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Sermon for November 22, 2020

Sermon for November 22, 2020                    Reign of Christ                        “Of Your Faith”

It is not Survivor or a scavenger hunt. Just because you get to the alter, wave your hands in the air proclaiming your sinfulness and have someone smack you on the forehead and declare that you are saved, does not mean you are.

The journey of faith is intensely personal and deeply communal and is rooted only in the love that God through Jesus has for each one. Any church, including this one or even the United Church, that declares they are the one and only true faith and hold the only real path to salvation are proclaiming a lie. No mortal being can make the assertion that you are saved. That is entrusted to God.

Perhaps a refresh on the teaching from Ephesians is timely; “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

This is the Reign of Christ Sunday and marks the last Sunday in the liturgical year. Next week we begin Advent and our journey to Bethlehem. For today we celebrate that Jesus is an ever present presence in our lives and we shout our praise. Well as much as allowed in these COVID-19 times.

Coming to the place of having faith in Jesus is not the end and we can move onto something else or rest on our laurels. Each day of faith is a new beginning, a new opportunity to seek insights and teachings and ways to be the faithful within our sphere of influence. And for each person it will be different. Some sing, some are farmers, some bake, some teach some deliver, some heal, some clean, some aide and some pray. On any given day we may have the capacity for one or two or more activities based on the nudging of our faith, and some days all we can manage is quiet and prayer. And Jesus says ’it is enough’.

What we do not boast of, is our rightness, our absolute certainty that my way is the only way. The Reign of Christ is a celebration of all the ways and paths that people come to faith, that people come to acknowledge Jesus is Lord, saviour, teacher and friend.

John Cole in his commentary on this text offers this insight: “Note this important shift, in verse 12 he begins by speaking of ‘we, who were the first to set our hope in Christ’. Then in verse 15 he says, ’I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus’ when he sets up his prayer. In this, he is both acknowledging our ultimate hope in Christ and reminding believers that we have not yet completed our task. The prayer is not a victory dance for those who have arrived but a clarion call to live a life worthy of the calling to which they have been called, to exhibit the body of Christ as God’s called people…Here is evidence that salvation does not involve joining the club of the saved but is, rather, an invitation to a role in Christ’s ongoing work of salvation and reconciliation, as the dividing walls continue to fall. The reign of Christ has granted him dominion over all cosmic powers and control that extends into the coming age.”

And that brings me right back to the beginning of the teaching, ‘I have heard of your faith in Jesus’. You, you gathered here this day, you are the ones entrusted with the message and mission of Jesus. That work is not complete. And whether you are new to faith or older, whether you come to faith from hitting the bottom or the gentle nurture of family, you, yes you are called, named and chosen to be the ones working toward the outpouring of love, compassion and redemption right where you are.

Jesus has heard of your faith and is well pleased.

Sermon for November 15, 2020

Sermon for November 15, 2020        24th after Pentecost    “A Precious Gift”

Remembering that the best things in life aren’t things, I am going to look at gifts from the perspective of two very different texts.

I chose the Judges text because it introduces us to Deborah. Deborah ranks among the most famous women of the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament. Not only known for her wisdom, but Deborah was also known for her courage. She is the only woman of the Hebrew Bible who gained renown on her own merit, not because of her relationship to a man.

She was truly remarkable: a judge, a military strategist, a poet, and a prophet. Deborah was only one of four women designated as a prophet in the Hebrew Bible, and as such, she was said to transmit the word and the will of God. Although Deborah wasn’t a priestess who offered sacrifices, she did lead public worship services. Apart from this brief insight into her life we know little about her. Even the mention of her husband is suspect for Lappidoth can also mean torch bearer which became her emblem, but we just do not know for sure.

For women more than 3000 years ago and even today Deborah is a role model and a precious gift to all people.

The Gospel teaching places the stewards and the call to care in the same place. As we step back and view the complete story we see that receiving and giving are a linked aspect of our faith. Hiding and withholding are aspects of our ego and not part of God’s greater plan for the people or the world.

For the past weeks I have using the wording of Jesus that says: ‘you are named, called and chosen, you are mine’, to remind you that in these days especially you are noticed by God. For God has given each of you a gift, each gift is specially chosen for you and your abilities. I am thankful that every person has a differing gift.

The teaching is about how we use that gift. Do we keep it to our self, considering it too precious to be shared? Do we only bring it out on special occasions? Or do we nurture and use the gift with glorious abandon.

One of the gifts we all have in some measure is the gift of song. During these COVID-19 days in worship our voices are silenced. We do however have the gift of song from others. What has not been silenced is our gratitude. Whether applause for the hearing or hands waving for the hearing impaired, this gift of gratitude does not spread the virus.

