Nine Incredible Valid Reasons Life Transitions are Hard By Roland Legge

Life is full of surprises!  What was your first significant change? It was probably your birth into the world.

Life transitions are hard. The moment, you arrive in the world you experience your first significant change.  It must be a shock to all the senses being forced out into this alien world. The process of birth is just the beginning of your adventure.

Life transitions include:

 

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Birth:

Can you imagine being in the comfort and safety of your mother’s womb? It is nice and warm. With all your needs met, you are secure. Then imagine suddenly without warning being pushed out into a foreign world.

For the first time in your life, separated from your mother you are alone. Can you imagine the sense of abandonment you felt? You have to cry to get your needs met.

If you could remember this part of your life, it might leave you with some unsettling dreams. Coming into the world Is a massive change. Any change takes a period of adjustment whether or not you label the transition as good or bad.

It might be like being kidnapped and thrown out of a plane with a parachute into a jungle where you have no idea where you are. How would you be feeling?

 

Childhood years:

How much of your early years do you remember?  Some of what you remember may come from stories that your parents told you. Now imagine what it was like for you to learn to walk? What was it like to learn to ride a two-wheeler bike? What do you remember?

You are learning to become more independent. These are never easy years. Imagine how many times you fell over before you were able to walk on your own. Learning to walk, is like most new things you learn to do, takes a lot of practice.

Do you remember learning to ride a two-wheeler bike? Did you first start with learners wheels?  How many scrapes did you have before you were able to ride down the street without falling off the bike? Give your child self-lots of appreciation for all the risks they took to take their place in the world. Learning new skills is not easy!

 

Teen Years:

Take a moment to reflect on all physical, social, emotional and hormonal changes that happen during these exciting years. Your body changes so quickly it can be confusing for you to know how to behave.

Sexual desire in you comes to life! You enjoy these new feelings, and yet they baffle you. You pick up from the adults in your life that this is something to feel ashamed.  You are mixed up. How can something that feels so good be so wrong?

You might even feel growing pains in your bones because you are changing so fast. You are not quite sure if you are still a child or an adult.

Peer pressure at school can be challenging. You want to be cool with your mates.

Life transitions are hard. If you are not one of the cool kids, you can feel very isolated. You can feel invisible. Bullies can make your life difficult. Anxiety can overtake your life because you feel like there is something wrong with you.

 

Moving away from home:

Do you remember moving away from home for the first time? It probably is one of the most exciting times in your life? Yet, leaving the safety of home is perhaps one of the most stressful times in your life.

For the first time, you have to take care of your own needs. You need to wash your own clothes. You need to cook your own meals. You have to manage your own schedule. Even if this feels good, change of this magnitude takes a lot of energy.

If you moved to another city, there is the stress of learning to get around a new place. Where do I need to go to get groceries? How are you going to get around?

Then there is the stress of money. When you lived at home, your parents took care of most of your needs. You will have to learn to budget. You might even need to find some part-time work to help you to make ends meet.

 

Marriage:

Marriage is one of the most significant decisions you will make in your life. Once you get past the falling in love stage where everything seems exciting; the success of your marriage will depend on your commitment to growing individually and as a couple.

Your relationship will find strength, depending on how well you are able to know your own needs, show a willingness to compromise, seek to bring out the best in each other and communicate well. Communication is probably one of the most significant challenges you will face.

It takes time to get used to living with someone else. You need time to find your new rhythm as a couple. You will need to find ways that honor the needs of both of you. You will need to experiment until you find a balance that works for you both.

One of the many challenges of marriage is that you get to see each other in the worst and best of times. You get to experience each other’s peculiarities. Maybe the things that you once thought to be amusing is now annoying.

Do you like conflict? I am guessing you don’t. There is guaranteed to be conflict in your relationship. Conflict happens when there are two people with different opinions. You as a couple need to find a way to talk so you can see solutions that will work for you both. Trying to impose your point of view may fix things for the short time, but it will eventually backfire when the person who was imposed on pushes back.

 

Having children:

If you think getting married is complicated, then having children is even more challenging. When a child arrives into your life your world dramatically changes. It is your child/children who are the center of your attention.

There will be a time when you get little sleep. You will no longer be able to do as you please. If you want to have a date you need to find someone to care for your child or children.  Your children will be on your mind for the rest of your life no matter what they do good or bad.

If you haven’t had any conflict about the division of labor in your family having children will likely raise it. Hopefully, you have thought about it before the child arrives. Are you going to equally share the work including child care, cooking, cleaning, shopping, outdoor work and more?

Sharing the labor doesn’t mean you have to divide all tasks in half. But you need to come to an agreement that is fair to both parties.  Watch out that the women don’t take on more than her fair share.

Life transitions are hard. Make sure you take time to care for yourself, besides caring for your children and partner. A healthy you is the best gift you can give to the family.

 

Divorce:

There is no such thing as an easy divorce. Even the most respectful ones take a lot of energy. There is nothing shameful about getting divorced. I hope you would have tried to resolve the issues before you made the final decision.

Sometimes your relationship needs to come to an end for many reasons from the loss of trust, affairs, domestic violence and sometimes people just grow apart.

Divorce impacts the relationships you have with the friends and family you shared with your partner. Depending on how well the relationship ends will determine who you are able to stay in touch with.

Divorce impacts your children. No matter how well you do it, the children’s lives are going to be changed forever. If you are your partner were not getting along,  the divorce will still be better for the children.

All your routines get changed. Tasks you used to share you have to do yourself. There is no one to ask about your day. There is no one to share something important that took place at work or at home. Money can be a problem if you are the one that stayed at home with the kids or you had the lowest paying of the two or more jobs.

During times of divorce, your emotions will be up and down. There will be days when you will find it hard to get out of bed. One moment you will be crying, the next laughing and the subsequent angry. It is like being on an emotional roller coaster.

 

Death of loved ones:

Grieving takes a lot of energy. When someone that is close to us dies, it is never easy. It especially tricky when a person dies young from disease, accident, murder and/or suicide.  Even when a person dies after a beautiful long life, we all must go through grief.

