160508 – Is-ness, In-ness, Us-ness

Yr C ~ Easter 7 ~ John 17:20-26

It’s a pretty tall order, even for Jesus. That they may all be one. Who are they? We are. All of us. Everyone! Jesus begins today’s scripture reading by praying for his disciples and followers but then his prayer extends out far beyond the insiders and includes everyone who those insiders will ever encounter and interact with. That’s everyone. And Jesus’ prayer is that everyone be one.Is-ness-in-us-trinity

Are we? Even in here, in this sanctuary, in this church, are we one?
How about this Presbytery? Are we one in the United Church of Canada?
How about beyond our denomination? Are we one with those of other expressions of Christianity? Or beyond?

What does this “oneness” thing mean? What is Jesus praying for?

Well, it isn’t uniformity, or even agreement. It’s not that we all have to believe the same way about the same things. It’s ok for some people to be Leafs fans and others to be…wrong. We don’t have to all think the same way, but to be one we all do have to resonate with the same Spirit.

Jesus isn’t praying for lock-step, orthodox, theological conformity. He’s praying for a deep relationship. Unfortunately, in his effort to describe the depth of the interconnectedness of that relationship, he kind of seems like he’s talking in circles if you read him too quickly. So let’s read him slowly!

John 17:21b As you, Father (or Mother, or whatever language helps you), are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. read on

160501 – Peace Out

Yr C ~ Easter 6 ~ John 14:23-29

(a frustrated rant) So I’m sitting at a stop sign waiting to turn left onto a four lane road, and waiting, and waiting. Then it’s finally clear except for one car coming. But instead of being in the outside lane where he belongs buddy is cruising along in the inside lane so I can’t make my turn.  And by then more traffic came and I’m sitting there waiting again.peace-out1

Then later I’m on the 401 in the fast lane and buddy pulls out right in front of me to go around a truck he was following and he proceeds to slow down. Drives me nuts! Then in a parking lot someone parked right on the line and I couldn’t squeeze in safely so I had to park further away! Can you believe these people?!

Traffic, politics, family worries (relationships, health, jobs, kids), job stress, church anxiety, people not answering emails. Aargh!

Then I have the frustration of people and churches not knowing their options, not being able to imagine another course of action or way of being, holding on to what worked once upon a time, nostalgia for a rosy past compared to a cloudy future, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of letting someone/the team down, afraid of it not working, afraid of looking foolish, not sure we have what it takes…Jesus, I wish I could catch a break.

Jesus: Chill out, bro!

14:27 Jesus says: Peace I leave with you; my shalom I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Thanks Jesus! I needed that!

So much good stuff in this one verse. First, as you know, our word ‘peace’ in Hebrew is shalom. Jesus is giving shalom to people. Do you realize that you do that too? You did it about 20 minutes ago! Every Sunday near the beginning of our worship time we turn to those near us and offer a greeting of wholeness, wellness, healing, blessing, and peace. We say shalom to one another. We give shalom to one another – just like Jesus!

Jesus says he doesn’t give as the world gives. How is that?
I think he means “with strings attached.” The world, meaning people generally, tend to give with an eye to what they’re getting in return. “What’s in it for me?” But Jesus doesn’t give that way. Jesus gives unconditionally.
Shalom is no longer shalom if it has strings attached. It is freely given, and it is freely received.

So Jesus offers peace because he doesn’t want the disciples’ hearts to be troubled or afraid. Troubled also means agitated here. And afraid means more along the lines of being timid, or cowardly. The word literally means to “shrink up” kinda like a turtle might when it’s startled. read on

160424 – In the Beginning

(pulpit guest: Rev. Deb Foster of St. Mark’s United Church, Whitby)

In the Beginning: Part 1 & 2

Genesis 1:1-8, 2:1-4a & Genesis 2:4b-7, 4:1-5, 8-9

A long time ago,
In a galaxy far, far away,
Rather, in a church, far, far away,
Or not so far away,
It was a Sunday,
And the offering plates were passed around
As usual,
But this particular Sunday
A slip of yellow paper
Was placed with the money on the plates.

The slip of yellow paper,
After going through the hands of the counters,
With some confusion,
Was left on the minister’s desk,
As a “we’re not sure what to do with this” item.

Later the minister looked at the paper.
She smiled. It was a question.
It was right up her alley.