From my vantage point at St. Mark’s is see and witness your care, compassion, generosity and spirit in full view for the benefit of others and in fulfilling our Christ give ministry. And I am humbled.   As we move into the Advent and Christmas season we will be asked again to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to check in on the sick and challenged, to offer hospitality to the traveler and in doing this, proclaim the year of the Lord. I will not be surprised by the sharing of our gifts as we reach out to others. And I will clap and shout silently as generosity is witnessed.

Sermon for November 1, 2020

Sermon for November 1, 2020                      All Saints Day The Saints Among Us

But now thus says the Lord, God who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43.1)

To know in the deepest part of your knowing that you are called, chosen and redeemed elevates you to the status of ‘saint among us’. But the often asked question is how do I know? The easy answer is; you will know in your heart.

I know people who have had a real experience of Jesus standing before them call them to a course of action. I know people who opened their heart and allowed Jesus in, I know people who came to Jesus kicking and screaming after years of resisting, I know people who just by the way they live open themselves to God and all sorts in-between. For me the journey to Jesus was a slow steady one nurtured by many. The assurance of faith is a gift of my mother and the curiosity of faith a gift from my father. There have been many saints who have and continue to nurture and nudge my faith. Two that stand out are; Eric Fullerton a minister from my childhood and Gordon Cann who was my minister while I was pursuing my call and is my mentor.

It seems to me that there are a variety of styles of saints in our lives. Before I get too far ahead of myself different denominations have differing views on saints. Some traditions name saints because of their work and demonstrated miracles, others do not believe in naming saints and others name people because of their extraordinary ministry in challenging times. Desmond Tutu or Martin Luther King Jr. will never be named as saints but their steadfastness to God in times of extreme danger has caused their life’s work to be a beacon of faith and hope to many.

So it is on all saint’s day that we hear the words of Revelation that says: After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

The invitation is for all to be part of the Jesus movement. Some are on board right away and without hesitation, for others it takes some time and some will never get there. What I know for sure is that I am not the evaluator of who is in or not. That role remains solely with Jesus, thanks be.

As part of the invitation Jesus offers a welcome that is completely inclusive: are you poor, do you mourn, are you meek, do you hunger and thirst, are you merciful, and you pure, are you a peacemaker, are you persecuted, are you ridiculed and left out? There are many pathways that lead to Jesus, as many as there are people. And these simple beatitudes begin to make sense as we experience Jesus calling us by name. Logic, reason, principle or formula will not unlock the wonder of Jesus, your heart does. Then faith will enter and unlock your all, for the ministry of Jesus.

In the word of the hymn penned by Daniel Charles Damon our heart hears:

“I have called you by your name, you are mine; I have gifted you and ask you now to shine.

I will not abandon you; all my promises are true. You are gifted, called, and chosen; you are mine.

I have given you a name, it is mine; I have given you my Spirit as a sign. With my wonder in your soul, make my wounded children whole; go and tell my precious people they are mine. You are gifted, called, and chosen; you are mine.”

Sermon for October 25, 2020

Sermon for October 25, 2020      Twenty-first after Pentecost      Living into the Greatest Commandment

I believe it true, that one on the universal constants is; change happens. Sometimes it is dramatic and by times it is generational. Change is one of the few things that stays the same. Looking back over the expanse of time of the Hebrew people as recorded in the First Testament we see with clarity that many things changed. From the Garden of Eden to the promised land, from leader to leader, from understanding of Yahweh, and even God was moved to change an action from time to time.

From the span of one person’s life the change was not obvious and so we often hear that leaders and even God are stubborn and unmoving. As the people of Israel arrived at the edge of the promised land the only constant in the collective memory was travelling. Being a settled and stationary people was a distant memory told in story about days long ago.

In the Exodus reading the people of the day experience a dramatic change. We hear of the death of Moses; the only leader these people have ever known. They stand gazing at the Promised Land and a new leader is named in the person of Joshua.

In the reading today, which is essentially the same as last week’s reading but this time in Matthew not Luke. We hear that change is about to happen. The people are standing on the edge of the promised land (so to speak) and there is fear.

The teaching for today begins with the failure of the Sadducees to silence Jesus so the Pharisees have a go at it. They ask; what is the greatest command in the law? Those last three words are important for the Pharisees and Sadducees held to the firm belief that the law was God and God was the law, there was no separation of the two.