There is no way around grief. The only way is to go through it. It can take up to a year to go through the cycles of loss. Our lives will never be the same, but you will find a way to move ahead in life. Here is the process we go through, not always in this order:

·         Denial

·         Anger

·         Depression

·         Bargaining

·         Acceptance

You may be tired. You may be moody. You may be angry. You may have a hard time accepting what has happened.

Give yourself lots of time to move through this. This is not a time to make big decisions. Find friends, religious leaders, counselors and coaches to help you to explore these intense feelings. Grieving is hard work but so worthwhile.

 

Retirement:

Retirement is all about transition. Do you know what you are going to do when you retire? You might decide to start your own business and work, only, when you want. There may be organizations that you have always wanted to volunteer for and have never had the time.

If you are one of the people who has spent the majority of their working life focussed on their job, retirement could be a very stressful time. You may feel a loss of identity. You might feel depressed. So it is better for you to start volunteering and finding other interests before you retire.

You are likely to have more time with your spouse. This may be great, but you may find your spouse driving you crazy. Does it feel like they are under your feet too often? Each of you will want to discover your own interests so that each of you has time apart.  You will also have different experiences to share with each other.

You might find it challenging to organize your day now that you are retired. There is no longer any requirement for you to be at work at a particular time. You might want to set a regular schedule for yourself each week. Like when you are going to get up?  What are you going to do?

It is at these times of significant changer in our lives we are more likely to face depression and other mental health issues. If you are getting down don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Give yourself time to get used to your new life. Remember life transitions are hard. Make the best of this season by seeing this as an opportunity to re-focus on what is really important to you.

 

Your life is full of transitions. No matter what change you are going through it takes time and energy to make the adjustments.

You may be one of many who do not realize the energy it takes to go through:

·         Birth

·         Childhood

·         Teen years

·         Moving away from Home

·         Marriage

·         Children

·         Divorce

·         Death of Loved Ones

·         Retirement

 

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Life transitions are hard! So during these times of change, you may feel like you are going crazy. I assure you, you are not going crazy.  The only way to get through these times of change is to fully experience the ups and downs that your body, heart, and mind will take you through.

Give yourself space to make your ways through these vulnerable times. Let others know what you are experiencing. Allow yourself more time to sleep. Eat well. Enjoy time with good friends and family. Cry when you need to. Laugh. Seek support when you are feeling alone.

Congratulations, you have made it this far in life. You have been through a lot!

You have become a stronger and more compassionate person through all of your life experiences.  You are the amazing person you are because of all the ups and downs you have faced.  Go and celebrate each moment of life. Be kind to yourself, with gentleness, when you are facing difficult times and truly celebrate the good times.

Roland Legge offers presence based life coaching through REL Consultants for individuals, couples, and organizations to help them to be the best they can be. For more information, please arrange for a free 30-minute discovery call by phoning Roland at 1 306 620-7478 or book your appointment online at   https://www.relconsultants.com/coach-roland-legge  Please click on “Discovery Call.”

 

Originally Published by REL Consultants  http://www.relconsultants.com

 

A Fascinating Overview of How the Enneagram Personality System Works

Seven years ago I began learning about the Enneagram Personality System. It has changed my life for the better. I am much more compassionate and forgiving of myself. I have a lot more patience and compassion to work with people who experience the world differently from me. I am a healthier and happier person. It has helped me so much I want to share it with others.

This is a story of how the Enneagram the Enneagram personality system works.

Ennea means nine, and gram means figure in Greek. So together it means a nine-pointed figure. What is its history?  Here is a short synopsis:

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The symbol dates back about 2500 years. The actual date of its beginning or where exactly it started is unknown. It is a coming together of the wisdom of many different spiritual traditions. Much of it has come from Christianity, Buddhism, Islam (especially Sufis) and Judaism.

Much of this spiritual wisdom, was forgotten for hundreds of years. In 1875 Gurdjieff re-discovered the symbol in his search for the knowledge of the esoteric religions of the past. He formed a group called Seekers After Truth.  He and his friends traveled through Egypt, Afghanistan, Greece, Persia, and India.

Gurdjieff used the Enneagram as a tool to help his students to find their way in the world through dance and movement.

He explained that the Enneagram has three parts that represent the three central laws that describe divine law which governs all existence.

The circle represents unity, wholeness, and oneness and symbolizes that God is one (Hudson, 1999).

The next symbol is the triangle. In Christianity, this is referring to the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or in the Enneagram world, the Law of Three. This symbolism found in the Kabbalah, an esoteric teaching of Judaism. The ancient traditions do not see the world as a place of opposites but of non-duality. Hence the world is full of many hues of color rather than black and white (Hudson, 1999).

The third part is the hexad, referring to the Law of Seven. It demonstrates to us that nothing is static. Our world is continuously changing, recycling and evolving or de-evolving. The Periodic Table and the Western musical octave are all based on the Law of Seven (Hudson, 1999).

The modern Enneagram as we know it came to life in California in the 1970’s under Claudio Naranjo.  Naranjo and many others since him have woven psychology into the Enneagram to bring it into the modern age. He used panels of each type as one way to teach the Enneagram.

Today the Enneagram teaches that when you are born into the world, your ego chooses one of the nine fundamental ways to survive in the world. These represent the nine Enneagram types. This is how the Enneagram personality system works.

You could not have survived without the ego type your inner self chose. No one knows why we choose the type we do. It is probably a mixture of genetics mixed with early life experiences.

Our personality can begin to get in the way when we become adults if we do not become aware of the limitations of our nature.  When you are stuck in your personality, you are only using one-ninth of the tools given.

All the things you do without thinking are your personality speaking. When you begin to be aware of your limited pattern (type) talking, you then become open to responding in new and different ways.

I always say to my clients that when you can notice your personality acting out, you then have the option to respond in ways that are more appropriate for the situation in which you find yourself.

