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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.

Sermon for October 30, 2022

Sermon for October 30,2022 Twenty-first after Pentecost “What would you do to see Jesus”

No matter what time period you look at, those with money always seem to stick out. Some for good reason and some for not so good reason. I can think of many that fit both categories in our day.

For Luke there is a steady stream of woes against those with money. Luke for some reason did not like the rich and in particular did not like the rich who got that way from the hard work of others. At the top of the list were tax collectors and in particular the chief tax collector. So as the story begins to unfold today we have a good idea that it is going to end badly for the chief tax collector.

But Luke surprises us with this story of Zacchaeus. We can see the images clearly in our mind…Zacchaeus in a tree, maybe because he was short but maybe because it was safe there from the pushing and prodding of the crowd who would take every and any opportunity to scorn him. Jesus comes to him and calls him to come down. You can see the gleam in the eyes of the people as they prepare for this man to get a verbal tongue lashing from Jesus. They all know it is coming and they are not sure if they want to be close enough to hear or far enough away to not get caught in the barrage.

The people hold their breath as Zacchaeus climbs down the tree…faces Jesus…

With gentle, compassionate eyes Jesus gazes at Zacchaeus and says ‘friend, I am coming to dine with you tonight’.

Surprise!

As they walk toward Zacchaeus’ home the echo of ‘what…huh…did I hear that right’ linger with the people. Once again Jesus takes long held ideas and stereotypes and turns them upside-down so all that is there is emptied out. Then he shakes it so that even the hangers on to ideas that do not serve the purpose of Jesus (which is about loving all people) are shaken out and end up in a place of potential transformation.

The story teaches two lessons: that we are worthy and those who we think are unworthy are also worthy. Yes, you are worthy. No matter what you have been told, what you look like or anything else…you are worthy. For Zacchaeus he just had to hear the words from this stranger for him to be in a place to transform and change his life. And before you think, ‘am I ever glad I’m not like Zacchaeus’ we all have a measure of Zacchaeus in us and today Jesus is calling us out of our high or hiding places, opening us to transformation and declaring in no uncertain terms…you are worthy. The Greek grammar used for will is both present and future. It means the action begins immediately and will continue into the future. We too are impacted in the same way by Jesus. Our statements of belief last longer than the front door of the church. Our belief stirs an action that is immediate and lasting. Therein lies the challenge and in living into that challenge the nudging and grace of God are present.

And now for the really hard part…coming to the understanding that those we think are unworthy are in fact worthy. It hurts when I come to realize that I have been wrong about someone or even a group of people. And yet we have this teaching that shows that what a whole community believes about a person is illusion, then new pathways to understanding begin to open, hearts open, and yes even though we stand with mouth agape, and even if the truth takes days or years to sink in, we begin anew or again the journey of transforming more completely into the people of God.

What would it be like to meet Jesus? Utterly scary, delightfully exhilarating, lost for words, selfie moment and life changing. The kind of change that begins in a moment and last a lifetime. The surprise is that Jesus sees you, calls you by name and asks; what’s for supper? We need to chat.

Sermon for October 23, 2022

Sermon for October 23, 2022            Twentieth after Pentecost      “Save us from Ourselves”

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

This ancient proclamation from Joshua is a reminder that people of each generation and time have had to, and still have to make decisions about who or what will be their primary guide. For me and for us, we have made the decision to follow the teachings of Jesus. From that focal point all else flows: our work, our prayer, our intentions and our actions.

Here, as in all things, there is a lesson to be learned. A life to consider, perhaps to model. We listen in and hear a challenge to the kind of life that gospel requires… Requires? Demands? That doesn’t seem right. A door is opened into this kind of life, this all-or-nothing life. And the one who opens the door stands with you to the very end. But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s look at this life, this poured-out life.

The description is poured out as a libation. Libation is not a word we encounter all that often. The Greek is σπένδομαι, (stendomai), and sometimes it means to be put to death, to have one’s life’s blood poured out. It means to give one’s all, withholding nothing. A libation is a liquid sacrifice as opposed to a grain sacrifice or meat sacrifice. It would not be a misuse to speak of blood, sweat, and tears as part of the offering. We talk about that total commitment calling forth our vital essence, our full selves.

