Happy Birthday United Church of Canada

Sermon – June 7 2015

2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

By Roland Legge

1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20; (11:14-15)

2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1

Mark 3:20-35

 

 

On June 10th the United Church of Canada will be 90 years old. We are really a very young church that was birthed out of our Canadian context. We have much to celebrate about our denomination. Up to now we have been a very courageous church taking strong stands on issues of social justice before most other churches confronted the issues.

  • It was miraculous that the United Church came into being. This was a very controversial topic in the time. As many of you know many Presbyterian chose not to join the United Church. I can’t imagine three denomination coming together today.
  • Then the United Church decided to ordain women. Lydia Gruchi from Saskatchewan was the first woman to be ordained. Many people left the United Church because of saying that women should be able to be ordained.
  • In 1962 ministers were given permission to marry divorced people. More people left the United Church over this issue.
  • In the 1960’s the New Curriculum came out and portrayed God in a much more human way. This again was controversial and more people left the church.
  • In 1988 the United Church was asked to prevent those who are homosexual from being able to seek ordination and commissioning. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit the General Council decided to change nothing thus allowing any person to test their call for ministry. We all know how hard this was for many church communities. Again more people left the church.

There continue to be changes to this very day. But people often forget that there are many new people coming to the United Church because of the United Churches strong stance on these social justice issues. I am one such person. So while it is sad we have lost many people we can rejoice because we have gained many more.

Back in the days of Samuel Israel was going through rapid social change just as we are today. The country was moving away from being a tribal society to a monarchy. Samuel, one of God’s prophets, felt called to remind people of their unique relationship with God. Samuel felt his people and his government were getting caught up in greed and too hungry for power. The story was intended to provoke questions of morals and ethics. Here is what William H. Willimon has to say:

The story is surely meant to provoke tension in our settled arrangements with the powers that be – to make each of us ask, in whom do I trust for my protection? Which god is the real object of my worship?

     In Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on this passage (Interpretation: 1 and 2 Samuel) he reminds us, “From its inception at Sinai, it was understood that Israel was chosen by Yahweh and that this chosen community of covenant was not to be like the other nations. Rather, Israel was to order its life in the odd and demanding ways of torah and to rely on the inexplicable love and remarkable promises of Yahweh (Ex. 19:4-6; Deut. 7:7-11).”

Pulpit Resource Classic by William H. Willimon

http://www.logosproductions.com/content/june-7-2015-everybody-else

Today our United Church among many other denominations are facing difficult times amid huge social change. This summer our General Council will be meeting in Corner Brooke Newfoundland.   Our church is bringing in much less money through the Mission and Service fund so we need to dramatically change the way we run the church. Over the past couple of years a committee have been working with people all across our church to make a suggestions that will help our United Church to get back on our feet again. I invite all of us to pray for our General Council Commissioners who will have some hard work to do this summer. Just like congregations the General Council has put off change for many years and we are now paying for that inaction. So what we have been used to will look very different in the next few years which will impact all of us in the United Church be it good or bad.

Many congregations across our country are suffering too. Foam Lake United Church is not alone. At our Council meeting last week we began talking about what we are going to need to do as we only have enough money to have full time ministry for another year. Ether we will need to get more people involved in sharing their talents and increasing our financial giving’s or we will need to go to part time ministry. Next year will be a challenging year. I hope we can see this as an opportunity to grow rather than a curse.

Just like back in Samuel’s time we need to hold on to traditions that continue to be life giving and that keep our roots strong.   But we must learn to reach out to people in a new way as our culture and technology have dramatically changed. Think for a moment as how many things you could have done this morning other than going to church.

I think God is calling us just like in Samuel time to find new ways of being church that will enable us to pass on the story of faith to our younger people of today. One way to start is by asking what our younger people (people 60 and under) would like. What type of worship experiences would they appreciate and not necessarily on Sunday mornings?

I end today’s sermon with this video from Rachel Held Evans. Rachel is a young evangelical woman who has moved over to be in the Episcopal Church in the United States. I think she offers a fresh perspective on what young people are looking for in church. I invite you to reflect on what she says. What questions does she raise for you? Is there anything that we can take from her reflections to re-inspire our church community.

I hope you will begin to reflect personally and together as to what is important for you in our congregation. Would you rather increase giving’s and participation or reduce the hours of your minister and take on the responsibility for the things the minister will no longer have time to do. How much energy do you have to experiment if any? Does it feel like the best option is to keep going as we are and keep the church open as long as we can? There is no wrong or right answer. It is more about what God is calling us to be about in this community.Crest_2012

Thank Goodness for Doubting Thomas!

harmon_faith-2Easter – April 24, 2011

By Roland Legge

Based on Matthew 28:1–10

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

The Gift of Resurrection

giotto httpfirstchurchmn.wordpress.comcategorysermonspage2

Easter – April 24, 2011

By Roland Legge

Based on Matthew 28:1–10

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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