one.  He was able to see into a person’s heart and soul that made a lot of people uncomfortable. You couldn’t hide from Jesus.

 

Many people were looking forward to getting rid of Jesus.  Finally, when he made his trip to Jerusalem the Romans had had enough.  They set in motion the plan to kill him on a cross.

 

Jesus did not die to fulfill the scripture as the Bible says.  Why does the Bible say this? People tried to make sense of how their Messiah could die like a criminal.  The read back into their own scriptures to make sense of what happened.  If they didn’t find some divine reason for his death on a cross they would not be taken seriously because no Messiah would die like Jesus did.  So why did Jesus die? He died because he was a thorn in the side of the powerful just like Martin Luther King Junior died for his challenging the status quo of his time.  The Roman invaders had to get rid of him and some of the religious authorities would be happy to see him gone because he was shaking up their faith.

 

Who in the end was responsible for Jesus death?  It was the Romans’!  The writers of the Gospels, Paul and his imitators had to get along with the Romans so they tried to put more of the blame on the Jews especially after the Christians were thrown out of the Synagogues.   At the beginning it was like a family feud between the Jews who believed Jesus to the Messiah and those who did not.  Sadly, these scriptures have been used as justification for violence against Jewish people and communities.  It was this belief that paved the way for the Holocaust in Germany.  In the end it was only the Romans who had the power to crucify a person.  For the Romans Jesus would have been seen as a trouble maker.

 

For me it is important that we remember the story of Jesus crucifixion.  I think we can all relate to the hopelessness that the early followers of Jesus felt.  How they must have thought that this new and exciting movement was going to end with Jesus death.

 

There are many people in our world today who face the same kind of suffering that Jesus experienced.  People are killed for their work in human rights, their  religious views, feeding the poor, freedom, building democracy and much more.  There are millions of people who can relate to the despair of the early followers.  But we know that Easter does happen.  Easter is no figment of our imagination.   The love of Jesus was not stopped by his horrible death on the cross.  In fact, the Jesus movement became magnified many times over bringing hope to thousands and thousands of people.

 

So I hope this Holy Season we will remember what Jesus was really about.  Jesus was offering us no magical solution to solve our problems.  He was offering us a way of life that can bring to life the Kingdom of God. A place where everyone has enough.  A place where people are treated justly.  A place where people are held accountable for their behaviour. A place where know one feels alone.  A place where everyone feels loved.  A place where the nations, nationalities, ethnic groups, people of different sexual orientations, able bodied and disabled, young and old can all get along with each other.  But the bottom line being we need to have the faith and courage to live this out no matter what we face.  We don’t need to get it perfect, but we do need to try.  The miracle is that when we try the Spirt will help us along the way.

A Courageous Woman!

Sermon – September 6th 2015

15th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

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

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

Mark 7:24-37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tradition: Blessing or Curse

Sermon – Augusts 30th 2015

14th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
James 1:17-27 
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

What do you think of tradition?  How important is tradition?  How do we know when to keep tradition and when to let go of it.

Jesus was trying to answer this very question to the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were concerned that Jesus and his followers were not following all the traditions such as washing their hands before a meal. Jesus felt compelled to challenge these Pharisees who were turning human concepts/traditions into holy laws.

You can imagine how the Pharisees felt after Jesus chastising them.  I don’t think they were feeling very happy.  This didn’t help Jesus popularity.

I don’t think a lot has changed since Jesus day.  Today we still get mixed up as to what we consider appropriate tradition/laws to follow.  For example, in our churches we all have different ideas as to what is proper worship. Think for a moment as to what you believe worship should include.  What songs should we sing?  How often should we have the Peace, if not at all?  How often should we have communion?  How should we offer communion in the pews or up front.  How long should church services last?  What should the minister wear?  Can we challenge some people’s interpretation of the Bible?  How free are we to have open conversations about what we believe?

Throughout my career as a minister I often seem to violate some person’s rules.  I don’t intend to break these rules, other than I stumble into it not knowing what everyone else believes.  I have had people get upset if worship goes a minute over 1 hour.  I have had people get upset when communion is served up front.  I have had people upset if a child makes a noise in church.  I have had people upset when I didn’t move through the communion ritual in the exact way that someone else had decided communion must be done.  I have had people upset when I used a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer.

