Sermon for March 12, 2023

Sermon for March 12, 2023               Lent Three                  “Because of His Word”

The possibilities for sermon and teaching points in the texts from Exodus and John are expansive and delightful. I would like to focus on the images of short memories and God’s ongoing nudging people to vision bigger.

Since the people of Israel left Egypt they have crossed the sea of reeds dry footed, bread has appeared on the ground 6 days a week ready to be gathered and eaten, birds have fallen from the sky and given them meat and protein, there has been a miraculous provision of water before and there is no reason why that wouldn’t happen again this time. 

So why are they not remembering those things? Why are they focussing on the angst of the here and now instead of bringing to mind the many blessings and saving they have already experienced? 

Because they are human! Here and now, tends to inform our focus more than faith and trust. Our survival always foremost in our minds and, at times, when we are thirsty enough, clouding our thinking and perspective. Remember three years ago and how even today some still have a multi-year supply of toilet paper. God has saved. God will save again. God has given, and God will give again. God is journeying with us and will show us where to go, journeying with us to a place of liberation and abundance. And still the people complain to Moses saying we are thirsty now…do something and do it now.

‘I’ll be on the mountain says God, waiting for you, on the rock. When you hit the rock with your staff, water will spring forth and you will all be able to drink your fill.’ Trust me, remember what I’ve made you do with that staff before. Just move to the rock. I’ll be there and make it happen’. 

It’s funny how God does not provide the water there and then. Moses and his people have to start moving, shift from where they are to another place before they will taste the living, the life giving water God gives. Leave the place of complaint and move to a place where they will find rock solid proof of God’s presence with them. They did and their thirst sated.   

In our New Testament reading this morning we encounter another well. Another place where water had been available for God’s people to draw from for a long time. Jacob had given the land and presumably the well to his son Joseph and ever since people had come there to draw water. Like the woman in the story.  

Her life was, by the sound of it, a bit of a wilderness. Five husbands suggest that she had not had a happy life and the fact that she is not married to the sixth husband suggests there has been a lot of hardship and suffering coming her way. Some suggest that the fact she is coming to the well at midday is to avoid meeting others. Going when the day is at its hottest rather than in the morning or the late afternoon as is more customary.

She finds Jesus sitting at the well. The woman engages with Jesus. She is no shrinking violet. She challenges him, she wants to know and meets Jesus with an open mind and an open heart. The conversation with her is the longest Jesus has with anyone in the gospel. Longer than with the scribe Nicodemus two chapters back. 

Can you give me more than our father Jacob asks the woman? And what she refers to is the story that, after Jacob met Rachel the well where they met did not stop flowing for 20 years. Yes, says Jesus, the water I can give you will go on forever. 

You are a prophet, says the woman, so tell me, should we worship here at Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem. Who is right? 

With me says Jesus, that is a question that belongs to the past. Future worship will not be depending on the right place, but will bring people together in spirit and truth. Say that again please; spirit and truth is the starting place for real, authentic worship. The buildings, from the simplest to the grandest, are just wood, canvas, brick, mortar and steel, if they do not house the spirit and truth in the hearts of those who worship.

Yes, says the woman, I know that will happen when the Messiah comes. 

‘I am he’ says Jesus. 

And for the first time in the gospel of John, in conversation with this woman Jesus identifies himself as ‘I am’ the name for God that is revealed to Moses before he embarks on his journey with the people of Israel through the wilderness. 

Here is ‘I am’, God self, and his love flows over into a person who Jesus really had no business of being with or engaging with in the first place. She was Samaritan, Jesus was a Jew, and Jews and Samaritans did not talk to each other. If Jesus had been on his way to the temple, he would not have been able to enter after his contact with her before he had been cleansed through ritual and time from her contaminating presence. She was a woman, and in that time, in that culture, women and men did not mix freely, most certainly not for the frank and open conversation they are having, especially not if the woman wasn’t properly married. 

