St. Mark's United Church

Believe Belong Become



Sermon for January 22, 2023

Sermon for January 22, 2023            Third of Epiphany       “Jesus Calling”

How long is a reasonable time for waiting? Well it may depend on the context. If calling 911 seconds can seem like hours. Waiting for luggage can seem like forever. But what about waiting for a Messiah? Well for the people of Israel the wait was thousands of years. According to the genealogy of Jesus about 72 generations from the first prophesies to the birth of Jesus and then another 30 for Jesus ministry to begin. That has got to be a world record for waiting.

Generations praying and waiting for the Messiah can lead to not believing in the promise or the prayer. But in the century before this current era, John the Baptizer appeared seemingly out of nowhere proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Messiah. And then Jesus appeared and began his ministry. His first task was to call those who would be the first disciples and followers. The Gospel text tells the story this way: “4:18 As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
4:20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 4:21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.”

What was it about Jesus that caused these first four to follow…without question? I wish I knew, but I do know well that the Spirit can and does move in ways that defy human logic. In the made for TV series ‘The Chosen’ this scene is wonderfully portrayed. With a look and a knowing, Jesus calls these two sets of brothers into an adventure that will change their lives forever. And set an example for all who follow still. I do know what it is like to one day be fishing (or preparing to attend master planning school in Ontario) and the next moment enrolling at the Atlantic School of Theology on the path to becoming a minister.

In the story, Zebedee seems to be the bewildered father standing stunned on the shore as his sons vanish following this rogue preacher. But again the Chosen does a delightful portrayal of this scene. James and John look at their father with a question, Zebedee responds ‘the man we have been praying for to arrive for thousands of years calls you to follow, and you worry what I will tell your Emma when you are late for supper!’ Go follow Jesus.

As this story seeps into our souls, it might be time to remember what it was about Jesus that was so compelling that we decided to follow. The answers are many and varied. I had to go to church and never stopped. A miraculous cure and I believed. A person experience with the divine and I was curious…and so on. But the question on my mind is; today, what is it about Jesus, for you, that compels you to follow? More than a committee or a particular church, or music, or friends…what is it about Jesus today that compels you to be a follower of Jesus?

Simon, Andrew, James and John, the first called on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, were by no means perfect. I expect their family and friends would attest to that. We in our day are not perfect and now is not the time to make a list. What is vital is Jesus sees you, yes you. Jesus called you for reasons that you live out each day and will be revealed in good time. The church did not call you, nor did a priest or minister from days ago. Jesus call you…beautifully imperfect for the task of being followers. The traits Jesus looks for are for next week’s sermon. For today what you need know is that Jesus sees you and you have been chosen and called.

Sermon for January 15, 2023

Sermon for February 15, 2023           Second after Epiphany           “We have found the Messiah”

I can remember learning to downhill ski. The hill was steep, even the bunny hill, the snow was slippery and the timber attached to my feet were always in the way. And walking is ski boots is clumsy. Slowly I learned and then the steeper the hill the better. I would get to thinking ‘I am pretty good at this’, at which point I would find myself careening down the hill on my face or butt or both, to the cheers of ‘great yard sale fall’. (Which meant that skis and poles were all heading in different directions.)

In the text from 1 Corinthians we hear the teaching from one of Paul’s journeys to Corinth. The introduction seems straight forward enough “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” But on further study this greeting is to let the people know in no uncertain terms that Paul is called by God and Jesus to teach and preach.

You see the people, once they heard the message of Jesus and accepted Jesus as Messiah quickly came to the conclusion that they had the only real route to God. That to be a true Christian and real follower you had to do it the Corinth way. It is an apparent construct of human nature that Jesus teaches and warns us about consistently throughout his ministry. And it is why Paul begins with his credentials so that there will be no disputing the words he speaks carry authority.

Paul then reminds them of their call, which is twofold. First, they were “called to be saints.” You would think that this is the kind of talk that would only add to their arrogance. How many of us look forward to having St. in front of our names someday? Not many, I would suspect.

Yet for Paul, the word Saint meant someone who recognizes the need for a saviour. A saint is one who has said yes to Jesus Christ. It carried no honour except the honour of the one who called. It made no guarantee that the behaviour of this person is exemplary. A saint was someone beholden to God through Jesus Christ.

