Our minister preached a sermon this week on John 21:15-19. In that text, Jesus asks Peter, who just days before had betrayed him whether he really loved Him. Peter answers, perhaps irritably, “Of course, I do.” Jesus then bids him to feed His sheep. As our pastor rightly said, inherent in the text is forgiveness and with it comes a new life. Yes, Peter was guilty of betrayal but Jesus did not see him as an irretrievably and irreparably bad person. How often does one hear someone say that so-and-so is a “naughty child” and thereby condemning the child instead of saying that “wonderful” child “did” something naughty. Continue reading
Hung from the rafters this morning, we had two thin curtains that divided the sanctuary from the pulpit. Our pastor stood in front and talked about one of my favourite topics, thin places. And then the curtain was drawn aside to reveal a large and beautiful flower arrangement behind the communion table. One really had a sense of the curtain of the temple being torn asunder. It was a wonderful visualization of a thin place. Continue reading
Our service this morning focused on the Seven Words from the Cross. One of our young people read each of the texts while individuals from the congregation, again mostly young people, came up to the pulpit to give a five-minute sermon on what those words meant to them. After each meditation, we sang a hymn or chorus. Our resident euophonist played Were you there? after one of the meditations. It was a wonderful and very moving service.
Our text this morning was Mark 9:14-29, which is traditionally read as a healing of a boy with epilepsy. A father cries out to Jesus, “Master, I brought my son to you because he has a dumb spirit. Wherever he is, it gets hold of him, throws him down on the ground and there he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth. It’s simply wearing him out.” Our minister broadened it to include our teenage children. Sometimes parents get the feeling that their kids have been invaded by a “dumb spirit!” They might not all actually foam at the mouth but it sometimes it feels like that. The father bewails the fact that the spirit has sometimes thrown his son into the fire! Which parent, I wonder, has not wondered at times whether their child was playing with fire, metaphorically speaking. Jesus’ advice to the father and the bystanders at the end of the story rings down through the years, “This sort of problem,” he says, “can only be healed with prayer.” Amen. And perhaps a bit of hope and patience. Most of us grow up! All of us need a bit of prayer along the way.
Our sermon this morning took as its text Ephesians 4: 1-6, God is Father of all and talked about the unity of the church despite its lack of uniformity. I have always maintained that if God is anything then He is BIG! Bigger than our little minds can comprehend. I have imagined him to people as a giant, multifaceted diamond. Each of us is made in His image — or more correctly in one tiny part of His image. We are like the facets on that diamond. Our role in life is to keep our little facet polished so that the expression of His love that is us can be seen through us. And, since we are just one tiny facet, it behooves us to treat the many other facets around us with respect or, in Paul’s words, “with forbearing love.” And to allow others the freedom to polish their facet within the vision granted to them. Diversity within unity.
I have long since forgotten, if I ever knew, Proverbs 15:17. What a delight then to have it chosen as the text for this morning’s service. Freely translated it says, “it is better to eat vegetables with friends than steak with enemies.” In its own way, that short aphorism seems to capture the whole spirit of the gospel. Perhaps, one just needs to add a parable about a Samaritan that starts with the question, “Just who is my friend.”
I opined in my sermon last week that Paul might have been right that love was greater than faith or hope; however, I suggested, that without hope neither love nor faith was possible. Fareed Zakaria noted recently in the Washington Post that middle-aged whites were dying in increasing numbers from suicide, drug overdose and alcoholism. The American Dream has died for those without a college degree and with it hope has gone and been replaced by despair. E.J. Dionne in an article published six weeks before had much the same, sad story to tell. In this age of global competition and computerization, we have to find a new way to run the economy to provide hope to those at the bottom. In this season of hope it is a tragedy that some see nothing but despair.