“Creation and dinosaurs. How can that be?”

A fantastic question.
She loved dinosaurs and their story.
And she loved our scriptures.
What a perfect slip of yellow paper.
What a wonderful question to investigate. read on

160417 – Do You Feel Me

Yr C ~ Easter 4 ~ John 10:22-30

Our suggested set of readings does a strange thing to us today. Last week we were looking at the final chapter in John’s gospel – after the resurrection of Jesus – and today we’re all the way back in the middle of the book with Jesus teaching in the temple. He’s in the portico of Solomon, which is usually called Solomon’s Porch. It’s a place where they would gather to hear people offer their scriptural interpretations and then they’d discuss, debate, and challenge one another. This idea of wrestling with spiritual ideas is deep in the Jewish tradition and a big part of understanding how to read Jesus.do-you-feel-me

What’s fascinating here is that we have a clash of worldviews. On the one side are those badgering Jesus to “tell us plainly” whether he’s the Messiah or not. Jesus answers that he’s already told them but they didn’t hear.

Make no mistake – these folks are animated about this question. It’s very important to them – not because they want him to be the Messiah necessarily but because they think he’s breaking the rules.
The text says they’re gathered around him but that is entirely too soft a translation. The word means more like besieging, or swarming him. They’re in his face, jabbing fingers in his chest, demanding he “tell us plainly.”

And Jesus responds by saying they can’t understand him because they don’t know him.
They want proof. — He offers relationship.

27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

I hear lots of voices every day – hopefully not just in my head! – but I don’t follow them all. Voices tell me to buy this, vote for that, hate these, avoid those, so many voices. Jesus asks us to hear his voice – to let it cut through the noise and move you.
How do you learn to recognize Jesus’ voice amid the din? It’s a relationship.
How do you build a relationship? You already know this!

You get to know someone by spending time together, investing in the relationship, being vulnerable enough to allow the other to know you. Couples can finish their partner’s sentences sometimes. It’s because they’re together so much or so long that they really KNOW one another.

How do you think you grow a relationship with Jesus? Obviously you can’t take him to Timmy’s for a coffee or sit and binge watch TV on Netflix. But you can spend time together. You can be vulnerable and open.

Maybe this will help. Think about water. read on

160410 – Do You Love Me?

Yr C ~ Easter 3 ~ John 21:1-17

Ok, let’s just call it what it is. This is a wonderfully weird reading! It’s all over the place, there are about 5 different themes in it, people say and do baffling things, and it ends on such a bizarre note that I left a couple of verses out this morning.doyouloveme

The scholarly consensus is that this chapter was probably added in sometime after the rest of the book was written, and perhaps by a, shall we say, less gifted writer. This doesn’t faze me in the slightest. My lens for reading the bible is that it reveals deep truths about people’s experience of the Presence of God in their lives and their interpretation of events. It’s like reading someone’s diary – absolutely true, very personal, but not the ideal place for objective, factual information. The community that produced the gospel of John decided this needed to be added. That makes it interesting to me! So let’s have a look at this weird and wonderful text.

The story is about a third appearance of Jesus to the disciples after his resurrection. The first two were in the upper room, one without Thomas and one with, and now he’s present again for this one. Here’s the first weird bit. Do you remember the first season of Gilligan’s Island and how the theme song named 5 of the 7 castaways? Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, and the rest! (They changed it in the second season and the professor and Mary Anne got their due.) In our passage today 5 disciples get named and then there were two others. Perhaps it was the professor and Mary Ann!

In verse 3 we learn they’re fishing – so it’s back to business as usual – and apparently business is bad because they can’t catch anything. Jesus appears on the shore – 100 yards away so it makes sense they don’t recognize him. Can you easily identify people a football field away?
And this unknown figure says, “Hey, you’re doing it wrong! Try fishing on the other side!”
[sarcastically] “The other side? Wow, what a great idea! We hadn’t thought of that before!”

