Sermon 896 14 June 2020

Sermon 896

June 14, 2020 service

 

Some of you will remember the Blackout in August 2003. It was huge. It covered most of Northeastern United States and Canada. It lasted up to 4 days and caught people by surprise as there was no storm or seeming reason. Turns out it was a bug in the software system. I was taking my kids to the airport and we were of course low on gas. None of the gas stations had power. As you can imagine there was and sense of emergency and panic. Word got out that a gas station in Whitby had somehow managed to power up their pumps. However they were charging an exorbitant rate. They were taking advantage of people in need and it was not received well. As a foot note -after the blackout the local residents boycotted the gas station and it went bankrupt.

Recently in the Covid crisis we saw the same action. I do know that some of the price gouging was not the fault of the local store as they were getting gouged by the suppliers. Some supplies were very scarce. At some point someone will write a documentary on the emotional trauma of toilet paper hoarding.

But some saw a chance to take advantage of people in need and make money off them. When you see a bottle of hand sanitizer selling for $35, you know they are just “cleaning up” on us.

The point is, that money should not be the motive for helping others. You should not try to get rich off your ability to help others.

There is a powerful statement about Jesus when it says he was going about the area healing and preaching and “when he saw the crowds he had compassion on them”

One of the temptations that Jesus faced was to make money off his talents.

Can you imagine how popular he would have been then or now if he could cure every disease? He could easily have become the most wealthy person in the world.

But his motivation was not money. And that was and is a difficult idea for our world to understand.

There is lots of discussion about the finances of the pharmaceutical companies. Are they extorting us or do they need that kind of money for research and development? There are lots of questions about private health care. Who is making money and how much. More recently there are huge questions about the for-profit senior care homes. Is the interest in helping people, or the financial bottom line for the individuals involved, the biggest motivation. We have had the same issue with charities. Every year a report comes out, usually around Christmas about what charities do with their money and which one is the most honest.

However, during this pandemic we have seen glimpses, in fact pages of stories of generosity. Many reports have come to me about people who suddenly found a neighbour or friend who desperately needed help and instead of charging for their time, they did it for free. I have heard of restaurants donating their food, people delivering supplies, people phoning each other, many other examples and the powerful part is, they are not asking for returns. I recently asked a man how much he had spent on helping his neighbours. His response was “I have no idea”. That is powerful.

Jesus was always aware of motivations when it came to doing good. In one place he says “Don’t stand in the public square and pray. Don’t be religious if you are doing it to get fame

Another place he says “Don’t let anyone know the good you have done”. That is a tricky one, especially if someone else gets credit for something you have done.

I will insert here an oddity – simply because it is in the story and people will ask about it. Jesus says “Go nowhere among the Gentiles”. He wasn’t prejudice but rather he wanted his disciples to do the hard work It was a lot easier to introduce Christian faith to the non-jews than it was to the established church. The synagogue had more baggage then those who had nothing to lose. So he was leaving the tougher job for those better trained.

Then he goes back and talks about motivation in a roundabout way. He sends his disciples out and tells them to basically take nothing. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

 This is the passage that gives ministers trouble. This is the passage that some churches use to negotiate the salary. Just kidding. People will periodically refer to it and say “Why does it cost to have church. Faith is free”. My response is “Why does it cost to have a concert – music is free” To operate anything in our society people need to be paid, because they have bills. The point is – it is not about the money – it is about the motivation.

 

A popular discussion especially in the early church was “which is better: faith or works?” I believe if you have faith then that becomes the motivation for works. One ties into the other.

 

A child said to their parent, “If we are here to help others – what are the others here for”? The fact is – sometimes we are the others – sometimes we are the ones who need help and it’s nice to know that the person who is helping us is doing it because they want to.

This story comes out of the United States and is apropos at this time. The police were called to evict a 19 yr old who put up a tent on the campus of a college in Georgia. When they talked to him they found out that he had ridden his little brother’s bike for 6 hour in the heat to enrol in the college. He didn’t have enough money to get a motel. The police put him up in a motel at their own expense and when they told some others, they started a GoFundMe and the young man got his tuition paid. Neither the police nor the neighbours got anything out of that except the sheer joy of seeing someone helped.

If you do good deeds for money – you will never have enough money.

If you do good deeds for fame you will never be famous enough.

If you do good deeds for joy, for compassion, for love, – you will succeed. You will find them.

Isn’t it wonderful when your footprint brings joy to the heart of someone.

PRAYER

God, we sometimes get consumed by our own needs. Our need to succeed; Our need to be important; Our need to number one. But help us God to listen humbly to the voice of our brothers and sisters around us, regardless of their race or their lifestyle, or their fears, or their level of success. We all have needs; we all have hopes and dreams. Help us all to have compassion and love.

Open our hearts and minds to see Christ in everyone and everything.

We pray now for people who are close to us, We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.

Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.

 Our Father who art in heaven

Hallowed by thy name, Thy kingdom come,

thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us

lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil

for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

forever and ever   Amen

 

SERVICE June 14

Opening Prayer

Hymn – 602  Blest Be the Tie that Binds

Scripture  Matthew 9: 35-38 and 10:5 -14

Reflection

Prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Hymn  595 We are Pilgrims

Benediction

Go now in Peace

Go now in peace, Never be afraid

God will go with you, each hour of every day

Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true

Know God will guide you in all you do,

Go now in love and show you believe

Reach out to others so all the world can see

God will be there, watching from above

Go now in peace, in faith and in love

Amen, Amen, Amen

“Sent from my Elderberry”