And yet. Jesus, tired, thirsty and harassed by religious authorities, who should have been his partners and supporters, finds in this woman the very first person in the gospel in whom the living water he has to offer starts to flow freely. Who shares of the gospel with joy, leaving her water jar behind because she has found a well inside her that will never again dry up.  Imagine what possibilities can be pried open in our day when we come to the realization that Jesus first revealed himself as Messiah to a Samaritan woman. That is our day, that our faith in and belief in Jesus is shared with the least, the lost and the most unlikely of our community. So many centuries ago the Word of Jesus changed the heart of a single woman. Today because of His Word our hearts are transformed and the Spirit finds

Sermon for March 5, 2023

Sermon for March 5, 2023 Lent Three “Not Astonished”
Two great stories of journey and adventure for today. First from Abram and the second from Nicodemus.
It seems that in every time and generation there are those who travel and those who do not, and each group has its rationale for their decisions. I know people who have never left Pictou County or NS, never left the West side or NB. And I know people who have travelled the world and explored their home as well. Abram was a traveler, spent most of his life on the road going somewhere that God was going to show him. Little did he know that his life’s travels would be the seed for three great religions of the world. What he knew is that he had to follow the nudges and shoves of his God.
Nicodemus, a Rabbi, member of the esteemed Sanhedrin and teacher of Rabbis was a follower of God. Doing so for Nicodemus was lived out in following the 613 rules of Jewish Law. But there was a curiosity to Nicodemus’. When Jesus started to teach in and around the area of Capernaum, he was curious to know more.
Being cautious he arranged an evening meeting with Jesus, not overtly clandestine but not exactly advertised either. Deborah Kapp in her commentary on this text says that we in the 21st century is familiar with Nicodemus style ‘in our pluralistic world being mainline protestant is not really trendy. People in pews are faithful, deeply faithful and spiritual but that realm and the rest of life are maintained in their own spheres” She goes on to say “Cultural norms push religion into the private sphere, positioning faith as appropriate for family and personal morality, but inappropriate for public issues. For two centuries mainline Protestantism has encouraged such behaviour and attitudes. Our brand of religion promotes self-restraint, tolerance and personal morality and all are worthy virtues. We support public morality and an engagement in social issues too. Of course, but that message has been muffled by the declining size and increasing marginalization of mainline Protestant denominations. In and of itself, there is much to praise about a faith that thrives in the dark. It is genuine, heartfelt, personal and often deep. The point is not that this hidden faith is somehow faulty –as far as it goes; the point is that it is too small. Jesus suggests that Nicodemus’s kind of faith in incomplete, even immature.”
The born again text in Matthew has been used and mostly abused as a hammer to force a particular brand of believing. Debbie Blue in her work likens this text to an invitation by God to open ourselves to imagination and curiosity about a new way of being in relationship with God. The birthing or re-birthing is an action of a mothering God in labour. God does all the work, all the breathing, all the pushing, all the pain and sweating until we are born or re-born. Since Jesus it has been about water and Spirit and God labours to bring us to new birth.
It is what we do with new birth that Jesus is interested in. For Nicodemus it was a call out of the dark into the light, for the disciples a call to follow, to Zacchaeus a call to come out of the tree. And you and me a call to imagine and re-imagine who we can be personally and corporately in our day.
For Jesus he used the words born again, meaning that to go forward you had to leave behind the way of thinking and being you were used to. The disciples heard the expression ‘you can’t put new wine in old wineskins’ meaning the new teachings they were hearing would not in any way be understood and embodied while keeping the old ways. In our day we might be more familiar with paradigm shift which is a new way of stating the old. In order to embrace the new teaching one has to move to a new plane of thought and being.
Nicodemus in the end could not make the shift that was essential to be a follower of Jesus, yes he remained curious but just could not let go of who he was. The disciples managed, awkwardly by times but they made the shift. Christians and the church of the 21st century are being called toward a shift in thinking, a born again moment, a paradigm shift. I think the shift is going to, in part, be a move away from the church being the church. Let me explain; the Jews of Jesus day (and even today) have 613 rules to follow. I have no idea how many rules the church of today has. I expect it is way more than 613. The church was set up to allow people to discover Jesus and his teaching. Along the way the church became a place to protect the church, it’s orthodoxy and to have power over the people. The 21st century church will need to shift so it becomes a place for people to fall in love with Jesus all over again. Jesus, I think, is smiling and saying ‘do not be astonished, it is the only think I have ever wished for. You, my beloved are on the journey that started millennia ago and your faithfulness will is essential for the journey to continue.

