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St. Mark's United Church

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Sermon for May 24, 2020

Sermon for May 24, 2020              Ascension/Seventh of Easter

Bookends are those useful, sometimes decorative, sometimes plain devices to keep our books neat and tidy. Bookends offer the parameters to a random set of books, our favorites or a collection. Within the church year there and seasons that are set apart, defined so that we can stay on track, so to speak. From the first Sunday in Lent through Holy Week and Easter and the Sundays after Easter to Ascension, we are in that Holy prepares us for crucifixion, Resurrection and then prepares us for life without the physical presence of Jesus. The time is bookended for us and we are now at the end.

So what now?

The biblical narrative indicates the disciples are standing staring at the heavens. In awe, wonder, aghast or just waiting for Jesus to return we do not know. “Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘You from Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” That seemed to shake the disciples to action. For they now knew that Jesus would return and the promised Spirit and advocate would soon arrive.

I do not doubt the disciple’s sense of adventure, tenacity and courage. They have shown those traits since Jesus called them to follow. That following was not always easy but they always had the real presence of Jesus. Now, before their eyes, Jesus is taken to heaven and they are on their own, so to speak.

After a time, the disciples begin to share the story of Jesus, they teach, they heal, they baptize and they are astonished at the transformation of people. Not everyone believes but enough do that the group of twelve becomes hundreds, then thousands and in time a worldwide movement.

The disciples, used to the protection of Jesus are venturing out on their own. They have no idea how different life is going to be, but they know they have each other and the promised protection of the Holy Spirit. That and first-hand knowledge of Jesus is enough for them to continue. As we will hear through the season of Pentecost, they never stop being amazed. For as much as they wanted Jesus to stay, for life to stay the same, that was never part of Jesus plan. At the end of each day, the disciples would tell stories of the wonder and power and simplicity of living the truth of Jesus.

We may need the same courage as the disciples in our day as we enter a new way of being Christian and new ways to proclaim the message of radical love and justice. The beginning of the year and for New Brunswick the beginning of March propelled us into very different ways of doing ministry. It was and continues to be uncharted territory and that is scary in its uncertainty. We are, beyond the bookends. We are learning new technology, using the phone more, praying more and for me more on the phone and we are learning. What has not changed is the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.

We may wish to stand staring into the heavens wondering where Jesus went. We may desire real and lasting answers to all the questions including the COVID-19 questions. The only truth that lasts is that Jesus loves us and Jesus calls us love our neighbour. We may long for the good ole days and eventually the teens of today will also long for the good ole days. We have today, we have Jesus and we have a mission.

So now what? We can stand staring into space wondering where Jesus is…We can know that outside the tidy bookends of Lent and Easter things can and will get messy. We can put on our galoshes and play in the puddles of the messiness.  We can look around, look in the mirror and know that is where Jesus is, mess and tidiness together know this is where Jesus needs us today. Thanks be to God. Amen.

May 24, 2020

May 17, 2020

May 10, 2020 Worship

May 3, 2020 Worship

Sermon for April 26, 2020

Sermon for April 26, 2020       Third of Easter            “The Gift of Knowing”

 

Like many worship leaders in the Maritimes and across the country we are trying to understand, pray for and support the victims and affected communities in Nova Scotia after last weeks tragic events. To add this layer of terror to the disruption of COVID-19 puts us in a delicate and tender place. One that will require the combined wisdom and patience of all. Those most deeply affected and all in Nova Scotia will be held in tender prayer in the times to come. Our Christ Candle is lit… I now light a candle in solidarity and prayer for our neighbours in Nova Scotia.

 

Over the years, I have come to realize that scripture is a place of understanding and insight for what is happening in the world, community and personal life. I am aware of the dangers of taking a document that at its newest is 2000 years old and superimposing that on the 21st century. Society, context and life are vastly different now from two or seven thousand years ago. There are however lessons and teachings that can aid our understanding of ourselves and the nature of God and Jesus.

In the writings and reflections of Richard Rohr he points in this direction from a time when he was going through surgery. “During that time, it was not the indirectness that hit me in this passage, but the directness! My best spiritual knowing almost always occurs after the fact, in the remembering—not seen “until God has passed by.” I realized that in the moments of diagnosis, doctor’s warnings, waiting, delays, and the surgery itself, I was as fragile, scared, and insecure as anybody would be. If I could stay with the full narrative all the way into and through, only afterward could I invariably see, trust, and enjoy the wonderful works of God.”

When we first hear news, we think it will not happen to us, then it does affect us and our family and community and it is not until we have walked the fragile walk of being vulnerable and scared that we begin to witness God’s wonder, of the unfolding of creation. The world is still in the grips of a pandemic and there is no clear view of an ending. Speculation is certainly the stuff of the virtual water cooler chat or virtual Tim’s café chat but in the end, it is conjecture, we do not know. So, we are left with being in the present moment with its challenges, frustrations and opportunities. We may wonder where God is in all this but ancient and new wisdom reminds us that it is not until we have walked through the valley and look back, that it then starts to make sense and we can see the nudging and love of God with clarity.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus were astounded at the teachings of the stranger they met along the way. For seven miles, they listened to history being revealed in the present context. It was sacred obligation to offer hospitality to this stranger and I expect they wanted to hear more. At supper, the stranger broke bread and shared it with all. In that single moment, their eyes were opened and they recognized the risen Lord. In the instant of recognition, Jesus disappeared from sight and they were utterly amazed. Were not our hearts burning as he spoke along the road they exclaimed…and it all made sense.

After the experience they could see clearly the hand and working of God and they were filled with wonder. If they had tried to figure it out sooner, if they had grown weary of the journey or the speaking along the way the ending would be very different.

Our situation is in many ways similar. We know there are lessons to be learned, that we are being prepared for something new, we have a growing awareness that live is not ‘going back to normal’ and we are in the midst of transformation. We are however required to finish the journey. It is only then that the truths that we can now see dimly, will be revealed. It is at that point we can be in awe of the glory of God…again.

In my prayer and reflection time these days the image of the encounter of God and Moses keeps appearing. The scene where Moses wants to see God. God says certainly but you cannot see my face only my back. As God passes, Moses eyes are covered, and only when God passes can he see. I am reminded, gently chastised and grateful that God is always ahead of us leading the way.

We are not alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Third Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter

Easter Sunday

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