Sermon for 07 June 2020

A young boy asked his father about where people came from. His dad told him that we were formed by God and he could read the story of creation in the bible. The boy said that his mom had told him we were part of evolution and we came from monkeys. The father replied – “O that was your mother’s side of the family that came from monkeys.
There has always been a lot of discussion about the creation story. Today I chose to talk about it partly because it came up as part of the lectionary but also because I think it has merit in today’s world.
First I am only addressing the first story of creation found in the bible. There are two stories and they are not the same as some would tell you. The first one starts at Genesis chapter 1 and goes to Chapter 2 verse 4.
The second story starts after that. The main area of difference between them is in the manner in which humans were created. In the first order the people are created both male and female at the exact same time, after the animals.
The second order is different. A male is created first and then the animals. God then asks Adam if he found a suitable companion in the animal world and Adam responds no (there are a lot of jokes I could make about that). However God then takes a rib from Adam and makes a woman. This is very different from the first story. It was written in a different time by a different group for a different purpose. One of the reasons why so many people know the second story is that Paul used it as a basis in his diatribe against women. The second story puts women in a subservient position. The first story does not
The first order which was the original, follows the pattern of evolution very closely. First we have a void then we have light and darkness, after that is a dome (sky) (or Skydome) followed by earth and water, vegetation, land animals and then humans.
There are many problems with a literal interpretation of either story
First how does anyone know what happened before people existed. There was 5 days when there were no humans, so the reporter must have been very clever. It is a story
The point is that we were all created in one place which makes us all relatives.
Whether you believe this story a native one, or evolution or some of the other creation stories – it really doesn’t matter. They are all just ways of the human race trying to explain where we come from.
The Ojibwe Legend is similar to the Jewish story. Both man and woman are created at the same time – after the earth and animals have been formed. The reason for human existence was that the creator was lonesome. Another variation includes the development of the earth on the back of a turtle, hence we have the term Turtle Island. Toronto Zoo has Turtle Island conservation program.
Other stories portray Sky-Woman falling slowly to earth, being protected by the animals and then giving birth to two beings. A good one that went to live in the sky and provided good things for humans and a bad one that dwells among us.
The Japanese myth of creation is part of the Shinto Story. It is about a beginning in chaos and silence.. Then there was some sound and particles began to move. As light travels faster than matter, the light rose to the sky and the matter stayed and formed earth. Then 5 gods appeared and hid. They had no gender or partners. Then another 3 and finally 5 pairs of gods showed up and created all the other gods.
The Chinese have many creation stories, although there is not creator. Basically and simplistically everything spontaneously formed in 15 days and the common element instead of being water was air.
If you start to follow the various cultures you will find some similarities but also some differences.
The basic similarity is that there was some form of chaos and out of that came life. Sometimes I wonder if we are re-entering the chaos era.
The Mayans have a story about a group of deities forming the world. Then the sky collapses, they kill a crocodile and prop the sky back up on 5 big trees. Then the creation continued with the order being animals, clay, wood and people made from maize dough. This may sound odd but for them, that was their belief.
The bottom line is, no one knows how we got here and it only makes sense that we came from a chaos of some kind.
But no one knows how we got here. There was no one around. I personally prefer the evolution theory which is very similar to many of the creation stories including the first biblical one. I believe there was a creative force that started it all, but however it happened – it was a gift. None of us engineered or instigated it. Even if you think we came from aliens, you had nothing to do with it. When you really think about it, you didn’t even have anything to do with your own birth.
Secondly I believe we all came into being by the same means. There was no separation of gender or race. I have a friend who believes that we were all born asexual. In other words there was no gender distinction we simply reproduced. The separation of male and female developed over time. You may have trouble with that, but certainly skin colour, culture, physical features, beliefs even wealth are all things that developed. Those things should have given a richness to our world.
The situation in the USA right now is horrible, but it is not the only one. All over the world people are living less than beautiful lives due to an inequality that should not exist.
I remember a few years ago when a child sued his parents for giving birth to him. He said he had no control and that life was forced on him so his parents should look after him and give him their money. I believe that the father said “You’re right we had no control. If we did – we wouldn’t have chosen you” That child didn’t realise the gift he had been given
Sometimes I wonder if the creative force, feels that way about us right now and what we are doing. Do we realise the gift we have been given? Do we realise that is IS a gift. None of us own it. Some people try to own the story by saying theirs is the only version. Not only do we not own the story – we don’t own the earth or anything in it.
There should be no prejudice, no poverty, no war. Life should be an adventure – not a sentence. We are all sisters and brothers. Every person has hopes and dreams. Every person wants to feel love.
Prayer
Thanks be to you, God, Creator Spirit. You were here before us. You have wisdom beyond us and your Spirit will be here long after any of us. We find you already in the trees and in nature, We find you in the weather. We find you in the concrete of the cities. We find you in other people. We find you in the stars. We find you in so many things that we don’t even understand. You have created and are still creating. We give you thanks.
Help us to realise that we are living in a gift. Help us to share that gift equally.
Open our hearts and minds to see Christ in everyone and everything.
We pray now for people who are close to us, We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever Amen
SERVICE June 7
Opening Prayer
Hymn – Come in Come In 395 VU
Scripture Genesis 1: 1-2 and 24-27
Reflection
Prayer
Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Draw the Circle Wide 5MV
Benediction
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen

Sermon for 31 May 2020

Here is the service for May 31
If anyone has any topics they would like me to preach on please send them along

SERMON Interruption of Pentecost

Acts 2: 1-8

May 31, 2020 service

Uniformity brings stability and comfort. Interruptions bring awareness and change.

At some of the weddings I perform, there is an undercurrent of unhappiness between members of the family. (I thought I said that rather nicely.) At one particular wedding I knew that the bride’s mother and step mother were not the best of friends. There seemed to be a desire for one to outdo the other. This came to fruition at the rehearsal. Somehow the one mother found out what dress the other was wearing to the wedding and chose to wear that same dress to the rehearsal. It meant that one woman would have to show up to the wedding in the dress that the other had worn to the rehearsal.

The realisation was not well received. I am sure there was a flurry of activity at some dress store the next day

Usually there is comfort in similarity, but not in this case.

In our world there often is a desire to be alike. Big stores like Walmart and Costco are constructed almost identically – although the Costco in Barrie is the mirror image of the one in Newmarket. That really messes you up. Fast food outlets are usually quite alike. Partly this is due to savings in the architectural design but partly it brings a comfort to you if you are travelling and lonely. You walk into familiar surroundings.   Apparently the McDonalds in China is identical to ones here – except for the writing.

However when everything is the same, we soon get bored. Shorelines are interesting because they are different. Stain glass attracts your attention because it is not uniform. Songs are worth listening to because they have more than one note.

Chevy owners will tell you that Ford lost the upper hand in 1930’s because Henry Ford said his cars could be any colour so long as it was black. (Apparently that was just a joke)

Today is Pentecost Sunday The celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were in the Upper Room where they gathered when suddenly there were flames dancing around the room, a sound like a rushing wind and new energy.

Pentecost was an interruption.

As a child growing up we rarely talked about Pentecost. I was in a church where Religion was important. Rules were to be obeyed and mostly not questioned. Part of that structure was the era. The world had just gone through the tremendous upheaval of World War 2. The war that killed nearly 85 Million people was recently over. The effects were still upon us. There was a desire for stability and sameness. But it wasn’t long after the wars when stability moved over for change. After the first world war, it was the Flappers in the 20’s after the second it was the hippies in the 60’s.  So the desire for something new forced a change.