Beholden is a wonderful word we don’t use any more. But it conveys images of being wrapped up as well as belonging. If we are beholden to God, then it is God who shows through more than us because we are wrapped up in that presence, that light. The good things that we do, the bright face that we show is the face of God shining through us, not our own visage, which might not be so holy.

Paul was reminding the Corinthians that they belonged to God and was asking them to examine their behavior to see if they still fit that description. It is a fitting practice in this Epiphany season and as we discern who our Herod’s are, and a good review at any time.

The second thing that Paul wanted to remind the Corinthians is that they were a part of something larger than themselves. He called them saints “together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” Jesus isn’t the exclusive property of those who seek to define him in specific ways. The Corinthians had remade Christ in their image, and Paul was trying to help them take a larger view. You are a part of something bigger than your eyes and bigger than your imagination. All those who in every place – who can comprehend something on that scale? It was a way of putting things in perspective and reminding us that by times we do behave like saints and by times we fall short.

It is, for me like skiing, there is always something I can learn and something I can teach. That when I get arrogant there just might be a fall. But there are times when I am in the zone and it is pure bliss.

Our journey is faith can be like that, we learn, we teach, we fall and every now and again we are completely wrapped in the countenance of God.

Sermon for January 8, 2023

Sermon for January 8, 2023              Epiphany         “Called to Another Road”

The Magi, observers of all that is celestial and planetary witnessed the appearing of a new star. It’s meaning, they determined was the birth of a child who would be King of the Jews. How did they know this so specifically, we do not know it remains part of the story and give depth and scope to the local and global event which we know of as the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel.

We do not often mention astrology in church and for many it is not part of polite conversation. But I like many glance at my horoscope in the paper and usually go…interesting. I did read an article a week or so ago about evolutionary astrology that looks at the course of planets on general and even specific trends on earth. That there is evidence that the alignment of planets and their subsequent gravitational pulls do impact life on earth. Imagine if you will the proven impact of a full moon on temperament in a galaxy realm. My point is that for a very long time we have been looking to the stars as a way to guide our life on earth.

Arriving in Judea the Magi started asking about the new born king. Little did they know that the highly paranoid Herod was King of Judea and anyone who even thought of dethroning him was in for a world of trouble. Finding the young Jesus, they presented the gifts of gold, frankincense and Myrrh. Warned by an angel, they returned home by another way.

At Christmas we tend to combine all the elements of the Christmas narrative and that is fine. It is also helpful to keep in mind that the events happened over a few years. We also condense the life of Jesus into our liturgical year, even though Jesus lived about 33 years and was in formal mission work for about three.

The text gives us no indication about the impressions of the Magi toward Herod. We do know that they met and that Herod asked them to return so he too could pay homage to the new born king. We do know that we all have Herod’s in our life. Whether they are a person or situation does not matter. For today Herod in our life is a metaphor to describe a time when we know with some degree of certainty that what we are experiencing is not real or has undertones of falsehood and or danger.

I expect you know those moments when your spidey-senses, or intuition or angels break into our consciousness even for a moment to offer us pause. Sometimes we listen and by times we do not. That voice leads us to choose paths that in some instances are of little consequence like what is the quickest line at Sobey’s, and others will lead us toward life or away from living our authentic self. And we all know that our lives are a series of choices some small and some large and they shift over time. We all have Herod’s and angels competing for our attention. And we all have given sway to one or the other in our lives.

We do know that the Magi listened to the angels and that set in motion all kinds of activity. Herod was insanely angry, Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt as refugees and the wrath of Herod led to the murder of children to the anguish of parents and family.

Our life’s are filled with choices, this road or that one. And along the way choices to change or keep going. As we lean into Epiphany may we know that the paths and roads we have chosen have brought us right here, both literally and faithfully. For me the delightful thing about choices is that even in the challenging ones, time has let me view them as positive for getting me here in live and in faith. Ahhhh or Aha is my joyful prayer as I ponder the paths taken and pray for wise angels for the roads to choose today and tomorrow. Oh and we might just say that the stars have aligned…or…that prayer and faith do make a difference.

