Wheat & Weeds

Kenora                                  St. Alban’s

Proper / Ordinary / Lectionary 16 – Pentecost + 7

Year A

19 July 2020

Genesis 28:10-19a

Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23

Romans 8:12-25

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

O God, patient and forbearing, strengthen our spirit when we are slow and temper our zeal when we are rash, so that in your own good time you may produce in us a rich harvest from the seed you have sown and tended; through Jesus Christ, the promise of a new creation. Amen.

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I’m fascinated by Jesus’ parable today, about the wheat and the weeds. After all, its summertime, and those trying to grow gardens know all about weeds, right?

I’m fascinated by the notion that the enemy seeds the landowner’s wheat field with weeds, fully anticipating the response of the slaves of the householder and their desire to see only good grain grow in the fields.

“When the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Mt 13:26-30)

So, Jesus response, today is both logical, and yet, at the same time, it is utterly fascinating.

When we contemplate Jesus’ words, in our minds eye, we see a beautiful field filled with luscious, nourishing wheat just sprouting, gaining full height, and maturing into a great crop. At the same time, we’re able to see the invasive weeds right along side.

Throughout the growing season, then, both receive the same amounts of sunlight, rain or irrigation, and fertilizer. Yet the weed remains a weed throughout all of this application of agrarian love and care, only to face the fate of weeds when the field is harvested.

So, then, what does this mean for us? How do we, mostly non-agrarian folk with our backyard gardens, interpret this parable for our lives?

What if we look at it, in a similar way to last weeks parable of the sower? After all, as we heard from Sandra, the parables are straight forward, but at the same time, they’re not at all straight forward, are they?

So, then how can we apply this parable to our lives, in and throughout society.

Looking at it through the lens of the structure of today’s society, the children of God, then are the wheat, and those influences that seek to pull us away, or interfere with our lives as Christians living out our baptismal promises, then, world be the weeds.

If we pull the weeds, as the farm workers desire, to give the wheat optimum growing space, and no competition for the nutrients of the soil, then some of the wheat is pulled as well, lost forever to the fires all because they had the misfortune to have weeds grow up next to them, and entangle their roots.

But this isn’t what Jesus is talking about.

In Jesus’ model, where both the wheat and the weeds share the field until harvest, we see that the wheat is able to grow to its fullest potential. At the same time, we see that the weeds, also grow to their fullest potential, but they meet the fires of the harvest, when all is said and done.

And really, we all know people, or influences, or unjust structures all around us that can be seen as ‘weed – like’, that strive to cut us off from our Christian families, from our efforts to make the world a better pace, to live out the Word of God in our daily round of tasks and errands.

Equally, we can apply this parable to our own lives, and to our individual journey’s as Christians in the world, as well.

Looking at this from the point of view of our own lives, from the perspectives of our own hearts and minds, especially in this time of pandemic, then, its easy to parse out, to see where the metaphor of the situation fits with our lives, and our own journeys in and through this world.

Or is this too predictable? Which means we may be missing something.

The difficulty, here, naturally, is the weeds, as it is in all gardening stories.

It’s the negative ideas and concepts that attempt to choke out the good actions, ideas, and thoughts that enrich our lives, that lead us into paths of depression, addiction, or even worse.

But it’s not just thoughts that have the ability to negatively or positively affect our lives, there are, into all of our lives, people who are or act as weeds, in our lives, as well.

So Jesus, then, encourages us to look within, as well as without our lives, and hearts at the same time. He encourages us to focus on the wheat, on the sunshine, the water, the fertilizers that help us, encourage us to grow and to produce fruit of the Spirit, fruit of the gospel in the world around us, every day.

And more often than naught, what we find in our lives and in our hearts is this same ‘wheat – weed’ mix as we noted with Paul’s letter to the Romans. We are in a constant struggle to encourage the wheat to grow instead of the weeds. Yet, those weeds are pernicious.

Paul tells us: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:14-17)

Now doesn’t that sound like the wheat striving to survive with weeds in the same field?

And yet, Jesus tells us the home owner is willing to wait until the harvest to deal with these darn weeds, that were sown by the enemy, so that absolutely none of the wheat is affected.

And really, this is huge for each one of us, for all of our lives, and even for our communities.

We all dream of utopia, of the garden of Eden, of absolute heavenly peace, but there is always a serpent in the garden. (Gen 3)

Now, I have to admit, I’m not much of a gardener. I do alright with my houseplants, or with a container garden format. But as to an actual garden, I’m more than happy to leave that to the green thumbs and the talents of others.

What I do remember, from my childhood, is helping to pull weeds in the garden, or to ‘thin out’ the carrots and the radishes to encourage the remaining plants to grow larger because they’re not as crowded together in their rows.

But this isn’t what we’re seeing, here. Here Jesus is describing a wheat field, not a backyard garden, but when it comes to things that grow, such as wheat, and each one of us, the model still fits.

Rather, this is able to be seen as an extension of last weeks parable of the sower, where the enemy is striving to sabotage the good grain.

Where the sowing of weeds has been done to encourage the wheat to not produce far more than was sown. To encourage the action of the farm hands who desire to pull the weeds, and sacrifice the nearby grain.

Jesus, knowing the impact of producing more than we’ve ever imagined is even enough to overpower the negative influences of the weeds that brush up against us, that attempt to infiltrate, or cross pollinate our lives with habits and ideas that don’t make the world a better place.

So, Jesus knows the struggle that takes place in our minds, in our heart, even in the structure of our lives. He knows our desire to produce good fruit, yet, in spite of everything, of every effort we make, weeds spring up and block, distract, pull our attention away from what it is we desire to do as children of God, as members of the body of Christ.

So, then, if we are the wheat, or if our communities are the wheat, then we have to acknowledge the weeds in our midst. When the weeds have been named, then we can continue to produce good fruit, to continue to produce more fruit than we’ve ever imagined.

When we know what the weeds look like, whether they are unjust systems, laws that restrict rather than liberate, personal struggles, or even attitudes that prevent us from reaching our fullest potential. Those are our weeds. And when we deal with them, it has to be delicately so that none of the wheat on all sides does anything more than continue to be all that it can imagine itself to be.

Jesus tells us: ““The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.”” (Mt. 13:37-40)

So, Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit know that we have challenges. And they strive to encourage us to continue to grow, to blossom, and to produce good fruit, not just today, but every day of our lives.

Amen. 

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An Unexpected Yoke

Kenora St. Alban’s

Proper / Ordinary / Lectionary 14 – Pentecost + 5

Year A

5 July 2020

Zechariah 9:9-12

Psalm 145:8-15

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

God of heaven and earth, you reveal your wisdom to the childlike; may we learn from your Son humility of heart, so that we find refreshment and rest even as we shoulder the cross of Christ; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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When we look at the passage from Zechariah, we see the Triumphal Entry of our Lord and Saviour.

We see the answer to the disciples and apostles’ question, “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”” (Acts 1:6)

And we can also see the passion, crucifixion, and the resurrection all heralded by Zechariah’s words.

Now the interesting part is seeing this prophesy paired with Matthew’s gospel, today, pointing out that humanity is continuously contrary, but God isn’t.

And in this way, we can see Zechariah pointing the way for us to see what Jesus is saying.

Jesus tells us: “16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;” (Matt 11:16-18)

We want what we want.

We want what the advertisers tell us we cant live without.

And we often want not what we need, but rather what we desire.

We desire the coming of Christ, but we can’t seem to see the fulfillment of that realization, in the face of what our imaginations strive to flesh out.

John came to the people of God, the people of Israel, and his lifestyle as a Nazarene forbade the consumption of alcohol, or to cut his hair.

His appearance would have been equivalent to that of someone who lives without the benefit of a home with a working bath. He would have been darker tanned than the average citizen and a diet of locusts and honey isn’t the easiest to either harvest or to consume without mess and bee stings.

Yet the people saw what they wanted to see, instead of the messenger God had chosen from before his conception.

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.” (Matt 11:18)

But the fickleness of our hearts doesn’t end there. We hit the exact opposite of our impressions of John when Jesus arrives.

19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matt 11:19a)

We just can’t decide what God’s involvement in our lives should look like, and this has been the hallmark of human divine interaction since the beginning.