The church has often been the fortress of tradition

That was no different in the time of Jesus

The Jewish religion had a giant hierarchy and more rules than books. Christ fought against it almost to the point of exclusion, but after he departed the disciples were left with the task of surviving. They were trying to decide how to go about maintaining the new ideas that Jesus had shared. Basically they had to organize a new church or at least a new group.

Often when we are left in disarray we return to what we know. I am sure that in that Upper Room they were discussing tasks. They elected a new disciple (Matthias) to replace Judas and they were trying to establish who was going to be the new leaders.

SUDDENLY the Holy Spirit interrupted and not in a small way. (On a personal note, there have been many times in meetings, not just church meetings that I wished the Holy Spirit would interrupt.) As I just mentioned the disruption was huge.

Interruptions come to all of us. They can be a nuisance or they can be a gift

Sometimes we see them as a nuisance. Our life is carefully planned around our needs and desires. We have a tight focus on what we want to accomplish and then an interruption happens. It may be a financial gain or loss. It may be an emotional upheaval. It might be a person coming into or leaving our lives. It might be a tragedy. It might even be a gift. It is something that we didn’t expect.

There is a saying that “We plan and God laughs”

The nuisance part of the interruptions is that they can cause panic. If you are at home and you haven’t got the house clean and the doorbell rings, that upsets some people. (not me)

If the phone rings in the middle of the night, there is always panic.

Another nuisance aspect of an interruption is that you lose control. When you lose control it can affect your confidence. You thought you had everything planned but suddenly you realise you are not totally in charge.

We are struggling with that right now, with this pandemic

They are certainly struggling with that in Minneapolis

So interruptions can be more than just a minor nuisance.

However there is a GIFT aspect to interruptions. It forces us to see the world in a new way.

How often have we heard a story of someone who was having a terrible life and then was shipwrecked, and then began a new life on some tropical island where there was plenty of everything and no Covid 19. (Probably never – but it’s a good thought)

Seriously it forces us to re-evaluate our selves. It forces us to search other opportunities. It forces us to see things from aa new perspective. When the apple-cart is upset, you get a chance to see all the apples.

It is at that point that there is an opening for the Holy Spirit

It is at that point that there is an opening for creativity, growth and change

The disciples were at the point of searching. When the Holy Spirit enveloped them and new things started to happen. Peter went out on the balcony and started to preach, something that he had likely never imagined himself doing before. If they hadn’t had the interruption they likely would have remained a small group of 12, meeting in an upper room with a secret password and we never would have heard of them, but the world changed because of this gift.

What started as a nuisance became the beginning of the church.

The fact that you are reading this or watching it on video talks about the interruption we are presently going through.

When someone says – what is going to happen? That comes from our desire for stability. For many there is a hope to return to the old ways because they are comfortable. But just like the mothers with the wedding day dresses, you soon realise that something needs to change. Our desire for sameness may not be what we really want.

If a song only had one note, not only would it be boring, but we would soon run out of wind. Maybe the song that we as the church, and we as society have been singing has run out of wind.

Interestingly the word for Spirit comes from the Greek word for wind.

Maybe we have run out of spirit

What we are going through is a tremendous interruption. It’s not the only one. There are many personal and international upheavals happening as well. We don’t hear about them but they are happening. There may be one happening in your life right now.

Are we ready to sing a new song?

Are we ready to create new shorelines in the community and in our lives?

Every interruption is an opportunity for the Spirit to enter. Like the story of the sphere – nothing can get in or out until there is a crack.

I think it is apropos that Pentecost fell in this time of confusion.

Let’s see how we can move forward with the Spirit into new ventures – with new energy and new hope

SERVICE

Prayer

God we try so hard to control everything. We try so hard to have neat lives with no surprises. Then the day comes when we find out that we aren’t in control of everything. Events happen. Life happens and I am sure that you smile with a kind smile, knowing that the picture is bigger than our personal camera lens. Like a parent with far more wisdom than the child, you send help in our most difficult moments. Help us God: to accept the Spirit in our lives. To be at one with the Spirit in our decisions and in our futures. Help us work with your Spirit in this coming world. Thank you for your faith in us

We pray now for people who are close to us, We pray for others who especially need prayer at this time……..

Now we pray the way Jesus taught us.

Our Father who art in heaven

Hallowed by thy name

Thy kingdom come,

thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us

lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil

for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

forever and ever

Amen

SERVICE May 31

Opening Prayer

Hymn –  376  Spirit of the Living God

Scripture  Acts 2: 1-8

Reflection

Prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Hymn  375 Spirit of Gentleness

Benediction

Go now in peace, Never be afraid

God will go with you, each hour of every day

Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true

Know God will guide you in all you do,

Go now in love and show you believe

Reach out to others so all the world can see

God will be there, watching from above

Go now in peace, in faith and in love

Amen, Amen, Amen

“Sent from my Elderberry”