The Enneagram is like a map. It shows you when you are healthy, and not so healthy. It points you in the direction you need to go to get healthier. It warns you when you are getting stuck in old habits that no longer serve you.

When you look at most Enneagram images, you will see arrows pointing in the different directions of integration and stress (disintegration).

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The Enneagram is never static. The health of your personality is never static. Each day you go up and down depending on how much stress you are experiencing.

There is movement on the Enneagram as you move to ether your integration point or your stress point.

The integration points you toward the functional aspects of another type when you are dealing with life well. When you are integrating, you are living beyond the trappings of your personality.

There is nothing wrong moving towards the stress type. The stress point is a safety valve. It prevents you from moving down to a lower level of health than you have ever been before.

Just to learn the types can be a fun thing to do. It can be a great party conversation. But it is only of use if you commit to learning through this tool through workshops, reading, reflection, counseling, and coaching.

The only person who can tell you who you are is yourself. For many people, it takes time to discern what type you are. It is easy to misidentify when you are not self-aware.

The Enneagram is no excuse to behave in a particular way. The gift of the Enneagram is that it points out to you the personality box in which you find yourself. A healthy person will develop strengths in all nine types. This is how the Enneagram personality system works.

Learning the Enneagram together with someone that knows you well such as your spouse can be a lot of fun. Your partner can help you to see who you are. When we are so close to ourselves, we can easily deceive ourselves into believing our desired image of our self when in reality people around us experience us differently.

The Enneagram teaching is an excellent tool for any group such as spouses, a whole family, congregation or business to learn how to get along better with each other. You begin to understand your differences because of how you see the world through your different lenses.

I expect at some time in your life you assumed that everyone thought the same as you did—until you got a rude awakening.  We all have different ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

You will discover that most people don’t want to annoy you. They just see the world in different ways and have different priorities.

The nine Enneagram types divide into a triad of gut, heart, and head. These are our three energy centers. Your type suggests which one of these energy centers you either avoid or overuse. It just means this is where you are most comfortable but to be healthy, we need to keep all three of these wisdom centers open.

You can also use another triad of assertive, withdrawn and dutiful.

The assertive types of people move out into the world with force and conviction. They are a force to be taken seriously.

The withdrawn types when under stress like to withdraw into themselves to recharge. They are usually great observers of what is going on around them. They are easy to get along with.

The dutiful types when under stress feel responsible for taking care of everyone around them and making sure everyone stays safe. The dutiful types can often feel overly responsible.

The Enneagram is all about finding ways to live with as much presence as possible. Presence is the ability to stay open to the wisdom of your three energy centers: the gut, heart, and head.

The Enneagram is meant to help you move out of the fog of life. When you are stuck in your personality, it is easy to go to sleep to your true self. You live out your image of yourself without any self-awareness. Your life becomes more and more limited unless you find the courage to discover who you indeed are.

Using the Enneagram takes time and intentionality. It is a tool that will give you new things to learn each day no matter how old you are. It is no quick fix.

If someone claims you need fixing with the Enneagram, run away as quickly as you can. These teachers are dangerous!

I love the Enneagram! I hope it can help you as much as it has and continues to help me. I learned that being a type six explained why I had had lots of anxiety issues through my life. I have a lot more compassion for myself. I have learned how important meditation is for me to quiet my mind.

The Enneagram can change the world!

Learning that I am a type six has helped me to acknowledge my strengths such as my ability to look for problems before they become serious.

It has been a blessing in my relationship with my wife, Jen. She is a type five (the investigator). She thinks everything through before she says anything. She finds it difficult to express herself especially when she doesn’t feel that she has enough information.

I am the opposite. I think out loud. I learn through my conversations with others. We have had to learn much. I have learned to give Jen lots of time to think. She has learned that she needs to tell me what she is thinking, especially when it is a decision that affects both of us. We now laugh together instead of cursing each other.

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I invite you to try out the Enneagram. It is a productive tool that reflects the complexity and holiness of each person.  It shows you where you are right now and where you need to go to get healthier.

This fantastic tool helps you to find your true self or God self. The Enneagram shows you a way to be aware of your sensations that are full of wisdom. The Enneagram shows you a way to remain open to your emotions through your heart. This is how the Enneagram personality works.

You learn that your feelings shine the light on how you are experiencing the world in each moment. Then your mind, when quiet, helps you to connect with your intuition.

Please join me on this journey to new life. May it be full of surprises, wonder, and hope.

 

Roland Legge offers coaching through REL Consultants for individuals, couples, families, and executives to help them to be the best they can be. For more information, please arrange for a free 30-minute discovery call by phoning Roland at 1 306 620-7478, or you can email Roland at rolandlegge@relconsultants.com

 

Originally published at http://www.relconsultants.com/blog

Author: Roland Legge

 

 

Relationships are not always for Ever

Gefangen im Liebeschaos

 

Getting out of an unhealthy Relationship

Are you in a relationship you need to get out of? What is preventing you from leaving? Is it more about what others will think of you if you leave. Is it about the money? Is it about the wellbeing of your children?

Family and Friends

Have you considered that your close friends and family maybe wondering why you are still stuck in this unhappy relationship? They might even be willing to help you in your time of transition. People who love you want the best for you.

Relationships are not supposed to End

Most of us come into relationships expecting them to be life long. Relationships come to an end for many reasons. Sometimes we choose our partner out of desperation to feel normal and not alone. Other times we don’t invest enough time together in our relationship that one day we wake up and don’t know the other person.

Learning along the Journey

There are times when one person in the couple grows in self awareness while the other in the relationship stays stuck. One might be happy with the status quo but the other is not happy and wants change. No one can be forced to change. We can only invite.

Children are Impacted

If you are staying in the relationship to protect your children this is not a good reason. Children are very sensitive and will notice the conflict between you and your partner no matter how hard you try to hide it. Your kids will be much happier if they have two happier parents living apart.

I would never end a Relationship!