Jesus’ answer ushers in a seismic shift/change in the understanding of God. “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”

Yeah…correct answer, bravo you got it right…and just as the applause started Jesus said “and there is a second…”you shall love your neighbour as yourself”. This is when the Pharisees’ mouths flutter like guppies, they look at one another and stutter for words. In this moment the rigid, stoic boxed in God of their world is broken open. All of a sudden God is about heart and love and others. All of a sudden the sterile certainty of God is messy and available and unpredictable.

Now before we get too puffed up, we have positions to unlearn before we can live into the hard work of loving God and neighbour. At some point long ago white folk decided that people of colour were commodity, for work and enslavement. When Europeans bumped into North America or Turtle Island they thought that those here were not worthy. In Canada, religious educators forced the people of the land into schools so that they could become more ‘white’ and educated and well more like them. It can be argued in limited fashion that this was done with the best of intentions but that falls flat very quickly. In our day, we know better, we know all people are created in the image and likeness of God, that all people have value, that creation is worth being cared for and even saved. And yet there is a staggeringly large proportion of folks who are unwilling to learn this truth about the nature of God.

God spent thousands of years travelling with the people of Israel, then God relented and allowed King Solomon to build a temple but never imagined that the people would put God inside and lock the door. Since then God has been trying to convince us that that did not work, even to the point of sending Jesus to show us that God was not in that box. And still we are most comfortable with ‘God in a Box’ so that we can define and limit God according to our ego and version.

There are many teachings that unbind God and chasten us to let God out of the box and to actually seal and lock the doors once God is out. But for now listen to these two pivotal and expansive teachings of Jesus; God loves us so much that God sent the Messiah/Jesus to break open our restrictive understanding of God, and Love God with all your heart, mind, body and spirit and extend that love to your neighbour. Our fear of what happens next is over-compensated for by the extreme love of God. It seems to me that when we break free of our strictly and tightly held idea of God…then we are able to begin living into the Greatest teaching of God and Jesus.

Sermon for October 18, 2020

Sermon for October 18, 2020      20th after Pentecost

Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:15-16

In the Exodus teaching we hear that God has seen Moses and knows his name. This extends throughout time even to this day, God knows our name and embraces who we are and becoming. When Moses asked to see God, God was a little reluctant to show Moses or anyone His full image and face. I have a sense that God knew that when the mystery was fully exposed then God would become ordinary. We know plenty about God but not completely. That I find intriguing.

I suspect that many find magic tricks interesting and fascinating. But would they be so if you knew what was happening? The unknown, mysterious and intriguing are alluring to us humans. Which perhaps explains the foundations for space exploration. Which also explains that thousands of years we have been trying to understand God. For those who cannot live with this mysterious God the solution is simply that God is dead. We can get so close but there is always mystery, and that keeps me and us searching. And how good is that, that we continue to know a bit of God and Jesus in our day and context.

Skip ahead a few thousand years and the politicians are wanting to catch Jesus in a trap. The question is: should taxes be paid. This was certainly the unanswerable question because Jesus was going to alienate the politicians or the Jews. No way to get of this one…or is there. The question is a political one and the expectation is that it would be answered in the same fashion.

Jesus responds with a theologically by asking for a coin and asking whose inscription is on it? And then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. and the scribes and Pharisees simply say huh! And walk away.

God is after something considerable more valuable than our money, God is looking for us. Our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. God smiles at our curiosity and places in our way all sorts of ways to be in awe of God. Always enough to keep us seeking and never enough to totally and completely discover. In an age that demands quick, neat, clean answers our God simply says; look around, look in the mirror. One of the greatest attributes of God and Jesus for me is that there is always something new. No matter how many times I have preached the lectionary, no matter how many bible studies, no matter how many documentaries and studies there are about God and Jesus, there is always something new. A new aha moment, a, I never looked at it that way before and new insight form a new perspective. God is not revealed in a moment and then shelved for all time. Remember the ancient stories of God; do not put me in a box, do build stone around me, a simple open flapped tent will do so that I may be in the midst of the people. It is we humans that wanted to define God, Box God in, package God up neatly and wrap God up with ribbon and bow. But God says no, I will be a mystery and curiosity for the people so that will not lose interest. And it has been that way forever.

The paradox is: that the harder we look for God the more elusive God becomes. If we just stop…God becomes nearer than we ever imagined. Our ego designed constructs keep God at a distance, our opening to mystery and wonder draw God closer.

Jesus asks; whose image is on the coin?

Jesus says; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and spirit and there is more, you shall love your neighbour. Then maybe, just maybe we glimpse God.

God says: I know you by name, I have imprinted my name on your heart, you have found grace in my sight.

So yes, give the finite coins to Caesar…but give your infinite heart to God.