Sermon 24 May 2020

Sermon 894 FRED on the New Normal John 4: 1-10
I my name is Fred. Some of you already know that. I want to tell you that I am not related to your minister. We were born at the same time and place and to the same mother but we are really are no relation at all.
I have come today to preach – to give your regular guy some time off. I hear he works really hard. I don’t come by that often and when I look around, I see that many of you don’t either. The size of the congregation today is pretty much the same as it was the last time you heard I was coming.
They tell me, that you are now using contactless worship . We used to do the same thing when I was a kid. We just called it prayer – and I can tell you, if you were praying off by yourself and you felt a contact – you got plenty scared.
Anyway I suggested I show up as I had a weird experience. Someone asked for my advice. I know they often ask the preacher here and he told me to tell you he was pretty good about giving advice, but asking me for advice is as useless as a one-legged dog trying to bury a bone in an ice rink. It just doesn’t happen.
The question they had was about this here disease we are going through. It’s pretty upsetting for some. I know one fella and he is so unhappy about it he calls it the Pan-damn-it!
The good thing about it is that everyone has to stay far enough apart that you can’t tell if you have had your yearly bath.
They asked me if I had any idea about what the new normal would be like. Well golly I don’t think they were asking the right person. I don’t know what the old normal was like. Look at me.
It’s different for everybody. What I consider normal might be illegal somewhere else – probably is. Especially when it comes to marriage – just joking! But it depends where you come from. Depends what age you are too. I bet for some of you it used to be normal to be able to put on your own socks.
I had a friend – his name was Bob. He was only about 18. He was real good at running this fancy machine with all kinds of handles and levers and such. One night he was about to go on a date with a girl and his boss said he had to stay and teach a new woman how to run the machine. Bob wasn’t happy cause like I said he was about 18 and going on a date is pretty important at that age. To make matters worse the new woman had just come to Canada and didn’t speak even one word of English. So Bob decided to do things a little differently. When the boss came in on Monday morning the new woman was very pleased to show him how well she had learned the names of all the levers. She had no idea why the boss was upset when she called each one of the levers by a new swear word. The boss called Bob in and said “Bob, what you did is not good. It’s not normal. You are going to have to undo it.” Bob said, “Why should I? She thinks that is what they are called. For her – that is normal.
Normal is relative – and none of my relatives are normal.
This here disease is sure making us look at what normal was. It’s kinda setting fire to the whole world. You know a horse often lives in a barn. For that horse the barn is normal. But a strange thing. Horses are pretty smart but when a barn catches fire some of them go back in cause they think they are safe in the old normal that is burning up. They die cause they are trying to get back to what was. A city fella asked me why their young horse would go into a burning barn. I said because the fire is warm and the horse was Colt – sorry, I thought it was funny.
When those people asked me what the new normal would be like I had to tell them we needed to think about it. Our thoughts right now on this is kinda like pickin parsnips in the fall – they just haven’t had time to develop fully.
So I thought I would do a little research and help those people pick a new normal.
I had a hard time trying to figure out who to ask.
First group I asked was the pharmaceutical organizations cause they seem to be on the front edge of what is happening. They said they were going to get this world back to the old normal by giving everyone vaccinations. That had me a little worried. I had a personal difficulty with them vaccinations. When I was young we lived in an old log cabin. My daddy got hurt falling off the roof. Doctor said he was sick and gave him a vaccination to take away the shingles. From that day on the roof leaked. I thought if the pharmaceutical company can’t keep the roof on my house they sure can’t fix the world. They don’t have a key to the future
Next I went to the banks. You know it was the first time I walked into a bank with a face mask on and they didn’t call the police. You notice I didn’t say it was the first time I walked into a bank with a facemask on – just this is the first time they didn’t call the police. I spoke to the bank manager. He said this whole pandemic was good. People were finally were moving to a cashless society. I told him some of us have been cashless for years. He didn’t get it.
He said this is making everyone use etransfer and online banking. Means you have to use your debit card for more than picking locks. If you want to get money you have to use the machine. It is going to be a while for me cause I just got used to sending pictures of cash through the fax machine. The reason I use pictures is cause the new money is plastic and it melts on those hot fax rollers.
There is another problem with going cashless. Let’s just put it this way, if one of your relatives was operating an illegal – shall we say still – the government can follow all your transaction. Nuff said.
I don’t think the banks have the answer to the future
Next I looked at the real estate folks, to see if they had any suggestions about the future. The woman said that due to social distancing they were going to have to build bigger houses so families could keep apart. Houses have been getting bigger for a long time. And as far as families keeping apart – well I just have to show up and they all leave.
Finally I looked at the retail group. They want things to return to the way it was.
There is going to be some awful big sales when things open up.
Kind of reminded me of the horse going back into the burning barn.
Suddenly I thought about the burning barn.
What do you need when there’s a fire? More than marshmallows…
You need water.
I happened to be flipping through the bible and I read that part about Jesus getting water from a foreign woman. He did a lot of new things. He changed a lot of what was normal. He didn’t talk about pandemics and dying, he talked about living and living water; water that could put out a world that is burning up with greed and hatred. Living water that brings life and love.
Sometimes you need the bad to find the good
Had a friend whose house was in a tornado and a big part of a corner was destroyed. I went to see her – which wasn’t difficult cause the walls were gone. When I saw her I sympathized. She said “every bad has some good – now I get the kitchen I always wanted.
The world seems to be burning up faster than a bad rumour spreads
But maybe if we pour some living water on that fire, something beautiful will grow out of the ashes
See what happens when you ask for my advice – you get it.
Prayer
God we live in a world that is not controlled. A world in which you gave us freedom to choose wisely or not
Sometimes we excel at improving the lot of everyone’s life, Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we do a wonderful job of sorting out our own problems and sometimes – not so much.
We know you never abandon us. We know you never stop loving us. We know you never stop hoping for us
Open our hearts and minds to hear and use the answers you have for us, Open our eyes to see Christ in everyone and everything.
We pray now for people who are close to us, We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever Amen

Sermon for 03 May 2020

Sermon: Should Jesus have been a Goat-herd? Matthew 25: 31-36 Text and youtube

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=churchillgilford+united

Many people will be familiar with the story of the kid in math class. Teacher asks “ If there are 20 sheep in a field and one gets out through the fence, how many are left? Boy answers “none”. Teacher says, “You don’t know your math”. The boy says, ”You don’t know your sheep”.
If we ask the same question about goats the answer would be – Well – it depends on how they feel. There might be 19 left or 0 or 6. Goats are much more independent than sheep.

I have raised both sheep and goats. They are very different animals. Sheep are followers and will mostly stay in a group. Goats on the other hand make their own decisions. I always thought they were similar to a dog in intelligence. I had goats who could climb ladders, open gates and turn on taps. If you have had goats you have looked out your window and seen them sleeping on your vehicle. They love to be up high. Some who have never had goats are saying “Well don’t let them on the vehicle” Those who have had goats are just laughing.
I have always had a concern about the emphasis on sheep in the bible. Jesus is often portrayed as a shepherd. He is portrayed as the “Lamb of God”

The lectionary, which is an international three year rotation of suggested scripture reading, is used by a majority of the churches. It suggests for this Sunday the passage which describes Jesus as a shepherd. I don’t always follow the lectionary (no surprise) so I chose a related one about the separation of sheep and goats.
The idea of Jesus as a shepherd raises some questions for me. The idea of the goats getting tossed out raises some concerns

First, Jesus was not a shepherd. He was a carpenter as far as we know. We see lots of pictures and sculptures of him carrying a lamb but I cannot recall an image of him carrying a saw. Why?

Part of the construct comes from the idea of the sacrificial lamb which was part of the Jewish religion. The Passover is the celebration of the Israelites escape from Egypt. They were to put the blood of an animal on their doorposts and the angel of death “Passed over” their homes. The Passover lamb, is the sacrifice that the Torah mandates them to ritually slaughter on the evening of Passover, and eat on the first night of the holiday with bitter herbs and matzo as a remembrance. Interestingly the Torah states that it also could be a goat.