Sermon for January 1, 2023

Sermon for January 1, 2023              New Year        “The Gift of Mary”

The gift of Mary is that she takes agency for herself in the midst of a highly patriarchal society. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God” to tell Mary the good news. The sixth month of what? We realize that it could not possibly be the sixth month of Mary’s pregnancy and it is not the sixth month of the year. The answer is a reference to the fact that Elizabeth is six months pregnant. Mary’s first response is to be perplexed and to ponder. And then the how question. The angel may not have been prepared for this question as he fumbles over the answer the same way as most parents do when asked by their four-year-old ‘how did I get into mommy’s belly?’

The angel’s answer, though muddled was enough for Mary and she gives consent to what is going to happen to her. She still holds onto her agency and self-decision making. This agency continues after Elizabeth declares that she is blessed. Mary again indicates that she agrees to the role she will play and indicates that for all time she will be called blessed. In the beautiful scripture that we call the Magnificat, Mary says: And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

First reading and time have softened the edges of this revolutionary text so that it does not grate too much on our sensibilities. Over time we have polished and tended this text, we have placed it in the glass protective casing and locked it away so that it will not get broken.  Mary knew from the moment the angels came to her that the son she was bearing would, at the same time break her heart and cause her heart to soar with gratitude. She knew the path would not be easy, and yet she chose to follow and believe. I am not sure she knew that in the last weeks of her pregnancy she would travel to Bethlehem and give birth in a stable with Joseph as a mid-wife and cattle looking on. That the first press release would be to a few shepherds, that Magi would offer peculiar gifts and that she and her family would be refugees in a foreign land for about a decade.

As we begin a new year, we may not have been visited by angels, given birth or been refugees. But the message of Mary is for us as the people named in ‘all generations’. Our tendency is to view the actions of God as past or future. It is all about what God has done or what God is going to do. We are reasonably good at history and apocalypse but what about now, yes, right now. Mary reminds us that God is active right now, in this moment and through each of us in each moment. Mary wondered, why a young girl from a backcountry town called Nazareth? We wonder why or how can I be important to the work of God? Mary reminds us to say yes and in saying yes we open ourselves to wonder of God’s calling in all its work, joy, heartache and triumph. Our gift to Mary is to take her words out of the sealed case we have put them in, put them on the dining table, the kitchen island, the children’s play table and café tables all over the land. So they can be read and re-read, used, debated, and cherished as we move toward the day Mary speaks of and Jesus proclaims.

As we begin a new year, as another year is dawning may we be humble and bold enough to say yes to God and Jesus. God calls you, perfectly imperfect as we are to be part of God’s unfolding story, Mary and Jesus’ call to revolution right now, in our time. And remember always… that you are redeemed, named and chosen for this ministry, this revolution today and right now.

Sermon for December 18, 2022

Sermon for December 18, 2022        Advent Four               “The Gift of Elizabeth”

The angels have visited Mary and Joseph separately. They are both excited and a bit or maybe plenty scared. What will families think, community, Synagogue or Rabbi? The story does not give much for detail about these days. We do know that Mary journeyed to see Elizabeth and in her ninth month Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem.

Why Mary chose to visit Elizabeth is the stuff of speculation and in all that we will never know. She did go to visit while in her first trimester. Did she make this 3-day journey alone, were others there as well…again all up for speculation? The story only indicates that Mary went to visit Elizabeth.

Elizabeth the older Aunt, well past her time of bearing children, discovers that she is expecting. Elizabeth and Zacharias are elated and scared. Though older this pregnancy was more conventional in terms of Synagogue standards.

And so the teenage Mary comes to the older Elizabeth for shared comfort, to console, share stories and to visit as two people who were invited into story that was grand and marvelous, beyond their control and within their control.

Two women who were not supposed to be pregnant find delight and comfort in each other’s company. They share a common story of God’s compassion and an uncommon path to motherhood.

Elizabeth’s gift is one of welcome and hospitality. She opened her arms and heart to Mary who would soon be if not already the shame of Nazareth for being pregnant before marriage. She was able to calm Mary and show her the strength that was already present in her. A gift of non-judgmental acceptance and a gift of joy filled excitement.

For us in our day it is a powerful gift and one that might be dusted off and used with extravagance. It shines a light on the ways we use our judgement of others as an excuse to withhold hospitality. It shines a light on our desire to act as consultant to God as we repress joy when God does not behave as we like. It shines a light on our capacity to forgive or not forgive. It shines a light into the places and people we would prefer stay in the shadows or our periphery so we can live life our way.

