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September 13, 2020

Devotional: Forgiveness is Messy

Growing up, throughout grade school and high school I did not experience nor witness much bullying. There was the odd, sometimes dangerous times but overall I flew under the radar.  That was until my second year of University when my very own roommates- who believed very differently then I did- began to terrorize myself and the other Christian in our house. It came to an absolute crashing climax when we returned from Easter break to discover anti-Christian vandalism all over our doors. Before moving out of that house one of the bullying roommates said, “Why are you running away? I thought you people were supposed to be forgiving” and I couldn’t believe that he had turned a truth about my faith into a vile accusation. If you thought last week’s passage was awkward, today’s passage is messy and challenging. I didn’t know how I was going to start the message but as I read and re-read this passage that comment kept coming up, “I thought you people were supposed to be forgiving.”

The passage today completes what we read and studied last week and includes not only instruction but a parable. Jesus has spent a lot of time talking about how the Christian community should act. Earlier in this discourse Jesus stressed the that the family of God is the most important thing in the world and that we should do everything in our power to nourish and strengthen the bonds of our love for one another. So, as Peter, and likely the other disciples, listens to Jesus’ words Peter needs to clarify what exactly is required of him.  There’s a part of me that thinks Peter thought he was being remarkable in his willingness to forgive someone seven times, that is a lot. Yet, Jesus then responds that one should be forgiven not seven but seventy-seven times. For all the verbal abuse, for all the stress and manipulation, for all the pettiness and passive aggressive actions that my roommates did, forgiveness seemed to elude me and for a long time I struggled with it. Trust me, forgiveness still seems to elude me when I’m hurt or upset. I think must of us struggle with forgiveness because it is messy. If I am burned once- ok, it could have been an honest mistake. If I am burned twice, then I begin to keep a mental record- Jesus says nothing about keeping track of misdeeds. However, Jesus does help redefine a common misconception about forgiveness as he follows up his answer with a parable that can perhaps help us understand what forgiveness means or rather how it is manifested. Forgiveness is a two way street.

Jesus definitely implies that our forgiveness should be limitless, there is no denying that. This is clear when the parable states that the servant owes his king ten thousand talents. To put that in perspective one talent was worth about 6,000 denarii and a labourer was paid one denarius a day so, by my limited calculations that means that the labourer owed 60,000,000 days or 193,000 years worth of work in order to pay off this debt. The point is that this labourer owes so much that the debt would be on his family for generations. Yet, out of pity the master not only changes his mind about selling the family into slavery but forgives the debt.  That is until he realizes that the servant is unwilling to live forgiveness with regards to his own debtors.

The parable takes a turn when the forgiven labourer does not respond in kind to the master’s compassion. When the labourer asks for a hundred denarii that is owed him, a small amount compared to the debt he owed the king, and the slave is unable to repay- instead of forgiving the debt he throws the slave in jail. The forgiven labourer proves to be unforgiving and this is where Jesus helps us understand forgiveness. The point of the parable is, that those who have genuinely received forgiveness also genuinely forgive others. While it seems like the labourers entreaty to his king was genuine it turns out to be a ruse. He understood nothing about mercy. To be forgiving we must also truly understand what it is to be forgiven.

I returned to David Turner’s commentary on Matthew, you might remember last week when he essentially gave us a talking to about using the line, “when 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” Well Dr. Turner helped me  understand the meaning in this parable. He writes, “The incompatibility of the two situations [between the forgiving master and the unforgiving servant] could not be clearer, the resulting teaching is that those who have been forgiven by God can and must forgive their fellow humans. To be forgiven is to be empowered to forgive. No matter how offensively one has been treated by a fellow human, there is no comparison to the heinous rebellion of wicked humans against a holy and loving God. Anyone who has truly experienced the compassion of the heavenly Father should have little problem showing genuine compassion to a fellow human.” Dr. Turner really has a way of making me squirm with uncomfortable truths when it comes to understanding the Gospel of Matthew. But maybe that’s why we struggle with forgiveness- we still don’t feel like we genuinely deserve the forgiveness that God has freely given us through Christ on the cross.

Sometimes in our assurance of pardons or declarations of forgiveness you will notice that I include the words “forgive yourself”. Now, this was not something I heard growing up in the church nor is it something that I said in previous ministries. However, it was while listening to a friend preach and say those words that I realized that forgiveness is not just between two parties but can often include one’s own being. I had never been given permission to acknowledge that I needed to forgive myself and if forgiveness of self is hard it can only be just as hard to forgive others. And then we must remember that God’s forgiveness is pure unadulterated grace.

Our inter-personal relationships are hard and there are definitely times when we need to walk away or move out for our own well being- but that has nothing to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness can still take place. Last week I touched upon how in this dialogue Jesus is spending a lot of time defining what the relationships amongst the Christian community should look like.  The difference between the master in the parable and God is that God has already forgiven us. There is no earning of forgiveness or grovelling at God’s feet asking for patience. Just think of this for a moment- we have already been forgiven by the one to whom we owe our very life and breath because that someone wants to remain in relationship with us- always. And then think of this, if God commands us to forgive each other seventy-seven times, just think how much more God will forgive us- over and over. Amen

September 6, 2020

Devotional:

Historically speaking Presbyterians in Scotland had a bit if a reputation when it came to discipline. Has anyone heard of the Stool of Repentance?  The stool was often a wooden elevated square stool- like the height of a bar stool- that was placed at the front of the church and would be used as a form of public penance for someone who had been caught committing a sin from adultery to public drunkenness to swearing in public . The offender would have to sit on this uncomfortable stool throughout the service and then at the end they would be told to stand upon the stool and receive a rebuke from the minister.  As you can imagine this humiliation often caused some pretty serious outcomes. These stools were used in Presbyterian Churches, mostly in Scotland but also in Canada, until the mid 1800s. You know, the reason our Session minutes are still confidential is because the Session was the one who discussed and determined the kind of discipline someone should receive if they were caught doing something sinful. I can assure you, I have never been on a session where we discussed such things and if I am honest, I probably would spend more time sitting on the stool then preaching in the pulpit if it was still in use. Today we find ourselves in a rather challenging passage from Matthew- note that this is thanks to the lectionary as I likely would not have picked this to preach on, on my own. What is interesting to me is that it is a clear and concise theological procedure regarding discipline and it says nothing about sitting people on stools, although it does allude to the community being involved. As an aside, there is actually a fiddle jig entitled, “The Stool of Repentance” which was likely written as a way of mocking this kind of discipline.