When the Israelites cried out to God, to be freed from slavery, in Egypt, they didn’t see their guide to salvation in Moses.

When the exiles ended, who envisioned what life after exile would look like, and did that match what Nehemiah and Ezra delivered?

When Zechariah prophesied, “11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.” who envisioned John as God’s messenger, and Jesus as the fulfillment of prophesy? (Zech  9:11-12)

Yet, God sill looks out for us, opens paths for us, doesn’t let our own perceptions of things hold us back from receiving the love and grace of God.

Jesus says “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

(Matt 11:19b)

God continues to look out for us, and provide us with the teachers and guides we need, not what we expect.

And in this, then, neither Zechariah, John, or Jesus disappoint. Rather they all continue to be what God has called them, what God calls each one of us to be: leaders, examples, teachers, proclaimers, and those who point the way, still, today.

And in this, then Jesus offers himself as an example. He offers his own experiences to help us on the way.

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” (Matt 11:28-30)

And when what we see, what we do in the name of Christ fails to live up to our own expectations and the levels of excellence established by our imaginations, we still have Christ.

He’s still in our corner, no matter how many times we go looking for a better coach. He’s still there, offering to lead us, teach us, walk side by side with us, especially in times of turmoil.

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

Jesus knows what its like to be so bone weary that we don’t know what to do next, even when the next thing is to put up our feet and just enjoy a hot chocolate, or these days, a great ice cream cone.  

Jesus knows what it is that we’re experiencing, right down to our feelings of inadequacy at the tasks set before us, in this the ‘new normal.’

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. After all, God didn’t stop using Moses as their guide from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to the Promised Land, even though that took 40 years, and had enough set backs to fill two books of the bible!

God didn’t leave the people in exile, to the Babylonians or the Persians. Rather he encouraged the prophets to prepare for their return, and to make sure that all was ready, as happened with Ezra and Nehemiah, so that when the people were permitted to return home, all was as prepared as could be, when the people arrived. And here we find two more books of the bible.

So, we can return to Jesus teachings, to his lament that we really don’t know what we’re looking at, what we’re looking for, although our hearts continue to yearn for the divine.

Jesus tells us: “29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” (Matt 11:29-30)

And here we are, today.

We’re still in the midst of the stress and confusion of Covid – 19 restrictions, all intended to help us help medical officials to not just prevent the spread of the disease, but to give researchers time to find a vaccination.

And its exhausting!

The world has known about this virus since before Christmas, and at each step we’ve hoped that it would be contained and die out before it has a chance to spread. Yet spread it did, and does.

As it spread, so did rumour, innuendo, and accusations that other nations, and other health authorities didn’t do their job well enough to stop this disease.

And here we are, six months into this year, and still struggling to understand the long-term implications of a disease for which scientists and researchers struggle to find a way to vaccinate, and control, if not immediately eradicate.

But this isn’t the first time the world has experienced such conditions, and in the history of the world, it’s likely it won’t be the last.

And yet, we’re able to return, encouraged to return, time and again, to the gospels, to the prophets, to the books of the bible for strength, and for encouragement as we seek to be there for others, even if its at a distance. Even if we have to maintain physical distancing, and other restrictions.

Today, Zechariah reminds us, with hope that “his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.” (Zech 9:10b-12)

And Matthew tells us, once again: “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” … “28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

(Matt 11:19b, 28-30)

Because tomorrow is a brand-new day. It’s a day filled with God’s love, God’s encouragement, God’s wisdom, and God’s hope, for each one of us, and for all of creation.

Amen. 

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What God desires….

Kenora                                  St. Alban’s

Proper / Ordinary / Lectionary 13 – Pentecost + 4

Year A

28 June 2020

Jeremiah28:5-9

Psalm 89:1-4,15-18

Romans 5:1-8;12-23

Matthew 10:40-42

Heavenly Father, you call us to a loyalty beyond all earthly claims; grant us strength to offer ourselves to you as a people who have been raised from death to life; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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These days, I find that we’re living in a beautiful, confusing, chaotic, violent, and uncertain time in which we find ourselves living, these days.

It’s beautiful because it’s summer, and the grass is growing, gardens are being planted, and a chipmunk is chowing down on my tomato plants.

It’s confusing because of the restrictions that have been put into place for our protection, and for the protection of others during this time of Covid – 19 aka Coronavirus. Where we can, or can’t go? How do we decide when masks are to be donned? How close we can be to another person? and so forth.

And its chaotic, and violent because the bandage has been ripped away from the veneer of what we’ve perceived as ‘good social behaviour’ and we now see how racism and racially based violence has presented itself in our ‘polite society’ in ways we’d rather not see, and in places we’d, really, rather ignore.

And into this, then, we see Paul’s language each one of us, who follows Christ, and even those who don’t follow Christ, as “slaves” (Rom 6:17, 18, 19, 20, 22)

And this is one of the words, these days, that really has our society in an uproar, at the moment. It really leaves a bad taste in our mouths, when we realize that Paul is looking at each one of us, not just those whom some would see in that category.

Now, Paul has been able to see this argument from both sides. Throughout his writings, Paul has both identified as someone of Jewish heritage, therefore someone for whom slavery is a probability, as a conquered people, and he’s identified as being a Roman citizen, therefore someone not as likely to be a slave. In our modern mindset, he’s seen the issue from both sides, and yet, this is the language he chooses to use, today.

Paul is telling us that whether we choose to give ourselves over to unhealthy passions, leading to a life lived in sin, debauchery and chaos, or whether we choose to give ourselves over to following Christ, to living lives founded in righteousness and grace, we have a choice.

Because in either case, we look to examples that have the ability to shape and influence our behaviour, our view of the world and to its outcomes, whether to the negative or to the positive.  

The movie “Kingdom of Heaven,” starring Orlando Bloom, is one of my favourite stories about the Crusades, and no its not historically accurate to just one crusade.

It’s a story of one man seeking the reassurance of faith, in the face of loss.

After reaching Jerusalem, this newly minted knight, seeking solace for the loss of his wife and child, states that he has no faith in religion.

The knight with whom he is speaking says: “I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the Will of God. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What God desires is here [points to head] and here [points to heart] and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man – or not.” (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0320661/characters/nm0000667)

And not only is this able to this still speak to us, today, it also speaks to the heart of today’s epistle passage, as strongly as Paul describing each one of us as slaves to righteousness rather than slaves to sin.

The other image we need to acknowledge, in today’s passage is that during the Roman Era, only 1 in 3 persons were considered to be ‘free.’ All others were enslaved. And this image of slavery could be as repressive as our North American history of slavery, or it could have been as encouraging as someone being a patron to an artist.

What predominates is that the one who is enslaved is not free to make choices for their own life. That they’re not able to decide for themselves what actions are beneficial or detrimental to their lives.

Rather the slave is compelled by obedience to whomever is the slave’s owner to behaviours that the owner wishes the slave to emulate, whether that’s in paths of sin and debauchery, or righteousness, grace, and forgiveness of sin.

And it is to this end, then Paul points out that we are either enslaved to sin, and its negative consequences, not just for our lives, and for our environment, but that affects others around us, a well.

Or we are enslaved to a life in Christ and the righteousness, and grace that follows as we actively work to overturn the damage caused to our lives, the lives of those we touch, and to the environment by the effects of sin, and all of its consequences.

So, in reality slavery isn’t a new image, but to those of us who have never considered ourselves to be slaves to anything or any one, this idea is rather uncomfortable.

It’s language that rubs us the wrong way, and today that may be Paul’s intent.

Paul tells us: “17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.” (Rom 6:17-19)

And really, Paul is giving us good news, today.

He’s telling us that what we knew is gone, and what we now have is infinitely better. He tells us that our allegiance’s, our loyalties, our adherence to Christ is so much more positive than a life given over to sin.

Jesus puts it differently, in today’s gospel when he tells us: “40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matt 10:40)

And in reality, this is the same thing, but from the perspective that we’ve already chosen which side of the fence to be on. Paul is working from the perspective of the fence.

But if we can’t even conceive of being our own person without the baggage of our own or society’s history, how will we embrace what God is offering?

Yes, we’re in rough times, right now. But peaceful solutions are able to be found, and used by all to bring peace, honest, real, lasting peace to any situation.