I think Jesus is trying to suggest that there is no one perfect way to honor God.  There is no perfect way to worship God.  Each of us have our own preferences, but we cannot declare that there is one perfect way to do it.

There is no one perfect way to interpret the Scripture.  While the Bible may be inspired by the Spirit it is still written by people.  It has been translated into many languages and one can never perfectly translate from one language to another.  Always, a nuance of the story is lost.  Some of us will have a certain interpretation of a passage in mind, often something we learned in Sunday school long ago.  But exploring the Scripture is more like a conversation.  It requires each of us to be open to learning anew every time we read the Scripture.  If we stop being open to learning we are in effect shutting out the Spirit from our lives.

Too often we are so stuck in own point of view, preventing us from hearing anything the other person is saying.  I have been guilty of this. So most of us give up when it becomes a one sided conversation.  To continue to spiritually grow we must be open to really listening to what another person is saying.  We don’t have to agree, but we need to really listen and be open to the possibility of changing our minds whether that is a small or big change.

Our whole denomination is now being asked to explore what it means to be church for today. It means, changing how we organize our self as the United Church of Canada.  We are being asked to let go of the many ways we have organized ourselves as church to re-create a more vibrant church that is better able to share our Gospel story in a very different world.  For some of us this will feel like we are breaking the rules, going against tradition!  Yet Jesus message to us calls upon us to open our hearts and minds to seeing the world with fresh new eyes so we can bring healing and hope back to God’s Creation.

I know for many of us, including myself, this can be a scary time, because we are being asked to go forward without knowing he we are exactly going to be doing it.  We will have the wider church, General Council, regional groupings which may be for us Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario.  Then each congregation will become much more independent.  The Spirit is moving us to become more Spirit driven than run by a bureaucracy.

Are you ready for this new freedom?  What is Foam Lake United Church going to look like in 10 years?  Are you ready to face the reality that most young people are not moved to be part of a church that still runs like it did in the 1950’s?  Are you ready to accept that if we continue to operate as usual our church is on a path to death?  But are you ready to experiment?

If we are ready to experiment, the potential for a continuing strong faith community is very possible.  I could suggest many ideas to you.  But to hear them from me is not enough.  For them to make a difference they must come from you the congregation.  I wonder if we need to go back to house churches like the early Christians did.  What do you think?

If we continue to act out of love we cannot go wrong.  If we can assume that we all are trying our best to live out our faith.  If we can continue to build a strong faith through not being afraid of asking questions of ourselves, God and others we can live as a community that respects both unity and diversity.

Living through the Spirit is what Jesus continues to call us to do.  Living out of love that comes out of respect for diversity and a hunger for truth makes us stronger.  Trusting that God works through each of us we can encourage and support each other in making meaning out of our lives and finding the courage to live out the great commandments to love self, neighbor and God will bring hope, peace and justice to the whole world.Tradition from Fidler on the Roof

God Loves David’s and Goliath’s

Sermon – June 21st 2015

4th Sunday after Pentecost

By Roland Legge

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Mark 4:35-41

 

We all remember the story of “David and Goliath”! It is one of those feel good stories of the good guy defeating the bad guy. It is a good story if you are one of the oppressed. It is good if you are one of the lowly. How do you think the rich and powerful experience this story?

For them it would not be good news. They do not want to lose their power. They enjoy the privileges they have. They would use whatever they have available to them as their weapon to keep the status quo. Would you want to fight “Goliath”? I don’t think I would.

We always like to cheer on the underdog. Do you remember how we all got behind the Jamaican Bobsled team at the Calgary Olympics in 1988? We all knew they were not going to win any medals but we cheered them like they were our home team.