Part of the idea also comes from passages such as the Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd”. It is a beautiful passage that has brought comfort to many over the years. The thought of Jesus as a compassionate shepherd is very powerful. There are about 30 passages in the Old Testament that refer to God as Shepherd and about 10 in the New Testament that extend that metaphor to Jesus.

As beautiful as it is, in reality Jesus rarely would have come in close contact with a sheep. Sheep were housed outside town. He worked in town. Shepherds were of a lower class while carpenters were probably like jewellers in today’s world. Wood was more difficult to come by and so it was more of an artisan or specialty practice. Houses were primarily built of stone.

The passage from the lectionary talks about Jesus being a gate to hold the sheep in. Is this good of bad?

On one hand it is wonderful. There is a concept of protection involved. There is comfort in being with others who are similar. There is reassurance in being protected from the outside world and guarded by someone you trust.

However every room has walls. Walls keep others out but also keep you in. Right now we are protected from the virus by staying apart, but at the same time we are losing some of our liberties. Should we be concerned?
Was the image of Jesus’ followers as sheep done on purpose?
Was the image of goats as bad, done on purpose?

The passage of scripture I chose, talks about how good and kind sheep are and they can spend eternal life in paradise, while the goats are bad and must be cast away. Yet if someone says “they followed like Sheep” it is not considered a compliment.

The church and the government of any country have always known it is easier to control people who are placid and contained than people who will question. A few years ago a bumper sticker came out that said “Question authority”. It was seen as a radical statement.

During the history of the church there has been a desire to have people follow without question. The bible was not easily available for 1600 years. The large bibles in pulpits were chained down and people were not allowed to look at them. Even recently people have told me that their priest, minister or pastor explained that they should believe without question.

I wonder if our history and our personal view would be different if the church had chosen to call Jesus a Goat-herd?

Names are important. At a funeral or wedding I always make sure that I have the right name. It makes a difference- trust me. Many times, a person’s legal name is not even similar to the name they go by. I knew a man who changed his name slightly with each new girlfriend. He did it so he could keep track. If one of them wrote him a note and didn’t sign it – he knew who it was from.

Names have meanings. In the Chinese culture relatives have different names depending on where they are in the family tree. So the older uncle would have a different title than a younger uncle. It is a sign of respect but it is also a sign of clarification. It might also be easier than our system where we say “Well that’s your mother’s second oldest uncle on her father’s side, who was actually his sister’s son from a previous marriage”.

So if we change the title of Jesus from Shepherd to Goat-herd. What effect does that have?

In every society there is an undercurrent of submission. People are to fit in. It makes it easier and there is tremendous pressure from many sources. Fashion is a powerful force to make everyone abide by certain rules. We were never to wear white after Labour Day. Every family was to have a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and everyone was to have a legitimate job. The people who didn’t fit in, the artists, the rebels and the outcasts were often people who questioned and were questioned. Those were people who thought in different ways. They are people in today’s world who have a difficult time “fitting in”. They are often people who have depression and anxiety because they don’t feel accepted. They don’t fit the status-quo.

Did the church make a mistake by emphasizing the sheep over the goats?

There is a video making the rounds right now by TomFoolery called the Great Realisation, where a man reads in poetry form to his child about the great change that came to the world after the Coronavirus because we were forced to reassess our values and needs.

After this Virus there will tremendous pressure to return to the “normal”. There will be pressure to buy and spend. There will be pressure to continue the rat-race and there will be pressure for us to follow like sheep.

But maybe it is time to question; – to ask, if the sheepfold we are in is the right one.
This is not a sermon to discredit the sheep or the sheep fold. We need comfort and security right now. But maybe we need to look and see where the goats are. How many are left in the field?

I believe that God cares for the sheep and made Jesus a shepherd but I also believe that God cares for the goats and Jesus is a goat-herd.

Maybe following Jesus in the new world will be very different.

Prayer
God we come to you. As people who are often consumed by fear. We are overcome by obstacles tht we think are walls.
We lose faith
We lose hope
We lose our vision of who you are.

As the sun finally breaks through the fog
As the face of a friend finally breaks through the crowd
We ask for your care and compassion
But God we also ask for your challenge and encouragement
Provoke us to venture out
Out of our secure fold and help us to make a difference in the world
Help us to challenge the hatred and evil
With love and kindness
Help us to uplift the human race
We know you walk with us in our fear and in venture
We pray for those close to us