You may be like me, who never dreamed they would be the one to end the relationship. But often it is the one who is seeking change is the one who needs to take the initiative to ether seek help or begin the process to end the relationship. Your partner might be angry with you at the time, but in the end, they may even thank you. Destructive relationships are not good for anyone.

Breakup are never Easy

Even in the best of breakups they are never easy. If you can work through issues with a mediator this is much better than fighting in court. Working this out together cooperatively will be a win win for all.

Life is Precious

Our lives are too short to not enjoy what we have been given. What makes you shine? What do you love to do? What brings a smile to your face. Who are the people you really want in your life? So now might be a good time in your life to invest time and money into helping you to find greater joy, harmony and purpose in life.

You are Loved

I was amazed by all the support I got from friends and family when I ended my first marriage. I discovered who my true friends were. I was showered was love. It didn’t take my pain away but it sure made it much easier to move on.

You are not Alone

Remember you are not alone! We are all here on this planet to support and encourage each other. No person can to do it all alone. There is no shame in asking for help from a friend, a family member or a professional. This is more a sign of strength than weakness.

Learn from your Mistakes

I asked myself what I needed to learn from the breakup of my first marriage. Who would want to repeat the same mistakes again? This takes some deep soul searching. It can feel scary to go within but it is the only way to get beyond that which is holding us back from living the best lives we can. Each of us needs to take responsibility for our part in the relationship.

Would you rather smile or Frown?

You are likely angry at your spouse. Probably with good reason. But holding on this is not in your best interest. It takes a lot of energy to stay angry.  Here is something to try. Frown for a moment and notice all the muscles you use and how it feels and compare it with it how it feels to smile. I would rather smile.

Forgiveness is about Liberation

Forgiveness is not about saying to your spouse it is okay how you have hurt me. It is not about forgetting what they did to you.  It is about getting to place where those memories no longer trigger you and/or negatively impact future relationships.

Give yourself the Gift of Self Reflection

The best gift you can give yourself is time to slow down and really notice what is going on inside your body, emotions and thoughts. Avoiding these will only make them come back stronger at a time you least expect.

Pamper Yourself

As you go through your breakup take time to focus on your own needs. Go get a massage, they are a great way to connect to our body and it feels so good after the treatment. Spend time with friends and family you enjoy being with. Try some form of meditation to quiet your mind. This might be doing something you love such as walking, running, gardening, ceramics, painting or whatever delights you.

You are Worth It

Most of all as you move through this time of transition into a happier life do not be afraid to seek help. Whether it be a friend, family member, spiritual leader or professional there are people who want to help you.

You are worth it! Go and make the best of your life!  You have many cheering you on.

 

Roland Legge offers coaching through REL Consultants for individuals, couples, families and executives to help them to be the best they can be. For more information please arrange for a free 30-minute discovery call by phoning Roland at 1 306 620-7478 or you can email Roland at rolandlegge@relconsultants.com

 

 

What is this Jesus Really About!

Sermon – September 20th 2015

By Roland Legge

Proverbs 31:10-31 
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

What does it mean for you to be a Christian?  Right from the beginning the Disciples struggled with what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.  In today’s reading from Mark the Disciples do not want to hear what Jesus had to say.  They are still living in denial.   They want Jesus to be the great leader who will fix their problems.  They want him to fix their problems without them having to make any changes.  What are your expectations of Jesus?

I have a lot of sympathy for the Disciples.  Jesus was asking a lot of them.  But what I love about Jesus is that he invited them to join him.  He used no coercion. He lays everything out so there are no surprises.  If people are to follow him they must be willing to turn their lives around and put their faith into the love of God.  They must put wisdom of God before anything else.  They must be willing to find strength in vulnerability.  They must be willing to mix with those on the edges of society who are living in poverty, violence and all forms of abuse.  Jesus was challenging them to walk their talk.

It is ironic that the first people who really understood what Jesus was about were the people who were threatened by him such as Pilot.  So why was it that the people who were trying to kill him understood who he was while the Disciples who followed him did not?  I think they understood because they could grasp the huge cost the Jesus movement was going to have on, them.   It took Jesus disciples a long time before they fully understood.  They didn’t get it until well after Jesus death and resurrection.

Jesus struggles to get our attention today.  Many of us don’t want to hear what he has to say.  We like the disciples, metaphorically, don’t want to get our hands dirty.  We want someone else to fix our problems.  But yet Jesus never gives up on us.  He keeps calling us to true discipleship.  He does without judgement always hoping that one day we will be ready to be transformed.

Are we ready to be transformed?  Are we ready to be born again?  There is nothing magical about this process.  It is all about finding the Christ self, our higher self within us.  The Christ self is a gift from God and we all have within us.

There are many ways to access the higher power within us.  It is always helpful to quiet our minds so the Spirit can mold us.   Reading scripture in community can help us to discern our call to heal the world.  For me the Enneagram is a great tool to reveal our Christ self because it helps us to release behaviours that are not of service to the world. It helps us to see the difference between our egos, our fake selves, with our truth that comes from wisdom and true presence.  Presence coming from when we are able to release all our insecurities, greed, fear and hopelessness and fill that void with the love of God.

The Good News is that we don’t have to wait for anyone else to join us in our mission to transform the world.   One person can begin to make a huge difference just by changing the way they act.  In Systems theory it shows us that one person can begin to affect change in any organization by acting in ways that they expect their colleagues to act.  One person, destructively acting out, can show us where the organizational system is not healthy by asking these question.  Where is their discord?  Where in the organization are people not having their needs met.  Where in the organization are the members not being heard and respected?  Often once these problems are resolved the person will ether change their behaviour or leave.  Have you ever experienced this?

What will be most surprising are the people who we will meet on our faith journey. Sometimes they will be the people we least expect.  Maybe a person from another faith will want to join us.  Maybe it will be wealthy business person who is wanting to make the world a better place.  Maybe it will be a person who has a criminal record who is eager to help.  God has called us all to transformation, are we ready to receive those who are hungry for experiencing the Kingdom of God?