Sermon for October 11, 2020

Sermon for October 11, 2020 Thanksgiving               “On Being Well”

There are two verses from the texts that spoke to me this week. Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God from Exodus and Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him, for Matthew.

As we experience Thanksgiving in the midst of a global pandemic it seems that remembering God and gratitude emerge as key for our faith, sanity and global well-being. There is also the wisdom and foresight of God that suggests we humans, when faced with abundance and become settled in home and faith, will forget God and move toward a place of entitlement. In Deuteronomy God is describing a glorious place, after generations of wandering in the desert, eating manna and quail, this must have sounded like an impossible dream, too big and glorious to be believed. And yet when the people arrived, the land produced… just as promised.

The rest of the story is that it did not take long for the people to forget God and rely on their own skill and work. Soon the scrolls were a dusty relic in the back of the cupboard, and God a distant belief of grandparents.

If we are prone to repeat our forgotten history then it seems to me that we are on the edge of a great revival of the Christian faith and a new embracing of the teachings of Jesus. It may not look the same as it did in the post WW2 era of Canada and NB, but it will emerge and we are called to prepare the way for this revival.

Gratitude has been part of the human condition for ever and across all ways and patterns of life. From our first conversations, all religions, philosophies or lack thereof, we have been prone to give thanks. In Jesus day and in ours, gratitude is often an afterthought. When the lepers were healed one returned with gratitude. One of the earliest and most persistent lessons of my parents was; don’t forget your please and thankyou’s.

And Jesus said ‘where are the other nine?”

When we a stunning sunrise or sunset do we say ‘that happens because of the rotation of the earth and vapour and particles in the air giving the diffused sunbeams opportunity to refract and reflect causing differing hues…or do we say WOW? When we see a rainbow or double or triple rainbow do we launch into a explanation about why or do we say WOW? When we view the majestic vistas of New Brunswick do we start talking about the cooling temperatures and the decreasing efficiency of photosynthesis or do we say WOW? When we share an amazing meal with family and friends do we enjoy the food and company, say thanks and WOW or do we meander on to a long discourse about the food industry in the world?

All year, every day and at Thanksgiving in particular we are in positions to say thank you and WOW. Jesus calls us to be a thankful people for all that God provides. So the question remains are we in the group that walks away or the group that pauses to say thank you?

Sermon for September 27, 2020

Sermon for September 27, 2020                17th after Pentecost                        “give me give me”

In Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s search for Meaning” he says the one thing that cannot be taken away is our capacity to choose. More than anyone Victor has perhaps the right to choose despair. A Jew in concentration camps, his family killed in the camps along with thousands of friends, beaten, underfed, forced to work, need I go on. And he writes that the one thing that was not taken away was his capacity to choose. And he chose joy. He often quotes Neitchze who said ‘when you know your WHY the HOW does not matter’.

The saga of the Exodus continues this week. The people are fed morning and night, satisfied for a moment. But it seems that they are now thirsty. We are not sure how many weeks or years have passed but we do know the water has run out, there is no sign of an oasis to refill and replenish the water supply. So once again the people complain to Moses ‘how and where are we going to get water’ and once again the people look longingly at the good ole days with rose coloured glasses, and wish for the slave days when at least they had water. The long trek in the desert is about figuring out the why, the corporate why and the personal why. By all accounts that journey took a long time.

In the closing days and weeks of September the Provincial government is settling into its work and as people, groups, cities and municipalities are wont to do there is the refrain of ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’. We also heard the Throne Speech witch lays out in broad ideas the direction for governance. And the first refrain is ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’. The problem with all of this wanting of more is that it removes us as having to be responsible and we forget that all levels of government get money from you and me.

I know that we are in unusual times for us. For the world, not so much so. Yes COVID-19 has not been fun and we are challenged by some of our freedoms being restricted. We long for the good ole days but that is as far as we are willing to go. Nostalgia is great for reminiscing but we really do not want to go back.

Even today God will lead, but it is one of the things we often neglect, or just can’t trust, is belief in the truth that God will guide. So that there is no confusion we need to be aware that GOD will guide. Last night it seemed I wrestled with these texts, I had a sense that God was trying to covey something to me and in my awake state I just could not figure it out. In sleep the revelation came that the teachings today are about gateways that we pass through to greater understanding. We keep asking for more and forget that we have more than enough. The gimme that comes from greed, envy, malice and mediocrity will leave us trudging in the sand.  Without taking away the great faith people have nurtured in their lives, the church of the 20th century has been more concerned about tradition and maintaining an element of status quo, reliance on God has well…waned. And we complain that there is no food or water. Or whatever the 21st century equivalent is. We again are being asked; what is our why? And to choose joy and love.