We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever
Amen

Sermon for 17 May 2020

Sermon Don’t Repay Evil With Evil
When I was younger I did a lot of hitchhiking. That was back when I had long hair. On one particular day I was standing by the side of the road with my thumb out. I noticed a car coming toward me. The odd thing that caught my attention was that several people were yelling and had their arms out the window. At the last minute I realised those arms had hands that were full of large stones. They began throwing them at me. Fortunately I was able to duck behind a tree. The rocks landed hard. Between the speed of the throw and the speed of the vehicle, they were moving fast.
That car passed, and right behind was another vehicle. It was an older truck and as it went by I saw the driver hold up one finger (not what you’re thinking) in a gesture of “wait a minute”. He drove quickly out of sight and I felt like he was in pursuit of the first car.
A few minutes later he returned and offered me a ride. As we drove down the road I saw the rock-throwing car, off the road, axle deep in mud and up against the tree, smashed. My driver said “Bet they won’t throw rocks again”. They were yelling at him and this time he held up a different finger to wave back.
I realised what had happened. He had forced the car off the road in retaliation.
My first response was satisfaction. Lines about Karma came to mind and I thought they got what they deserved.
On second thought, what just happened? As much as I appreciated what he did, was he not just the bigger bully. He had an older truck and more skill but really what would happen in the future? They seemed to know him. They would likely retaliate. It is a vicious circle.
The scripture today is “Don’t repay evil with evil”
We know that is the right response. But it may not be our first one.
There is a certain satisfaction when an evil doer gets their “just desserts”
We may not instigate it but if “karma” does, that’s ok. There are times when people doubt their faith because God didn’t respond the way we would have. How often have I heard people complain that innocent people get cancer while criminals remain healthy. Can you imagine a movie where the guilty people got away with something and then the movie ends before the bad guy gets killed?
Revenge is a basic instinct that we justify by calling it “Justice”. OR sometimes we call it punishment.
Our legal system is based on punishment, not correction.
There are viable alternatives to our system but public pressure is opposed. Rehabilitation, community service and justice circles, are viewed poorly.
It is embedded in us that people need to be punished.
It is true that some need to be kept separate from the population but
So often I hear people advocate that if you are faced with a bully the best thing to do is out-violence him or her.
Right now there is an underlying current of revenge against China. I hear people say, “they took our jobs and sent us a virus, we should get even.”
1) The first problem with repaying evil with evil is that there is always going to be a bigger evil. It escalates. That is how we end up with gangs and feuds
People take sides and violence breaks out.
2)The next problem is that it divides people. When people take sides then they can’t or won’t talk to the people on the other side. More and more we see this in our world. People are divided along political, religious, conspiracy ideals and then they are labelled and unreachable.
3)Another problem with using evil is it uses up resources. The most obvious example is the billions of dollars spent on war, but here are many much smaller losses. When there is a divide in a family they won’t share possessions so more possessions need to be purchased. Divorces are notorious for costing a lot as two people wo are not getting along are expected to not share anything. There has been a lot of money and resources wasted on anger.
4) Finally it destroys life. Not just in the war aspect of bombs and bullets but also in the way that anger limits possibilities. It can destroy the hopes and dreams and motivation of others. An unkind word, spoken even in retaliation, can destroy. Going back to the bully situation; often a bully acts the way they do because they just want some human interaction and that is the only way they know how to socialize. It is hard not to repay evil, but it is the solution to living together as a human race.
When Peter says this statement he was not in a easy world, He was in a world where violence was commonplace. He lived in a society where crucifixion was an everyday matter. 11 of the 12 disciples died a violent death. They were persecuted and killed. He knew what it was like to be the recipient of violence and yet he makes this statement.
Jesus states the same sentiment when he says “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but I say – do not resist someone who does evil”; (otherwise we would have a toothless and blind populace) He says “turn the other cheek” “if someone takes your cloak give them your coat also”. Many times Jesus says do not repay evil.
Basically, someone has to stop. I always find it interesting when someone says “ I’ll stop being mean when they stop” or we will stop the war after they lay down their weapons” In other words, they are the better person or country. They are the people who are correcting the situation.
We are the ones called to stop the spiral.
We are the ones to be the peacekeepers.
So the question is, How do you not repay evil for evil?
I have 2 suggestions:
1)The first is to walk away. This takes more courage than you think because you don’t get to defend the lies that are being told about you. You don’t get the last word, but it does prevent escalation. When Jesus was dragged from town and was about to be stoned to death, he simply walked away.
It is not always the answer as sometimes the situation needs to be addressed.
2)That is when you seek a positive response. Is there some way you can alleviate the situation? Is there some way you can breach the barriers that have been erected? Jesus suggests that when a soldier forces you to walk a mile, (which by law they could) offer to walk two. Change the dynamics Try and bring a different perspective. Try to see those involved as human.
It is not an easy task but if we set out with the idea that we will not repay evil for evil we will find better ways.
There are many stories of how someone in the face of unkindness, intentional hurt, or pain repaid with love and compassion and changed the negative situation to positive. Hopefully we will all be able to add our story to that list.
There is enough hurt in the world. Lets be the change
Prayer
God, Make us channels of your peace. Help us to see the human side in each person. Help us to know everyone is a child of yours. Help us to break through the barriers that keep us apart. Where possible help us to heal the divisions and if not possible help us to forgive ourselves and the others. Keep us from inhibiting life. Whether that is physical or emotional or spiritual, help us to be the light that brighten the darkness. Help us to overcome evil with your love.
We pray now for people who are close to us, We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever
Amen
SERVICE May 17
Opening Prayer
Hymn – 574 Come let us Sing
Scripture 1 Peter 3: 8-14
Reflection
Prayer
Lord’s Prayer
Hymn 371 Open my Eyes
Benediction
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen

Sermon for 10 May 2020

Sermon A Passage through Difficulties and on to Greater
This sermon can be found on YouTube at
Have you ever noticed that when you hurt your finger, that that is the same finger you hit again on something else – several times. Ever notice that when you bite your tongue, you don’t just bite it once. Sometimes bad things seem to pile up. For many people there is a feeling of gloom, desperation and even frustration over them right now. Covid 19 has added a heavy layer to everyday life. It seems to make things worse. Weddings and funerals are limited. Shopping is more difficult. Seeing loved ones especially on a day like today – Mother’s Day is impossible. Life seems tough.
We all recognize that when you are having a bad day and someone tries to give you advice, it is not always well received.
The usual response is: What do you know about trouble?
But it is when you are having trouble that advice – good advice, is needed.
The scripture today is about getting through difficult times.
Jesus did know about trouble and loneliness and fear. He lived in a occupied land with strict governmental and religious controls. He got crucified.
To put it into context, this passage from John takes place the night before Jesus is crucified. The disciples are gathered in an Upper Room which traditionally was a room on the second floor of a house that was designated as a place of spiritual care. There has been lots of speculation about whose house this was but we don’t know for sure. If you visit Israel today you will find a church on the apparent spot. Regardless it was a place where Jesus took his disciples to share his last hours.
It was also a place of sanctuary because the disciples were associating with a rebel leader and so they too feared for their lives. The next day when Peter denies Jesus, he does so because he is terrified that he will get killed. They were basically quarantined in that room – and they didn’t even have cell phones or Netflix.
One of the first things Jesus did was to wash their feet. It was an act to clarify that they were all together. That no one was better or worse than the other. It was a symbol to counter the priestly idea of religious hierarchy and to empower the disciples to make their own decisions in the future.
He then shared a meal with them; A meal which has become very symbolic. During that meal one of them makes it clear that he is going to betray Jesus. Jesus reaction is to say “Go and do what you need to do”. There was no anger or hatred.
Then he turns and addresses the rest of the disciples with a passage that has become a favourite at funerals. He recognizes their fear of death. He tries to bring comfort. This is one of the very few places where he talks about the after-life. He says “Don’t worry. In my father’s house there are many rooms”. He uses the term “Abba” or father to indicate that it will be like going to a good home. He could have said “parent” but he lived in a different time. His point was that it was a secure place and with many rooms they were all welcome.
Then Thomas – a doubter – like many of us, asks how we will know the way. Jesus basically says “through me”. He says “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me”.
Unfortunately, this line has been used as an exclusive instead of inclusive term. A statement that should have brought comfort to people has been used to strike fear into generations of worshippers. I don’t believe that is the way it was meant.
To explain it in a different way I would use the analogy of a road. After this pandemic is over we are going to be invited to people’s cottages (hint hint). Some people live down a laneway or road where there is only one access. They will say “In order to get to our cottage you have to take this road only.” That may be true but it doesn’t matter what vehicle you drive. Some drive trucks, some drive cars. Of course some ride motorcycles and I better include horses. In other words, there are many different ways to travel on the same road and you reach the same destination.
Jesus may be the way to communion with God but it isn’t limited to a certain culture or religion. His road can be found in many places.
Having said that – you need to make sure the vehicle you are using is roadworthy.
I am reading a book presently called “A Course in Miracles. It is a book written by a woman who had a vision and claims to have some further insights into Jesus words. Maybe it is good maybe it isn’t. I am not sure yet. There will always be someone trying to sell you on a religion or dogma that doesn’t add up. If it seems like a cult, it likely is and won’t steer you in the right direction.
Another analogy is the new math. If you are homeschooling your kids, you have found the new math very different and I am sure you have said” There is a different way to get to the same answer”
So what was the answer that Jesus gave?
Right after this discussion about pathways with Thomas, Philip asks about God. Jesus response is – “if you have seen me, you have seen God”. Philip is still not convinced and Jesus says” If you don’t believe me – look at the works that I do. That is God at work in me.”
In other words – the indication of God in your life is doing good. God is the ultimate embodiment of goodness. When you are doing good, you are in sync with God. You are in sync with the universe. God is in you.
Then Jesus says something that again has been misunderstood. He says, “if you believe, you can do greater works than me”. Think about what Jesus did. He healed the lame, brought sight to the blind, raised the dead, etc. Unfortunately we have, over the years put a timeline on that. We think that means we have to be able to do these feats right now, by ourselves Many have lost faith because they couldn’t do what Jesus did.
Possibly Jesus wasn’t talking about individuals only. Possibly he was talking about the whole human race. When we, as a collective group put our minds together we can do those things. Think about the accomplishments we have had. We have given sight to the blind, enabled the lame to walk and even raised some of the dead.
Right now we are binge watching Grey’s Anatomy. I know it’s a medical soap opera show but it’s based on medical reality and it’s amazing what can be done.
We have a long way to go but when we put our minds together for good, or we might say for God, we can accomplish amazing things.
This comes back to the situation that Jesus was in. He was in a room where fear and uncertainty reigned. He was the man who should have been the most worried. How many of us, if we knew we were going to be tortured and killed the next day would spend time helping others?
What did he do? He did acts of kindness and love. He washed their feet, he fed them, he forgave, he had compassion, he taught that in the midst of distress the best thing and the most godly thing to do is to help others.
This applies both to our personal life and our world
The road to overcoming fear and distress is to do something for others
Prayer
Thank you God for the vast array of information that we have access to; Information about how to heal and how to help.
Information about how to treat each other.
Information about how to make life longer and better.
Thank you that we have a choice each day on what direction we should go.
Help us to rise above the obstacles that we meet.
Guide us that we might always use the information in ways that help.
Guide us in ways that our own lives would have meaning.
We look to you. We look to the words and wisdom of Jesus as we try to follow his example.
We pray now for people who are close to us, for mothers and mother figures in our lives. We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever
Amen
SERVICE May 10
Opening Prayer
Hymn – 213 – Rejoice the Lord is King
Scripture John 14: 1-10
Reflection
Prayer
Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Deep in our Hearts 154 More Voices
Benediction
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen

Sermon for April 26 2020

Sermon for April 26
Sermon Luke 24: 13-22
A Friend once gave me sticker that says “If you want to see God – keep texting while you drive”. According to the scripture reading today, apparently if you want to see Jesus, keep walking and talking.
That scripture, is about two people who were walking down the road to Emmaus, a little village about 7 miles from Jerusalem, when a stranger joined them. That wouldn’t happen in this world today because of social distancing, we would have to stay 4 cubits apart.
The first question for me is; Who are the Two people? It seems unlikely that they are part of the disciples, as the scripture says that later they went to see the eleven. (Judas had already ended his life when Jesus was crucified). It does seem logical that these two going down the road may have been a local couple, possibly husband and wife, as they invited the stranger in for a meal.
One account in John 19:25 says Cleopas (the only person named in the encounter) is the husband of a woman named Mary who was at the cross. One the other hand they don’t seem to know who this stranger is. It does say their eyes were dimmed so maybe the woman was crying and Cleopas simply doesn’t know because possibly he and his wife don’t communicate well. That is something that used to happen in the old days. Wives and husbands didn’t always communicate well but that is changed now as in the last 8 weeks people are spending a lot more time together talking.
These two do seem to know the local news as they are astonished that the stranger has not heard of the crucifixion. They call it ”The biggest event in recent days”.
The stranger on his part is surprised that these people don’t understand what is happening in the larger picture, so he relates the events of the bible leading up to this weekend. They don’t seem to be active “Church goers” because they don’t know the story “beginning with Moses” very well.
So these two people who Jesus encounters are a local couple who have some awareness of Christ but are not “religious”. To use a modern terminology they are SBNR; Spiritual but not religious.
They invite the stranger in. I assume it was partly out of hospitality; partly out of curiosity and partly because there is some kind of a connection to him. Later they say “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was present”
Finally when they share bread, he uses an expression from the Last Supper at which point they understand who he is. Then he disappears from their sight.
To me this whole story is about breaking down barriers. Jesus approaches two people. The people welcome the stranger. Jesus helps them with their questions. They invited him in and feed him and after he leaves they search for others of like mind.
Last week I said our world is often divided by differences based on fear and misunderstanding. One area when this is common is between people who are “outside the church” and those “inside the church”. Both sides are sometimes leery of the other. Both sometimes feel they have the inside track on spirituality. The others are either too pagan, or too ritualistic or too religious or institutionalized.
But both groups have much in common.
I find it interesting and humorous when people say that Mahatma Ghandi was one of the greatest Christians of the last century. He was the non-violent liberator of India. He had great wisdom and often great quotes. He did have a huge regard for Jesus and often cited him. However he was a Hindu. It shows how similar our sources of wisdom are.
Some of Jesus famous sayings and lessons actually come from other cultures.
The other day someone sent me a video of Albert Einstein and letters he wrote to his daughter. In it he claims that as brilliant as science is, it cannot control or have near the power of love. He writes “God is love and love is God”. We may not think that Einstein is a source of spirituality, but everyone is.
We are all struggling with the same questions of life. We are all asking about meaning and the best way to live a full life. There are many different approaches to spirituality. We can learn from each other.
The story we read is full of movement. Nine verbs describe action. Jesus went outside the “church” and “outsiders” came in.
Crisis brings us together. Covid 19, the shooting in Nova Scotia, the crucifixion and many other critical moments unify us. They make us search.
The Journey of life means we are going to meet many different people. We need to welcome each other whether it is in the church or outside. The wisdom of Christ can be found everywhere.
We are called to share our spirituality with others. We are called to have others share their spirituality with us. We are called to walk down this road together.
Prayer
God, in a world in turmoil we listen for your voice
Small acts of mercy give us hope
A kindness done, shows us your word found a home
A stranger helped, lets us know of our unity
A coveted fortune redirected – let us feel your idea of sharing
Relationships mended teach us of your forgiveness
When there is pain – we search
Knowing you are there suffering with us
When there is confusion – we know you didn’t cause it but you are there to lead us out-
Where there is death or tragedy we come to you for comfort
Help us to seek love
We pray for those in distress, in Nova Scotia or anywhere in the world .
We pray in silence for those close to our hearts……….
We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever
Amen