Sermon for February 19, 2023

Sermon for February 19, 2023           Transfiguration Sunday          “Do Not Be Afraid”

There are times when in faith we are called to do hard things that really are hard. And there are times we are asked to do things that seem easy but end up being hard. In the teaching today Peter, James and John are invited by Jesus to accompany him up a hill to watch and stay awake, which really means to pay close attention.

While there Jesus was glowing, radiating like a super bright light was on him and two others were with him. And the disciples were afraid. These tough fishers were afraid. It is human nature to be afraid of things we do not understand or have not seen before. I’m sure that at some point you have been afraid and then not. Let me tell you of a time that I was afraid, then not. I was a new driver and I was on the Bedford highway and all of a sudden a supper bright light appeared ahead of me and a bit to the right. It was off the ground about 10 feet (2-3 metres) and it was getting closer and then coming straight at me. In those seconds, which seemed like minutes, I was trying to figure out how to get out of the way, is it a UFO, how to explain a crash…then all of a sudden it was gone…and the rest of the train rumbled alone the tracks. Now I knew the tracks were there but had never experienced a train coming at night quite like that. When it happened again I was not afraid because I knew exactly what it was.

Peter, James and John knew Jesus, knew him well, they just never experienced him in that way before. So they were afraid. Jesus comes to them and says, look it is really me, do not be afraid. This will be a difficult experience to share with others so let’s keep it to ourselves.

It is good that we are reminded today on Transfiguration Sunday and the Sunday we celebrate Baden Powell and Thinking day. It reminds us that as Christians we come from a long by times glorious and by time trying history. That God spoke through men and women thousands of years ago, did so through Jesus and continues to this very day. Being one chosen to speak for God (and there are many and most are not clergy) can be terrifying and difficult as God continually calls on us to interpret the teachings in ways that make sense for our time. I can be challenging and even frightening to be a faithful follower of Jesus as the teaching call us to a high standard of caring, living and justice for others and creation.

As those in scouting and guiding we also come from a long line of leaders beginning with Lord and Lady Baden Powell.

Do you when scouting started?          January 24, 1908

What about guiding?               The next year 1909

Since then scouting/guiding has come a long way. The Wright brothers were having their first flights. Telegraph was the mode of communicating, or you could go to your neighbours, church or social gathering. No TV, no cell phones, no computers…you get the point.

For scouting and guiding and for Christians each step was filled with fear and dread. But we survived and more than that, adapted. Email, tweets, Instagram, snapchat are common and we sometimes wonder what we did without them. Some embraced change with minds wide open, others with fear and skepticism.

And on this day we are called to look to the past with all its glorious and imperfect events and people, live in this day knowing that we are essential to tomorrow, and do our best each day so that our tomorrow is secure for those who follow.

Best teaching of Jesus: you will love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and you will love your neighbour as yourself.

Scout: “On my honour I promise, to do my best to love and to serve God, my Queen, my country and my fellowman, and live by the Scout Law.

Guiding: I Promise to do my best, to be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada I will take action for a better world and respect the Guiding Law.

It seems that we have our work set before us to do our best today, to shine a bright light on all that is good and honourable and to live each day knowing that Jesus leads the way. So it seems that by times we may be fearful, we do not need to be afraid.

Sermon for February 12, 2023

Sermon for February 12, 2023           Sixth after Epiphany               “A Focus on Good”

You have heard it said, begins Jesus as he delves into one more challenging aspect of the sermon on the mount. You have heard it said, to the Jews would mean the 613 laws that they were required to keep in order to fulfill the commitment to be a faithful Jew. For the most part the listeners were accustomed to rules and this would be a directional beacon to understanding them better. Yes it is and yes it goes much further than they expected.

But we are not first century Jews. We are faithful followers who do our best each day to live to our highest ideal. The quick overview of the text is a guide to living in community and thriving. It is a call for 21st century followers to renew our understanding of what it means to be a follower and disciple of Jesus.