As Murray, the Mummy, in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation said, recently “Got’ta be greater than the haters,” as Drac saved the man who had been trying to wipe out all monsters. Once his life was saved by his mortal enemy, he apologized for all the harm he had done.

We might struggle to be followers of Christ because of the choices in our lives, yet the choices remain.

“What God desires is here [points to head] and here [points to heart] and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man – or not.”

Yet in that struggle to choose, we will find ourselves, being pulled in two directions, yearning to follow where Jesus leads, to the paths of grace, righteousness, love, and equality. Yet the paths to sin are so slippery, and treacherous, are still there, aren’t they?

So, today we find ourselves in a beautiful, confusing, chaotic, violent, and uncertain time.

Today we find ourselves being challenged by not only the social circumstances all around us, but by the wording of today’s epistle that reminds us that its by choices that we make everyday that will determine if we are good, or not.

Going back to the movie “Kingdom of Heaven,” the oath taken to become a knight is also a great direction for each of us, today, in the face of what Paul observes and what Jesus directs.

The oath is: “Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.”

Now, this is something that I think I can do, in my life. How about you?

Even as our erstwhile knight strives to save Jerusalem, knowing that most of the knights have already been defeated by the enemy, he turns to the servants, and the men at arms, the people without formal position in a medieval world and he gives them the position of being knights, of being those who defend the weak and the helpless, instead of being weak and helpless.

In doing this, the knight enables people to look beyond their current circumstances, to decide for themselves how to best help in the defence of the city, and those who are unable to defend themselves against an army.

We can take this on to remind ourselves that we serve God, that we represent Christ, in this world, and that its through our actions, our words, that change for the better, is even possible.

Following the example of our brave knight, we are able to choose to follow God, every day.

Everyday, we have the grace of God, in our hearts and lives. We have the ability to take on the situations of our world, and work to right the wrongs in society.

We’re able to minister to each other, following the guidelines established for our own and others safety, and bring the light of Christ to those in need.

And as we enjoy this beautiful world, we’re able to love all of God’s creation, from chipmunks to those who need our positive examples to see where equality and love, come from the righteousness and grace of God for all of creation, all of humanity. Not just today, but every day.

Amen.

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Sheep Among Wolves

Kenora

Proper / Ordinary / Lectionary 11 – Pentecost + 2

Year A

14 June 2020

Exodus 19:2-8

Psalm 100 pg 838

Romans 5:1-8

Matthew9:35-10:8

God of love, in your compassion you reach out to the lost and helpless. Continue this work through us, so that your reign of justice and peace may increase; through Jesus Christ, the Lord of the harvest. Amen.

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Looking at the gospel, for today, we are able to see how many people, in Jesus’ day, were looking for, and were in need of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness, and what we see in the gospel is only among the Israelite people!

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:35-6)

He had compassion on them… they were like sheep without a shepherd.

So, if we take Jesus observation, today, to heart, how and where are we able to apply it to the world around us? And when we do apply Jesus ‘observation to the world around us, how are we able to be compassionate yet not overwhelmed by the need that still exists even to the level Jesus observed, in today’s gospel?

However, this isn’t only our challenge, but it the challenge we see from our Lord and Saviour – overwhelmed, and yet understaffed.

We can find this same situation all around us.

We can find this in the protests and peaceful demonstrations that are taking place to point out that racism, in general, in particular, is wrong.

We can see this in the ways in which people, tired of Covid – 19 restrictions vent their frustration, or their joy in the lifting of restrictions in ways that ultimately spread the virus instead of containing it for the betterment of all of society.

We can see this when people have problems, and our problems unfailingly manifest themselves in physical ways, that the medical field prescribes medications for instead of talking to people, instead of looking for the ways that God is involved in our lives, or even worse, where God isn’t involved in our lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the medical field does great work in the world, today, so much more is able to be accomplished, today, for our physical health and wellbeing than was able to be done 50-100 years ago.

At the same time, over that same 50-100 years, we’ve forgotten that humanity has a spiritual side, a side that yearns to be with God, to be connected to God, or even to know that we are involved in God’s plan.

And we can see Jesus solution – it’s to share the burden. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” (Mt 9:37-8)

The gospel tells us that he commissions the twelve to go out into the world, not to the cities, not to the metropolitan areas, but to the hamlets, the villages, the towns of the region. He sends them out to heal, to bind up, to cast out evil influences, and to encourage, and we find that same need all around us still today. (Mt 10:8)

And what remains, then, is the same, whether it’s today or yesterday. God’s solution still applies to this overwhelming and overwhelmed situation that we can still see all around.

We can still see people, on all sides, who are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36b)

We can still feel, in our heart of hearts, that God continues to call and to commission us for the work at hand, whether it’s lending a listening ear, standing with a peaceful demonstration, or lending our voice to right a societal wrong.

We can still see that God, that Jesus “called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” He said “heal the sick raise the dead, cleans those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Mt 10:1, 8)

And here we can find that nugget, that root of the message that Jesus needs us to hear: “Freely you have received; freely give.” (Mt 10:8b)

As I was writing I was reminded of the life and ministry of St Teresa of Calcutta, known in her lifetime as Mother Teresa, who began, what would become her life’s work, the Missionaries of Charity, in 1950.

Her mission statement was and is “to care for ‘the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.’” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa)

Sr. Teresa used these words when she asked the pope for permission to start the Missionaries of Charity, in 1950, in Calcutta, India.  “to care for ‘the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.’”

In her life’s work we find a very similar message to what we see Jesus telling the twelve, when they’re sent out. They’re told “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:5b-6)

And the world knows the impact that this one woman, known to one and all as Mother Teresa, and her followers made, and continue to make, for those in Calcutta, who are cast aside, thrown out by the society around them, and left to die by whatever means nature gave to them to hasten that journey. She gave them dignity and the tools of their faiths in order to be surrounded by the love of God, a love that is available for all people.

A love of, and from God that is visible in the work of Jesus who says “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Mt 9:37-8)

And although we can see the work as never ending, Paul points out that progress is constantly being made in unexpected corners of creation.

Paul points out the hope that we receive when he says “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (Rom5:1-2)

I find the definition of a secret to be interesting. The definition of a secret is something that someone doesn’t know. If I know something and you don’t know it, then I have a secret.

My secret is this: I know that God loves me. I know that God loves you. I know that God love the person who doesn’t even know that God has a deep and abiding love for them, out in the world, who wouldn’t know why they would want to enter a church and join us. Yet, God loves them as much as God loves each one of us.

At the same time, God has already made strides to open hearts that are currently closed, and to do this, God needs our help, our assistance, our willingness to be the disciples in the world, today.

Paul puts it this way: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:6-8)

Christ is still empowering us, gifting us, equipping us to aid those in the world who cannot see, cannot realize that God is with us, that God is guiding us, that God loves each of us unconditionally and forever.

The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.

Even today, we can still find God’s need, humanity’s need all around us. Even today we can still find ways to respond to that needing a way that honours each one of us, as well as honouring God, Jesus Christ and the efforts of the Holy Spirit.

We see those who cannot find the joy in their lives, whether that’s due to the circumstances of Covid – 19 or due to other circumstances, we see them. We see those who cannot find the light at the end of the tunnel.

There are those who see life only as an endless spiral, and who need to know that they don’t walk this path alone, that we are with them, as well as the love and support of God in Jesus Christ.

We are able to see the need on all sides.

At the same time, there are Christians who are feeling isolated and alone although they are surrounded by the love of God on all sides.

There are those who are in need of a warm smile (albeit through a mask, these days) and the offer of a cup of coffee, to be able to ‘spill their beans’ with someone who will not judge but, just by hearing their stories, will help to bear their burden and, so, lighten their load.

There are those in need of food aid, clothing aid, a place to lay their head with security and with surety that they will be safe throughout the night.

We’re able to look at the needs around us and identify, through the eyes of our faith, those who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36b)

We don’t need to look far afield to find needs that others are facing. Even in our faith communities, we are in need of those who have vision for the future, those who are able to heed the call to leadership that the Holy Spirit has planted in our hearts and minds.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Mt 9:37-8)

Each generation finds ways to fulfill this need, but the need remains. Each generation sees the needs of the community, of the world around us. Each generation finds ways to live the grace of God to the issues all around them.

