Sermon for September 6, 2020 14th of Pentecost Anniversary “Holy Ground”
This space and all spaces are Holy when curiosity, insight, humility and acceptance merge in Awe of God.
Let me make an attempt to unpack that statement. When we think of Holy Ground our minds often go to the story of Moses, the burning bush and God saying ‘take off your sandals for you are standing on Holy ground. Some rabbinic traditions suggest the real miracle of the story and what sets Moses apart from others as a candidate for God’s liberating purpose, is not that God sets the bush on fire and Moses sees it. Rather, it’s that unlike all the other sheep-herders who saw the burning bush and just passed by thinking there is really nothing special about a bush burning up in the heat, only Moses, when he sees it, actually stops what he is doing and goes over to it, and stands and looks at it long enough to see it actually isn’t burning up.
This is what makes the ground and the story told upon it holy. It is Moses’ extreme curiosity, his patience, and his willingness and openness to see through the appearance of a thing to the heart of it, and to the presence of holiness afire in the ordinary – even in what seems to be ordinary destruction and loss. In the midst of the commerce of the day, the constant search for a livelihood, the routine back-and-forth across the hard, dry face of the earth to see the fire of God’s love at the heart of it all, and hear the call to live a transforming, liberated and liberating life?
As I read and re-read the history of St. Mark’s I see similar curiosity, determination and faith in the original Methodists who came to this land. Who wanted to worship in a style patterned after the style of Charles Wesley and the freedom to do so in peace. That zeal meant the first worship happened in a barn and since the circuit was so large (Sussex to St. Stephen) that, minister led worship was occasional. In between time worship was led by lay leaders. Some of the leaders and first members of the Methodist Carleton-Lancaster Circuit of 1858 are still familiar today: Dill, McPhee, Smith, Fair, Tippett, Lyman, Douglas and Nelson.
As the years unfolded there were fires, growth, amalgamations with churches and cities, the formation of the United Church of Canada in 1925, and new visions and buildings. The curiosity and zeal of the first worshippers has continued in the next generations and is still present today. As Grace, the current chair of the Board is so ready to remind us ‘our blessings are all around us’.
In the teaching of Jesus today we have a brief lesson on how to behave and resolve quarrels and then the stirring and settling image of Jesus presence where there are two or three gathered. One understanding of this text is to remind us that though our relationship with Jesus is a deeply personal one, it is when we are gathered that it has opportunity to grow and thrive and be a witness to others.
Today we celebrate being together and how great that is. In these days our being together also includes those who watch via Facebook, the real-time worship and the recorded worship later in the week. We celebrate our Methodist roots, our 161 year long history, ourselves and pass on the zeal for Jesus that has been St. Mark’s to the next generations.
Indeed, this is holy ground for here we have been and continue to be curious, humble, possessors of zeal all in the expansive presence of God; Creator, Christ and Spirit. It is my prayer that the rafters be lifted with joyful praise, curiosity filled mission and holiness afire in the ordinary. Praise be to God. Amen.