How are we at we at Foam Lake United Church trying to transform the world.  Individually many of you volunteer in our community.  Know that your dedication really does make a difference. But what are we doing as a congregation?

There are people in our community who are eager to make a difference in the world.  I believe that part of our mission is to invite community members to join us in some community mission that will do something positive for our community and world such as services for children and young families, cleaning up the environment, ending prejudice, building relationships with first nation brothers and sisters. This would strengthen our community, giving us a purpose and encourage those in our community who are looking for a spiritual home where they get to live out their faith.  A place where people get to make a difference.

When we allow our maker to engage us in ministry our lives are changed for ever.  The things that used to bother us are no longer giving us sleepless nights.  We no longer worry who is better or worse than us.  We no longer worry about who is good and who isn’t good.  We no longer worry about who has the right doctrine because we are living out our faith.  We no longer worry about having enough money because we will receive whatever we need to do God’s work because of the Creators abundance that there is enough for all. We no longer need someone else to tell us what to believe because our faith is now etched in our hearts.  You cannot help but know what we believe by what we do and say.

While being a follower of Jesus is not easy.  It also brings us great joy and purpose in life that nothing else can replace.  It is what guides us in what we choose to do.  It gives us amazing community to help us celebrate life and people to help us through the rough times.  It gives us a safe environment to grow beyond our personality.  It brings us together with other people to make the world a better place.  Most importantly it helps us all around the world to come together in peace, love, justice and harmony. To be the new world wide community of love, justice, generosity, and hope that both nurtures people and all of the Created order on this planet and throughout our galaxy.

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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

Hope in the Midst of Suffering

Easter Four: April 26th 2015

Reflection on Psalm 23:

By Roland Legge

 

 

How many times have you heard the 23rd Psalm?  I expect many of us have heard this hundreds of times.  But what does it mean?  Fred Craddock says:

Regardless of how one interprets the psalm, the general picture of what is stressed is quite clear.  One who has known trouble or experienced life-threatening situations has also experienced the protection of the Divine.  The psalm exudes confidence that God protects so that whatever life brings to his people, they will not be overwhelmed.

Preaching the New Common Lectionary Year B Lent, Holy Week, Easter by Fred Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay and Gene M. Tucker P.G. 190

 

But, how does this prayer make you feel?  Does it make you feel safe?  Does it help you to feel God’s presence?  Does it help you to remember that God promises to never abandon us? Does it give you comfort?  Does it help to free you of your pain?

For me it does all of what I mentioned except take the pain away.  I like how Craddock shows how the author of Psalm 23 honestly presents the human predicament:

This psalm presents the human predicament without any illusion about persons beings superhumans and above pain, loneliness, and lostness; yet the symbol of God as protector and even corrector affirms the potential of a tranquil life lived amid adversaries and the harsh realities that are the ingredients of every life.

Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary P.G. 190-191

While it does not take our pain away it gives us more confidence to move ahead even though there will be times of pain and difficulty. It helps us to stay more attuned to the spirit present and available to each of us in our own bodies, minds and souls.  Do you have that connection with the Divine, the Holy, the Sacred that the author of Psalm 23 seems to have?

The language of shepherding may not be a useful image for us today, because most of us don’t know shepherds. To give us a sense of Shepherding in Ancient times in the Middle East, Matthew Penny says this on The Worship Place, a United Church on-line community:

In fact Shepherds were often hired hands who were indentured to a rich landowner almost in perpetuity.

They were not popular.  They were looked down upon as being less than whole. Knowing this about shepherd what metaphors would you use today that we are familiar with?

Today this very day many people have written their own interpretations of the 23rd Psalm.   I share two with you today as one of many tools to deepen our understanding of this awesome Psalm.   The first is written by Julia Esquivel who opens his heart to us and showing us what Psalm 23 meant for him on that day he wrote it.

When the hour comes,

you shall change my desert into a waterfall,

you shall anoint my head with fresh oil

and your strength shall overcome my weakness.

 

You shall guide my feet into your footsteps

and I will walk the narrow path

that leads to your house.

 

You shall tell me when and where

I will walk your path totally bathed in joy.

In the meantime,

I ask you, Lord, you who awaken

in the most intimate place in my soul

the Feast of Life!

That of the Empty Tomb!

That of the Victorious Cross!

 

Let your voice mistaken as the Gardener’s

awaken my hearing every morning

with news that’s always fresh:

“Go and tell my brothers and sisters

that I have overcome death,

that there is a new place for everyone

there where the New Nation is built.

 

There, where neither earth, love, or joy

can be bought or sold,

where wine and milk

are shared without money and without price.”

Julia Esquivel, Threatened with Resurrection, The Brethren Press.

 

Then on the lighter note but yet powerful is Jim Taylor’s version:

Blessed relief

God keeps a cool café. What more could I ask?

She provides a comfortable chair to take the weight off my weary feet;

she puts up an umbrella to shade me from the sun;

she serves me iced tea.

Though I have battled with the crowds at the bargain counters,

though I have suffered the scent of too many sweaty bodies,

I don’t care.

I know what’s waiting for me at the end of the day.

An ice cream cone. It drips over the edges, and I lick it up gratefully.

I close my eyes;

the sound system plays the gentle chuckles of waves lapping on a shore.

I am content.

I would love to sit here forever.

In God’s cool café.

James Taylor, Everyday Psalms, © 1994 Wood Lake Books. Used by permission.

 

Which of these two different versions speak to you most today?  For me they both focus on the presence of God through the Holy Spirit.

I hope that our congregation can become more and more the place where we will feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that it will become so abundant that it will spill over into the rest of our lives.  But we all need to keep sharing our love, talents and time.  God can not do it alone.

God needs each of us to do our part.  That might mean we need to call someone up to see how they are if we have not seen them recently at church.  It might mean that we need to invite someone to a church service or some other activity.  Probably one of the most profound ways to share God’s love with another person is to simply spend time with them being fully present to them, whether that be sitting quietly next to them, possibly holding their hand, and listening to what ever they need to say. The story I am going to talk later about on the hospitality shown through the two cups of coffee are perfect examples of what I am talking about here.    I can think of many times when people have given me exactly what I needed at the time.  These were people who were following their calling by listening to their hearts, minds and intuition.

