Monday, January 31, 2011

Looking Forward to February 6, 2011 -- 5th Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
Psalm 112 (VU p.834)
Matthew 5:13-20

The Sermon title is Light on the Salt???

Early Thoughts: Salt of the earth, light to the world. Are these descriptions we are ready to embrace? Is this who we are?

Salt is an essential for life.  In the ancient world salt was the way to preserve food.  Our bodies need a certain amount of salt to function properly. I just looked at the Wikipedia page about salt and it is fascinating (for instance did you know that globally only 17.5% of salt produced is used for food?).

Salt enhances flavour, it melts the ice on our roads, it attracts moisture--either drying things out or moisturizing them (ever left a bag of chips sit open on a humid summer day?), it has anti-microbial properties.  And Jesus calls us to be Salt to the world, to be something essential for life.  What does that mean?  Can we honestly say that we do it?

And then there is light.  While John's Gospel says Jesus is the light of the world, here Jesus says that his followers are the light of the world.  And then goes on to remind them that a light gets set up high to shine throughout the room--not hidden under a basket.  What do we do with our light?

This week is our Congregational Annual Meeting.  A time to look back at the year that was and ahead to the year that will be.  And so the Salt and Light are perfect passages for this Sunday.  How are we as a congregation Salt and Light to the world around us?

Do we really enhance the "flavour" of life?  Do we shine bright?  And how will we continue to do so?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

February Newsletter

I have a challenge for you. Some Sunday morning take a close look around the sanctuary. Note who is there. Note who isn't there. Now ask yourself why.

Why do we come? Why don't others come? How do we ensure that the people who come occasionally feel that they too are a part of the community? These are key questions as we look forward to the church of the next 100 years.

And of course there are many answers to those questions. But one of them, for some people, is the building itself. No matter how welcoming our words sound if the building itself provides a barrier then people will not feel welcome. If the building keeps some people from being able to participate fully in the life of the community then they will not feel welcome.

And so there are certain things that become mandatory for the health of the community. Not optional, not nice additions, but mandatory parts of how we operate.

One is to aid those of us (and it happens earlier and earlier in each generation) whose hearing is not what it once was. I am happy to announce that at the last Council meeting we agreed to order an FM system of Assisted Listening Devices. When the system arrives I will be happy to help people learn how it works.

Another big one is the lift. The lift that has been talked about here since the CE wing was built in 1987. The lift that is described in minutes of that era as an obligation. At our Annual meeting this year we will launch the campaign to start renovating the building. This will allow us to add a lift and to create an accessible washroom. Will this cost money? Yes. But it is no longer an option. If we are to be a fully welcoming inclusive part of God's community then we have to spend the money to get us there.

Being the community of God is challenging sometimes. It is tempting to think that “now is not the right time” for a project. But there is always a reason to put things off. Fortunately there is a stronger reason to not (other than the fact that the longer we wait the more it will cost). We do what we do because God is calling us to do it. God calls us to make our building serve our needs, God is calling us to broaden our community. Assisted Listening systems and accessibility projects are a part of that. And so, may God be with us as we move into an new and fuller understanding of what it means to be welcoming and inclusive of all.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Looking Forward to January 30, 2011 -- 4th Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
  • Matthew 5:1-12

The Sermon title is Foolish Wisdom

Early Thoughts: A crucified Messiah? Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth? Does this make any sense?

Well to be honest--no they don't.  In fact Paul says as much in his letter to the Corinthian community.  The message he shares is foolishness.  But it is also truth.  And therein lies the core of the conflict between the church and the world around us.

To be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth means to embrace foolish wisdom.  It means to acknowledge that there is a different way of assessing things.  It means to be willing to say that what the world around us calls wise may in fact be foolishness--even when the argument seems so compelling.

Once we can admit that we need to be foolish, possibilities abound.  We take the blinkers off and see the world in a different way.  We see how it could be instead of how it is.  That is when the Beatitudes become more understandable.  They describe how it could be when God's Reign has come to be real and active.  In light of current assumptions they smack of utter foolishness, but in the time-that-is-to-come they will be wise.

What foolish wisdom is God sharing with the community of faith today?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Looking Forward to January 23, 2011 -- 3rd Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:

  • Isaiah 9:1-4
  • Psalm 27 (VU p.754)
  • Matthew 4:12-23

The Sermon Title is A Movement Begins

Early Thoughts: Why did they do it?  What would make grown men suddenly jump up and leave everything behind?