It took 40 years for the people of Israel to get to the promised land. Not that the trek was that long, it wasn’t but it took that long for the people to learn and we hear in the story that not one person who left Egypt entered the promised land. Jesus was afforded three years to get his message to the people and it was not until death and resurrection that there was an aha moment. Since then followers have argued, sometimes violently, about how to live out the teaching to ‘love God, self and neighbour’. What has been consistent over time is that God is always leading and always opening opportunities for change.

The Gospel teaching offers to stories to guide our understanding of Jesus and God. The first about the question of John the Baptist reminds us that attempts to trick will not work. The second that our actions will always speak louder than words. That we have the capacity to live out the teachings of Jesus even when our words fail us.

This all nudges me to wonder where is God’s leading today. The evangelical conservatives would have us believe COVID-19 is God’s wrath on a sinful people or that it is nothing to worry about and masks, washing hands and physical distancing are not necessary because Jesus will protect. Take Tony Spell a pastor in Baton Rouge who said “we are God’s anointed, we will never wear masks, Jesus will protect’. Some churches have shuttered the windows and doors and teach fear. And there is everything in-between. My thinking in these days is that God is pushing us to listen to the good reason of science and faith and to be on the lookout for how we can be the best people of faith in these days.

The task today is, I believe, the seeking to believing that God is guiding and the conviction to know that, with all our being. I don’t know is the best I can do for today but I can assure you that I will continue to seek the truth, to choose to live with joy and love, to daily discover my why and to nurture fellow seekers and applaud success wherever it emerges. Knowing that like the sons in the parable I sometimes offer an enthusiastic yes and then get side-tracked and by times I can say no and change my mind and in both circumstances Jesus is willing and ready to equip, love and forgive.

Sermon for September 20, 2020

Sermon for September 20, 2020                    16th After Pentecost    “Manna”

I am convinced that we can all relate to having food placed before us and we look at it and ask ‘what is it?’. The people of Israel have been wondering through the desert for days and weeks and are hungry. The hunger leads to complaining and Moses bears the brunt of the complaints. Moses turns to God and God simply says ‘I will provide’.

In the morning there is a white flakey substance on the ground, it is gathered up and placed on the breakfast table. The resounding lament is ‘what is it?’ And mom says yes.

What they and we may not know is that Manna literally means ‘what is it’. Let me go back to the previous statement and it may make more sense. And we can see this spiraling into a ‘who’s on first’ sort of routine. God has promised to guide the people, not only those travelling to the promised land but the people for all ages. Within that there was the assurance that God would provide. My preparation meandering led me to ponder how do we celebrate a question?

It is the really good question that produces that most headway, learning and innovation. It is the hesitancy to ask that leaves us wondering. How often have you thought of a good question, thought it a bit dumb, someone else asks the same thing and gets accolades for a great question? Questions are what push us to be creative. Even the annoying oft asked questions spur creativity. Are we there yet? Eventually garners some interesting answers. Believe me I have travelled across Canada with two young children, and that was when parents were the entertainment systems in cars.

For today, as we are in the midst of harvest, the question what is it? May lead us to our understanding of food and how incredibly fortunate we are to live where we do. When Jennifer and Nicholas were younger we would do the grocery shopping together. I would encourage them to pick a food (mostly in the produce section) that we had not eaten before or one that looked interesting. We had a few ‘what is it’ moments and many that were yum that is a do-over.

I think the question can also apply to the times we are living in today and our response to these times. One thing that is for certain is that God’s generosity has not waned or changed. In the teaching of Jesus from the Gospel today we discover the generosity of God and the provision of ‘enough for today’. All the workers were hired and offered a day’s wage. It is the response of the workers that challenges the generosity of the vineyard owner. When the question begins with ‘how come’ or ‘that’s not fair’ we know that greed and entitlement are not far behind. A more recent expression is ‘the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.

I am sure that Jesus weeps as the people continue in a pattern of greed and miss opportunities to rejoice that God provides. Instead of experiencing the graciousness of God most of the workers grumbled and complained about the injustice of it all. There is a wonderful quote from Joan Chittister that says; “What breeds hopelessness is the failure to pursue the possible in the imperfect.” That sentiment fits well as we discover the wonder of the teaching of Jesus for today. It also works for the time we are in right now. I keep asking what is it that I am supposed to be open to in these days? The quote form Joan shifts my thinking to what is possible in these apparently imperfect times.

Manna, what is it; may it remind you that God will provide, that God is generous, that we live in a time that propels us to think and act on what is possible in these imperfect times. Then ‘what is it’ becomes hope.

Sermon for September 6, 2020

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.

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