But they do it, and lo and behold they catch a lot of fish. And in that miraculous moment Peter figures out who’s on shore, puts on his heavy cloak, and jumps into the water and starts swimming. It’s nutty! But I guess he just couldn’t contain himself. I don’t suppose you’ve ever done anything foolish because you were excited, right? read on

160327 – An Idle Tale (Easter)

Luke 24:1-12

I frequently find it fascinating to read our gospel stories very closely and carefully, because I think what tends to happen is that we conflate all the unique versions of a story into one.
We see this at Christmas when we have shepherds and angels and 3 wise men at the stable when that is actually an amalgam of stories. Cross-Empty-Tomb-mystery
We saw it last week when we read Luke’s Palm Sunday text and discovered there were no palms in that version!
And today, on this glorious Easter morning, we dig deep into the text and discover something truly astounding.
There’s no Jesus!

In Luke’s telling a group of women (not just Mary) come to the tomb to perform their customary burial rituals and discover the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Two men in dazzling white appear and ask the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

And then they say the line that keeps me employed!
Verse 6, “Remember how he told you…”
Well, no, they don’t remember. We seem to keep forgetting the things Jesus teaches. My job is to remind us! (and me in the process!) read on

160325 – Maundy Thurs and Good Friday poems

Until There Isn’t

Maundy Thursday Reflection ~ John 13:34-35

There is a reason today is called Maundy
From the Latin mandatum for the English commandment
Mandatum, mandate, Maundy
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
If you have love for one another.
A new mandatum, a new commandment to strengthen the previous loves
For all commandments are mandates to love.

There is love of God, with heart and soul and mind and strengthcross-crowd2
With height and depth and breadth and length
There is love that tunes our hearts to God’s song
There is harmony, there is joy, there is peace, there is light.
In faith, there is love of God – until there isn’t.
When we forget to love God we become hollow
There is discord, there is misery, there is anxiety, there is darkness.
For the people of God, for the people gathered to worship, for the people gathered in prayer, there is love – until there isn’t.
When this commandment is broken
When we forget to love God
When God’s people forget whose we are
When the church forgets to love
We become lifeless.

We are commanded to love our neighbour
To love the stranger, to love the other, as we love ourselves.
There is energy in kindness,
There is happiness in helping
There is delight in reaching out
There is passion in sharing the truth that there is love!
In faith, there is love of others – until there isn’t.
When we forget to love others we become selfish.
There is callousness, there is indifference, there is stinginess, there is apathy.
For the people of God, for the people gathered to serve, for the people gathered for giving, there is love – until there isn’t.
When this commandment is broken
When we forget to love others
When God’s people forget who we are
When the church forgets to love
We become insular.

A new commandment is given
A renewed mandate to love one another, to love those alongside, to love fellow journeyers
At Jesus’ table there is fellowship, there is unity
There is plenty, there is laughter, there is oneness, there is strength
And there is love
Wonderful connectional love for one another – until there isn’t.
When we forget to love one another the fellowship is broken, the unity disappears
There is lack, there is sadness, there is divisiveness, there is weakness.
When love for one another fades or is forgotten
When personal agendas or fears take over
When our ‘we’ is consumed by our ‘me
When this commandment is broken people get hurt.
People turn on one another.
People are betrayed.
People are crucified.
For the people of God, for the people gathered for the journey, for the people gathered at Jesus’ table, there is an abundance of love, love, love – until there isn’t.
And that’s when Fridays like tomorrow happen…


The Inkblot Cross

Good Friday Reflection ~ John 18-19

For almost 100 years the psychological field has been using inkblot tests to analyze people’s perceptions of symmetrical blots of ink on plain white paper. How one perceives an object or an event says much about the person themselves.

Consider then, the crucifixion of Jesus. A simple chain of events, witnessed by many, yet perceptions vary wildly.

Jesus is a threat. An insurrectionist that must be stopped.
Jesus is a provocateur. An antagonist who dares contend with Pilate.
Jesus is a blasphemer. A would-be messiah leading people astray.
Jesus is a philosopher. A wordsmith debating the nature of truth.
Jesus is a joke. A pitiful loser who deserves mocking and humiliation.
Jesus is a lightning rod. A figure who can turn gathered crowds into blood-thirsty mobs.
Jesus is a martyr. A misguided soul willing to die for the cause.
Jesus is a patsy. A convenient foil over whom to strengthen convenient political arrangements.
Jesus is the king of the Jews.
Jesus is not the king of the Jews.

Jesus is a sacrifice.
Jesus is a saviour.
Jesus is a substitute.
Jesus is an example.
Jesus is God.
Jesus is human.
Jesus is imaginary.
Jesus is Messiah.
Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is an inkblot.
Jesus is…

Consider now the cross of Christ.
Look at it.
It’s just a simple geometrical shape.