This is a Sunday of the discovery of love and in that love an opening to hospitality and joy. Jesus shows the way with wine and bread and in this feast of love shines a light on our heart. At this table no is excluded, in fact all are heartily invited to share. Young and older, seeker and life-long believer, saint and sinner for in Jesus all are redeemed, named and chosen for God’s good work.  

Sermon for December 4, 2022

Sermon for December 4, 2022          Second of Advent       “The gift of Rahab”

Thanks to Joanna Harader and her Advent devotions “Expecting Emmanuel, Eight Women Who Prepared the Way”.

You may be familiar with the old song ‘the walls of Jericho came tumblin’ down’. Well that is part of the story of Rahab. Depending on how you read the story she is either a heroic, courageous and faithful woman who risks her life to protect the lives of the Israelites she chooses to side with because she believes in the power of their God. Or a tragic story of how the selfish and calculating Rahab partakes in the genocide of her people. The truth may lay somewhere in the middle.

It may be helpful to get the one big truth about Rahab out there right at the beginning. She is a prostitute. And yet in all the texts relating to her in scripture she is heralded as a hero (Joshua, James and Hebrews). It forces us to do a bit of a rethink on who can actually be a hero. In this case a woman who in her day and ours is frowned upon.

Rahab is part of the community of Jericho but has also turned her heart to the teachings of the God of Israel. The spies can talk to her freely because of her occupation and for the same reason the leading men of Jericho leave her alone. So in an odd twist of fate Rahab has the perfect location to harbour spies.

Joshua does attack the city, the walls fall, the homes looted and the city burned. I know it is not an inviting image for the second Sunday of Advent when peace is the theme. In all the mayhem of the days what holds true for Rahab, the spies and Joshua is that they all keep true to their word. Rahab keeps the plans of Joshua secret and Joshua ensures Rahab and her family are safe.

The unusual nature of the inclusion of Rahab is that she is a woman, a prostitute, a traitor or hero and is named. Whereas the men in the story are unnamed. And as I mentioned earlier, her heroic deeds are named in James and Hebrews.

For our day and especially in this season of babies, families, angels and stars, Rahab reminds us that families come in many forms. The single, families, couples with no children, families with children from others, couples of the same sex and couples from different ethnic or belief backgrounds. All families are welcome in the household of God.

There is also a reminder that the witness and work of God can come in ways of people we never imagined. The one we walk by or pass opinion on may very well be the one chosen by God. It is a reminded that is God who does the calling. And over the years God has done a great job of picking the right people for the right time and place.

For Rahab the words ‘I am the Lord your God, who delivered the people Israel, who lead them from captivity to freedom’ would not have been familiar. But they rang true for her, she wanted to know more about this God of Israel. She wanted to follow this God…and she did. It is a reminder in our day that to many the words ‘and unto you is born this day, in the city of David, one who is the prince of peace’ do not hold meaning or sway. We never know when those words will change a heart, so we keep on saying them. And that the Spirit so familiar to us, can also work in those who do not believe. Part of the gift of Rahab is knowing when to speak our truth and knowing when to be silent and allow Spirit to touch the hearts of those who have not heard. Part of the gift is knowing that in all our imperfectness, God has named, chosen and called you, with your particular and even unusual skills for the work of the kingdom.

I would like to leave you with part of Rahab’s blessing from Joanna Harader: “For all who have been there (or for wherever you have been). I offer this blessing as a bright crimson cord to disrupt destruction; When you are pushed to the edges, may you insist on your own story with such grit and grace that they have no choice but to tell it. When you are far from center, may you know the power and freedom that God grants to those on the margins. When you face impossible choices, may you act with integrity and courage, resting in the shield of God’s grace. When other dismiss you with a label, may you claim your deep identity as a beloved child of the creator.

Sermon for November 27, 2022

Sermon for November 27, 2022        First of Advent            “The Gift of Tamar”

I am thankful for the writing of Joanna Harader in her book “Expecting Emmanuel, Eight Women who prepared the Way” The story of Tamar is found in Genesis 38.

Tamar is the first woman named in the genealogy of Jesus. Her story is filled with silence, terror, drama and complication. We may not always like the stories of the older testament as our context is very different. It is challenging to read and not pass judgement on behavior but that does mean we discard the teachings, rather we learn the vital lessons and are surprised with the resilience and grace of the women named if Jesus genealogy.