It is not, however, implied that the only way to be poured as a libation is to die, that only the martyrs can be said to have been poured out. We can, instead, read this as a call to live, not to die. Not to diminish those who die for the faith. Even in our so-called civilized world today, there are those who do make this ultimate sacrifice with frightening regularity. But we need not issue the call to die from our pulpits week by week. Instead, we issue the call to live. But to live fully.

The mentor describes the life as one of fighting the good fight, of running the race. Choose your metaphor. The image of fighting might be uncomfortable for some in such a contentious time. But we fight for air; we fight for rights. There are fights that carry all sorts of connotations; it is important to choose what communicates best. The verse says, “the good fight”, trouble for the right purposes, trouble to bring about the right change. Fighting for the sake of fighting or to prove strength or toughness is not a good fight. But the fight for justice, for redemption, for transformation, might be.

Or maybe just keeping the faith would be the place to settle for this moment. What does it mean to keep the faith? Keep it to oneself? Keep it hidden away and safe and secure from all alarms? Keep it unchallenged, unexamined, tucked into some rarely visited corner of our existence? Surely not. No, the call is to keep the faith before us always. To let faith, to let Jesus, be the measure by which our lives are measured. We keep the faith when we live it every day. We keep the faith when we don’t set it aside when the choices get difficult. We keep the faith when challenged by divisiveness or hatred and prejudice, we don’t set it aside to go along and get along. We risk security and privilege by keeping the faith.

We keep the faith by listening to and leaning into the words of Jesus, by looking at his life as the model for our own. We keep the faith even when others seem to be swayed by something less than the faith of Jesus, something that resembles the faith of nation or race or moment. It is oh so luring to look good in the light of the public eye, which is now mostly social media. We use big words, the catch phrase of the day and puff ourselves us so that we do in fact get noticed. Our egos are fed and our likes increase. And we the watchers are the strokers of those egos and likers of those words and images…for then some of the light falls on us too. By word and action, Jesus points in the opposite direction, points us to the ones who work and give without notice and encourages us to do the same. How often have we heard Jesus say something like ‘I know this healing, this wine, this restoration of life is exciting for you and you want to tell everyone, but please, go about your day and new life and tell no one what I have done’.

Paul, facing the end of his life, declares that he has kept the faith. May we, facing another day of living and choosing and leading with kindness, simplicity and faith, declare the same.

Sermon for October 16, 2022

Sermon for October 16, 2022            Nineteenth after Pentecost     “We gather thankful People”

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing was penned sometime in 1597 to celebrate Holland’s freedom from Spain. An unknown Dutchman was full of thanksgiving that his people were finally free from Spanish tyranny and free to worship as they chose. It is based on Psalm 102:15 which says: “So the nations shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory”.

For the people of the Netherlands and sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were doused in anguish and religious bloodshed as the King of Spain sent the dreaded Duke of Alba to bring the people back into the Pope’s fold. The people had embraced the Reformations and the leanings of Calvin and the Pope was not happy. Alba ruled by the counsel of Troubles but was better known as the Blood Counsel as ”the bodies of thousands of people were hung in the streets and on the doorposts of houses and whole cities of people were massacred”.

Eventually the people of the Netherlands were free to worship as they pleased and this unfortunate time in the history of the church came to an end. The original words had phrasing like: ‘the wicked oppressing, now cease from distressing…so from the beginning the fight we were winning, Thou Lord was at our side, all glory be Thine.” Gave emphasis to the plight to worship with freedom, even from other forms of Christianity.

The words have been nuanced to fit 20th and 21st century mindset and theology but the passion of the words ring true. “we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing, He chastens and hastens His will to Make known…Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!”

From a place of long held hope for freedom to worship, and a strong desire to be faithful to God, gave way for these profound verses to be penned. It is a trait well holding onto as we hope and pray in our day and in the days to come that we will constantly seek the guidance of God and be led by God’s wisdom.