St. Teresa of Calcutta opened her arms and her heart to help those in the streets of Calcutta, those whom society refused to see because of illness and infirmity, to find dignity and God’s love, and it became her life’s work. How will we heed God’s call to participate in the harvest “to the lost sheep … [to] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. [after all] Freely [we] have received; freely [we need to] give.” (Mt 10:6b-8)

Amen.

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1 + 1 + 1 = 1 (No, it’s not “new math”)

The Pas                       Trinity Sunday

Year A – 11 June 2017

Genesis 1:1-2:4

Psalm 8 pg 711

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

Holy One, whose fingers sculpted sun and moon; Holy Spirit, who brooded over the waters of creation; How Word, who lives in us; may we share in your grace, love and communion, so that we may live in your likeness; for you live in unity and diversity, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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When we look at them, the readings for today give us a clear picture of the nature, and of the varying roles of God. But the readings are doing this because, today, we celebrate the Trinity.

Today, we celebrate the triune nature of God – three persons, one God – a mystery of Christianity that humanity has been discussing, debating and attempting to figure out for over 2000 years, now.

In the readings for today, we see God, the Father, who creates, and who created each one of us, as well as absolutely every aspect and everything within creation.

We see God, the Son, who redeems each one of us through the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection; and he continues to teach us how to love as we are loved by God.

And we see God, the Holy Spirit, who is the counsellor, the advocate. The Holy Spirit is the guide that Jesus promised who continues to be with us, and who leads us in the paths that God wishes us to fulfill in our lives, whose arrival we celebrated last week, and today celebrate the three-in-one and the one-in-three.

To explore this mystery, in our lives, in our faith, we have the three creeds to which Christianity adheres.

A creed, by definition, is a statement of faith. It’s a statement by which we live out our faith, it’s something we can rally around and state with confidence our belief, our faith.

First, we have the Apostles’ Creed which is used regularly, and especially at baptisms. It holds the heart of our faith as Christians, as the children of God, as well as encapsulating our baptismal promises before God and each other with, and on behalf of, the newly baptized.

When we read it, it’s poignant, it’s to the point, and it’s able to give us the strength we need when we need it, in the crowded and cramped places in our lives.

It starts with the strong, confident words “I believe,” which means it is a pillar upon which we lean when we are in need of God, when we need to be reminded that we are the children whom God loves now, and always.

Then, we have the Nicene Creed that expands upon the concise words of the Apostles’ Creed. This is the creed we use when we gather together, when we celebrate the seasons and the festivals of the Church, as a community with the words: “We believe.”

The Nicene Creed talks more of the nature of the Son of God, and it talks more of the role of the Holy Spirit. Its language is more formal, and it formally invites us to be a part of the community, to be a participant in the community that makes up the body of Christ, that makes up the children of God.

And often we stop there, satisfied that in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds we’ve managed to describe the triune nature of God, because, if we ponder it, this is a really, really big mystery.

We often forget that there is a third creed in our faith lives as Christians, and other than reading it or maybe acknowledging its presence in the whirlwind of confirmation lessons, in our youth, we generally don’t return to it; this is the Athanasian Creed.

And we often don’t return to it because it’s long. It’s confusing, and it tends to make us dizzy, even when we’re just sitting there reading it.

The Athanasian creed is, corporately, our third statement of faith, adopted alongside the other two as we struggle to describe, to comprehend the full triune nature of God. As we seek to learn and understand the interrelatedness of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, I absolutely love the Athanasian creed.

It’s not used on a regular basis because of its length, and it’s language, but as we’ve said, as we see in the words of the creeds, we’re seeking to understand, to comprehend difficult concepts. Concepts that we often don’t agree upon as we discuss, debate, and seek to understand the love that God lavishes upon us, as we strive to understand how to live in, with, and through that love.

In his attempt to be succinct with such a complex topic, to be direct in how God is three persons in one, and one person in three, it’s a great eye opener.

At the same time, it can make us go cross-eyed as we strive to understand Athanasius’ desire to state the independent, yet interrelated natures and persons of God.

Just one brief ‘disclaimer’, though. The creeds were formulated before the rise of the Roman Catholic church, so when the creeds use the word “catholic”, it means “universal.”

A legend tells us that Athanasius, who was a bishop at Alexandria, Egypt, attended the council of Nicaea in the 4th century, and after one heated session on the triune nature of God, he wrote this creed on his journey home to Alexandria from Nicaea. The legend tells us he wrote this creed from the back of his donkey as he traveled home.

We can see that it is a creed that is infused with his passion to understand the interconnected, yet independent nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three persons, yet one God, and to help us to do the same.

So, the Athanasian creed says:

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith. …

Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

And Athanasius goes on from there attempting to define and to explain as clearly as possible what is truly a mystery to us all.

And yet, in their words of encouragement, we are often able to get lost in the explanation of the interrelated and independent natures of God. A language that is intended to allow us to see God, in three persons, in one Trinity.

Athanasius uses such words as: “uncreated,” “infinite,” “eternal,” “unlimited,” “almighty”. He returns again and again to the idea that this is one God in three persons with three similar but not quite the same natures, beings, and purposes. As I’d said earlier, he strives to be succinct, to be clear and concise in describing that our hearts tell us is real, that the pages of the bible describe to us in myriads of little and big ways, and upon which our faith rests.

At the same time, when we contemplate God without the community around us, we often forget that we’re part of the larger family of God, the body of Christ.

And what is this able to give us, today, as we seek to find our way forward in our world where the rules are changing faster than some change their socks? (Personally, I’m not necessarily in favour of socks, so…)

In looking back at the readings for today, Paul offers words that are designed to bring us together, to help us to uphold and encourage each other, because even as we see God’s three natures, three persons, we also see that God is one God, not three gods, as we are one community with many participants who makes up the body of Christ.

Paul tells us, “Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor 13:11b)

There was a time, when we would live willingly our lives on our front porches, on our back decks, looking over each other’s fences, and in many ways in each other’s lives. But life has changed, and not just because we are faced with a pandemic. Today we are more inclined to live our lives in our homes, physically isolated from each other, and yet, still looking for God, looking for companionship, looking for that sense of family, of community.

Well, I can say that here, we have family, even though we are currently physically separated from each other and making use of live casting to connect with each other in a corporate way.

Here, we have God in our midst.

Here we have each other. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus tells us: “20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”” And today’s gospel says: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””(Mt. 18:20, 28:20b))

So, whether that body of Christ that is our family of faith gathers who here, there, online, in our backyards, or across lanes, roadways, provinces, or nations, Christ is with us. And if Christ is with us, then so is the Holy Spirit, and then so is the Father and Creator of the Universe.

And we know this because we are looking at the triune nature of God, one in three and three in one, always.

The Celtic expressions of Christianity are wonderful in their attempt to remind us that we are a necessary part of the creation of God the Father, and that this includes a connection to all of nature, and to the rhythms of the seasons around us, as well.

They emphasize that we are an integral part of the creation that God has made, that the Son redeems, that the Holy Spirit guides and encourages, not just once a year, but every day, in every way we are able to imagine.

We see this in the reading from Genesis, when we recount God’s ‘hands on’ approach creation, including creating you and me, and all of humanity.

We see this in the words of Paul as he urges us to pull together, not only in this time and place as we seek to be the people of God, but also through reaching out to those who aren’t able to be here, to those who share our heart centred in God, around the world.

We see this in the words of the gospel as Jesus encourages us to share the message of God’s love, as we are encouraged to invite everyone we know and love to join us we revel in the words of the creeds, as we come together as the body of Christ, as the children of God, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Amen.

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We Have Voice!

Kenora                        Pentecost Sunday

Year A – 31 May 2020

Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:25-35, 27

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

God of wind and flame, send your life-giving Spirit upon your people: give fire to our words, strength to our witness and boldness to our proclamation of your wondrous work in Christ; who, with you and the Spirit, lives and reigns now and for ever. Amen.

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I’ve been thinking, a lot this week, about what it means to have a voice.

Now, except in areas of disability, we all have voices, but the question then is: How do we make use of them?

And this question covers a lot of territory.

After all, if one group wishes to suppress another, they simply deny them “voice.” They deny them the opportunity to speak, and if they do try to speak, to express themselves, then they’re simply shunned, ignored, or these days subject to unwarranted violence.