And yet we read so much into it!

How do you see the cross?

The cross is salvation.cross-wooden2
The cross is a torture device.
The cross is our ultimate truth.
The cross is a fiction.
The cross is God’s plan.
The cross is humanity’s shame.
The cross is the Roman’s fault. The Jew’s fault. My fault?
The cross is death.
The cross is life.
The cross is love?

The cross is the means by which humanity and God are reconciled.
The cross is the means by which my debt is paid.
The cross is a means to show the powers of this world are not ultimate.
The cross is a means to guilt trip everyone into submission.
The cross is a means to defend my theological views.
The cross is nothing more than how the Romans got rid of an agitator.
The cross is nothing less than the turning point of history.
The cross means nothing.
The cross means everything.

The cross is a symbol.
The cross is a metaphor.
The cross is political.
The cross is mystical.
The cross is spiritual.
The cross is inevitable?

The upright of the cross represents our being grounded in the earth and reaching up to God. Love God.
The crossbeam of the cross represents our reaching out to the world. Love People.
The cross is a vivid way to teach that death must precede resurrection – that dying to what was is necessary to be reborn into what will be.

The cross is hope.
The cross is faithfulness.
The cross is grace.
The cross is the end.
The cross is the beginning.

The cross is mystery.
The cross is an inkblot.
The cross is…

(a pause for silent reflection)

A simple chain of events, witnessed by many…
A simple geometrical shape. Symmetrical. Balanced. Neutral?
The cross is…
The cross…..IS.



160320 – Practicing Palms

Yr A ~ Palm Sunday ~ Luke 19:28-40

Do you like political theatre? If you do then you must be loving the American presidential primaries. Yes, at times it’s very disturbing and frightening, at least for me, but it’s incredible theatre and spectacle. Some candidates especially have a real flare for it. It’s not like political theatre is a new creation though. It’s always been part of the process.Palm-jesus-silhouette-enter

And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that what Jesus and his disciples are doing as they parade into Jerusalem for Passover is political theatre. There are crowds, cheering, a passionate exchange of ideas, and the entire act itself is making a big statement. I guarantee you Jesus’ version of it will make you feel better than any of the stuff we’re seeing down south these days!

To begin, did anyone notice that in Luke’s version of Palm Sunday there are a couple of things missing? – like palms! If we only had Luke’s version we’d have to call this story something else. Maybe Cloak Sunday, or Parade Sunday. Because in Luke’s version the people laid cloaks before Jesus but didn’t wave branches of palms.
Maybe the detail doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s enough to acknowledge that somehow Jesus’ arrival at the city of Jerusalem for Passover that year created quite a stir.

Other details vary depending on which gospel you read this story in. For Luke’s version, other than there being no palms the really interesting thing is the crowd. I want to say two things about this crowd – one of which might shift how you read the whole story! read on

160313 – Practicing Perseverance

Yr C ~ Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

The story of the prodigal is one of the best known stories in the bible. I know I’ve preached on it here a couple of times, so some of you may have heard some of this before, but I’m hoping it’ll still surprise you. And if it doesn’t then I’m not doing my job – because it is actually a profoundly shocking story. That’s what parables always are – if you’re reading them right! They’re thought bombs, and they’re designed to explode!prodigal-run-welcome-love

It’s actually three stories. There’s the younger’s story, the elder’s story, and the parent’s story – and they’re all pretty shocking! The younger turns away from the family, squanders the inheritance, falls on hard times, becomes humble, and returns. The shocking parts are that the parent didn’t really have to give the inheritance but did, and that the kid ended up slopping pigs, which for a Jew was shameful, unclean, a tremendous indignity.

So the kid goes home fully expecting, and frankly deserving, to be treated as nothing more than a slave. At least there’d be food!
The response was shocking.

“While he was still a long way off,” the parent came running out, wouldn’t even listen to the apology, and welcomed the kid home without hesitation. The shocking parts are that in Jewish culture a father would never run in this way, and according to Jewish law the parents had every right to have this kid stoned to death! Yes, you heard that right. Talk about tough love!
So the audience hearing this parable probably assumed the kid would be a slave at best and stoned to death at worst.
That was the law. That is not at all what happened.

