Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking Ahead to May 6, 2012 -- 5th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Exodus 20:8-11
  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15 
  • John 15:1-8 
The Sermon title is Take A Break! 

Early Thoughts: Think back over the last two weeks. How many days of rest did you have? How many days were there when you bought nothing?

When I was in my early teens, I remember a great debate about Sunday shopping in Alberta.  It seems so quaint now, given that many places are open 364 days a year.  AT one point, less than 30 years ago (and much more recently in some parts of the country) we still had a feeling that 7 day a week commerce was not a good thing.

Nowadays we seem to have made the opposite decision.  Now it seems odd to many people to contemplate NOT being able to shop 7 days a week.  But which was the better way?

Why does Scripture command, not encourage but command, us to stop everything (and yes that means everything) for a day every week?  I think it is about health and priorities.  It is not healthy to try and go full speed all the time.  But that is commonly understood (if not practiced) these days.  Sabbath means more than that.  Sabbath is not only about resting.  Sabbath is about stepping out of the whole economic system.  And so Sabbath-keeping makes a very clear statement about where our priorities lie.

Look up to the questions I asked earlier.  What do your answers say about you?  Are we able to step out of the need to be constantly productive (Sabbath keeping is not about not doing our daily work, it is about a complete day of rest--no laundry or toilet scrubbing either)?  Are we able to put off that purchase until the next day (or plan ahead and make the purchase the day before) and not touch wallet or credit cards for 24 hours?

And what would happen if we did?  Some voices claim that a day off has negative economic effects.  But really would overall purchases be that much less?  What would happen to us as individuals?

The old laws about keeping Sabbath (or the Lord's Day) were based on an assumption that is no longer valid.  But the idea of Sabbath-keeping as a life practice is still a good idea.  The difference it that now WE have to make the choice.  Are we willing to take a break?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Looking Forward to April 29, 2012 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Exodus 16:1-3, 13-18 
  • Psalm 23
  • Mark 6:30-44 
The Sermon title is How Much Do YOU Have?  

Early Thoughts: Do you believe you have enough? Too much? Not enough?

Each of us has a choice. We can look at the world through a lens set to see abundance or through a lens set to see scarcity. And those lenses really do change what we see. It is sort of like the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. The optimist sees a pile of manure and gets excited--there just must be a horse around. A pessimist looks at the same pile and only sees a lot of messy, smelly, tiring work.

Some days it is very hard to see the abundance. Sometimes our lives seem to be nothing but scarcity. Certainly the advertising industry would like us to believe that. "If you only have ______ you will be happy" they say. The ads we see every day continually tell us that we are lacking something.

And of course sometimes life throws us a curve that makes it really easy to become convinced not only of scarcity now but ongoing times of scarcity. Say, for example, the closing of a major employer.

The people Jesus was speaking to understood this. Daily they struggled to get enough. When you have no food life is hard. But all of a sudden Jesus breaks some bread and shares some fish and all are fed with basketfuls left over.  The people wandering the desert knew what it was like to have nothing (and they had a memory of having had something).  Then Moses tells them that meat and bread will come to them, enough that all can be fed. I wonder how easy it was for them to believe it?

Our faith story promises us life, and that in abundance. The challenge is to see what we have in abundance each and every day. The Global Rich List tells us that we are all recipients of more abundance than we know ($28 000 annual income puts one in the top 10%). We can, if we choose,look at the world and see great abundance. We can, look past the scarcity messages (and realities). And we benefit when we do that.

How we view the world affects how we interact with the world. When we look around and see that things are scarce our common reaction is to hold tightly to what we have and to fight strongly to get more. But when we look around and see great abundance we automatically feel more inclined to share the wealth. WE end up being happier, more at ease, more relaxed. Living life in a scarcity mode is tense and worrisome. Living in an abundance mode makes it easier to deal with what life throws at us.

We will not always have everything we want. Sometimes we won't always have what we need. But we still can choose to focus on what we lack or on what we have in abundance. What choice will you make?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Looking Forward to April 22, 2012 -- 3rd of Easter, Earth Day Worship

This week we mark Earth Day in our worship and reflection.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Genesis 2:4-10, 15-22
  • Psalm 104:24-35 (VU p.827 Part Two)
  • Revelation 22:1-5, 17

The Sermon title is Tending the Garden

Early Thoughts: Scripture begins and ends in a garden. In between is a bunch of stuff about how we are to behave in the garden.

In the first story of creation (we are reading from the second story this week) the newly created humans are told to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Genesis 1:28).  It appears we may have taken that verse a little too literally.  Particularly those things like "fill" and "subdue" and "have dominion".

And I think that is because we, especially those of us in the "modern" West, have interpreted that verse to mean that we own the Earth and can do with it what we wish.  But over and over again the Scriptures remind us that the Earth is NOT ours.  The Earth belongs solely to God.  And we are tenant farmers at best.  So how are we doing at caring for the garden?

Well?  Honestly.  How are we doing?  If the performance review was tomorrow how would we fare?

I am suspicious it would not be a passing grade.  I suspect it would be one of those meetings that end with "you have [fill in a time span] to improve or...".  Currently, on an annual basis the global population is using 140% of what the planet can provide in a year.   It is pretty basic math to show that this is not exactly a sustainable plan.  Some would say that our addiction to our current lifestyle (and our selling/propagating that addiction all around the globe) has the highway of progress heading into a cul-de-sac.  Some would say it is heading straight into a brick wall.  Either way it is a dead end, the difference being that at least a cul-de-sac is built to facilitate turning around.

If we are gardeners or, to use a more familiarly theological word, stewards [and on Sunday I'll let you know how that relates to the pig sty] then we are here not simply to use/abuse.  We are here to care for and tend.  On Earth Day at least maybe we can pause to think about how we do that.  Yes we celebrate the gifts around us.  Yes Earth Day is a time to give thanks for the world around us.  But as people of faith, even just as parents and grandparents wanting to leave SOMETHING for our heirs, we have a duty to do more than give thanks.  We have a duty, a response-ability to look at where we are hading and figure out a way to change the endpoint.

This Sunday come with your ideas about how we might do that.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Looking Forward to April 8, 2012 -- Easter Day

The Scripture Readings this week are:
Psalm 118 VU p.837
Mark 16:1-8

The Sermon Title is: For They Were Afraid

Early Thoughts: Read that Mark passage. Anything odd about it? Anything missing from the Easter story?

The Risen Christ does not appear in this story (and this is considered the original ending of Mark's Gospel.  Rather than end on a note of hope and glory Mark's Gospel ends on a note of fear and wondering--with at most a hint of the hope and glory.

There is something terrifying about the resurrection stories, at least if you read them from the point of view of the women going to the tomb. The truth of resurrection in the Gospels has to deal with that fear.

Mark is the earliest Gospel we have. The writer is the first person to attempt a description of Easter morning (while Paul writes earlier and confesses an Easter faith he never talks about what we call Easter morning). And in the earliest from it ends with the women running away in fear, telling nobody anything.

Obviously the story doesn't stop there. Obviously Mark's community knows that there is more to the story (and in fact there were verses added to the ending later that included an appearance by the Risen Christ). But this is where we get left. Not with joy and celebration but with fear and wondering.

And I think that is a good entry into being an Easter people. Too often we pass over that aspect of the story because we know how it ends. But as I look at it one of the miracles of the Easter event is that a group of terrified people found the faith to believe anyway. Easter isn't about debating what "really" happened. Easter is about finding the way to move beyond the fear of death into new life.

There is a lot of fear in the world right now. What will push us to feel the fear and believe anyway? What draws us into resurrection?