Now this passage in Matthew is awkward for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, for me, is the challenge of facing conflict head on. I think most of us try to avoid conflict and yet the passage encourages us to approach in person someone who has sinned against you. I’m also uncomfortable with the idea that one would point out the sin of someone else while not actually admitting to their own sin. This seems contrary to some of Jesus’ other words, like “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” But it turns out this is not about being self-righteous, rather it is about humility. Barbara Brown Taylor points out that the key part to this reconciliation is doing the work. “When someone crosses us, we are called to be the first to reach out, even when we are the ones who have been hurt, even when God knows we have done nothing wrong, even when everything in us wants to fight back- still we are called to community with one another, to act like the family we are….That is what we are called to do: to confront and make up, to forgive and seek forgiveness, to heal and be healed.”

But what happens when someone doesn’t want to be confronted about the hurt they have caused? Well then there are the stages of confrontation. If the person does not listen to you, get a few other people involved so that they can witness, followed by involving the church. It should be pointed out that church isn’t really the right word to use because the word church did not exist when this Gospel was written- but the idea is getting the religious community involved. Following these three opportunities to acknowledge his or her error if the person does not heed the church then that person is to be treated as Gentile or tax collector, basically an outcast or outsider, again sounding rather contrary to some of Jesus’ more familiar words. And it does sound even more contrary to the kind of discipline the early Presbyterian Church provided.

However, what is at the heart of this passage is not so much the three opportunities for one to admit that they have done wrong but rather the three truths found within these steps. First, the authority of the church, second, the promise of answered prayer, and third, the presence of Jesus throughout it all. Jesus is essentially admitting that offences are inevitable, be they intentional or not. And this is Jesus’ way of trying to assure fair treatment of both parties. It is a rather ominous matter with tantamount consequences and yet the severity of this outcome- of turning someone into an outsider- is cushioned by Jesus acknowledging the link between what the disciples do on earth and what is done in heaven, We prayed the line, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” which sounds awfully similar to “whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven.”

It is important to note that just before this passage was the parable of the lost sheep and this is important to the context of Jesus’ words. The disciplines are to see themselves as the shepherd seeking the stray sheep. Therefore the ultimate goal is not severance of a relationship but the reconciliation of one. It should also be pointed out that this is only part of a much longer conversation. Next week Peter will ask about forgiveness and Jesus will go on to stress the necessity of forgiveness, especially as we live in community.

It is Jesus’ closing words in this part of the conversation that also create some awkward tension. I know that I have definitely used the line, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” as a way to assure a small group that God is with us whether we are two or three or twenty. However, in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, David Turner wrote something that caused me to re-consider how we use that verse, “The flippant way in which 18:19 is often cited to assure small meetings of Christians that God is with them is disturbing because it twists a solemn passage into a cliche. No doubt God is present with any legitimate meeting of his people and there is no need to mishandle Scripture to prove it.  Taking this solemn passage out of context cheapens it and profanes the sacred duty of the church to maintain the harmony of its interpersonal relationships.” Yikes! That will make me think twice about using that line out of context ever again. What this verse really means is that during challenging and uncomfortable discussions within the religious community, the church can be assured that Jesus is present with them through those difficulties.

I am also struggling with this closing line because it clearly states that true wisdom within the church comes when it is gathered in community, for most of us, gathering in community means- in person.  But we have been forced to figure out how to live in relationship in new ways and I can tell you from personal experience it is hard, and wrongdoings will occur because we’ve never encountered anything like this before. But just as God can reconcile creation, God can reconcile relationships. A big part of this passage is the ability to not only hear one another but listen to one another and as we listen to each other we can listen to Jesus’ words. We are gathered together- some of us in this building, some of us reading these devotionals, some of us listening over the radio, most of us online- often sitting in our pjs having a cup of coffee but believe it or not there is wisdom in our gathering. It’s not coming from me but it comes from Christ’s presence. No one, is going to be asked to sit on a stool but perhaps we can all join in a jig as we celebrate the the challenges and joys of living in community. Amen

August 23, 2020

| Devotional

Travel has taken on a whole new meaning this summer. I love travelling- I think travel is the best way to expose one’s self to alternate world views, experience different cultures, and witness both the triumphs and tragedies of humankind. But this year, travel has remained close to home. Thankfully I have yet to tire of the various campgrounds, hiking trails, rivers, lakes and beaches on this island and we have also taken this opportunity to explore some of the more remote spots. I will admit that whether travelling near or far I pray a prayer for safe passage. Certainly as our van bumped along the potholed road to Morton Lake or up the shale-rocked logging road to Scout Beach I prayed that prayer more than once. There are a lot of roads that our 2WD van has encountered this summer and some of them made we want to turn back but I can not help but compare all of these travels, whether along the paved road to Gold River or the nearly abandoned trail to Long Point Recreation site on Lower Campbell Lake, to the diversity of travel found along life’s journey. And you have no idea the sense of relief I feel or the hallelujah I shout when we pull into those sites with nothing but a dirty van.

Psalm 121 is called “A Psalm for Sojourners” because it is attributed to the idea of a journey, or pilgrimage. In fact, there is a whole section, from Psalm 120-134 all bearing the words, shir-hamma’alot or shir-lammal’alot which is translated as “the songs of ascent” because these psalms were likely sung while pilgrims travelled up to Jerusalem. However, the road to Jerusalem not only had natural dangers but human ones as well, from harsh weather to bandits, from predators to a lack of water. Life is full of dangers- fears and threats- which we touched on that last week as we looked at some of the lament psalms. So, the psalmist of psalm 121 asks, “from where will my help come?” and the immediate response is that one’s help comes from the Lord. There is a key message in this response. The psalmist does not look to the hills and seek help in them, rather the psalmist acknowledges that his help comes from the one who made those hills. Their very existence speaks to or bears witness to the creator. Notice also how psalm 121 starts off as a personal psalm but switches gears to include the whole nation of Israel.

Along with that transition from the individual to the nation comes a transition from questions to blessings. God promises to protect and watch over, God promises to keep us as we move about this life. These promises do not deny the existence of struggle along this journey but rather encourage an awareness of God’s presence throughout life. This psalm is not solely about a pilgrimage to Jerusalem but our travels through life. In fact, it is common for Jewish families to post psalm 121 in the delivery room or in a nursery or child’s room to represent the promises God makes at the very beginning of our lives.