What does this say about the character or nature of “the parent?”

Instead of death, or punishment, or a reduction in status, or even a period of getting back in the good books the parent throws a lavish party for the wayward child – the prodigal. It’s shocking! I’m not sure that’s how I’d react if this was actually happening to me. How about you?

What does this say about the character or nature of “the parent?” read on

160306 – Practicing Passion

Yr C ~ Lent 4 (readings from Lent 5) ~ John 12:1-8

Today we get to embrace a story that’s told in varying forms in all four gospels. That means it’s one of those scripture ideas that’s so important everyone knew they had to include it. But, of course, each story-teller tells it a bit differently. That means it’s important for us to think about the theme of it more than the minute details. The details may change from gospel to gospel but the truth of the story is common. It’s a story about love.practicing4-passion

Wait, that’s not good enough.
It’s not a story about love – it’s a story about extravagant, gushing, overflowing love.
It’s a story about a woman offering Jesus an expression of love that is astoundingly extravagant.
Why does she do it? What does it mean? Why is it important for us today? Let’s find out!

The scene is the home of the recently raised Lazarus. You remember him, the one who was dead and Jesus called him back to life. Clearly, that’s another complicated sermon – but it’s enough today to know that he’s now alive and well enough to host a dinner party. He’s hosting with his sisters, Martha and Mary. You’ll probably remember them from the story about how Martha was upset that she was doing all the work while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet learning and that Jesus said Mary’s way was better. Again, that’s another complicated sermon!

At this party we find Mary once again at Jesus’ feet but this time is very different. The range of theological opinion about what’s going on in this scene is breathtaking.

Is this a foreshadowing of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet?
Is this a foreshadowing of anointing Jesus for burial?
Is this a woman anointing a king and therefore claiming feminist power?
Is this an inversion of class as a peasant woman performs a nobleman’s role of anointing a king?

Is this a sexual act?
A woman taking down her hair in front of a man usually meant sex – and then to use her hair to wipe and anoint his feet is a profoundly intimate and somewhat shocking action.

Is this an example of transforming a common ritual into a radical act of love toward Jesus?
Washing the feet of guests was basic hospitality for them – doing it with expensive perfume? Not so much! read on

160228 – Practicing Prayerfulness

Yr C ~ Lent 3 ~ Luke 13:1-9

In the 1992 Clint Eastwood movie “Unforgiven” a young man who has just killed a man says, “Well, I reckon he had it coming.”
To this the grizzled old gun slinger played by Eastwood replies, “We all got it coming, kid.”

How do you feel about that?practicing3-prayerfulness
It’s a heavy question.
The technical theological term for it is theodicy. Theodicy is about the question of how to reconcile the presence of evil in the world if God is supreme, omnipotent, omniscient.

When bad things happen to good people is it a sign of God’s judgment?
When good things happen to bad people is it a sign of God dropping the ball?
Does God permit bad things to happen? Cause them?

It’s a fundamental, core question that each of us has to answer for ourselves: what kind of god is the Holy Mystery we call God?

Jesus has a few thoughts on this! Jesus tells us a couple of hot news stories in this passage.
In one story we’re told that Pilate apparently (oh wait, it’s a news story – allegedly) killed some people while they were making their sacrifice in the Temple.

Did they have it coming?
Did they die because they were worse sinners than other people?
Did God use Pilate as a tool?

Then there’s the story of an accident where a tower fell down and some people were killed.
Did they have it coming? Or was it just terrible luck?
Is God pushing buildings over on people?
Is God standing by helplessly watching?

Jesus answers the questions plainly.
He says no, God didn’t do this. That’s not the way God works.
Remember that next time some wild-eyed televangelist tries to blame some tragic event on sinful people.
Jesus says no.

God does not will evil, permit evil, cause evil, use evil, or have anything to do with evil. God is love.
Elsewhere Jesus says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.
To use a colourful colloquial expression – manure happens! read on

160214 – Practicing Surrender

Yr C ~ Lent 1 ~ Luke 4:1-13

So here we are once again in the season of Lent. Lent is our season of preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Historically it’s had a flavour of sombreness, and contrition, and weightiness. But it also has at its core the theme of introspection and deep prayer.practicing1-surrender

This is why people give things up for Lent – but typically they do it wrong. Far too many people treat Lent as a do-over for the New Year’s resolutions they’ve failed at and they give something up that they likely shouldn’t be doing so much of anyway. If you’d like to give something up for Lent by all means go ahead – but don’t forget the “so that.”
The purpose of giving something up is “so that” you have more time for prayer.

