July 27, 2007
More details will follow later in the fall but for more about Bruce and Cheryl please visit their website
July 17, 2007
- Genesis 18:1-10a
- Psalm 15 (VU p.736)
- Luke 10:38-42
THe Hymns for this Sunday are:
- #374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
- #357 Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
- #506 Take My Life and Let it Be
- #422 God Be With You till We Meet Again
The Sermon title is They Also Serve...
Early thoughts: So how many of you finished the saying, adding in "who stand and wait"? And really on the face that seems to be what Jesus is saying to Martha. Actually the text goes farther, it has Jesus telling Martha in no uncertain terms that she is wrong, that Mary has made the "better choice".
But really which is the better choice? This story about two sisters trying to meet and greet Jesus the best way they know how. Martha is drawn to be the "proper" hostess, Mary is drawn to be the avid student. It is a contest between two differing styles of hospitality. It is also a story about seeking a balance between doing and being.
It seems that this is a conflict many people face in the here and now. Do we struggle to keep our houses perfectly clean to make a good impression or spend more time with family and friends? Is it more important to have a perfect meal well laid out or to have good conversation? What is the balance point?
In fact the balance point is hard to find sometimes. We need both Mary and Martha in our lives. We need them in our churches. In fact we as individual need to be both. We need to take time to "do", to be preparing for company, to have many tasks. But we also need to take time to just "be", to have the deep conversations, to sit "idly by", to stand and wait.
A few years ago I was asked to speak on this passage when the UCW Rally was held here at Riverview. And to me it seemed the perfect setting because UCW groups, when they work well, are all about being both Mary and Martha. UCWs do many things in the life of the church but they take time at every meeting for a devotional. SOme take time at many meetings for a Bible Study (or used to anyway). UCW members often have strong ideas about what it means to provide hospitality, in fact many of us could learn from them. But I have also known many UCW members who have a lot to teach about being with their guests, about how hospitality is more than the meal getting out on time.
In our story it seems that both Mary and Martha may be off-balance. MArtha is distracted by many tasks, Mary is seemingly oblivious to what needs to be done (note that the text doesn't say if Martha is preparing a multi-course meal or simply getting out come bread and cheese with some water to drink). True hospitality takes both gifts. And from ancient times we have been handed on the challenge of learning how to be truly hospitable.
May God help us learn how to be truly balanced hosts.
July 10, 2007
The Scripture readings this week are:
- Deuteronomy 30:9-14
- Psalm 82 (VU p.799)
- Luke 10:25-37
The hymns are:
- #333 Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
- #365 Jesus Love Me (or possibly #644 I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry)
- #579 The Church is Wherever
- #675 Will Your Anchor Hold
The Sermon title is: Mercy For and From an Outsider
Early Thoughts: It is a story many of us have heard countless times. "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho...which of these three, do you thingk, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The beauty of stories we have heard over and over again is that they are so familiar and comfortable. The danger of stories we have heard over and over again is that they are so familiar and comfortable.
Of course, one might say, everybody knows the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The point is that we have to think beyond our regular boundaries, that we have to be willing to provide loving support for those neighbours we would instinctively pass by on the road. Every Sunday School re-enactment and discussion, most every semon preached on the story picks up that fact. Sure, sometimes we pause to ruminate on why the priest and the Levite didn't stop to help (were they too busy, too preoccupied, too "holy"?) and we pause to reflect what might have been the motivation for the Samaritan, but the base message is still the same. And of course that is part of what is being said.
But the thing about parables is that they are often not as simple as that. I have to wonder what Jesus' original hearers would have felt had they been the man beat up and left for dead. When he wakes up and learns that he has been helped by a hated Samaritan. Even worse, he has been touched by a hated and unclean Samaritan. Is it possible that Jesus is asking his listeners to move even beyond charity to actual acceptance?
The story is prompted by questions around love and neighbour and fulfilling the law. In Scripture love is a verb, something we do and so Jesus tells a story about love acted out. As is often the case there is a twist, in this case the "good" one in the story is a Samaritan, someone few Jews of the day would consider a neighbour. But the love that Scripture calls us to also goes deeper. On the face of it, this story calls us to be charitable, and that is a good thing. But true love, agape to use the Greek term for the deep abiding love we are called into, involves an acceptance of the other, not just caring for his/her welfare. Indeed that is the really big challenge.
I think Jesus is saying that to be a neighbour means not only caring for each other. I think Jesus is saying that the "victim" of the story has a choice to make as well. And I think the his Jewish listeners may well have heard that choice much clearer than we do today. There is a double miracle of love and neighbourliness here. One certainly is that mercy was offered by an outsider. The other is that it was accepted.
In our world of separations and divisions today, what would it take for us to accept and offer aid no matter who the other is?
July 09, 2007
July 03, 2007
- Psalm 66:1-12 (VU p. 784, Parts 1 & 2)
- Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The Hymns are:
- #371 Open My Eyes That I May See
- #509 I, the Lord of Sea and Sky
- #660 How Firm a Foundation
- #649 Walk With Me
The Sermon title is Travelling Light.
Early thoughts: Many years, as we prepared to leave on vacation, my father would look at the pile of stuff waiting to be packed into trailer and trunk and let out a sigh. Sometimes it took 2 or 3 attempts to find the best way to fit everything in. It is a scene that many of us have been a part of. The "why did we pack so much" part of vacations.
The answer of course is that we take what we think we need to be adequately prepared for the trip. Will it be hot and sunny or cool and rainy? Will we be sitting on the beach, hiking in the bush, or going out to fancy restaurants and theatres? Do we have enough food and refreshments? The more variables we want to cover the bigger the pile grows.
In contrast look at the packing instructions Jesus gives to the 70 who are going out in pairs to preach and prepare the way. "Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals...Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide." Go out, take nothing, trust that when you get there someone will provide what you need. Now I am certainly in favour of travelling light (having had the "how will all of this fit in" experience myself) but this seems more than a little extreme.
These travel instructions are of course based on trust. The 70 have to trust that God will, through the people they meet, provide what is needed. And that is what strikes me as the Word for us as I read this passage this year. Yes there are other messages, there is a Word about sharing the Good News, there is a Word about our authority as apostles, but the Word about travelling light and trust is what strikes me this year.
This is the Word we need to hear because we spend much of our lives trying to be prepared for everything, trying to be able to have what we need. But Jesus tells us that this isn't the goal. The goal is to set out in trust. Yes it means we will be dependent on those we meet. Yes it means admitting we might meet something we aren't ready for. But that is life. Sometimes we need to let go and let God even though we know God tends to work through terribly fallible and sometimes unreliable means. We need to travel light, to not carry so much burden around. Then maybe we will find that we are freer, that we have more energy, that we can try new things.
When we pack too much the weight of all those clothes slows us down, makes us less efficient. Many of us find the same thing in our lives, both as individuals and as communities. When we try to, as the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared" the details and "what if"s bog us down. If we can find the space to step out in trust, assuming that we will find what we need and be well-received then great things can happen. At least that is what the 70 found out.