This transitions us nicely into our understanding of the final psalm, psalm 150. These are joy filled words that bring out the child in each one of us. This psalm demonstrates how the Hebrew people rejoiced in God at the very core of their being. The word psalm actually means “praise” in Hebrew, and that is indeed the ultimate goal. Even though the psalter contains more prayers of lament than it does hymns of hallelujahs the designation of “praise” is an accurate one. The whole Psalter moves toward praise in two ways. First, almost all the prayers of lament end with an expression or vow to praise. Second, the last two sections of the book are predominately songs of praise. The last five psalms all begin and end with the word Hallelujah which is the Hebrew term for “Praise God”or “Praise Yahweh”. The book is indeed a journey through emotions and one’s relationship with God but the ultimate end is praise and psalm 150 says it all. The final crescendo of praise!

In it every creature in heaven and on earth is invited to praise God, and every instrument is to be used. In some ways this psalm is unique because it is an extended, unbroken invitation to praise. Walter Bruggermann, states that “this psalm is determined, enthusiastic, uninterrupted, relentless, unrelieved summons which will not be content until all creatures, all of life are “ready and willing” to participate in an unending song of praise that is sung without reserve or qualification. The psalm expresses a lyrical self-abandonment, an utter yielding of self, without vested interest, calculation, desire or hidden agenda.” This psalm is all about jumping for joy!

We as a congregation have journeyed with the Hebrew people for the last four weeks, using the psalms. We heard the choices of psalm 1 and decided to seek and follow the wisdom of God.  We travelled with them through history as the covenant relationship with David was celebrated. We cried out with them in lamenting life’s challenges, especially during this particular time. We joined them on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And now we fall into praise, with strong shouts of Hallelujah!

Praise is the offering of one’s whole self to God and Psalm 150 is an enthusiastic expression of yielding the self to God. Praise involves both life and liturgy. The praise of God in worship reinforces, renews and reshapes the commitment of the whole life to God. And here is another interesting fact about these psalms of praise. They are universal. They invite all nations and all the earth to praise. Now, I get it, we don’t always feel like praising, last week’s laments taught us that more than anything. But this is a pilgrimage we are all on together. Psalm 150 closes with “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord”. At the creation of the world God breathed life into all things, therefore whether we look to the heavens or the hills we see evidence of God’s creative power, and the proper goal of every creature is praise by living. Whether we are seeking God’s wisdom, recalling our history, giving thanks,  crying out in lament, or journeying along a bumpy road, and things are bumpy still,  ultimately everything is called to praise! Amen

August 16, 2020

| Devotional

In 1965 Beatlemania was at it’s height.  Ringo, George, Paul and John were overwhelmed. They struggled to have normal private lives because everything was on display and this was all before social media.  John and Paul, in particular turned to the best coping mechanism they had, songwriting, and out of that time came one of their many number one hits. “Help! I need somebody. Help!Not just anybody. Help! You know I need someone. Help!” Later John commented that “the whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help.” Asking, let alone crying out, for help is not always easy. Most of us struggle with showing vulnerability, yet the most common form of psalms are called lament psalms. Out of the 150 Psalms approximately 85 are lament psalms. That’s over half, nearing on two thirds of the entire book is about people crying out to God- most of the time asking for help. What is interesting is that we hardly ever talk about them or address them in our responsive readings. It is most certainly easier to understand and sing psalms of praise. But what is important to remember is that the compilers of the book of psalms thought that requests for help, as well as hymns of praise, were appropriate human responses to God. By facing their doubts and acknowledging their weakness, Israel’s psalmists led worshippers to adopt a stance of complete honesty before God.

Often these laments take the form of prayers. Prayer is defined as “elemental language, by which our language becomes honest, true and personal in response to God.” Psalm 12 is a prayer and cry for help. This psalm is attributed to David, and that may be the case, but whoever wrote it was in a deep state of depression. However, it is not so much a depression for one’s self but for the state of the world.  A modern version could be, “Help me if you can I’m feeling down and I do appreciate you being round. Help me get my feet back on the ground.” Won’t you please, please help me. Because God I need your help! God, we need your help! The psalmists of the lament psalms, especially psalm 12, feel totally overwhelmed and outnumbered in a society that says, “we know what we’re doing and we’re doing great. We’re in charge and we’re doing just fine. We can fix the problem ourselves and we don’t need God’s help.” That is what verse 4 laments, “I’m tired of hearing the words: we can talk anyone into anything, our lips manage the world.” The problem is that talk is cheap and when we turn our backs on God we end up in a world full of lies and deception. We end up in a world that oppresses the weak and creates a wide gap between rich and poor. And yet, the psalmist always hopes in God.

Now, here’s the challenge, it’s easy to say that God always answers those cries for help. But sometimes God doesn’t answer as quickly or in the way we would like. I also believe that God expects us to inhabit the prayers we pray, the cries we cry. If we are crying out for help when it comes to social injustice, then we also have to do something about it. When we pray asking that we will see displays of compassion, then we also have to display compassion. We must genuinely embody those prayers to see God at work. I do believe that calling out to God, praying to God for help, asking God to take our burdens means that God does indeed embrace us and hold us in loving arms but that doesn’t mean we are just simply recipients of grace and love but donors of grace and love.

There is something rather unique about Psalm 12 and it isn’t only that it can be compared to a classic Beatles song but it does have to do with music. At the beginning of the psalm, just before the verse begins, there is a musical instruction. It says, “To the leader:according to The Shem’inth”. Now, that word, Shem’inth only appears 3 times in Scripture. One time in 1 Chronicles when musicians are to play the Lyre as the Ark of the Covenant is returned to Jerusalem, so a joyous time, while the other two references are related to Psalm 6 and 12, both of which are lament psalms. No one really knows what the word means. Most believe that it comes from the word sha’man which means either 8 or fat. So, it could be in reference to an eight stringed instrument- like when we say that the violin, a four stringed instrument plays the saddest songs, well, this is doubly sad with 8 strings. While other scholars believe it refers to a low octave that only men, usually large men, could sing. Either way, at some point in history people were given the instruction on how to play this psalm and it likely was in a low or melancholy tone.