There is something amazing about the stories of Jesus calling those early disciples. These poor fishermen suddenly leave their nets and boats by the lakeshore and follow this strange man they have never met.

The only possible answer to "why?" is that there is something compelling about Jesus and the summons he gives. There is something that draws people to Jesus, not just here at the beginning but throughout his life and throughout the Christian story.

Each of us knows what it is that draws us to Jesus. And it isn't the same for everyone. For the 4 fishers it seems there must have been a sense of charisma in this man. Did they know that day by the lakeshore that they would one day proclaim him as the Messiah, the Chosen One of God? Did they know that later he would be called God-Made-Flesh? Or did they just know that they needed to be with him?

Of course we can only guess what Peter and his friends were thinking or feeling. But we also have to be ready to ask ourselves what draws us. We have to be ready to share that feeling of being drawn with others, to tell our stories of leaving behind to join the Master.

That day by the lakeshore a movement started.  A movement that has grown and changed but still continues almost 2000 years later.  How do we respond when the movement comes to us and calls us to get up and go?

PS: Here is a bit of poetry I wrote to go with these passages 3 years ago.

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Experiment.

I have been recording sermons, for some future use.  This weekend I learned of a place that I could post those files and so decided to try staring up.  You can find it here (the link is also on the sidebar).  If this works sermons will show up there regularly.

The site also allows an embeddable player, so I will test that function too:

Looking Forward to January 16, 2011 -- 2nd Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 42:1-9
  • Isaiah 49:1-7
The Sermon title is Words of Purpose

Early Thoughts: Why are we here? What is our purpose?

These passages from Isaiah are from what are often called the "Servant Songs".  They tell of one who is called to serve the Holy One of Israel in some very specific ways.  Another one of the Servant Songs (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) is read on Good Friday each year and talk of how the Servant is struck down, wounded and suffers as a result of service to the Holy One.  It is unclear who Isaiah saw the servant as, but plausibly Isaiah saw the nation as the servant. In the early years of the Jesus-movement the people reflected on these passages and on the life/death/resurrection of Christ and saw the Servant as Christ.

As I read these passages again it strikes me that I am reading a job description.  This is particularly true of the Isaiah 42 passage.  And so I have to wonder.  If the community of faith is the Servant of the Holy One.  And if these passages tell us what the Servant is supposed to be about. Then how would our performance appraisal go?  When we compare how we are the community of faith against this job description what do we see?

And so I invite you all into a discussion of why we are here, of what we are all about.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking Forward to January 9, 2011 -- First Sunday After Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 40:3-11
  • Psalm 29 (VU p.756)
  • Matthew 3:1-17

The Sermon Title is The J&J Show

Early Thoughts: What is the relationship between Jesus and John?  Not in terms of family but in terms of philosophy and being part of a movement.

If you had to list "odd" characters in the Biblical narrative, I am sure that John the Baptist (or the Baptizer) would be one of the first people you would think of.  Matthew tells us he appears in the desert wearing garments of camel's hair and eating locusts and wild honey (I had a seminary prof who said he was tempted to write a book on diet and style according to John the Baptist).  He preaches a message that is heavy on repentance and fire and brimstone. He practices a baptism of forgiveness for sins.  His message seems much more judgemental and black/white than Jesus.  And yet the tradition is very clear (all 4 Gospels recount or refer to it) that Jesus was baptized by John.  Why?

In fact it appears that the early church asked why as well.  There are a couple of possible issues.  One is that Jesus being baptized makes it appear that he is a follower of John, which in turn suggests that John is greater than Jesus.  At the same time, fairly early in the Christian era the theological statement that Jesus was sinless was made and accepted.  But John's baptism was for the forgiveness of sins.  So why would the sinless Jesus need to be baptized?

So what is the relationship between Jesus and John?

It does seem that Jesus was a disciple of John.  And the  flow of the Gospel account suggest he may have, in a way, served as John's successor.  However he does appear to have altered John's message.  But Christian tradition has always (or at least since the Gospels were written) maintained the John is a precursor to Jesus, the one who prepares the way.  And so it does us good to ask who John was, both in his own right and in terms of his connection to the Jesus-story.

On Sunday we will continue the exploration.