In the end God’s promises us is to journey with us and give us the signs we need to know the direction that God calls us to be going.  But what is even more amazing is that when and if we make a mistake God will use that to bless the world and give us countless more opportunities to turn our lives around.

 

 

 mycuprunnethoverwater

Called to Witness

Sermon – January 4th 2014

2nd Sunday of Christmas

By Roland Legge

Hebrew ScriptureJeremiah 31:7-14

Gospel:  John 1 (1-9) 10-18

 

 

Who was John the Baptist?  Scholars believe that John the Baptist had his own movement for liberation.  John was calling on people to turn their lives around well before Jesus came on to the scene.  Many of us believe that Jesus was originally a follower of John.  But as time moved on Jesus got a name for himself.  The scripture we read today is the result of the early followers of Jesus choosing to keep John the Baptist in the story although in a lesser light.  In the end John’s movement eventually joined the Jesus movement.  But this took many year and in the mean time the two groups struggled for acceptance.

In our Scripture reading today, from the Gospel according to John, the author shows us that John the Baptist’ ministry was to be one of witness to Jesus.  Jesus needed John to point to him as the son of God, the Messiah that many Jews had been waiting a long time for.  Why did Jesus need a witness? Because Jesus was so busy healing and proclaiming the Good News that few people understood who he really was.  John was needed to proclaim to the world that Jesus was no ordinary man!  He was indeed the son of God.

While for some Jesus was not big deal because they saw Jesus as some crazy zealot who was trying to free the Hebrews from the Romans.  They didn’t think that Jesus would amount to much.

But then were those who felt threatened by anyone challenging the status quo whether that was the religious officials or the Roman Empire.  It didn’t take long before a group of people, Romans and Jewish officials sought out Jesus to arrest him and kill him.  They were particularly concerned by the many peasants getting excited that God had something better planned for them.   The smell of rebellion was in the air.

In this atmosphere Jesus was calling on his followers to be witnesses for the Good News that Jesus and his disciples were proclaiming.  To be a witness to Jesus was also to be a disciple, choosing to live out this vision through words and actions.

Witness

We all need to discover how we are being called to witness for Jesus.  It won’t be easy!  Every day thousands of people proclaim their witness for materialism and capitalism on all our media devices.  So we need to find ways to get people’s attention.  We need to walk our talk so people will take us seriously.

How do you witness to the power of Jesus in our world? Sometimes it comes from the most unlikely of people, often a child.  I quote from a book by Thomas Long:

Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist, tells the story of the time, early in her practice of medicine, when she was treating a little girl named Anna for leukemia. This was back in the days when the recovery rate was woefully low, and though Anna had gone in and out of remission many times, by the age of seven she was facing the end. At Anna’s side at the last were her parents, a hospital chaplain who favored psychology over theology, and Komp herself, who at the time would have described herself as a “pragmatic post-Christian agnostic.” Komp writes, “Before she died [Anna] mustered the final energy to sit up in her hospital bed and say: ‘The angels – they’re so beautiful! Mommy, can you see them? Do you hear their singing? I’ve never heard such beautiful singing!’ Then she lay back on her pillow and died.”      Anna’s parents reacted “as if they had been given the most precious gift in the world.” The hospital chaplain quickly left the room, leaving the agnostic Komp alone with the grieving Christian family. “Together we contemplated a spiritual mystery that transcended our understanding and experience. For weeks to follow, the thought that stuck in my head was ‘Have I found a reliable witness?’” – Thomas G. Long, Testimony, Talking Ourselves into Being Christian

 

I think of two of my elementary school teachers, Mrs. Gardner and Mrs. Reid who taught me at Edith Cavell Elementary School in Vancouver.  They witnessed to the power of God by the way they taught each of their students.  As a child I could feel the love they had for me and their confidence in my abilities.   I also could feel that they had the same love for each of their students. 

 

I think of Russ Hudson, one of the teachers and researchers at the Enneagram Institute.  He is a witness for the type of world that Jesus desires us to experience where every person will be recognized and honored for the gifts and love they bring.  He points to the way where people of all and no religions of the world can get along with each other.  He points to the truth that God has given us everything we need to live fully in our world.   He shows us how we can begin to access the holy within each of us.  It is a matter of uncovering what we already have.

 

I try to witness to the holiness of each person in our world.  I believe that we are all made in the image of God.  We all have that of God in each of us.  It is even there in some of the most terrible people in the world.  I believe that we all have amazing stories to tell about our lives.  Every story I hear are most amazing stories of love, hope, determination and struggle.  So whenever you share your story with me I feel very blessed.  You all act as witnesses to the holy calling that each of us have been given.  Your stories fill me with hope because I have no doubt that God continues to be active in our world working through each of us.

Preaching the Word by William H. Willimon

The more we intentionally choose to witness to the type of world that Jesus desires us to live in, the more faithful our witnessing we will be. The best way to do this is by living as though this is already true. So we love each other for who we are. We speak up for those who can’t. We share everything we have. We care for planet earth because we have been blessed with its providence. We learn to resolve disputes nonviolently. We can have heaven right here on earth. This is the Good News!

Holy Disruption!

Sermon – Advent 2

December 7th 2014 (Year B)

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

 

 

It is hard to ignore John the Baptist!  Would you or I have been one of the many people who chose to come to John for his baptism of repentance? I am not sure if I would have left my comfortable sofa to go into the wilderness to be baptized by this loud and smelly man.   How in the world does this wild story this fit into Advent?

I think for many of us this Advent/Christmas season is supposed to be one of comfort, memories and nostalgia.  It is supposed to be a time of happiness.   It is supposed to be a time of generosity.  It is a time of frivolity with parties and concerts to attend.  It is the time of year that we think of the needy and try to make their lives a little better.  But John the Baptist has a difference understanding of Advent.