Lament psalms are frustrated, angry, anxious, hurting cries for help. They also, often touch upon, waiting. We have had our fair share of waiting these last few months. Half the time it feels like we’re still in March. In Psalm 130 and many others like it, the author is forced to wait for God in pretty despairing circumstances. We hear the words, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” Out of the depths is one of those funny poetic terms that may or may not hit us with the most appropriate meaning. Some translations say, “out of the abyss of watery chaos” or “from the realm of powers of confusion, darkness and death” or simply “God- the bottom has fallen out of my life.” These are desperate times for this writer and yet they seem to also be in a holding pattern, waiting on God. The psalmist repeats “waiting and watching till morning.” And yet the circumstances he is in doesn’t feel like he should be left waiting. But also in this waiting an astounding thing happens. Hope shows up and through hope the psalmist is able to worship. In waiting we are hoping and in hoping we are worshipping. Right now we are in a holding pattern- waiting for a time when we can breathe deep and live without the anxiety of a looming virus. We lament the tensions that restrictions and distance has created.  Yet in our waiting we are forced to reflect and cry out for help. We reconnect to the honest relationship God wants us to have with God and with each other.

Laments- waiting- cries for help- are all part of our worship. We have been thrown into an uncertain time and we find ourselves overwhelmed by outrageous behaviour by people in power. We find ourselves dismayed by the actions of our neighbours. I find that I am beginning to fear other people. I certainly am dismayed when I hear about how hurt and angry people are.  In these troubling times lament psalms help pull us back to God’s wisdom even as they are cries for help. Feeling anxious, alone, or in doubt are not new and certainly not new to God. God can handle our anxiety and anger. God hears our cries and I truly believe appreciates our honesty. In fact, I think God laments with us. Help, we need somebody, but not just anybody- we wait upon the Lord- for it is in the Lord that our despair transforms into hope. Amen

 

August 3, 2020

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | Devotional:

          You all know how important music is to my life. Whether it is a camp song from my youth that produces a sense of nostalgia to a song heard at a concert for the first time music, of nearly every genre possible, lifts me up or meets me where I am in the moment. I don’t know where I would be without it. Despite this affinity I will admit that I have not always appreciated poetry as much as I should. Put poetry to music and I’m in but put a book of poetry in my lap and I struggle to sit still. I’m hoping this changes, especially as I find pieces the speak to our current days of unrest. I’m also hoping that as we spend the next four weeks studying the Bible’s most prolific poetry that we all can appreciate how timeless some poetry is. The psalms are a collection of sacred poetry that I think we often take for granted. Many of us have a favourite psalm or are familiar with one or two, maybe we can even recite a psalm word for word, and yet, I sometimes think we misuse the psalms. Which is why I have decided to spend the next four weeks to talk about one of the most treasured and timeless books of the Bible.

The psalms are also poetic liturgical prayers. My former professor Dr. Art Van Sitters said, “the power of the Psalms is to enable people to give voice to their deepest anguish and their highest ecstasy.” I will admit that there are some psalms I avoid because there is also a dark side to the psalms. There are celebratory psalms that give great praise to God but there are also laments psalms that accuse God or others of great violence.  The psalms are a liturgical cry that is both a declaration of faith and a statement about reality which is why I think it is important that we spend some time learning about these hymns, poems, and prayers.

Along with being a masterpiece in poetry the Book of Psalms is also a great piece of history. Just as Shakespeare’s works can tell us a lot about culture and language in England in the 15th century the Psalms tell us a  lot about the history, experience and worship life of an ancient people. The psalms express emotions and the relationship with the divine in ways that narratives and prose can’t. The psalms were used in the temple for worship but also the book of psalms is one of the few books in the Old Testament that traces the entire history of the Israelites. But it is not done as a chronicle of events rather the psalms express the history of the Hebrew people through emotional experiences. By studying the psalms one enters the worship life of Judaism at its best. We know that Jesus had intimate knowledge of the psalms in part because he quoted them twice while being crucified. The psalms deal with matters of serious import from love and death to alienation and estrangement to hope and eternity.

Psalm 1 introduces this entire work. It is a wisdom psalm in which the people of Israel have two options to choose from, the can act for God or against God. In this psalm the option is to live in the lay of the Lord or walk in the way of the wicked. That’s a pretty heavy starter! But as we travel through t he book we discover what the consequences are when one chooses to live according to the lave. There are numerous psalms that challenge such a decision, that challenge God and even accuse God of being unjust in that decision…but that’s for another Sunday. Psalm 1 begins the book with a choose your own adventure option but only one option leads to happiness.

We will weave our way through this book, not reading all 150 psalms but studying snapshots of what happens throughout this relationship as the people follow the law and then fall out of favour with the law, as they sing joyous songs of praise and as they cry out in anguish. This is going to be a truly emotional roller coaster. But today we not only hear the first psalm but one of the last psalms. So, take heart- we know how this book ends. At the end of it all, throughout all these ups and downs, the last five psalms end in theological fireworks. The last five psalms sun up what all of our spiritual journey’s are about. Albeit that our cultural experiences may differ, our faith journeys are very similar to those of ancient Israel.

Psalm 149 in particular, helps us realize that everything results in greater praise. Psalm 1 we were given an option to be righteous or to be wicked. Through the book there will be internal battles about whether God really will reward the righteous, whether it is really worth it, will God protect us and grant us happiness? And all of those questions come to a peak and are answered in Psalm 149, because God has taken pleasure in God’s people, the faithful are exulted in glory and those God defying nations better watch out because their kings are chained and hauled off to jail. The judgment on them is carried out as it was decreed in psalm 1.

Psalm 149 is a celebration and victory psalm. The Israelites have united together in communal praise because God’s goodness prevails. It begins with “Praise the Lord, Sing to the Lord a new song.” This is a 2nd personal plural imperative. The English language doesn’t quite capture this but if we lived below the Mason-Dixon line we might read it as “y’all must praise!” The whole nation is being commanded to sing together.

We’re kind of in the eye of a storm right now. There are challenges, frustrations, and definitely uncertainties there are psalms that express just that and we will look at them in the coming weeks but there is also praise. Sometimes we are so busy focusing on all that’s going wrong in the world that we forget to sing to the Lord a new song. We were given the option in the first psalm and we have chosen to do our best to live as God’s people. Which means not only doing our best to make choices according to God’s law but a command to praise. We chose to live as God’s children and even though we have our own person roller coaster rides at the end of it all is our objective to praise. Sing to the Lord a new song, because God delights in God’s people!