We’ve seen this throughout history.

We’ve seen this across generations, and we are able to find instances, still today, when this is attempted between disparate groups. Times when segments of our global population have been, or continue to be, ignored or drowned out because others have felt that the ones striving to speak don’t deserve to be heard.

At conventions and formal gatherings one of the earliest motions that is passed, or at least considered is offering honoured guests “voice and/or vote.”

And the reason I’ve been pondering each one of us and our use of voice (as the lyric of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” run through my mind) is that today we celebrate Pentecost.

Today, we celebrate the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete who intercedes between us and heaven, the throne of God and then enables our voices to share out the marvelous message of God’s love, of Jesus’ teachings.

We celebrate the arrival of the one Jesus promised, as Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

And what we know, then is that the Holy Spirit gives us the words to proclaim of how God’s love, of Jesus teachings, not just in the bible, but every day in our lives, and in our world.

What we know, then, is that the Holy Spirit guides each one of us, who believes, and this is equally as wonderous a miracle as the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the first place.

But the question we started from is how do we use our voices?

I’ve said, in the past, that I’m not a fan of public speaking, and yet, here I am, speaking to you, publicly, on a regular basis. A task, interestingly enough is more difficult because you’re on the other side of your screens, and I cannot see your faces, or read your body language.

But it wasn’t a gift of the Holy Spirit that I was able to fully embrace until I realized I had, that I have things to say.

It wasn’t until then that I “came into my voice”. It wasn’t until then that my voice got stronger, as did my sense of vocation / call “as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ.” (EvLW pg. 96)

So, we’re told, today that “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. … All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. …

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”” (Acts 2:1-2, 4-6, 13)

So, isn’t interesting, here, that in the midst of the miracle that is wrought by God, in the midst of people suddenly discovering not only that they have voice, but languages, as well, that some people choose to deride it, put it down, and dismiss it easily, because “these are Galileans?” (Acts 2:7)

And we can see that there’s a lot going on in these verses.

For those gathered together since Jesus ascended, and wondering what this promised advocate will be like, I’m sure the pre-Holy Spirit conversation was focused on what to do now that Jesus had ascended to heaven?

After all, Jesus was the one who was out there teaching, and healing. Jesus was the one encouraging all to follow the love of God, fulfilling the letter of the law.

And Jesus was the one who was fulfilling what was written about the Christ, the Messiah, in the words of the prophets.

Sure, they’ve had a week, or so, where they went out into the world, in pairs, healing people, casting out demons and proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom of God to all who had ears to hear them.

But that was then, wasn’t it? and Jesus was still with them, teaching them, guiding them every step of the way?

Right?

So, now the conversation may have been on what to do next? What are the practical steps, how do they avoid being crucified, and what are they going to do about requests for healing, or for casting out of demons?

So, maybe, as an idea, they decided to open a little café and call it “Loaves and Fishes”?

I don’t think any of the believers who were gathered in that upper room saw themselves as being able to follow in Jesus footsteps. After all, those are some pretty phenomenal footsteps.

They probably didn’t see themselves picking up Jesus’ mantle and running with it, so now they need to find something else, some other way where, if people ask, sure one could admit to being a disciple of Jesus’ and share the love and teachings of Jesus with them, but since Good Friday, or since the Resurrection, or since Jesus’ Ascended, well, we cant do that, right?

So, a little café might just be the ticket…

But then the Holy Spirit arrives on the scene and in an instant, changes absolutely everything!

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-4)

The Holy Spirit brings the gift of many languages! It brings the gift of voice to those who considered themselves to be voiceless, powerless, and afraid.

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: … 21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Acts 2:13-16, 21)

Peter stands up! Peter defends those who are experiencing this twist by the Holy Spirit, the gift of communicating in different languages about the love of God for all of creation.

Peter is urged by the Holy Spirit and he doesn’t back down from those who would diminish this miracle, who would brush it aside as intoxication.

Rather Peter, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, thru his newly empowered voice, instead empowers people to hear what is being said.

He empowers those who now have words to say, and he empowers the love of God that is flowing throughout the world, still today.

So, I find a conversation about one’s voice is interesting, given the age we live in where today’s younger generation prefers texting and emailing to having a conversation.

But our individual voices are still tremendously important parts of our lives and of our lives of faith, today.

So, what is it, do you think, that our voices, the voices of those first touched by the Holy Spirit that really conveys all that the Trinity is looking for?

I’m reminded of Olaf, the snowman in Frozen II who when asked, by Anna: “What’s that thing you say, Olaf?” And he says: ”Oh, my theory about advancing technologies as both our saviour and our doom?” Its not what she was asking but it was the first of Olaf’s ‘sayings’ to come to his mind, and I think he’s right!

When we text or email, all that’s before us are the words. There’s no intonation, there’s no vocal inflection, and really it could be a recipe for noodle soup, instead of the secret of the universe that we are all beloved by the one who created it all.

But when we speak, when we read aloud, when we open our mouths and the message of God’s love and of our lives of faith come spilling out, then our conviction in those messages is also apparent to all who hear the words, see our faces, our gestures, our conviction that we speak, proclaim, pronounce the truth.

Really, we could just invite people to read the passages for a given day, silently, to themselves, but there’s no life in that method. The early Christians would read the gospels aloud. They’d read the letters of Paul in their gatherings, and those of the other apostles and disciples whose efforts compiled what we consider to be the new testament, today.

Texting and emailing are fine, but really, communication, communication from heart to heart, needs the voice, and we need to remember the strength of this tool.

During Jesus triumphal entry, when the people were getting boisterous their proclamation of Jesus as the King of the Jews, “39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”” (Lk 19:39-40)

We have voice!

Amen.

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We are the Story Teller: We are the Faith Transmitter

Kenora                        Easter 6

Year A

17 May 2020

Acts 17:22-31

Psalm 66 pg 787

1 Peter 3:13-22

John 14:15-21

Three-fold God of love, you invite us to abide in you. May we follow the Spirit of truth, so that through us your commanding love may speak to the heart of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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This week I admit I had difficulty in getting into the text of the sermon, and when that happens, I tend to look at the world around me, and contemplate the big themes that we either choose to focus upon, or we choose to ignore as we settle into the detail and intricacies of our lives.

I’ve been contemplating the larger themes and the iconic stories that make up our lives, that make up our entertainment, and our history: our national, family, and personal histories. (And this is when Remi says I think too much.)

And noticing such, about life, about our ability to make the small details of our lives the most important activities we will complete, we find that there is room for the iconic tales, stories, that have the ability to inspire absolutely every aspect of our lives, today, and tomorrow as well.

Not only do each of us have our own stories, our own tales of accomplishments, heroic feats, contributions to society around us, both in the world and in our families but we are also a piece of someone else’s story, some place else’s story as well.

In my life, I’ve always returned to favourite childhood stories, when I feel that life is getting out of hand, when I feel the need to be grounded in literature that has the ability to both entertain and enrich.

Even after all is said and done, the stories of our favourite characters finish, their time in the larger story is completed, yet, the story continues, with new characters, and new adventures.

In the same way, we can turn, and return, time and again to the books of the bible, where our lives and expressions of faith are extensions of the accounts found in the pages, in the accounts, in the poetry and the stories of the bible, as well.

We can relive the history of the Israelite people as they are chosen by God to be the people of God and remember how God touches our lives, our hearts, our families, every day, as well.

We can return to the lessons Jesus taught, to the prayers he has prayed and continues to pray on our behalf. We can relive, and reread the morality tales, and the miracles that Jesus performed that still have the ability to open our eyes and change our lives, even today.

These iconic stories have the ability to shape our lives. They have the ability to entertain, and to educate. They’re able to guide, and they’re able to give hope, even in the darkest of circumstances.

Through story telling we are able to find inspiration for our lives.

Through the telling of our stories, we’re able to find a place for ourselves in a world that has the ability to make us feel that a much bigger contribution is required from us, than the ability to make the worlds best cup of coffee on a daily basis.

At the same time, that cup of worlds best coffee is so much more enjoyable when we realize that the inspiration to make that mouth watering cup of coffee comes from such iconic tales as Jesus changing water in to wine, feeding the multitudes, casting out demons, healing those on the fringes of society, recalling life from death, and walking on water.

