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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.”

June 28, 2020

Sermon for June 21, 2020

Sermon for June 21, 2020      Third after Pentecost              “Tough Good News”

Of all the noteworthy sayings there are, the two that get us into trouble for not heeding are; in social and family gatherings do not talk about religion or politics and three’s a crowd.

The texts today from Romans and Matthew are challenging and force deeper than the surface of the usual niceness of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus is more than rainbows and butterfly kisses. He is challenging, can push our buttons especially our ego buttons and Jesus loves us no matter what. So let’s wade into the waters of relationship, sin and the love of Jesus.

Father Thomas Keating expressed wonderfully the well-established path to maturity both mentally and spiritually in this way: “The freedom Jesus promises involves letting go of our small self, our cultural biases, and even our fear of loss and death. Freedom is letting go of wanting more and better things; it is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. It is even letting go of our need to know and our need to be right—which we only discover with maturity. We become ever more free as we let go of our three primary motivations: our need for power and control, our need for safety and security, and our need for affection and esteem.”

Paul spends plenty of time teaching and preaching on sin. Much of what he says stems from his own challenges with living in right relationship with God. We tend to categorize sin into groups. Some sin is worse than another is. Over time what constituted sin changed. I define sin, if such a thing is even possible, as the actions and intentions that separate us from a full and complete relationship with God.

As Paul points out in Romans, because of our baptism we are born into a new relationship with Jesus and God. That new life places us in the path of decisions on how we behave each moment of each day. How we treat ourselves, each other and creation is a reflection on our relationship with God and Jesus. Will we be perfect? Absolutely not. Each miss-step that we recognize as such is actually a step closer to God. One of the detours we sometimes end on is about why we treat people and creation the way we do. Some believe that heaven is a reward sort of like allowance, If it do these things right or just do them then I get the reward. Jesus, I believe calls us into relationship with God and Jesus and from that place of profound love and acceptance we have the model and pattern for our relationship with all others and creation.

For example, there was a time when society believed we could treat people of colour or First Nations peoples how ever we wanted; enslaved, abused, raped, forced education. We recognize that is just wrong and not in keeping with a belief in Jesus. So we changed and are changing. Recognize our sin, make amends and work our hardest to live in right relations. It is not easy, reparation never is but it is essential if we claim Jesus as Saviour.

In Matthew Jesus talks about setting family members against one another. In a time of rigid adherence to orthodoxy and little tolerance for not towing the family or Synagogue’s idea of truth, Jesus teaches about a relationship with God first. Then all other relations will flourish. Jesus knew this was going to be challenging and that it had the potential to set family members against one another. Over the centuries, not much has changed. In our day we say, three’s a crowd’ because we know one will be left out or at least feel they are. Jesus teaches, first you and God, then everyone else. Again we have this desire or need to place family or friends before God and Jesus and our egos rebel when Jesus calls us to love God first. Loving God first enables our hearts and minds to be in better relations with family and friends. Sounds easy but living a life of faith is challenging.

Finally, Jesus embodies the love that God has always had for us and creation. It is in the context of this profound love that we can have life in abundance and love with vigor. It is not a reward; it is the benefit of knowing that we are first loved, beyond our understanding. It is in living our lives as if this matters that marks us as believers. My prayer is that our lives as individuals and as a church embody the teaching to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and body and to love others as God loves you”. A tough Good News but one essential for creation’s survival.

And Jesus extends the invitation…Follow me.

Phase 3 Operational Plan

Recovery Plan – Phase 3

Sermon for June 7, 2020 Trinity Sunday

Sermon for June 7, 2020        Trinity Sunday             “Conundrum”

 

Today is Trinity Sunday. Amen.

Shortest sermon ever! Eyes glaze over, minds drift to more exciting things like watching paint dry, thoughts of feigning a cough or seizure, well almost anything to escape the contortions of Trinity. And to make matters even more interesting the Gospel text also includes Matthew’s great commission.

So let’s rewind for a moment. Trinity Sunday or Trinity in general is meant to be perplexing and complicated and mysterious. A conundrum that we may never completely understand in a way that can be articulated but one we can know in our heart and mind.

There have been many attempts to explain the Trinity dating back to the beginnings of Christianity. To make it simpler for example, think of: an egg needs three things to be an egg, shell, yoke, white, or the wood of a tree; root wood, trunk wood and branch wood. One example comes from a family zoom call last Sunday where my great nephew was showing his Lego creation. After the showing he said it was three sets that he made into one. That got me thinking, each Lego set was unique unto itself, each set made something really neat and cool. Combining them made a whole new creation that had parts of each but the whole was different. The examples go on in a long litany of ways to explain. Steven Eason suggests it may be easier to explain the Trinity by ignoring it completely. For example, I baptize in the name of God, Amen. Well that sounds odd and incomplete. The same hold true for I baptize you in the name of Jesus, Amen or the Spirit, amen. We know there is something missing, perhaps plenty missing in each version. We have this felt sense that God is more than just Creator, or Jesus or Spirit. God is all of them and the three make the one, well…more.

It is supposed to be mystery, it is supposed to be conundrum, we are not supposed to be able to explain the mystery and yet we are called to spend a lifetime figuring it out. So yes, I can’t explain it and yes I believe it with all my being. Mystery and conundrum.

Shirley Guthrie writes “the same God who is God over us as God the Father and Creator, and God with and for us as the incarnate Word and Son, is also God in and among us as God the Holy Spirit”. When Jesus sends the disciples into the world it is with all the three attributes of God, there is no other way. Jesus sends us into the world to make disciples as our first mission. If our only mandate is to Baptize then all we have accomplished is getting people wet. That might be fun, but accomplishes nothing. Even saying the words : I Baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not a magical formula against all the ills of the world. It is an entry point to discipleship and that means you are a learner for life.

We are called into a lifetime of learning, of sharing truths and listening to the truths of others. It is about disciple making. I do not often comment of politics in preaching but let me say that I find it offensive that Mr. Trump forced peaceful protesters to the side so he could go get a photo-op with a bible. In a church he does not attend and a book his actions indicate he clearly does not believe in. The teachings of Jesus in the Bible would have witnessed the leader sitting and standing with the protesters adding his voice against the scars of racism. What would Jesus teach about Trumps behaviour, would he point to his action and say; that is discipleship? Not the Jesus I believe in.

From the time of our getting wet in Baptism to now, we have learned plenty and even learned that what we once learned is being learned again in new ways. For example we once believed that the earth was ours to use and abuse however we pleased. We have learned something different in the past years. Being a steward and caretaker of ‘garden earth’ requires that new learning. Jesus teachings are like that.

Each day is a mystery and conundrum to behold. How freeing it is to come to the realization that we can live quite gloriously not knowing the answers. So, be you, be in the world in the name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Go, make a difference.

Second Sunday of Easter

Easter Sunday

Good Friday Service

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