July 26, 2020

Bible Text: Matthew 13:31-33, and 44-52 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | When I was about 12 I took a book out of the library called, Unsolved Mysteries for Kids and for an entire summer I obsessed with the content which included stories about the Bermuda Triangle, the Loch Ness Monster and Crop circles in the US. But the mystery that captivated me the most was the buried treasure on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Apparently treasure hunters have been coming to this island since the 1700s because it was rumoured that Captain Kidd buried treasure there. In fact,  some even think that Marie Antoinette’s jewels were hidden there. There is indeed a large pit on the island that seems to be booby trapped and floods occur on a regular basis and there is even a reality TV show called The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel. But as of yet, aside from a few random artifacts like a coin, brooch and coconut fibres no real “pirate treasure” has ever been found on Oak Island. That did not stop me from at least going to the island when visiting family just a few years ago- but it was a wet and blustery day and I’m a fair weather treasure hunter so I didn’t stay long. Whether it is the classic movie The Goonies or the more recent block buster franchise Pirates of the Caribbean we seem to have some fascination with the notion of buried treasure. Which is why I find the reference to it in the Gospel lesson for this morning so strange. It used to be that “x” marked the spot for treasure on a map, now “x” marks the 2 meter  distance we are to maintain between people outside our bubble.

The parable of the treasure is just one of five parables that we hear this morning. What is perhaps essential to understanding all five is that while these images help us get an idea of Jesus’ analogies it is important that we don’t focus so much on the item that Jesus is using to compare it to the kingdom but rather what the item does. Jesus does not say, “the kingdom of heaven is like such and such” and leave it at that. Rather Jesus says, “the kingdom of heaven is like such and such, which does such and such”. Meaning, it is of the utmost importance that we realize it is not the object itself that is like the kingdom but rather what that object does that is like the kingdom.

For example, the first two parables, the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast explain that the kingdom is like something small that grows and becomes great over time. I will point out that the idea that a mustard seed turns into a great shrub or tree is a little incorrect. In fact, the mustard plant is considered a weed by many- yet, if you recall from last week’s theme not all weeds are bad. And, the plant is not meant to grow into some massive cedar tree- in fact, by using the mustard seed Jesus is pointing out that God’s kingdom is not meant to stand so high above us that we can not appreciate it’s beauty. Rather, God’s kingdom is to be accessible and subtle. I will also point out something curious about Jesus’ second parable when he compares the kingdom of God to yeast in bread.  Throughout the Old Testament, following the Passover, unleavened bread was sacred while leavened bread was for the everyday. Which means Jesus is telling his listeners that the Kingdom of Heaven is found in the everyday, not just in the ritual gatherings or symbolic liturgies but in everyday actions.

Both the parable of the treasure and the pearl point to the fact that once we have caught sight of the kingdom of heaven we should give up everything else and focus our attention upon living as subjects of this kingdom or living under God’s reign. Since these parables touch on the idea of selling all of one’s possessions to obtain the items I want to use some of that same language. We are to invest in our lives together as a congregation. Things are pretty strange right now but that should not change our commitment to being the church. Gathering in this building is only one piece to a much larger truth. We are the church as we connect with one another, as we provide for one another, as we pray for one another, as we care for one another and truthfully, some of that costs money. I’m not asking you to sell all of your possessions but I am reminding you that investing all that we are, our time, talents and treasures is what makes us a church.

Then we have the parable of the net. Like the mustard seed, this actually links well with last week’s theme. Notice that the net does not discriminate between catching the good fish or the bad fish- it simply catches all the fish and then God discerns the difference. We are to cast our nets and share our faith but it is not up to us to determine who is in and who is out.  In fact, I think we are the net in this parable.

This brings me back to the parable of the treasure in a field. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. As a former archaeologist I can tell you that most of our fields have treasures of some kind in them you just have to know what you are looking for. All of these parables allude that while the kingdom of heaven is everywhere it is often hidden from our sight, like buried treasure. The mustard seed is buried in the ground before it can grow. Yeast is hidden in the flour, yet it is the agent that makes the bread grow. A pearl is just a piece of shell that grows into a precious stone. A net works below the surface, unseen it catches all the fish. The kingdom of heaven is so abundant that it is actually part of our everyday yet because it is here, now, we often do not see it.  This reminds me of the many people who quietly do little things for their church family. Whether it is sharing the devotional over the phone with a friend, putting touches on the banners or floral arrangements, calling and checking in because it’s been awhile since you’ve seen someone. Those things are our hidden treasures- and there are so many more. The kingdom of heaven is like a church who isn’t meeting in a building but is gathered as a congregation- unseen by the minister but mighty in their faith. Amen

July 19, 2020

Bible Text: Matthew 13:2-30, and 36-43 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | Devotional

I call myself a bio-dynamic gardener. I tend to plant things and them leave them to their own devices. Some might call me a lazy gardener. One look at the patch of dirt in our backyard would demonstrate that. A few years ago I planted Rosemary, Lovage, and lavender in an effort to have an herb garden.  I did nothing with it after that.  The Lovage now reaches higher then the fence and the Rosemary and lavender are crowding each other and some how I have also discovered, parsley, cilantro, chervil, oregano, mint, lemon balm, and even strawberries among the original plants. Say nothing of the chickweed, dandelions, and clover now found in the garden. I decided that this Spring I would attempt to remove the weeds so I did a little research and this is what I discovered. Not only do all three attract pollinators but each has a helpful purpose in soil health.  Chickweed is said to accumulate potassium and phosphorus and is edible. Leaving chickweed actually enriches the soil. Dandelion roots accumulate not only potassium and phosphorus but also calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and silicon. The leaves, roots, and flowers are all edible and can even be made into some homemade wine. Clover is a nitrogen fixer. It even transfers airborne nitrogen into the soil to be used by neighbouring crops and guess what, the flowers of white clover are also edible. This tells me that some weeds are rather beneficial to my garden and as a result instead of weeding I made use of the edible options in this hodgepodge garden. I realize entirely that this is not the point Jesus is making in his parable of the weeds and the wheat. In fact, Jesus is really clear that weeds are evil-no ifs, ands or buts about it. But this knowledge that some weeds are beneficial to the garden has given me a slightly new perspective on this passage.

