Sermon for September 8, 2019 Thirteenth after Pentecost Christians Learning from Sport
And God said: “I am the potter and you are the clay. I will rework you until you are perfect in my sight”. From the get go God has created us as individuals and as communities to be the best we can be. God constantly nudges us toward our best selves.
I am going to look at this notion from two perspectives. One from the book “Defying Limits” by David Williams and second from sport. Quite literally, I read the book Defying Limits last week. David is one of Canada’s lesser-known astronauts but one that has more space-time than any other. He did not sing in space, as did Chris, he is not the Governor General nor is he a politician. He is a Doctor and spends his days now ensuring people are well. Let me offer a quote from his book. The context is his first space walk and his first look at the earth. “Time seemed to stand still and my mind went back to a movie I had seen in my first year of medical school called ‘How Can I not Be Among You?’ It celebrated the life of poet Ted Rosenthal. Tragically, Ted was diagnosed with leukemia in 1970 when he was in his thirties. In his poetry, Ted talked not about the fear of dying but about the fear of living an unfulfilled life. He spoke of the opportunity we all have to live a lifetime in a moment, to savor the moment, to love family, friends and strangers. Watching the movie was an epiphany for me at the time and has remained so. As soon as the end credits rolled, I promised myself I would live my life to the fullest.
This was one of those moments. I felt connected to humanity. I watched the earth rotate beneath me, a 4.5 billion year old planet on which the entire history of the human species, of all living things, had taken place. There were no boundaries visible between countries, simply the majestic beauty of this blue oasis in space. I was in awe and completely humbled. I felt like a speck of sand on an infinite beach. In that moment I realized our legacy is not what we leave. It is how we live. I was reminded yet again of the importance of living in the moment.”
Today we heard one of the most famous parts of the Book of Jeremiah, a man who lived in a time of crisis for God’s people. The days when God seemed close and present were distant and they focused on their own lives. The covenant God offered in forming the people was forgotten; poor people were oppressed and the safety net of care for all, especially widows, orphans and immigrants was fraying. God said, “…my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit.” [Jeremiah 2:11] On the horizon, great, threatening powers were gathering farther east but people believed their special relationship with God would always protect them, no matter what they did. This is the context for what we heard.
Every village in Judah had a potter; pottery was the Tupperware of that time. Food, water, goods were all kept in pots. A potter worked with a device that had two round stones. One was on the ground and the potter moved it by foot power; the other was higher and held clay the potter shaped. Perhaps you’ve done this or seen a potter at work. It’s a magical process. A lump of wet, dark clay is plopped on the wheel; the potter wets hands and then spins the wheel, gently caressing the clay from the bottom, urging it into a shape, lifting it, smoothing it, reaching inside to hollow the lump until, if all goes well, a beautiful vessel is formed from that lump.
Increasing so in our day we are forgetting or just finding irrelevant the message and teachings of Jesus. We have for the most part slipped into a practice of “worship is enough” and the rest of the week is mine. Last week I wondered what sport could teach Christians. Like Canadians and tennis fans I was delighted when Bianca Andreescu won the US open, the first ever for a Canadian. I also found it interesting that both Serena and Bianca gave a shout out to God. The lesson from any sport is a simple one: playing the game is akin to worship, the hours and hours of practice is the rest of the week. This moment is the gathering place to celebrate, be rejuvenated, be uplifted, to be cared for after a hard and sometimes long week of being Christian.
The Gospel teaching is a reminder that as we follow Jesus some or even all our behaviour and desires will need to be left behind. The essence of our ‘becoming new people clothed in Spirit’ will emerge and be better than we could possibly imagine. The understanding I have of the core of Jesus teaching is one of love, hospitality and justice. That is what I believe St. Mark’s teaches and practices. Fear, anger, gossip and my way or your out have no place here.
Practicing love, hospitality and justice is what we do between the Sundays and in worship we all rejoice and are encourage by Jesus. And God said: “I am the potter and you are the clay. I will rework you until you are perfect in my sight”. From the get go God has created us as individuals and as communities to be the best we can be. God constantly nudges us toward our best selves.