At some point in the early 19th century Henry Alford penned words that would echo his deep commitment to God and to serving God. Written for the British Thanksgiving ‘Come Ye thankful people come’ has long been a standard for thanksgiving celebrations in Canada and around the world.

When Henry was sixteen he wrote in his bible “I do this day in the presence of God and my own soul renew my covenant with God and solemnly determine henceforth to become his and to do his work as far as in me lies”. He later studied at Cambridge and was Ordained a priest and spent most of his career as a parish priest in Wymeswold.

You will notice the dual meaning of many of the verses. They refer to harvest of crops and also the larger image of God gathering God’s own people.

We are at the end of the harvest season in Canada and for the abundance we gather in worship and around dinner tables as thankful people.

We are also reminded to gather our intentions to serve God and Jesus in more deliberate and meaningful way and put those to action.

Since we humans have been able to understand God, we have braided scripture and prose and music to better enable us to understand our deepest woes and sorrows, our heart break, our joy, our ecstasy and our overwhelming love for and hope in God. My prayer is that we continue to make music that gathers us as thankful people.

Amen

Sermon for October 9, 2022

Sermon for October 9, 2022              Thanksgiving               “Leftovers”

I am the bread of life is a bold statement. It is also one that is true and supported by action. Recall the feeding of the 5000 and also remember that number only included men. So in fact the number fed was much larger. There’s something about everything that Jesus said and did that needs to be seen as part of a greater whole.

The disciples were constantly being stretched to see beyond the obvious and we are challenged to look beyond the words to also wonder about context; then and now.

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” —John 6:9 In a world where might is right, Jesus reminds us that the values of the kingdom are the exact opposite. God’s way is for David to defeat Goliath, for faith the size of a mustard seed being enough, of his kingdom acting like yeast in the dough, of the least of this world having God’s favour. And yes, a young boy with five loaves of bread and two fish is enough, more than enough as evidenced by leftovers.

What situations overwhelm or paralyze you because the issue seems so big and your input so small? When has a small act of kindness or generosity made a difference to you? What have you done for others lately? What could you do this week? Catherine of Sienna wrote, “Become the person you were created to be and set the world on fire.” We don’t have to be like anyone else, not powerful, not well-known—we just have to be authentically who we were intended to be. How can you fulfill this calling and make a difference to others? There is only one of you…make you count.

“‘Gather the leftovers,’ Jesus told his disciples, ‘so that nothing is wasted.’” God is a generous God. He doesn’t keep a tally of what we deserve, he wants to do so much more than we can ever ask or imagine and just as his word never returns to him empty, nothing goes to waste in our lives. But just like in the parable of the talents, God asks us to make good use of what we have been given.

Whether it is opportunities, abilities, or wealth, God calls us to live with faithful generosity, looking beyond our own needs to the needs of others. What opportunities, abilities or resources have you been given? How are you using what you have been given to further the kingdom of God?

“The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” —Bread broken and given to others is so much more than a matter of lunch! Jesus makes the link at last with love sacrifice—his own—for the sake of the world. Jesus fed a crowd and was nailed to a cross. It’s all about giving. In him alone can we find true fulfillment and in following him we also must take up the cross and deny self—we become the bread broken and shared for others.

Rob Bell, former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, said, “We need to ask, ‘What is God doing and how can I be part of it?’” When we pray for those who are needy or struggling, we have to believe that God wants to be at work in their lives, to bring something good out of it—to offer bread…. What might it mean for you to break bread for others?

All these questions we get to ponder as we loosen our belt and wonder why I didn’t wear the expandable clothes. Or in a comic Facebook post ‘it’s time to set your scales back ten pounds or 4.53kg)” You personally spend time figuring out how you respond to the love of Jesus demonstrated in extravagant abundance and nourishment for our soul, pressed down and overflowing onto our laps and into our hearts. It is also a question for St. Marks as we discern our community, our abundance and the will and mission of Jesus as we look beyond the obvious into the need and be the best we can be right now for the unfolding of the realm of God.