Jesus is continuing to use parables to explain the kingdom of heaven. Prior to this passage we have the better known story of the Parable of the Sower which Keltie preached on last week. Like that first parable this one includes a private interpretation for the disciples a little later on. Today’s parable also continues that sowing theme but instead of one sower there are two.  There is the sower who plants good seed and then there is the enemy who comes and plants weeds among the wheat. I will point out that in some translations instead of the word weeds it is tares or darnel. If any of you have the King James version memorized it uses the term tares. Why this is relevant is because a tare or darnel was a specific kind of weed that looked like and even tasted like wheat but was actually poisonous, causing drowsiness and nausea. So, if we were to use the word tare, then most definitely this is not one of those beneficial weeds. It was hard to distinguish between the two as they grew, until the ears where developed. The ears of wheat are heavy and droop while the ears of tare stand up straight. However, it is possible that the original weeds were not tares because the weeds that do grow among the wheat are distinct enough that the labourers can tell that someone has planted weeds among the wheat.

The dialogue between the master and the labourers is also rather interesting. I suspect that it was a pretty odd thing to have a labourer accuse the master of planting the wrong kind of seed. Then the labourers are anxious to deal with the matter right away. Even I know that it is better to pull weeds as soon as they appear rather then let them take root. But the master says that he will allow them to grow up together and only at harvest time will the weeds and the wheat be separated. The master is essentially saying it is not up to the labourers to decide what is a weed and what is wheat.

This is an important observation when we get to Jesus’ explanation of the parable. Jesus clearly states that the master who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man, meaning Jesus himself- what he plants will produce good wheat. While the weeds are planted by the enemy, or evil one- there are numerous ways of interpreting who or what that is. I prefer to think of it as all those things that influence or distract us from being the wheat we are meant to be. But then, notice how Jesus doesn’t say who the labourers are, or as it says in the NRSV translation who the slaves are.

I suspect that the slaves in this story represent the disciples- including those disciples that have come generations later. Here’s why I think this. The labourers wanted to get rid of the weeds as soon as they showed up but the master said it is not up to the labourers to decide what is a weed and what is wheat.  That job is up to the reapers. It is not up to us to decide what is wheat and what is a weed because some of the things that appear to be wheat may actually be tare and some of the weeds may actually be beneficial. Plus, the master is very clear that uprooting the weeds would uproot the wheat, meaning that the roots of both are so intertwined that uprooting one would destroy the other. This is similar to a theme that comes up often in the Psalms, that it is not up to us to judge the actions or behaviour of our sisters and brothers that is God’s burden alone. It is not our responsibility to ever decide who is in and who is out.

Now this leads me to a dualism in this passage that makes me uncomfortable. It implies that there are two types of people in the world, children of the kingdom and children of the evil one. However, my own personal experience is that sometimes I am a wheat, I’m growing pretty good,  and sometimes I am a weed, distracted by things that  drive me away from God,  and sometimes I’m a good weed trying to be a benefit to those around me. I don’t think this is about two different groups of people but rather the the roots within ourselves, roots that are so intertwined that sometimes it is hard to decipher between them. But that is where grace steps in because every time my weedy side steps in I know that I can transform, thanks to God’s grace, the Holy Spirit’s guidance and Jesus’ example, into something beneficial that helps me and those around me to grow.

In closing, I want to point out that as serious as the parable sounds, with images of masters, slaves and enemies all working in the same field, with the weeds being collected and thrown into the fire, with the reference to weeping and gnashing of teeth,  Jesus actually has fun in this parable because he finishes it off with a pun. Remember both wheat and tare have ears and Jesus says, “let anyone with ears listen!” This pun is not only hilarious but points to the idea that anyone-bad wheat or good weed has ears and has the potential to grow into the people God intends us to be. Amen

June 28, 2020

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | Devotional: Holy Humour

Around the world there has been an effort to remain optimistic about humanity during these strange times. One of my favourite examples of this comes out of Calgary where a group of students from a local high school launched a hotline for seniors in isolation. It is called the Joy4All project and each day there are a series of options including jokes, stories, and poems shared by the students. Their desire is to provide a  healthy dose of joy each day. There is also the option of leaving them a message and to their surprise, one day, comedian Billy Crystal phoned and shared some of  his favourite jokes. I tried it, and chose to listen to the jokes of the day. Why are frogs always happy? Because they eat whatever bugs them. How do celebrities stay cool? They have many fans. Why can’t melons get married? Because they cantaloupe.  It can be reached by calling 1-877-JOY-4ALL. Along with staying connected in our various ways, laughter is an important ingredient to maintaining positive mental health. So it is actually rather surprising when we find out how little laughter is mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps that is because, like eating, it is a given that God’s people laugh. I need to laugh at  least once a day. Today we hear two variations on laughter in Scripture. Because sometimes we need to have a good laugh.

When God called Abram, who is now known as Abraham, God promised that he would have many descendants and become the patriarch of a great nation. However, the chances of said descendants is beginning to dwindle as both Abraham and Sarah are getting older. Now, I have to be honest about the story of Abraham and Sarah, there aren’t a lot of reasons to laugh in their narrative. It is a rather tumultuous story. Even Coronation Street can’t compete with the drama that these two are exposed to. There are often points in the story when the people are in need of God’s healing or intervention or simply grace. Including the time Sarah was taken as one of Pharoah’s wives or the story that happens just prior to our passage, in chapter 16,  which is the awkward story of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian slave, giving birth to Ishmael, Abraham’s first son. A fascinating piece to that story is that an angel of the Lord finds Hagar and tells her that her offspring will be so great in number that they will not be able to be counted. She is one of two women in Scripture who gets a personal visit from an angel regarding a birth. As we know Sarah hears about the child she will conceive from messengers but she doesn’t get a personal private visit.

Our reading begins with the Lord appearing to Abraham while he is sitting by his tent. It would have been a strange sight to see three people travelling in the middle of the desert. However, Abraham’s behaviour is typical of Middle Eastern hospitality. He doesn’t question their business or even whether they are friend or foe. He simply offers them rest, water and food, A LOT of food. In that moment he transforms them from strangers to guests. Culturally this also meant that Sarah, despite assisting in preparing the food, remains inside the tent. But this doesn’t preclude her from listening in on their conversation.