Sermon for July 21, 2019 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost “The Blessing of Spaces”
Growing up it was expected that we all take piano lessons. The lessons were fine; the practice was always a challenge. We had a normal house, the piano was in the living room, and though dad never complained, I am sure that he despises Fleur Elyse to this day. He had to endure five children learning that piece. For that piece of music and every piece of music it is essential to pay attention to the spaces. So often we get fixated on the notes that we lose sight of the spaces that allow the notes to make sense.
The Gospel lesson for today teaches us to pay attention to the spaces. Those moments of essential teaching and attention to Jesus that makes everything else make sense. As Mary, Martha and Jesus were friends he often stopped in to see them. As was the custom, hospitality was offered to Jesus and in fact to all who come to visit. One fact we often forget is that Jesus did have a life before his ministry began and Jesus began his ministry when he was about 30. There is a whole life we can only speculate on but we do know that Jesus was a frequent visitor to his friends in Bethany.
As the story unfolds, Mary is interested in the teachings of Jesus and wants to know more and Martha has taken her place preparing for her friends needs. As always, there is more going on than meets the eye. The un-noticed spaces are there to remind us of the depth and scope of Jesus life.
As we step back and look at a broader picture we soon discover that impact of the spaces. The teaching of Rabbi’s was exclusively to the men, women had other roles. Jesus felt at home while visiting his friends as witnessed by the casual atmosphere and intimate gathering. Jesus uses the opportunity to point to the one important thing that makes all others necessary. Again we see Jesus adjusting the well held stereotypes that only men could know the true heart of God and the message of Jesus. I expect Mary sat on the floor because all the seats were occupied by men. The message is that the teachings of Jesus are available to and for all.
When Martha interrupts and nearly demands that Mary find her place in the kitchen, Jesus response at first hearing seems harsh. Again I think it is vital to step back and look for the spaces that enable the teaching to make sense. From this place, I hear Jesus saying: our first priority of follows of Jesus is to be followers, to know deep in our heart and soul the teachings, to spend time with Jesus by his words and in prayer. From that place or space we can discern what then needs to be done. The teaching is that Jesus is that ‘light at our feet’ the guide of our heart and soul and from that place all our other efforts emerge.
This is one of the attributes I love about St. Mark’s, your first priority is about a personal relationship with Jesus, to call on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to influence decisions and directions. Then to take action on what you are called to do. Some actions seemed easy and others were a leap of faith. That will not change moving forward. God knows that the mission and ministry of Jesus would be a disaster is all we did was sit at his feet and listen, equally so if we never left the kitchen. What God does know is that the starting place was, is and always will be spending enough time at the feet of Jesus so that what happens in the kitchen becomes a ministry of faithfulness and joy, not one of duty.
Martha’s challenge is not her ministry in the kitchen. As Cynthia Jarvis points out “What is the church to make of Jesus’ harsh words to Martha? The nature of hospitality is realized to attending to one’s guest, yet Martha’s speech is centered on ‘me’ talk” “lord do you not care that my sister has left ME to do all the work by MYSELF? Tell her to help ME” When that language becomes about ME then it is time to get out of the ‘kitchen’ and sit at the feet of Jesus.
If you were to ask my dad about those days of listening to five children practice the piano, I know he would smile and say it was music to his ears. We do not need to ask Jesus what he thinks, all we need do is be aware of the blessings that surround us that enable ministry to flourish and we know in our heart that Jesus is smiling and encouraging and sustaining us on the journey.
Summer Student Job Opportunity
St. Mark’s will be hiring one Maintenance Worker for a 8 week period starting on or about June 25, funded by a Federal Student Grant. Duties are as follows:
Duties will include minor repairs, painting, stripping and waxing floors, lawn care, cleaning and general labor in a team environment. The student will be supervised by our Custodian. There are volunteers in our church with skills in these areas who will also train the individual on proper techniques including safety, in conjunction with the Custodian. This is a great opportunity for a student to learn lifelong skills and gain valuable work experience. Hours are 7 per day, Monday to Friday, for a total of 35 hours per week.
$11.25 per hour
To be eligible for hiring, students must be a resident of Canada, have completed at least Grade 12, be enrolled in a college or university program in September 2018. Those hired will be required to provide a satisfactory Police Record Check prior to the commencement of work.
To apply for this position, please submit your resume by email to email@example.com or into the church office (50 Dexter Drive) by noon Friday, May 18. Your resume, covering letter, or email should clearly outline any relevant education and work experience for the position being applied for.