Sermon 889 19 April 2020

Sermon 889 John 20: 24-29 Printed Version
I have lived in many places and officiated at many funerals but some are more memorable for certain reasons, good and bad, and this one will stay with me for a long time.
I was the minister in a small town. A man who we can call “Jerry” passed away suddenly. I did his funeral. He was a farmer who had lived in the community for a number of years and so he was quite well known. The funeral was large. Most of the town witnessed the burial of “Jerry”. The obituary was posted in the local paper and unknown to us it also was mailed to another country. Jerry had an identical twin bro that no one knew about. The twin read the obituary and decided to come and pay his respects. He didn’t make it on time for the funeral but was there a few days later. As “Jerry” had worked on the farm, his wife now needed some help. The brother decided to help out but didn’t have any farm clothes so he borrowed Jerrys’. It made quite a stir when the identical twin showed up at the Co-op dressed in “Jerrys” clothes. Apparently people screamed.
Obviously this is not the same as a resurrection but it does give us a glimpse into the surprise aspect.
In the scripture today Jesus appears in a room with locked doors, twice. To me that is a far greater miracle than walking on water. Possibly even bigger than making 2500 liters of wine out of holy water, but no one seems to remember this miracle. Thomas and the story of doubt seem to overshadow it. For Thomas to doubt, Jesus must have looked very different.
The room they were in was possibly the Upper Room where they had celebrated the Last Supper or a room that had special meaning as Thomas and others knew to meet there. Jesus entered a familiar space but in a most unfamiliar way. Mary seemed to be comfortable with this but Thomas needed more proof.
I think this is an example of what is happening in our churches these days. For a long time the churches have been quite traditional.
For example, the picture of Jesus, through history hasn’t changed much. In 235 there is the oldest known drawing of what Jesus may have looked like. He looks pretty much the same as our present image, but without the beard. It took him until the 4thC to grow a beard, but then some are slower.
One of the most popular pictures of Jesus, is the Last Supper and apart from the question of why he is practicing social distancing between himself and the person to his right, he looks familiar.
In 1940 and artist named Sallaman painted the picture that is in almost every church in North America. The head of Christ was reproduced over 500 million times. Nothing much changed for a long time.
Then the 60’s happened and things changed. Rock and roll became the new music. It was very different from anything in the past. There were many experts telling us how bad it was for our health and welfare. Hippies existed with all the fabricated and true stories about their activities. Men had long hair. Woodstock was certainly a different style of concert.
However one of the real changes was the attitude of questioning authority. Never before had the anti-war movement been so strong, indicating that people were not willing to just accept the statements from the Government – or the church. Everything was up for examination.
The traditions of past were being challenged. The same was true inside the churches. Some will remember the upset when “The Laughing Jesus” picture appeared. It became a very well-known and controversial picture. Interestingly it was drawn by a man Willis Wheatly in 1973 who worked for the United Church of Canada. It was sold to some monks and then moved on to the Evangelical Church in the United States who distributed it widely. Not only was there a laughing Jesus but there was also a Black Jesus, a Korean Jesus and many more.
Worship changed as well. There were Folk Masses, where guitars and drums led the service. Blue Jeans were accepted (women no longer had to wear gloves and hats.)There were many different styles of church and a new found freedom of expression. Theology itself grew new wings with the advent of Liberation Theology. No longer was the church limited to the Top Down style of medieval rule. Liberation Theology gave an alternative concept that Jesus was a poor person and the gospels should be viewed from that perspective.
Rules of the church opened up. While the United Church has been ordaining women since the 1930’s, other churches began welcoming female clergy. Gay ministers were now a part of the leadership and ecumenism (Different denominations working together) became the norm. The United and Anglican Church produced a joint hymnbook.
Posters like this appeared:
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While the church underwent significant changes it did still meet in the same building, but the image and idea of Jesus had changed
Some were very excited about new image. Mary welcomed the new Jesus. She didn’t ask much about whether he was real. She seemed to know. She accepted the new Jesus. Others were not so enthusiastic. They were more hesitant and like Thomas they needed more proof or reassurance that this was the same Lord. They needed something they recognized.
We are being forced now into new expressions of faith by this virus. Not having church in real time is challenging. For some it is freeing. For some it is a upsetting
Unfortunately some people have locked doors of their faith. Some traditionalists feel that the old way is the only way while some non-traditionalists believe we must worship in a new way.
The Church needs to, and does, welcome both. Neither is wrong.
There is great beauty from the past. Much of the art and music are powerful tributes to a strong faith. Often at overwhelming moments some of the old familiar tunes bring comfort.
The newer way has the enthusiasm and often unique ideas. The freedom to be adventurous may lead to the message being shared with people who have never heard it before.
The miracle is Jesus appeared through a locked door. Not just the locked door of the Upper Room but the locked door of human hearts. He can unlock the door of people, regardless of their personal preference
We live in a society which tries to build barriers of differences. We are told in many ways that if we are different or have dissimilar views, be that; cultural political, environmental, religious, lifestyle or any number of things we can never co-operate together. Jesus entered a locked room with two very different people proving that the biggest Miracle is – we can all come together with Christ.
Prayer
God of many descriptions
We pray for those who are steeped in religion
We pray for those who are spiritual but not religious
We pray for those who have no expression of faith at all.
We pray for those who need a new expression of faith
We pray for all who are expressing their faith in their
own languages and cultures and traditions
Wherever we are in our journey, we know you meet us
Wherever the world is, we know you walk with it
In the times of crisis – like now, we come to you for
strength and guidance.
Help us understand you in our own perception that we may all come together
We pray for those in our hearts…….
We repeat together the Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever
Amen