Another important part to hospitality is that the host should never insult the guest. When one of the guests says that he will return in due season and Sarah shall have a son, Sarah thinks about their age and laughs. We can interpret this laugh as a skeptical laugh. Rolf Jacobsen says, “Sarah, made cynical by the passing years, exhausted by God’s un-kept promises, afraid to start to hope again, clearly thinks that there are plenty of things too wonderful for the Lord.” But as someone who laughs a lot, especially when they don’t know how else to react, I think Sarah’s laugh is maybe a nervous laugh or one of shock. It is for this reason that Sarah denies laughing when questioned. While this passage can teach us a lot about hospitality, about transforming strangers into guests I think it also teaches us to not take things so seriously. When Sarah is caught laughing to herself and in turn denies it, the messengers don’t storm out or rescind the blessing, they simply affirm that indeed she did laugh.

Now, I want to point out that this is not the first time Abraham and Sarah are hearing about their son Isaac. In Chapter 17 God not only changes their names, not only signs a covenant with them but says to Abraham that even in their old age God will bless them with a son. God says, “I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” And you know what Abraham does? It says, “He fell on his face and laughed.” It is then that God gives this son the name Isaac.  In Hebrew it is pronounced Yitzchak which comes from the word “Yitshaq” which means “laughter.” Like Sarah, Abraham laughs at the shock, laughs at the ridiculous notion that a man at 100 and a woman at 90 will have a child, laughs because there is nothing beyond God’s ability.

Laughter returns to the story, but this time it is an unabashed joy-filled laughter when their son is born. Laughter is infectious and Sarah says, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”  Quite honestly there is nothing more infectious then a Baby’s laugh. There are numerous videos online of baby’s having a good chortle over the silliest of things and you can’t help but laugh in return. But this passage also reminds us that sometimes the best way to praise God is to laugh. Is to be so joyful that laughter is the best response. In chapter 21 Sarah laughs because this crazy promise has been fulfilled, because nothing is too wonderful for God! And everyone who hears Sarah’s story will know that God can do some pretty crazy things.

This reminds me that even with all of our own drama God is always bigger. In fact, God sees us at our weakest, at our most vulnerable, at our least likeable and God still chooses to love us and fulfill promises. If that isn’t a reason to laugh with pure joy and relief, laugh with gratitude and praise, I don’t know what is.

Why are spiders so smart? Because they can find everything on the web. What do you call it when a  group of apes start a company? Monkey Business. How do you row a canoe full of puppies? You bring out the doggy paddle. This last one comes from Billy Crystal himself, “Did you hear about the claustrophobic astronaut? All he wanted was a little more space!” Sure, you can groan all you want and maybe on this Father’s day these are more like Dad jokes then praise worthy fun but find those reasons to laugh because God loves holy humour. Amen

June 21, 2020

Bible Text: Genesis 18:1-15, Genesis 21:1-7 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | Devotional: Holy Humour

Around the world there has been an effort to remain optimistic about humanity during these strange times. One of my favourite examples of this comes out of Calgary where a group of students from a local high school launched a hotline for seniors in isolation. It is called the Joy4All project and each day there are a series of options including jokes, stories, and poems shared by the students. Their desire is to provide a  healthy dose of joy each day. There is also the option of leaving them a message and to their surprise, one day, comedian Billy Crystal phoned and shared some of  his favourite jokes. I tried it, and chose to listen to the jokes of the day. Why are frogs always happy? Because they eat whatever bugs them. How do celebrities stay cool? They have many fans. Why can’t melons get married? Because they cantaloupe.  It can be reached by calling 1-877-JOY-4ALL. Along with staying connected in our various ways, laughter is an important ingredient to maintaining positive mental health. So it is actually rather surprising when we find out how little laughter is mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps that is because, like eating, it is a given that God’s people laugh. I need to laugh at  least once a day. Today we hear two variations on laughter in Scripture. Because sometimes we need to have a good laugh.

When God called Abram, who is now known as Abraham, God promised that he would have many descendants and become the patriarch of a great nation. However, the chances of said descendants is beginning to dwindle as both Abraham and Sarah are getting older. Now, I have to be honest about the story of Abraham and Sarah, there aren’t a lot of reasons to laugh in their narrative. It is a rather tumultuous story. Even Coronation Street can’t compete with the drama that these two are exposed to. There are often points in the story when the people are in need of God’s healing or intervention or simply grace. Including the time Sarah was taken as one of Pharoah’s wives or the story that happens just prior to our passage, in chapter 16,  which is the awkward story of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian slave, giving birth to Ishmael, Abraham’s first son. A fascinating piece to that story is that an angel of the Lord finds Hagar and tells her that her offspring will be so great in number that they will not be able to be counted. She is one of two women in Scripture who gets a personal visit from an angel regarding a birth. As we know Sarah hears about the child she will conceive from messengers but she doesn’t get a personal private visit.

Our reading begins with the Lord appearing to Abraham while he is sitting by his tent. It would have been a strange sight to see three people travelling in the middle of the desert. However, Abraham’s behaviour is typical of Middle Eastern hospitality. He doesn’t question their business or even whether they are friend or foe. He simply offers them rest, water and food, A LOT of food. In that moment he transforms them from strangers to guests. Culturally this also meant that Sarah, despite assisting in preparing the food, remains inside the tent. But this doesn’t preclude her from listening in on their conversation.

Another important part to hospitality is that the host should never insult the guest. When one of the guests says that he will return in due season and Sarah shall have a son, Sarah thinks about their age and laughs. We can interpret this laugh as a skeptical laugh. Rolf Jacobsen says, “Sarah, made cynical by the passing years, exhausted by God’s un-kept promises, afraid to start to hope again, clearly thinks that there are plenty of things too wonderful for the Lord.” But as someone who laughs a lot, especially when they don’t know how else to react, I think Sarah’s laugh is maybe a nervous laugh or one of shock. It is for this reason that Sarah denies laughing when questioned. While this passage can teach us a lot about hospitality, about transforming strangers into guests I think it also teaches us to not take things so seriously. When Sarah is caught laughing to herself and in turn denies it, the messengers don’t storm out or rescind the blessing, they simply affirm that indeed she did laugh.

Now, I want to point out that this is not the first time Abraham and Sarah are hearing about their son Isaac. In Chapter 17 God not only changes their names, not only signs a covenant with them but says to Abraham that even in their old age God will bless them with a son. God says, “I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” And you know what Abraham does? It says, “He fell on his face and laughed.” It is then that God gives this son the name Isaac.  In Hebrew it is pronounced Yitzchak which comes from the word “Yitshaq” which means “laughter.” Like Sarah, Abraham laughs at the shock, laughs at the ridiculous notion that a man at 100 and a woman at 90 will have a child, laughs because there is nothing beyond God’s ability.