If we listen to John the Baptist, Advent is all about repentance!  Repenting is hard work.  It forces us to look deeply into ourselves to see how we need to bring our lives back closer to the ways of God.  This is hard work because we will have to face our own fears, shame and hopeless if we are to truly repent.  It will require us to change how we live not just in that moment but to integrate those changes into our lives on a daily basis.  Old habits will need to change.  But there is a huge reward that goes along with that hard work.  That reward is inward joy!

 

 

Much of what we have to do is in the choices that we make.   Much of what we have to do comes out of our conversations.  It is often about taking a stand and living into it.

Many years ago I took a stand when I chose to help clean the homes of people living with HIV/AIDS when there was no hope for recovery.   You see there were many homemakers who wouldn’t do this out of fear of infection and prejudice. This doesn’t mean it was easy, but with the help of God working through others I was able to do this and make a difference in these people’s lives.  I was able to it despite my own fears.

Recently there was a gathering of people who took a stand in a theater in St. Louis Missouri where the terrible violence has been taking place due to the killing of a young black man called Mike Brown by a white police officer.  It involve a piece of music written by JOHANNES BRAHMS called the German Requiem, that when first played in Vienna in 1867 caused a great uproar; there was boos, inappropriate behaviour and disgust. What was so controversial?  It was controversial because it was a piece of religious music being played in a public hall.

Now many years later the same piece along with Detlev Glanert’s arrangement of Brahms’ Four Preludes and Serious Songs was being played at the Powell Hall in St. Louis and got a similar reaction.  It took place after the intermission when

conductor Markus Stenz took the stage, two audience members began to sing. In strong, clear voices, they performed Florence Patton Reece’s famous justice hymn: “Which side are you on, friend? Which side are you on?” Nearly a dozen more scattered throughout Powell Hall joined in. While the audience watched in stunned silence, a banner unfurled from the balcony with a silhouette of a man’s face. It said: Requiem for Mike Brown 1996-2014.

 

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

 

One theatergoer challenged if the theater was an appropriate place for a protest.  A Catholic Priest spoke up and challenged the man complaining by inviting people to change the chant from of “What side are you On” to How are we going to heal?  Then without further ado the conductor tapped his baton and the orchestra began to play Brahms’ Requiem.

It opened with pulsing bass and unfolding choral line from Matthew 5: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

So Advent is a time of disruption!  John the Baptist and Jesus came to disrupt our lives so the Kindom of God can take root in our hearts.  Catholic theologian James Alison puts it this way:

“The One who is coming will not preside over us, but will teach us to want peace from within, and to learn the habits that make it possible. The One who loves us will come as one we despise, and crucify: The definitive puncturing of our god-fantasies, and yet the Presence of one who is powerfully determined not to let us remain wedded to our self-destruction.”

Season of Disruption by Rose Marie Berger http://sojo.net/preaching-the-word/season-disruption?parent=41143 

 

 

Think for a moment as to how God is breaking into your heart.  How is the life and the teaching of Jesus disrupting our lives?  How is the Spirit within you calling you to make choices that challenge the status quo and open up new possibilities for new life in our communities and world that recognizes that we are all equal before our Maker?  Isn’t this what Christmas is all about!!

 

 

 

 

 

 repentance_httplifehopeandtruth.comchangerepentance

We are the people of Hope!

Sermon – November 30th 2014

Advent One

By Roland Legge

Isaiah 64:1-9 1

1st Corinthian 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37:

 

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Today we focus on hope. Are you hopeful?  Are you looking forward to the future or do you fear the kind of world we are leaving for our grandchildren and great grandchildren? Do you believe that with God’s help we can make the world a better place to live?

Hope is not about wishful thinking.  For Christians hope is about being able to face the realities of the world while believing in every cell of our bodies that with God’s help we can transform the world.  We can transform the world into the Kindom of God where all can live in harmony with each other and God’s creation.

Hope is also means action.  We can’t have hope unless we are willing to live into it.  We cannot have hope unless we are willing to live as though the Kindom of God is already here.

I have hope!  I have hope because I believe that God has given us everything we need for all of humankind and the rest of God’s creation to live in harmony with each other.  I have hope that humans will stop fighting each other in wars.  I have hope that we will stop polluting the world as more and more of us realize that we are part of God’s creation rather than separate.   I have hope because I experience acts of love, generosity and courage every day.

I have hope when:

  • I experience people helping out each other
  • when I see a white police officer hugging a young African American on Facebook
  • when a community celebrates the return of a Mom dog to its puppies that just happened in Saskatoon
  • when we celebrate the love between two people of the same sex that is being celebrated more and more around the world
  • when the Irish Catholics and Protestants come together in peace
  • when children are welcomed into our church and allowed to be children

Our Scripture today from the Gospel according to Mark sends a message of hope to his people.  He says to his people that he knows of their many struggles they are facing trying to remain faithful.  He says to his people he knows of their fear.  He says to his people he knows of their impatience for change.

More so, the author of Mark calls on his people to live as though the world has already been transformed into the Kindom of God. He calls upon them to live with hope even though that hope sometimes is hard to find.  He promises that God has something better for them and the whole world.  There will be a radical change.  There will be disruption that will turn the world upside-down!   Suddenly the lowly will be honored.  Those with much will be humbled.  But he reminds them we will never know when this radical holy intervention will take place.  The challenge is to live as this transformation of love has already happened.  Mark’s message was received with thanksgiving!

Sadly this apocalyptic scripture has been misinterpreted.  Apocalyptic simply means revelation.  It was a message of hope often written during times of great oppression.  It was not intended to be an excuse to ignore the injustices of the world.  It was never intended to set up divisions between the saved and unsaved.  It was never meant to ignore the realities of the world. It was a never an intention to keep the status quo. You see God cares about all people.  God cares about living on this amazing earth.  It is not all about the afterlife!