The reading from Acts, for today, shows us Paul on one of his first forays into the known world, as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

This is a whole new adventure for Paul. This is a whole new experience in his life as he turns to promoting Christianity amongst the Gentiles, instead of trying to destroy those of us who believe in and who follow the Christ.

In the larger world, Paul, a Jew, turned Christian, is now ministering amongst those who believed in many gods. He’s among those who express many ways of worshipping those many gods. This practice is called polytheism, where there’s a god for everything and for every time and place.  

The Roman Empire, when it conquered a new group, never imposed its own gods upon this new group of people, rather it accepted their gods into their own pantheon or group of gods to be worshipped. This developed some bad habits like the emperor declaring that he is god-like and should be worshipped as a god.

Yet, in this midst of this world, we find Paul wandering around the marketplace, in Athens, looking at the stalls that are selling pencils, and fruit, cloth, and lunchboxes. Selling everything that is needed for daily life.

We find Paul exploring the gods of Athens and their expressions of worship, and discovering that they’re also making room for God, or for gods whom they’ve not yet met. So Paul stand up in the midst of the marketplace in Athens and introduces them to God.

He describes to them the creator of the universe, to the one who loves us all unconditionally and gives us Christ to show us how to live in that love, forever.

He stands up in the midst of the Athenian people and says “as I walked around an looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I’m going to proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)

He stands up before the Athenian people and he tells them an iconic tale. He talks to the them of Christ, and his life and his miracles. He tells them of God, and the guidance of the peoples before Christ and since Christ ascended to heaven. Paul talks of the disciples and their journey from the seaside in Galilee to Jerusalem and the growth of the Christian faith around their efforts to live in God’s love, in Jesus teachings.

Paul talks of the passion, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. He tells the people of Athens that they are loved by this the one God, and all they have to do to receive that love, to live within it, is to accept that this story is for them. That this story is their reality, and that this story has the ability to include them, in the same way it includes each one of us who believes in Christ, still today.

Paul goes on and shares with them his own story; after all its one he knows very well, it’s the story of the Israelite people, it’s the story of God’s interaction with humanity from the creation of the world, through tomorrow.

He says: “24 ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.’” (Acts 17:24)

But this isn’t a one-way story, where we get to hear a fairy tale. This isn’t a “once upon a time…”. This isn’t like the classical literature I read at bedtime, or when I want to ‘take a load off’ and let my imagination roam through the realms of the impossible and the improbable.

Rather this is the story that has reached out to each one of us, and has touched each of our lives. This is a story that has become a part of us, and we are a part of it, as well.

This is a story that we are currently living a part in, as is Paul, as are all of those around the market, the Areopagus in Athens, who hear the words of Paul, today, and maybe they make an impact.

Maybe they linger nearby and engage him in heartfelt conversation about what its like to rely upon only one God, rather than a pantheon of gods.

Maybe they go on their way, but along the way, they can’t forget what Paul has said, today, and they encounter him, or another who has turned their hearts to God, and they learn how this message has touched other lives, and leads to a community in Christ, right there in Athens.

Only God is able to see the outcome of Paul’s words, today, in Athens. Only God is able to know how Paul’s words continue to inspire us to share our own stories, is able to touch our hearts, still today, reminding us that God isn’t served by human hands, but rather by human hearts. (Acts 17:25)

This isn’t a story that is able to be set to one side. We cannot claim that it has no ability to affect who we are or how we deal with the world around us. Rather it is the one story that goes to the very heart of who we are and how we live and move in the world.

We may be focused on that fabulous cup of coffee, especially first thing in the morning. We might find great satisfaction in hand to hand combat with dust bunnies. But because of these stories, because of these accounts of the gospels, and the tales of Paul as he carries the message of Christ into the world around us, he is able to carry the love of God into each of our hearts as well.

The question, then, for today, is how is our story be enriched by what Paul tells us, tells the Athenians. How does this action by God to reach into our world, into our lives, into our stories find reality and action in our day to day experiences?

27 God did this so that [we] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of [the Athenian] poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:27)

So, since we are the offspring, the children of God, since we are the body of Christ, in the world, not just in these pews, I would encourage each of us to share, if not the wording of our stories, the essence of them with those who are looking for the way their stories can be shared with the world.

Our stories blend with each other’s stories. We are a part of the tales of others and they are a part of ours.

In all of this, like a constant theme, or thread, we find God, we find Christ as close to us as the person sitting next to us, as much a part of our actions as if they were his own.

In all of this, we become active in the heroes and heroines we live out as we live our stories to the world.

Amen.

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Heart Over Head in Love

42154-way-truth-life.400w.tnKenora Easter 5
Mother’s Day – Year A
10 May 2020

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

Generous God,
whose life is freely given
in Jesus Christ our Lord:
as you have opened for us
your house of many rooms,
so may we make a place
for the rejected and unloved,
and share in the work of peace;
through Jesus Christ the cornerstone. Amen.
__________________________________

Have you ever thought that John writes in a way that feels like it’s designed to keep us in the dark?

Rather, it seems that he writes from a perspective that requires us to throw our perceptions out the window, and to come at Jesus’ words, his teachings, and his messages from a completely different point of view.

It seems that he calls us to take our heads out of the equation, and to let our hearts lead the way.

And in all of the places of the world where we seek to learn and put logic before anything else, this is a huge concept, to step back, to stop thinking, stop overanalyzing the messages from Jesus and to let our hearts lead the way.

In today’s gospel we see Jesus telling us, telling the disciples that his time on earth is coming to an end, but at the same time, that this isn’t the end of the road.

Rather, it’s the end of our perceptions of the goals we thought were the priority.

Jesus tells us: “2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” (Jn 14:2-4)

And Thomas says: ““Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”” (Jn 14:5)

Jesus says: ““I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”” (Jn 14:6-7)

And Philip says: ““Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”” (Jn 14:8)

We continue through all of this, through every encounter we have with the world and with Jesus, to look at the world through our eyes.

We continue to have our brains interpreting what we think we’re seeing, while Jesus talks to our hearts, to our souls, to the ‘lost sheep,’ in each of us who hears and responds to the voice of our shepherd.

In John’s interpretation, this is as clear as mud, right?

After all, isn’t an encounter with, or relationship with the divine meant to leave us scratching our heads?

We can return to Jesus conversation with Nicodemus on the rooftop, in the darkness, eleven chapters earlier, when he says “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:5b-8)

And when Nicodemus, a leader of Israel doesn’t get it, Jesus says: “10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?” (Jn 3:10)

We can see that Nicodemus is trying to fit Jesus’ message of the benefits of baptism, of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity in our lives into the categories, the ‘pigeon holes’ in his mind where he stores and sorts and pulls out information when it’s needed. He’s approaching it as he’s done all of his life, from the idea of logic, instead of from the perspective of faith.

And we do the same in each of our lives, as well.

After all, this is Jesus, this is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, one third of the Trinity who is the great “I AM.” (Ex 3:14)

An encounter with God, who loves us unconditionally also unconditionally changes us because of, and through that love.

The system of temple sacrifice that had served the Jewish people since before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land said that we all live mired in sin, and that is lessened or alleviated by offering burnt offerings go God. The how and the what of these burnt offerings is given to us in the book of Leviticus.

But Jesus brings a different message. He tells us we are loved of God, loved by God, not just ‘tolerated’ as a “stiff-necked people.” (Ex 33:3b)

At the same time, Jesus tells us to love others as we are loved by God.

He tells us to serve others as a sign of the divine love that comes from God each of us and for all of humanity.

And to be frank, such a shift in how to be a community of believers, how to be followers of Christ, children of God doesn’t sit well with a well hammered out system of temple sacrifice, when burnt offerings aren’t demanded.

Rather as John presents it, we’re being urged to get out of our own heads.

We’re being encouraged to look at the world through our hearts, and to stop overthinking the information that comes through our minds before it can get to our hearts.

Today Jesus tells us that the passion and crucifixion isn’t an ending but rather a new beginning; something revealed dramatically to us on Easter morning, when the women go to the tomb.

Jesus tells us that we know more than we think we do on more subjects than we could have imagined, all because of our association with Jesus, because of our association with the love of God, and the teaching of Jesus found in the gospels.