For Jews and gentiles of Jesus day the following of rules had become habit. Some were observed with severity especially if had something to do with another and nothing to do with the one enforcing the rule. It became a way to oppress, especially women, those who were sick and generally anyone who did not fit the current idea of good. It meant leaders could point fingers and hide behind the cloak of ‘following the law’ all the while not holding to the highest or lowest ideal of what it meant to be a follower of God, or for others whatever gods and idols were worshipped.

Jesus breaks into that scene and calls out that abuse of God’s law and calls all people to a higher standard. Of course for the leaders it was scandalous because it called for the greatest change and for others it was a slight adjustment. It was a reminder that all people are welcome in the tent and tabernacle of God.

John Robinson was a mid 20th century Episcopal Bishop in England. He was a bit of a radical in his day, at least as radical as a Cambridge trained Bishop can be. He argued that ‘in God and in Eucharist the common is made holy’, that we bring all our live to God; the good the bad and the ugly and in our humble commonness we become holy. We cannot get to holy apart from God and Jesus. We can be good people, kind people, generous people but it is through God and Jesus that we become holy and then the traits of the beatitudes become our home.

The Gospel text is challenging to hear for it calls us from being church to being disciples. I know that is a wide paint brush but after 2000 years of being church we may need some reminding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Perhaps another way to view the text is a call to look for and expect the best from everyone…including ourselves. It means recognizing that all are created in the image and likeness of God, that we all hold some or all the traits of the Beatitudes, that we are all worthy and worthy of being treated with respect and justice, that we all fall short from time to time and we all live with the freeing hope of forgiveness and that Jesus continually calls us to a high standard and that by times is really hard.

As a side note, Louise Penny’s latest book ‘A World of Curiosities” is a novel on forgiveness. Another great read and you have to read Louise’s comments at the end. Just a note that it might not make sense if you have not read the previous 17 books in the series.

As we lean into this challenging Gospel teaching and as we are in Valentine’s week may we be encouraged to look to the good in others without added comment or commentary. One of the surprises is that we just may start to see good revealed in ourselves, then more in others, then more in ourselves…well you get the point. Jesus had the undesirable trait of loving those that the accepted of his day could not love…it is still true today.

Sermon for January 29, 2023

Sermon for January 29, 2003            Fourth of Epiphany     “Can you say that again please”

In last week’s sermon, you will recall the Gospel scene where Jesus called the first four disciples, Simon, Andrew, James and John. After the call Jesus indicated what sort of traits he was looking for and would set out the framework for the revolution he was starting.

Today we as Christians will hear the words that started, kindled and maintained the mission. We know the Beatitudes as well as the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23. Most know it is part of the sermon on the mount and that we look to Matthew to find the text, even though a shortened version is found in Luke.

5:2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

We often read this text with a wishful thinking or even wistfulness knowing that it would be ideal but more a guideline or ideal to strive to. Imagine then those that first heard these words. They were expecting the Messiah to be a warrior, one who would overthrow the oppressors and elevate the Chosen people to the pinnacle of leadership. When Jesus announced that he was the Messiah the people prepared to be led in battle to overthrow Roman rule.

Then sitting by the Sea of Galilee they heard Jesus ask, even demand of them to be poor in Spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and ones that are persecuted for righteousness and be glad for it. I can imagine they were not that happy and Rome was elated.

What we do know is that among the first hearers many had a transformation of heart and mind, many embraced this new and radical thinking and followed. More than that became super spreaders of the New Word.

More than 2000 years later, we hear the opening of the parchment of revolution of Jesus and it has become more nostalgic than revolutionary. Both for us personally and for the world. We hear them, sing them and pray them but do they sink in as the core traits that Jesus names and looks for in followers? Will anyone have all these traits? I expect not. They may ebb and flow as our lives are lived out. There may be one or two that are part of our DNA. And that is good.

The first disciples and hearers of these words most likely said or thought; can you say that again; it did not sound like a battle plan. In our day we may say the same thing, not so much for wanting a battle plan, but because it does not fit our idea of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. As these days unfold may we have the courage, fortitude and inner strength to live into these words of Jesus. They are our identifiers, the differences that set us apart from those who have not heard, and most importantly a sign and symbol that is an open invitation to follow Jesus.

Next week Jesus will shed some flavour and light on what it means to follow…

Sermon for January 22, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon for January 15, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon for January 8, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon for January 1, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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