Tamar is caught a situation over which she has no control, that is the belief that the eldest son should have an heir. Er was the eldest and died, Oman was next and he died and the youngest was not old enough so Tamar’s life became complicated and messy.

We are not unfamiliar with the challenges of the holiday season. We sing of hope, peace, joy and love and yet family and friend roles often leave us exhausted and unsure. What looks normal and postcard perfect to one is a tidal wave of emotion to another and what looks stressful to one is actually peaceful to another.

For Tamar after the death of Oman she is left in a restless season of waiting. She has status and yet she has none, she is part of the house of Judah and yet no legitimate way to belong. In a wise and well prepared plan, though it could also be perceived as devious, Tamar dresses the part of a prostitute, Judah finds her attractive and payment is a signet, cord and staff. Not only that but Tamar is now pregnant. The only thing that gives her legitimacy.

Advent is a time of waiting. We wait for all sorts of things at the various stages of our lives. But there are times when waiting can lead to being stuck. Such was the case for Tamar, she was stuck, stuck in waiting, stuck at wanting someone else to act. So in her powerlessness she acted in the only way she could think of, with the resources at her disposal and got herself unstuck.

In our time of waiting can we see places where we are stuck? From fear, lack of resources, comfortable passiveness or from another’s inaction. Waiting can also be a time to discern that we are in fact stuck and provides opportunity to seek the strength and wisdom of God to take the necessary steps to get unstuck.

What is curious is that the very person who slept with her then wanted to put her to death. But Tamar refused to accept that shame, she refused to be labeled by the man and men who held high ideals for others and behaved however they pleased. Tamar sends the signet, cord and staff to Judah, a real and visible sign that he is in the wrong…and then waits. I can only imagine what that waiting must felt like, how the minutes felt like days. She is waiting to hear if the man who slept with her will burn her at the stake and let her die in this fashion.

We cannot control all the things that happen in our lives. There are times, perhaps many times that the best we can do is wait and pray. For Tamar her actions are vindicated, Judah acknowledges the shame is his and not hers, that his actions toward Tamar have not been kind or just. She does live, she does marry Shelah and she does bear twin sons.

In this Advent week of hope, it is my hope and prayer that we in our day can find the courage to treat all people, especially women with kindness and justice. That the male dominated powers in our armed services, hockey, corporate world and religious world can end violence against women and the subsequent violence of cover-up or pay off.

Tamar’s gift is one of voice, or determination and awareness of her personal power in exposing injustice. It is a gift that we can embrace, as we hope and wait in our day, as we wait for the one to be born that will be named prince of peace.

Sermon for November 20, 2022

Sermon for November 20, 2022        Reign of Christ            “Let Jesus do it All”

There are times, maybe many times when I wish that Jesus would just do it all. That the prophecy of Isaiah would actually come true in our day. You know the one; ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. It is good that Jesus accepted this as part of his mission, his personal mission. He lived that mission during his life and wouldn’t it be great if he could continue to personally do it now?

That is not how Jesus saw things. Yes, he did heal and feed and lift the esteem of many, and he also called and enabled others to do the same. And invites us to do the same.

The challenge comes in the living into that mission, did he mean all the poor, all the captives, all the blind or oppressed? Or just those that look, sound and think like us? At any time, it is heart wrenching to think of Jesus being nailed to a cross and then the cross lifted into place for all to see the wretchedness of suffering. And yet even in those moments Jesus is thinking of us, of others. It is interesting to me that this first word is not a word to us; it is a word to God. Jesus still has much to tell us, much to pass on to us even with his dying breaths. But he uses this first word to intercede for us yet again. “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

It is not an easy word to hear – or to overhear, in this case. It is not easy because knowledge is so important to us. “Know thyself,” said one of humanity’s greatest philosophers. We strive after knowledge. We live in an information age. We grow to the age of understanding. We confer degrees of knowledge upon one another. We pride ourselves on our intelligence quotient.

Yet when push comes to shove, when life bumps up against death, when meaning stands before us, salvation is offered to us, love reaches to embrace us, we need to be forgiven because we don’t know what we are doing. Or do we? We would be happy if Jesus just did all the work; feed the hungry, heal the lame, redeem the criminals, welcome the immigrant. But Jesus left that work for us and we have the luxury of choosing who we help. So with the knowledge of our blind spots…Jesus asks God to forgive us.