Sermon for October 2, 2022

World Communion Sunday

Sermon: Wisdom to Wonder and Share

Scripture generally and Psalm 104 in particular, paints a picture. You can imagine the canvas being filled in as it moves along: the waters flowing through the mountains and the valleys; teams of fish swimming in it; animals drinking off to the side; the birds singing while they circle and make nests; the cattle in the distance grazing; trees providing shade; a sunset; people working together peacefully, making wine, bread, and oil.

The scene is so picturesque, so perfect that the psalmist’s heart is stirred. “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live” (v. 33), he declares.

Surely, we’ve all had such heart-stirring moments. Viewing the Grand Canyon, being in the midst of the Rockies, mustard or canola fields in bloom as far as the eye can see, a triple rainbow, water so still it seems like a mirror… So many times I’ve looked at God’s good creation and my heart has been blown away—or blown open.

In his writings, Plato said that contemplating and wondering at the cosmos leads the soul to God because all of creation is a reflection of the beauty of the Divine. When we wonder at creation and are charged with the glory of God through it, our soul transcends time and space. We are totally present to the moment. Wonder transports us to the deep.

“Teach Me, God, to Wonder” (VU 299), the song goes.

Wonder is a portal to the Divine. Maybe that’s why Jesus talked about the extraordinariness of seemingly ordinary things. Why he took bread and turned it into communion. Why he took fish and turned it into revelation. Why he took a cross and turned it into redemption. Why he took a child—and all of the wide-eyed amazement that filled the child—onto his knee and said “For it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19: 14). Why he gathered a group of people like you and me together and called us disciples.

Teach me, God, to wonder. That’s my prayer.

Yearning to wonder for me isn’t escapist. It’s not about escaping my inbox, my to-do list, my housekeeping. Sigh. It’s about being faithful. I want to wonder so that I can be more engaged. How can any of us love something we don’t wonder about? We are never moved to care about something we keep at arm’s length.

Psalm 104 not only wonders at the creativity of God but it connects God’s creativity with our own ability to be creative. The psalm says that God causes the plants to grow and we cultivate them. We make the wine and bread and oil. It’s a team effort. We are united with God in a mission to cultivate the wonder. To ensure the world is wonder-full. To resist diminishing wonder by putting a price on it, restricting it, harming it, polluting it.

Teach us God, to wonder.

When we join with God’s mission in our personal lives, together as a congregation and as a worldwide church, we are saying that the beauty, bounty, and peace in the picture Psalm 104 paints—the waters flowing through the mountains and the valleys, the teams of fish swimming, the animals drinking off to the side, the birds singing while they circle, the cattle in the distance grazing, the people working together making bread and oil—is for everyone.

Why? Because Psalm 104 and all the scripture we hear aren’t just quaint words we can imagine hung on a wall. They represent a vision for our lives and for the world.

God’s wonder is for everyone. Teach us, God, to wonder.

Verse 31 of Psalm 104 reads: “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.”

You get the sense here of how deeply the psalmist longs for God, the divine artist, to sit back from the canvas of the world and say “Yes! This is how I envisioned it. Yes! It is good. It is very good.”

On the seventh day, the story goes, God rested. But then what? Well, we know how artists roll. Michelangelo didn’t stop at the Pieta. He went on to create David. After Da Vinci’s Last Supper there was the Mona Lisa.

Artists never stop creating. It’s in their bones.

Likewise, God never stops creating. God’s spirit beckons us into other wonder-filled visions of the world. Dreams of lions lying down with lambs, of promised lands, of a new heaven and new earth. Wonder upon wonder to stir our hearts.

Allow yourself to be wonder-struck. Allow your heart to be stirred by the beauty of God. Allow your wonder to transport you to the deep places where the waters of mission baptize, cleanse, and refresh you to live your mission.

Let God teach you to wonder.

There’s wonder to realize. Wonder to actualize. Wonder to share.

There’s wisdom in the sharing. Amen.

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