Desmond Tutu is one of my favorite underdogs. Desmond Tutu was the Archbishop of South Africa for the Anglican Church and was very involved in bringing Apartheid to an end. He inspires me to live faithfully. He inspires me to live with courage. He is like the mustard seed we talked about last week who has grown into a courageous man of faith. A man of faith who is not afraid to challenge the powers and principalities and to put the needs of the Creation ahead of profit and power. William Willimon says this:

Bishop Desmond Tutu is a man of short stature, but he is a giant when compared to most of us, spiritually speaking. Tutu was walking by a construction site on a temporary sidewalk the width of one person. A white man appeared at the other end, recognized Tutu, and said, “I don’t give way to gorillas.” At which Tutu stepped aside, made a deep sweeping gesture, and said, “Ah yes, but I do.”

Pulpit Resource by William H. Willimon http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-21-2015-god-losers

For me Jesus is one of the greatest underdogs to have lived. No one expected so much from this Galilean peasant. He was from Galilee, one of the poorest parts of the world. The local joke was that nothing good could come from Galilee. Yet Jesus had a way of helping people to discover how others experienced them. Jesus had a way of bringing the best out in people. Jesus had a way of helping people to discover the holy in themselves. His call to wake us up to the holy essence of life wasn’t always well received. Some people liked what he was doing. Others felt very threatened and joined with others to attack him.

But what was even more surprising that his movement did not end when he died like a criminal. In fact the movement became stronger when he died. It is a miracle that Jesus with a dubious background become a great spiritual and political leaders. Had you ever thought of Jesus as an underdog?

Who are the “Goliaths” of the world today? For me these are the people addicted to power and privilege. These are the people who lose their moral compass. They are the people caught in the military industrial complex who rely on this unjust system to give them a job.

The armies of Canada, the United States and Russia are a few examples of who uses their power to keep the status quo and/or give their own nations even more power and privilege often at a great cost to others.

In our time, the leaders of Corporations have become the “Goliaths” of our times. Many transnational companies such as Walmart have more money and power than most nations. They are in this to make as much money as possible at all costs’. Many people’s lives and even nations have been hurt by this mentality of profit at all costs.

There are many people, often the poor, who are asked to do these jobs of violence. Many poor men and women end up in our armies because they have no other options. Then with the sophisticated weapons of war, more and more men and women are being physically, emotionally and spiritually hurt in practise and in battle which makes it difficult to function in life. Marriages end. Children lose one of their parents or both. The memories and the nightmares are hard to overcome. The individual is left try and survive. Many end up on the streets. Many of them die from addictions, and depression. Suicide is not un-common.

God loves both “David’s” and “Goliaths”!   God calls on Goliaths to have a change of heart. To discover what is really important for them. To learn that love is the only way to transform the world that is lasting. Joy that comes from being co-creators with God is way more satisfying than the endless desire for more power that never gets satisfied.

There are “Goliaths”, people with great power, who do use their power well. One example would be the creator and owner of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who has put a lot of money and effort into social and economic development around the world. God would say well done good and faithful man. You see Bill Gates has a vast network of “David’s” who he chooses to join in their projects for social change.

God cheers on “David’s” who won’t let anyone stop them from doing God’s work. “David’s” are God’s agents for change and transformation. “David’s” are like the Buddhist monks who build a peace pagoda right by the border with an American Nuclear base in Washington State. They do it to unsettle the community and remind Americans of their responsibility to build peace and justice around the world through peaceful means.

God celebrates “David’s,” like the National Chief, Perry Belgrade, who are working in our country to end the racism and imperialism that have oppressed the first people of Canada and the United States.   The Spirit calls upon us to join with these people to build relationships with our First Nations peoples so that we can all affirm that we are to share this Planet earth in ways that honor all peoples of the world.

While most of us would not see ourselves as powerful and influential people. However, many people in the world would see us as part of the rich and powerful nations. Much of what we choose to do in our world affects poor people worldwide. As Canadians we have great power vested in us to transform the world because we are so blessed with riches. We are part of a block of “Goliath” Nations. We must become humble and choose to let go of some of our wealth so we can share this with the world.

In the end whether we are a “David” or “Goliath” God loves us and will do everything the Spirit can do to reflect God’s love through each of us. Working together David’s and Goliaths can transform the world by bringing us ordinary people along so we can all live in harmony with each other and the earth.

david_and_goliath_outline

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