In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus tells us that the wanton behavior of the prodigal, the loose living, the slap against parental authority, the self-centered, self-seeking sinfulness is not really who we are. It is a madness of sorts, an unknowing. The turnabout phrase in the midst of the story is, “When he came to himself.” If he had only known from the beginning who he really was; if he knew his own soul and his own mind, then his life would have been different. If only he knew.

“Father forgive them, they don’t know.” Jesus came, some argue, to show us God. And in showing us God, he showed us ourselves. In other words, Jesus came so that we would know what we were doing. And yet as he died, he prayed to God to forgive us because we didn’t get it. We didn’t know.

He could have washed his hands of us at that moment. In an odd way, that is what the scoffers were asking for. Walk away from us, Jesus; show us your power by taking care of your own skin. That selfishness we know; we understand that. Because we live it every day. It is this sacrifice that we don’t know. It is this dying that we don’t understand. Give up on us and then we would know that you were right, that you did have the power, that you were who you said you were. But then it would have been too late. And we would have been lost.

Jesus didn’t give up on us. He began his dying by trying to help us live. “Father, forgive them.” From the cross, Jesus was trying to get us back or keep us in right relationship with God. Forgive them. Heal them. Hold them. Gather them up. Stitch them back together.

That was the function of this word from the cross, to stitch us back into relationship with God. Even though our actions seemed to say that we didn’t want to be there. Even though our words implied that we wanted nothing to do with God or with salvation or with hope for living. The thing is, we didn’t know what we were doing.

But God knows the plan. If Jesus had listened to the first criminal, there would have been no resurrection. Mary and Mary and Joanna would have found Jesus in the tomb, and prepared his body for permanent burial. End of story.

God loves us so much that Jesus came to earth to show us the nature of God and love. Even death by Roman Imperial decree could not silence God. That is the enduring message…love. And Jesus gave it all so that in our forgiven state we can do it all. Remember that you are named, redeemed and chosen and strategically and delightfully placed for your witness to the love of God.

Sermon for November 13, 2022

Sermon for November 13, 2022        Twenty-third after Pentecost  “Impossible Possibility”

I drive by Burger King almost every day. There is a big sign that says ‘Impossible Whopper’ and I have always wanted to go in and discover what impossible looks like. Part of me thinks that since their whopper is impossible, then I might just get a wrapper as the contents are impossible but I know it is a catch phrase, even if it is a poor use of language.

We are nearly at the end of the season of Pentecost and Jesus is preparing the disciples and followers for what is to come next…that time after Jesus is no longer a physical presence in their lives. When the disciples have the teaching and the Holy Spirit as their daily motivation.

Jesus points to the majestic buildings and in particular the Synagogue and says ‘see this building, not one stone will be left in place, it will be utterly destroyed’. You are going to endure some challenging days as not only will the Temple collapse but all you hold dear will be turned upside down. Families will battle with each other, creation will seem on the verge of collapse and that was seen as normal will be displaced. This is what awaits you, so you need to be prepared.

With a collective voice the disciples proclaim…Impossible.

We know from our perspective that what was seen as impossible was possible. The Temple was destroyed and rebuilt. Further to that the movement Jesus started lay shattered and buried for three days then resurrection and the movement and way of Jesus was secured and built on the faith of the people for generations. In spite of our humanness, our capacity to squabble and do battle with each other, despite even the church with its entrenched history and doctrine, the teachings of Jesus have survived and even thrived.

From those first impossible moments when the disciples locked themselves in a small home in Jerusalem to today when the message seemed doomed to insignificance, the possibility of God and Jesus still astound and surprise us. The apocalyptic nature of the teaching of Jesus in John may seem to be nearing reality. But I would argue that for the past 2000 years we have not been as kind to each other as the Gospel teaches and we continue to be unkind, especially to those we deem as different. And if I look at the equality issues with men and women, in the last 20 -30 years the bar has not moved very far.

And yet the vision of Isaiah lingers in the teachings of Jesus and in our best work for treating all as valued. 65:17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.65:18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 65:19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 65:20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed…65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent–its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

We may very well say or at least whisper…impossible, but I know that we have enough life experience to know that with God all things are possible.

The possible miracle begins with one, you and me as we live as faithful witnesses to God and the love of Jesus. And before you think to yourself…not me, I can’t do that…surprise…you already are.

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