Monday, May 28, 2018

Looking Forward to June 3, 2018 -- Beginning of Series on Job

This week we begin a 6 week series looking at the book of Job.

As this is the first Sunday of June we will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion.  The next scheduled Communion service will be in September.

The Scripture reading for this week is Job 1:1-2:10

The Sermon title is Job the Good

Early Thoughts: Job was a good man, a paragon of virtue. Job was also a patsy, a pawn in a larger game. For the record, Job is also (in the view of many scholars) a folk tale. He never really existed. But his story raises some very important and difficult questions for people of faith.  Over the next 6 weeks we will start to wrestle with some of those questions.

One of the questions in this week's reading is "why is Job pious?". Is Job good and pious simply because Job lives a life full of blessings? Or is there something inherent in Job that makes him good and pious and faithful?

That is the question God and The Satan (apparently a member of the heavenly court whose job it is to be something like the "Devil's Advocate", not evil personified as later generations will use the term) debate. And the way to test it is to take away everything Job has: his wealth, his children, even his health.

Which brings us to Job and his patience (patience which really is only evident in these two chapters). Job remains faithful, even when his wife tells him to curse God and die. Job remains Job the Good even when he has lost everything.

But that only raises more questions. In the book of Deuteronomy (and elsewhere in Scripture) there is a clear suggestion that God rewards the good and punishes the evil. Another recurring theme in Scripture is that God is in charge (technically called the Sovereignty of God in theological terms). God causes or at least allows all that happens. The writer of Job clearly subscribes to this theological position. So if Job is good why is he punished? Is that just? (We will touch more on that question next week)

And then there is the big question from this beginning of the story....
If our lives were destroyed, would we be patient and faithful like Job the Good?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Looking Forward to May 27, 2018

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 1 (VU p.724)
  • 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 4:6-10
  • Luke 2: 40, 52
The Sermon title is Live, Learn, Grow

Early Thoughts: What did you learn today? I remember being asked that question as I returned to my billet following a Presbytery meeting 16 years ago. The premise behind it was that any day on which you learned something was not a waste. I have always liked that premise (though I am not sure that I can accurately say that I learn something every day....).

In the song "If I Were a Rich Man" Tevye shares many dreams about what would happen if he had a small fortune. One of those dreams is that he would have the "time that I lack to sit in the synagogue and pray, and maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall. And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day. That would be the sweetest thing of all." One of his fondest dreams is to have the time to learn and grow in his faith. In this I hear echos of Psalm 1 which describes the rooted-ness of those whose delight is in the Law, in the gift of God's Word.

A paragraph or two ago I said I was not sure I learned something every day. I am about to hedge on that a bit. I think we do learn things everyday. I am not sure we can help but learn something. Because as we live we learn. If in no other school than the school of experience (I used to have a book with a title something like If Experience is the Best Teacher How Come I Keep Taking the Course). Of course not all the things we learn that way are helpful or healthy or desirable. However if we are going to grow as individuals we need to keep learning. In the end, we only grow deeper in faith by learning: learning about the faith story, learning about ourselves, learning where/how/why our story intersects the faith story, learning how we experience God's presence in our lives.

So what have you learned lately?

This Sunday we mark the end of our Sunday School program year. And we thank those who have offered their time and energy to provide leadership in that program. But we hope that learning continues over the summer. As people of faith, when we learn about ourselves we have the chance to learn about God as well. As people of faith we have a duty to try and focus our learning in the way that the writer of 1 Timothy suggests "you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, ... For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."

What might you learn over the summer?

Together let us continue to live and learn and grow in faith, in wisdom, in love.

PS: the sermon this Sunday will very likely contain a story about the first time I took part in the act of preaching...

Monday, May 14, 2018

Looking Ahead to May 20, 2018 -- Pentecost Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Acts 2:1-21
  • Philippians 4:4-9
The Sermon title is Keep Calm and Keep On

Early thoughts: How can we continue to be the church? In a world of change how can we keep being something that has been around for 2000 years?

A couple of thoughts come to mind from our passages for this week.

One is that the Spirit is still blowing around this crazy world of ours, calling forth faith and courage. The Spirit still breaks into closed (even locked) spaces and sets itself free -- freeing people in the process.

The other is that if we honestly still believe that God is with us we are still called to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice". Paul wrote to the Philippians from prison, but even then he did not give up on the church. It is not always easy to be the church (some might argue that it should never be "easy" to be the church). But still we are called to be the church.

We keep the faith. We try to keep calm, to avoid panic, to avoid giving in to "the church is dying" rhetoric (even if we half fear those statements might be true). And we keep on.

Not always in the same way. But with the same vision in mind. We focus on the vision, we focus on the Gospel, we focus on the God revealed in the faith story and we keep on being the church. We might use different language or different tools or different styles than our parents and grandparents (or even different ones than we ourselves used a few decades ago). We might put the emphasis on different parts of the story. We might even change our understanding of how God is calling us to react to some things. But we keep on. We keep looking for those things that are true and honourable and commendable. And we keep on being the church.

Centuries ago the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Risen Christ blew into the hearts and souls and lives of a small group of people and transformed them. They then went out to share a story that would transform the lives of dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of others. The same Spirit  blows in our world today. Are we ready to keep on being the church?