At the same time, Jesus tells us that we are the ones to carry the love of God into the whole of the world.

We are the ones who bring the love of God to those who still need to hear it, to feel it, to be encouraged to get out of their own heads and into their hearts, where Jesus waits, where God waits to be a part of their lives, as God is a part of our lives, as well.

Jesus starts with the words “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (Jn 14:1a) He starts with a variation of Do Not Be Afraid.

He knows that things are gong to look horrible before the dawn of Easter morning brings a joyful chaos of its own.

He knows our fear will drive us to the ends of our minds, of our hearts, of our logic, as self-preservation strives to take over, when Jesus knows that this is only temporary and the love of God has the ability to change the world, from this day on, forever, as long as we carry that love to the world.

So, today we find Jesus striving, once more to teach, yet, at the same time, to reassure because he knows what’s coming even if we don’t.

These days, we, too, are in between times, when we strive to reassure each other that tomorrow is only going to be better than today. Yet the method of transmission of this message of love and reassurance is the same, from my heart, from your heart, from the hearts of those who believe to the ears and the hearts of those who need to feel the love of God surround them.

Like when we think back to Jesus time with Nicodemus, we skip over the hard parts and always gravitate to John 3:16 “6 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

And for the life of me I’ve always wondered why people stopped there? After all, focusing on this just verse alone seems to create limits, to erect barriers where God opens doors and provides means.

When we look at that verse in John 3, we need to include the next verse, which takes down all of the barriers that our minds, our sense of logic puts up. “17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:17)

And we need to take this to heart as well. After all, if Jesus message was for one segment of the human population, only, how is it, then that we are we followers of Christ?

And yet, here we are.

Jesus doesn’t put up barriers, and he asks us to do the same.

The love of God isn’t for one person, one group, but rather for the whole human race. Its uncontrolled love at its finest.

Its our ability to be assured that although we don’t see Jesus among us, that doesn’t mean he’s not here. It doesn’t mean that we’re on our own, rather it emphasizes what he tells us today.

He says: “2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” (Jn 14”2-4)

This isn’t a passage that our heads will ever fully understand, rather its something that appeals to our hearts, and perhaps this is why Thomas and Philip, respectively offer their own questions to try to tease out the logic in something that completely defies human logic.

Thomas ponders: “how can we know the way? … [and] 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father.” (Jn 14:5b, 8a)

But the answers already live in our hearts. They reach out when we find ourselves surrounded by the doubt of the world and they enfold us in the assurance of God’s love.

They help us to reach out when we encounter those who need to feel the love of God in and through their own lives.

Jesus encourages us to feel rather than think, and in all things to trust God.

And really, isn’t that enough?

Amen.

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Roads, and Ways, and New Chapters to the Story

emmaus

Kenora Easter 3
Year A
26 April 2020

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35

Lord of the gathering feast,
you walk with us on the shadowed road:
burn our hearts with Scripture’s open flame;
unveil our darkened eyes as bread is torn and shared,
and from the broken fragments bless a people for yourself;
through Jesus Christ, the host of the world. Amen.
__________________________________

Today’s gospel is one of everybody’s favourite passages in Luke’s gospel. One where everyone focuses on the part where the disciples say: “were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32)

But there is so much more, here, than just this one hindsight revelation, as great as it is to us, here today who believe.

We have to remember that Cleopas and his companion received the revelation that Christ is risen, that the tomb is empty from the women who went to the tomb, this morning. Easter morning.

And we have to remember that Cleopas and his companion walked seven miles to Emmaus throughout the day, as they chatted with Jesus and each other, but they ran the seven miles back to Jerusalem, in the night.

They ran back to proclaim to the apostles, and all those gathered together, what they experienced throughout the walk and over the shared meal with our Lord and Saviour.

So, for all of the joy and the hindsight that we are able to bring to this text, we have to remember that Jesus’ closest followers are still in the depths of their grief at Jesus’ death.

They are consumed by their sense of guilt that they ran away when the soldiers came to arrest him at Gethsemane.

On top of that we have Peter’s historically spectacular denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priests house, and that guilt still lives within him, today, as well.

Add to all of that the astounding and baffling news that the women brought back from the tomb, just after sunrise, this morning – the words and the sight of the angel messenger, the words of Jesus, all of which were not able to be confirmed by the men of the group.

I mean sure, they saw the tomb open, and empty. They may have even noted the state of the grave clothes, but they didn’t see the angel, there were no unconscious Roman soldiers on the ground, and they didn’t see or hear Jesus, either.

So, in the secluded room, we see a lot of confused, grieving, and guilt-ridden disciples and apostles.

We see a lot of people trying to piece it all together with out our benefit of hindsight.

On the ground we see people put aside their own expectations of what Jesus, what the Messiah’s redemption of Israel should, or could, look like from our human perspective (Lk 24:12a)

When we pray, when we enter into prayer, we always expect God’s reply, we acknowledge God’s participation in our prayers. We know that God will give us one of three, maybe four answers when we pray: Yes, No, Not yet, and Wait something better is coming.

When Jesus meets Cleopas and his companion on their way to Emmaus, he meets two people who have given up. They’ve decided to return to their lives, and the occupations that they had before all of this ‘craziness’ with Jesus has happened.

After all, if the authorities could kill Jesus, what’s to keep them from coming for the rest of Jesus’ followers?

So, they left. Gave up. Turned in their key to the clubhouse, and they’re going home.

And then Jesus shows up, when they’re at their lowest point, and he opens their, our hearts before he opens our eyes.

The way forward isn’t always obvious. Its never straight forward. Yes, it comes with risks including being willing to lay down our lives.

But the way forward isn’t done alone. After all, Jesus walks with us, today, as he walked with Cleopas and his friend.

Along the way, Jesus is with us, with Cleopas and his friend. Jesus explains how and why all of this, the passion, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, was destined to take place. At the same time, Jesus explains, demonstrates, shows to each one of that this isn’t the end of the story, just the end of the chapter. The story continues, even still today.

When in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo and Sam, in the Return of the King, talk about the characters in heroic stories, they talk about what it takes to be a hero.

Frodo points out that these vaunted and applauded heroes are, in reality, just ordinary people who didn’t turn back, or turn for home, but rather pressed on doing what needs to be done so that someone else can rest with the surety that all is well, in the world.

Today we see Cleopas, and his friend, walk away because, when they left Jerusalem, they thought the story had ended. They perceived that the journey was at an end, and it was time to get back to what they did before they encountered Jesus, and decided to follow.

Yes, their hearts are heavy and filled with grief.

Yes, they’re confused by the news the women brought back, but it’s beyond belief, isn’t it, that Jesus isn’t dead?

So, they turn their faces from Jerusalem, from the danger, and they walk toward the obscurity of an ordinary life, hearts heavy, minds in turmoil, feet dragging in the dust of the road.

And we can understand this confusion, this grief, this uncertainty about what tomorrow will look like, in the wake of yesterdays and todays actions of the world on all sides.

We understand this because we live there, today, as well, don’t we? Not necessarily in our lives of faith, although we wonder at times where Christ is in the midst of all of this pandemic.

We understand this because this is where our hearts are, as we wonder what tomorrow will look like, what a world after the pandemic will look like, be like, feel like.

At the same time, there are those in our world who grieve. Whether it is God’s time to call our loved ones home, or it is a loss we feel keenly because of the unrealized potential of the lives of passed loved ones that we saw before them, in the same way that the apostles and disciples saw the potential of Jesus reign and the redemption of Israel.

So, like those in the room, behind locked doors out of fear of the Jews and the Romans, like Cleopas and his companion, we too grieve, and we wonder, and we ponder. We wonder what the next step will be, can be, in the light of these changes on all sides.

But Jesus meets us on the road.

The gospel tells us: “13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.” (Lk 24:13-16)

They don’t walk alone. We don’t walk alone. Jesus is with us, whether we recognize him, or not, every step of the way.

Jesus opens our hearts to God’s message of love and compassion, throughout the ages, throughout our history, throughout all of the turmoil of recent events, and the tragedy that grips our hearts and lives.

What Cleopas decided was the end of the story isn’t because the women have already announced the next chapter, as fantastic as that may seem.