Many North American Christians have corrupted the scripture into making our faith all about following a particular dogma.  This serious misinterpretation has led to movements so focussed on reaching the hereafter that they ignore the realities of the world.  It is often wealthy people who do not want to give up their privilege that often comes from the abuse of God’s creation; that does not require them to share their own wealth; that doesn’t require them to clean up the earth.  Why would you worry about the health of the world if you can’t wait to leave it in some glorious nuclear war?  Then even to make this even worse they begin to think that nuclear war is good thing because it will get them to Jesus.

So when Mark talks about the new world.  This is not a heavenly world, but one grounded in the here and now.  This is a new world order where human kind will live peacefully, and sustainably.

I want to end with some words from a great speech of Martin Luther King Junior, using apocalyptic speech that talks of the real hope that Jesus was about:

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination . . . So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition . . . Some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells . . . Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive . . . Go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today . . . And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

May we each incarnate the Hope that Jesus has passed on to us making the world the place that God intends it to be.

Amen.

New York City June 2014 (147)

Success or Faithfulness

Sermon – November 2, 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

By Roland Legge

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus has had it!  He is tired of these so called Rabbi’s who do not walk their talk.  They work so hard at keeping their outer appearance so pure that they have little energy or commitment left to live out the Love of God in the world.

“It is important to note that Jesus critiqued as a Jew and follower of Judaism — as a prophet — and so his critique is coming from within.  Jesus does not critique the teaching or the clothing of the Pharisees — their outward signs of piety.  Jesus upholds the Pharisees as good teachers, but poor models.  He observes how the meaning of some outward symbols of piety has taken on new and less noble meaning because the Pharisees are not “walking the talk.”

Yet these devotions were not all bad.  The Pharisees worked hard on their outward appearance partly in order to maintain the Jewish identity by wearing powerful symbols of the Jewish faith.  This probably helped the Jews to maintain their distinctiveness during a time when there was great pressure for them to merge with the powerful dogmas of the time.

Jesus was calling for a new community where each of us is set free to be our God given selves.  He believes that words and actions need to be in harmony.  He wants his disciples to walk their talk and help each other with their challenges. Jesus calls on his followers to be humble finding strength through vulnerability.

Sadly, many of us in North America and Western Europe also get caught up in how we look.  I expect that you have noticed the many commercials that keep telling us over and over again how happy we can be if we would just consume their product.  How happy we would be if we wore a certain brand of clothes, perfume, after shave or drove a certain type of car or had a particular credit card.  The list goes on and on.

Yes, Jesus wants us to be free. To bet set free from all the false gods of consumerism and power. Free from ways of living that come out of worshiping false gods such as lust, greed and self-delusion that can never truly bring hope, joy and meaning.

To be set free is also not to get caught up in our guilt.  A little guilt is okay if it spurs us on to new life but too much can make us powerless.  Thus I hope today’s sermon and service is helping to waken up within each of us who God wants us to be.

But this does not mean we are to do more.  It could mean that we are to do something different.  It could mean making a change in our life whether small or big. Yes, small changes can dramatically alter our attitude from hopelessness to hope.

But often before we move on, we first need to see where we are not living in harmony before we can begin to make that change. Can we answer these three questions: 1. Do our inner lives connect with our outer lives?  2. Do people see and experience the real us?  3. Which definition of success do we live by?

Sadly, many of us have a warped understanding of what it means to be successful. We too often think that success means to be married, have two children, make lots of money, and own a big house, two cars, a motor boat and a quad.

I believe that as a church and a society we need to redefine what success is. Here is what Mother Teresa says about success.

 “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke of success.  He spoke only of faithfulness in love.  This is the only success that really counts.”

(Aha Creative Resources for Preachers Oct/Nov/Dec 2002 Vol. 12 #1)

Also Molly Blythe Teichert tells the story of John Kamm a successful businessman in Hong Kong who learned that working for human rights is more important than making money. I quote:

“When people looked at John Kamm they saw a successful businessman, the president of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of a multinational corporation.  They saw a man who lived in a luxury apartment, drove a Mercedes, and employed two maids.  But God saw an advocate for freedom.

 

Shortly after the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese held a banquet to honor American businessmen working to help China attain most-favored-nation status.  As the host of the banquet was publicly thanking Kamm for his efforts, Kamm took the opportunity to ask for the release of political prisoner Yao Yongzhan.  The host of the banquet stormed off stage and Kamm was reprimanded for humiliating his host. Yet two weeks later, Yongzhan was released from prison.  Kamm decided to try again. He inquired with a local official about the possibility of releasing brothers Li Lin and Li Zhi.  He says that a week after their release, he and his wife had dinner with them in Hong Kong.

 

“They told me the day I got involved was the day their situation improved.  I wept.  That’s when I started to think that I could talk to the Chinese about freeing prisoners, and they would do it.”

 

Apart from any official human rights agency, John Kamm has helped to facilitate the release of more than 250 political prisoners in China – more than any other organization or government in the world.”

                Molly Blythe Teichert, Information from New York Times, “Kamm’s List” Aha pg. 26

 

I hope you noticed that Kamm had a passion for what he was doing.  I don’t believe that Kamm had his arm twisted to get him to do it.  I hope that we in our church communities can encourage each other to discover our passions.  We must get away from the old model of “twisting people’s arm until they do what the church board, Presbytery or Conference wants them to do.

What passions do you have?  Do you love to work, play and teach with children?  I certainly notice that among our church school teachers.  I notice how our musicians love musicI see how our gardeners and our volunteer custodians keep our church looking good.  I can often smell fresh coffee and food at church gatherings as many people share with us their passion to cook.  We have some fine artist in our communities. We have carpenters, teachers, nurses, doctors, homemakers and the list goes on.

To have a passions does not mean were going to enjoy every minute of what we do but we will have at least a sense of satisfaction that we were able to help out our church, community, family and thus God.   What ever we did will have a sense of rightness about it that no “arm twisting” could ever accomplish?

 

 

St. Julians Church Norwich England July 2011 (4)