Laughter returns to the story, but this time it is an unabashed joy-filled laughter when their son is born. Laughter is infectious and Sarah says, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”  Quite honestly there is nothing more infectious then a Baby’s laugh. There are numerous videos online of baby’s having a good chortle over the silliest of things and you can’t help but laugh in return. But this passage also reminds us that sometimes the best way to praise God is to laugh. Is to be so joyful that laughter is the best response. In chapter 21 Sarah laughs because this crazy promise has been fulfilled, because nothing is too wonderful for God! And everyone who hears Sarah’s story will know that God can do some pretty crazy things.

This reminds me that even with all of our own drama God is always bigger. In fact, God sees us at our weakest, at our most vulnerable, at our least likeable and God still chooses to love us and fulfill promises. If that isn’t a reason to laugh with pure joy and relief, laugh with gratitude and praise, I don’t know what is.

Why are spiders so smart? Because they can find everything on the web. What do you call it when a  group of apes start a company? Monkey Business. How do you row a canoe full of puppies? You bring out the doggy paddle. This last one comes from Billy Crystal himself, “Did you hear about the claustrophobic astronaut? All he wanted was a little more space!” Sure, you can groan all you want and maybe on this Father’s day these are more like Dad jokes then praise worthy fun but find those reasons to laugh because God loves holy humour. Amen

June 14, 2020

Bible Text: Matthew 9:35-10:8, Romans 5:1-5 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | Devotional

          There was a time in my life when I thought I might like to try my hand at WWOOFing. Now before you start to imagine that this is some bizarre activity in which one imitates a dog, WWOOF stands for the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  It is an international organization that normally offers room and board to travellers who then work on farms usually planting or harvesting crops. There’s something romantic about sitting in a field, under the hot sun, carefully picking strawberries. And then I go to our local U-Pick berry farm on Dove Creek Rd and spend less then an hour crouched over in the dirt and decide that WWOOFing is not for me. Of course, we have read numerous reports this year about the challenges most farmers are facing as the usual migrant workers who labour in their fields are unable to come due to border restrictions. This year, Jesus’ phrase, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few” could actually be taken literally- that is if plants were able to be planted in the first place.  Of course, as an individual my berry buckets are pretty small but when Mike and I work together,  sometimes switching between berries when the seasons coincide, our harvest is great. Admittedly that’s just because Mike has more patience for picking then I do but the point is that working together reaps greater benefit.

Notice how the Gospel story this morning begins with Jesus doing all the work on his own. Jesus goes about all the cities and villages, teaching, proclaiming and curing every sickness. This passage begins with Jesus working as an individual but as the crowd grows, as his flock becomes too big he summons his disciples and makes them  labourers or co-workers who will have the ability to work alongside Jesus. Now, in Matthew’s Gospel the disciples have already been called. In chapter 4 it says that Jesus turned to the fishermen and said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” So this was always the plan but they needed training first. Jesus spends time teaching them things like the Beatitudes and the Golden Rule, and then Jesus heals a bunch of people like a leper, a paralytic and even brings a girl back to life.  The disciples have observed all of this as they follow him throughout the countryside. But now it is time for this training to turn into action.

This is one of the few times when the lectionary moves us between two chapters. Chapter nine ends with this comment about a plentiful harvest but a shortage of labourers while chapter ten moves to Jesus giving the disciples the authority to do as Jesus does. Last week we talked about the commission given to the disciples at the end of Matthew, when Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. What is interesting is that the commissioning this morning comes early on in the Gospel and unlike the commission at the end which calls for people of all nations, this one focuses on what Jesus calls the lost sheep of Israel. Start with the people you can best relate to and then work out from there. The disciples- while they still follow Jesus- are to be extensions of Jesus’ ministry. They are to do what they have witnessed Jesus doing.

Throughout Scripture, naming people signifies that the person is important. Other than the geneology listed at the beginning of  Matthew this is the longest list of names in any of the Gospels. While the details about the disciples are limited their names give them status in this text.  Then Jesus raises this status by empowering them to do the work that Jesus has begun. One commentary stated, “effectively Jesus makes the twelve disciples brokers of God’s power over spirits and disease just as Jesus is.” I, however, like this image of co-workers, working in co-operation for the kingdom or kin-dom.

Jesus then instructs them on how to be co-workers. This mission, should they choose to accept it, is not that they must work on their own, as individuals. Jesus gives them specific instructions on where to go and whom to visit. Later on in the chapter it goes on further to describe how they should even enter someone’s house or what they should or should not pack. Jesus will even remind them that they need not fear or worry even when they are persecuted or unsure of what to say because the Spirit of God will speak through them. We also talked about working in relationship last week and this is a perfect example. God, the creator, empowers Jesus to reveal God to the people, Jesus empowers his disciples to reveal God to the people, and the Spirit surrounds every aspect through the work of the people.

This is where the Romans passage connects with the Gospel. Paul states that we have obtained access to the grace in which we stand through this incredible relationship.  Through Christ we obtain access to God’s grace and God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit . It is an ever dynamic movement between the Trinity and us.  Yet Paul also says that sometimes we will have to endure suffering but to be grateful for this suffering because it produces endurance and endurance builds character and character produces hope. And Paul knows a thing or two about suffering. When Paul wrote this letter he expressed how he hoped to visit the church in Rome. Not only was the visit to Rome delayed for about three years, but when he finally managed to make it to Rome it was as a prisoner awaiting trial. Then, after 3 years in a Roman prison he was tried and convicted. Paul knows what he’s talking about but even in prison he managed to become one of  Jesus’ most prolific co-workers.

I mention this because there have probably been moments when it felt like this time of distancing and isolation has felt like living in prison and it is hard to imagine being co-workers or labourers in God’s field at this time. Yet, if Paul can do it from a literal jail cell and still have hope because of his confidence in the grace of God then I’m pretty sure we can figure something out. Sometimes the work is hard- backbreaking even- but we have a pretty incredible boss. A boss that will never fire us, the retirement plan is amazing, and the people we get to work with are incredible. We have been given the authority to continue the work of Christ in today’s world. To bring healing where there is pain, hope where there is despair, and to cast out darkness and bring light. Maybe it’s not like WWOOFing at all, but the harvest is worth it. Amen