What Cleopas decided was too risky to continue to support Jesus walks with them, walks with us, and opens our hearts, and in the end, opens our eyes as well.

“25 [Jesus] said to them, [as they, as we walked along] “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Lk 24:25-27)

This isn’t the end of the story, but rather the invitation to each one of us to feel “our hearts burn inside of us,” as the world changes how we deal with each other, as the gospel message still yearns to be shared from lips to ears, to hearts. (Lk 24:32)

At dawn, Jesus showed himself to the women who came to the tomb.

Jesus reveals himself to Cleopas and to his friend, when they break bread together in Emmaus.

Only then does Jesus reveal himself to his closest followers, and urges Thomas to put his hands in his wounds, in his hands, and in his side, proving once and for all that he’s risen from the dead.

He comes to us in our need, when we are overwhelmed with the news that “Christ is Risen!” he comes to us when our need is great, when we need the reassurance that this isn’t the end, just a new beginning.

And we can respond to that ‘new beginning’ every day. We respond with prayer, with what deeds we’re able to perform to bring this light to others who are similarly bewildered by the events of the day.

Frodo and Sam may point out that heroes are just ordinary men and women who do what they can, to see an ending to unfortunate circumstances. What the movies neglect to tell us is that when these brave hobbits returned home, they had battles of their own to fight to bring life back to normal, in their beloved Shire.

And we know that God answers prayer. So, in the bewilderment of our hearts, and the confusion of our minds we give it all to God, and when the time is right, we recognize Jesus in our midst, as he blesses and breaks the bread, as he opens our hearts and minds to the words of the prophets, and as he walks with us in the changing circumstances of our world.

Amen.

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Don’t be afraid!

risen

The Pas Easter Sunday
Year A
12 April 2020

Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 28:1-10

God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death:
fill your church with faith and hope,
for a new day has dawned
and the way of life stands before us;
through Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour. Amen.
__________________________________

The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5:5b)

This, I think, is the most powerful set of words we are able to take away from today’s gospel, alongside the reminder that “Christ is Risen!” (Mt 28:6a)

They’re powerful because in the face of the changes that have just taken place, in the world, in heaven, we have absolutely no reason to be afraid.

After all, from our aspect of hindsight, we know that Christ is Risen, and we celebrate it from the rising of the sun, today, until Jesus ascension.

But today, as Canada Health continues to urge that we gather by video conferencing instead of by travel, as we cringe at the news information calling for donations of much needed supplies for health care workers.

I think, today, the angel’s words carry more weight than we would have, could have previously thought.

So, looking at the scenario in this morning’s gospel, we see the soldiers, the battle-hardened men who had been sent to guard the tomb from two women who come to provide embalming for one whom they love. Before the angel’s arrival, they’d be lounging around the clearing in front of the tomb. Probably a fire in their midst, and maybe a jug of wine, or maybe a pot of soup on the fire.
And with the angel’s arrival we see these men lie stricken on the ground, unconscious.

We see that they lie as they’ve fallen, passed out, emotionally overwrought by the fear, the terror of the angel’s arrival.

But not the women.

The women are still standing, probably huddling in each others arms, their burdens momentarily forgotten, but they’re still standing.

And maybe this comes back to Jesus’, to God’s way of making our perceptions stand on their heads.

The soldiers are there to ensure that in everyone’s mind Jesus stays dead, but that’s not the purpose or the message that the angel carries, today.

That’s not the purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross.

That’s not the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, that we celebrate, today.

The women have come at the dawn of the day to lovingly remember, and to relive, through the sharing of memories, the lessons, the teachings, the life of Jesus, as they perform these final acts of love for one whom they still love.

So, when the angel arrives like a flash of lightening, rolling back the stone and revealing the empty tomb, the women are afraid, but they’re still standing.

The angel’s purpose is to mark out, to show us, to tell us, to make us realize that Jesus is not dead; that he is alive, that “he is not here, for he has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 28:6a)

But the angels first words to us, and to the women, in the clearing before the tomb, surrounded by unconscious soldiers are “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5b)

Do not be afraid!

There are many experiences in our lives, in the world about which caution is associated to the point of inspiring fear in ourselves.

But today we find that the angel doesn’t want us to be afraid because he has a job, a task for each one of us, and if we’re afraid, then we’re not necessarily inclined to carry it out, are we?

If we’re afraid, then we’re not able to carry the words of the resurrection, the sight of the empty tomb, the joy of the experience to all those who are not at the tomb, this morning.

It’s a message that needs to be shared, even more, today.

It’s the words of hope, of encouragement, of new life, not just for us, not just for the women at the tomb, but for all of creation, and it begins with “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5b)

And its not just the angel’s words of hope, the news of the resurrection that the women are now asked to carry to the rest of Jesus followers – reason enough to leave behind an unconscious squadron of Roman Soldiers – but along the way back to where they started out this morning, they, we find Jesus himself.

They are returning to their lodgings, transformed by the sights, by the words, by the message. They’re not the same women who left these same lodgings not so long ago, and they now return, transformed, resurrected by the message that they carry.

We’re told, after receiving the angel’s message “They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy.” (Mt 28:8)

They left with fear and great joy, and this is incredible, for each one of us, who also finds ourselves before the open tomb.

We can see that fear is still there. We see that for all of the angel’s assurances, his sudden appearance, the earth quake, the rolling back of the stone, the unconscious state of the soldiers continues to cause fear in our hearts, in the hearts of the women.

“So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. … Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Mt 28: 8-9a, 10b)

Jesus adds his own assurance and confidence to that of the angel, that the women are able to carry this message of new life, of new hope, of joy to those whose hearts are still in the darkness of the tomb.

But the tomb is no longer sealed, that is no longer occupied.

Death no longer holds sway over our lives. Death is no longer able to separate each of us from the love of God, and so, our hearts are filled with fear and great joy, as well.

Before the tomb, the angel points out that Jesus is not here, in the dark of the tomb, and he’s rolled back the stone so that we are able to also rise from the grave.

We’re able to leave behind the fear of death.

We’re able to step into the light, into the joy of new life.

We step from the darkness of the tomb into the presence of Jesus whose first word to each of us is “Greetings!”, and his second words are “Do not be afraid.” (Mt 28:9-10)

Today we also leave behind the dark of the tomb and step into the light of the resurrection, of new life, of new purpose where grief is able to be left behind, where only love, and great joy are able to be found.

We never find out what happened to those soldiers whose job was to guard the tomb, to make sure nothing changes, to ensure that Jesus lifeless body remains interred in the tomb, undisturbed.

The report they gave must have been spectacular in its telling of the arrival of two women, an earthquake and lightening striking the ground that, obviously caused them to pass out. Right?

And when they woke, the women were gone, their baskets and burdens abandoned where they were dropped. But worst of all, the tomb was opened, and the body of Jesus was gone.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to deliver that report, to their superiors, oh, but to be a fly on the wall for that delivery would have been priceless, I’m sure.

What we see, today is that a new day has dawned.

New life is given to everyone who, on Friday, looked upon the cross and believed.

New life is given to all who loved Jesus and continues to love Jesus.

New life is given because the tomb is opened, and our hearts are filled with great joy as we rush back to share this news with all whom we meet along the way.

And along the way we encounter, we are greeted by our Lord and Saviour who greets us, who acknowledges us, who loves us and encourages us onward to share with all whom we meet, this news that death is broken, that the tomb is opened, and that Jesus is risen from the dead.

Since Friday, we have dwelt in the tomb with our Lord and Saviour. When he died on the cross, a potion of our hearts, our lives, died with him, and was then buried with him in the tomb.

Because of the love of God for all of humanity, Jesus is raised from the dead, the bounds of sin and death have been broken, forever, so really, there’s no reason for our hearts to remain in that now empty tomb.

The angel has rolled back the stone, the light of heaven shines within and we, filled with joy and great fear, emerge into the light of this new day, this new paradigm, this new experience in the presence of our Risen Lord.

“5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you” (Mt 28:5-7a)

So, in the light of today’s circumstances, we continue to share the new life of Christ with all who need to be reminded that the tomb is empty. We share the hope of the resurrection with all who need to know that He is not here, he has been raised from the dead. (Mt 28:7b)

Because Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen, Indeed. Alleluia.

Amen.

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