Fasting from chocolate chip cookies may help your waistline but it doesn’t do anything for you spiritually unless you commit the time you would’ve spent eating them to prayer. You fast from one thing in order to feast on prayer. You turn off the TV or cell phone or social media for a while so that you can have more time to pray. The number one reason people don’t pray is not because they don’t know how, it’s because they say they don’t have time. Lent gives you an excuse to make time.

But I’d like to offer you something I think is even better than giving something up to make prayer time. I’d like to show you how to pray all the time even in the midst of doing your other busy stuff – how to make all your time God-time. This was the genius of my hero, Brother Lawrence.

Brother Lawrence was a simple, lay, Carmelite monk in 17th century France who spent most of his time working in the abbey’s kitchen washing dishes. He became known because he was so tuned-in to the Presence of God that even while he was in the midst of his mundane chores he knew he was coram Deo – which is Latin for before God, being in the Presence of God.
We are always coram Deo – we just don’t always realize it.
Brother Lawrence did.

Lawrence will be our focus for Lent this year – teaching us how to practice presence. Each week we’ll look at a different aspect of his practice and see how we can use it today to make all our time prayerful time.

Of course, Brother Lawrence didn’t invent this stuff. He got it from reading scripture and practicing. Let’s have a look at what he might have taken from today’s reading.

Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.

There is enough wonderful spiritual food right here in this verse to fill this entire sermon. And until we have a really strong grasp on this verse there’s no sense going on to the rest of the passage. In fact, without grasping this verse a person could completely misread and misunderstand the whole temptation bit. The temptations get all the attention, but it’s these three words that matter the most: fullness, led, and wilderness.

read on

160207 – Sacrament of Life

Yr C ~ Transfiguration ~ Exodus 34:29-35

Today is the end of the season of Epiphany which is all about the revelation of God’s light. To top it off we get a story about a guy who was so utterly filled with the light of God that he glowed so much he needed to wear a veil over his face because he was too dazzling for the other people to bear looking at. Wow!sacrament-life
I’m looking around here and I don’t see anyone in a veil. Does that mean we’re not aglow in the light of God? I hope not!

I hope that this reading today, and the conversation we’re about to have, doesn’t seem too alien to you. I hope that you’ve had many, many experiences of feeling all lit up in the Presence of God. I hope that you’ve felt your heart strangely warmed, your pulse race in delight, your breathing fill you so fully that you thought you’d burst, your knees quiver and wobble in awe, and your mind boggle at the wondrous mystery that surrounds and enfolds us. And if you haven’t, after today maybe you’ll be a step closer to that.

Let’s talk about Moses. First it’s a burning bush and now it’s a mountaintop glow – it’s like this guy can’t get away from the Presence of God! (ahem!) Moses goes up the mountain, encounters God’s Presence, gets the 10 commandments, and goes back down. The encounter leaves his face with a perma-glow. He’s radiant, dazzling, oozing light.
It says his face was shining so brightly that the people were afraid. That’s an unfortunate translation that misses the real meaning. The Hebrew word for afraid doesn’t mean “Boo, I scared you!” it means to be so overwhelmed by awesomeness that it overpowers your ability to take it all in. So on a certain level, yes, that’s frightening, but a much better word would be awestruck!

Has anyone ever looked at you after you’ve had an experience of God and become awestruck by the afterglow?
No? Are you sure?

32 Later all the Israelites came up to him and he passed on the commands, everything that God had told him on Mount Sinai.
33 When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face,
34 but when he went into the presence of God, he removed the veil until he came out. When he came out [he] told the Israelites what he had been commanded.

That’s pretty much the whole story. Moses encounters God, gets lit up, and then shares with the people what he’s experienced.

Today is also Transfiguration Sunday. Did hearing about Moses make you think about Jesus? It should have! In the Transfiguration story Jesus goes up a mountain to pray and while there he is bathed in a blinding white light and his face is transfigured – transformed – set aglow! The images of Moses and Elijah appear and the Presence of God takes the form of a cloud from which a voice declares Jesus to be blessed and tells the disciples to “listen to him!”

See any parallels? Mountain – check. Presence of God – check. Glowing – check. Message to be shared – check!

Now, it’s going to seem like I’m dramatically switching gears here and talking about something else but I’m really not. Both of these stories are examples of sacraments. read on

160131 – Love It Out

Yr C ~ Epiphany 4 ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If you’ve been here over the last few weeks you’ve heard me talk a lot about love – how God loves us, how we love God, and last week how God wants to marry us (!) – and now this week we’re doing 1 Corinthians 13. That’s a whole lotta love!love-it-out

Chances are you’ve heard today’s reading at a wedding. Couples love this text because it says the word ‘love’ more times per square inch than just about anywhere else in the bible. But if you read the chapter as a whole it starts out sounding nothing like a wedding text at all, then it starts to sound wedding-ish, then it’s back to not at all. When we’re done with it I hope you’ll see it as both an amazing wedding text and a text for you and me today.

The Greeks had different words for different aspects of love – where we use only one word. The special Greek word for love that refers to spiritual love, to God’s love, is agape.
Agape is the kind of love that supersedes and transcends all other loves.  It’s the ideal kind of love because it’s the kind of love God has for us!
Agape has at its heart a nature of self-giving – of whole-heartedness – of completeness.
Agape is the fullest, holiest, greatest love there is.
This entire text is about that kind of love – agape! Every time you hear love today, think agape.

The first three verses start off kind of harshly. Let me back up a minute and tell you why. There once was a church community in a busy city called Corinth. The church was planted by Paul who taught them all about Jesus and his Way, but then Paul went on to plant more churches. After a while he got word that the church in Corinth was in trouble. You see, they thought they were the bright shining star in the “denomination” but they were actually quite dysfunctional.

Some of the Corinthians liked Paul’s teaching – others preferred Apollos who had followed Paul. There were serious class distinctions with separate tables for the rich and poor at the community gathering meal. There were reports of turning a blind eye to sexual impropriety. They were taking one another to court over disputes. And they were making up their own rules for church and behaviour. It was a nightmare.

So Paul writes a scathing letter to them. I mean, it’s nasty. He pulls no punches whatsoever. The big thing he repeatedly calls them is not mistaken, or evil, misguided, but immature – spiritually immature. By the time we get to today’s reading (near the end of the letter) he’s finally getting into some more positive language, but even this starts with a bang. read on

160124 – The Marrying Type

Yr C ~ Epiphany 3 ~ Isaiah 62:1-5

Two weeks ago we looked at Isaiah 43:4 and revelled in God declaring “You are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you” to each and every one of us. Last week we explored Nehemiah 8:6 and saw how when God’s Presence is revealed through scripture and prayer that the people’s response is to worship with joy and weeping. Worship is how we love God.
So, two weeks ago it’s God loves us, and last week it’s we love God, and this week – God pops the question!marrying-type

The context is that this scene takes place post exile (but just before last week’s text) – so the people have returned home but they’ve returned to ruins and destruction.
How do you think they feel? Well, it’s confusing – because they’re thrilled to be home and released from exile but they come home and are faced with the utter destruction and desolation of their land.

To make it more confusing instead of referring to the people as Israel or even Jerusalem, God calls them Zion – which is a word that associates with the religious identity of the Jewish people rather than just their geography, even as it refers to a holy mountain beside Jerusalem. But here it means the personification of the spiritual aspect of the people. Got it?

Now for the air-quotes: So, God is talking through “Isaiah” (although this is from third Isaiah and the actual Isaiah is long dead) to “Zion” (the people not the place) trying to convince “her” of “his” affection. (Easy, right?)

62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.

You could forgive the people for thinking that while they were in exile God was being silent and punishing them, thinking poorly of them. Apparently God thought otherwise. Here God declares God will not keep silent – like you won’t be able to shut God up about this! The Hebrew here is really fun and reads something like “I will not hush or be shushed!” In fact, God says the people are so much in God’s love that it shines like the dawn or a burning torch! Hey, God “carries a torch” for us!

62:2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

“Other kingdoms and nations will see how awesome you are,” says God. That would feel pretty good to a downtrodden people. But then the really great stuff comes. God says that Zion will be given a new name.

Ok, bible quiz time – Who got a new name in the bible, and why? read on

Pages: 1 4 5 6 7 8 13