Comfort Food

Bible Text: Genesis 32:22-31, Matthew 14:13-21, Psalm 17:1-7 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Everyone of us has a comfort food. Growing up my favourite and staple was peanut-butter and honey, open faced. As I grew up my tastes became more refined and now my comfort food is, kraft dinner, with a side of beans. Not only is it easy to prepare but there is nostalgia associated with it. It is my soul food.
Now of course traditional Soul food comes from the American south. It is food that originated in Africa and was brought over during the slave trade. The slaves brought with them staples such as okra and rice and combined them with First Nations staples such as corn, or grits, black eyed peas and sweet potato. Soul food became a way of survival for many of those slaves working on plantations. Slaves were fed as cheaply as possible, often with the leftovers, even waste foods from the plantation. As a result many were forced to make do with the ingredients at hand. They developed recipes, delicious ones at that, which used lard, collards, cornmeal and discarded cuts of meat. Many supplemented their diet by growing pots of herbs for flavour and fishing or hunting. Quickly, food that became a necessity took on extraordinary flavours. In fact, it’s practically a miracle that soul food can make catfish and cornmeal taste as good as it does. Meagre ingredients from a dark time in American history has become something that master chefs try to emulate. Urban dictionary also describes soul food as food that is eaten for your soul to survive. Food isn’t just about feeding the physical needs of the body but about nourishing the soul.
In some ways using the term soul food or comfort food to describe what Jesus did is accurate. Jesus turned a meagre, basic, survival meal, into something that fed 5,000 people and in feeding the body he fed their souls. Jesus says to us all, come, sit, and eat with me and be transformed, see God in your midst, be comforted and nourish your soul.
One of the reasons why this story is so familiar is because it is one of the only miracles of Jesus that is found in all four Gospels. In fact our Gospel story this morning is one of many bread miracles that occurs throughout Scripture. Jesus’ miracle reflects stories like the one of the wandering in the wilderness, the Old Testament story of how manna fell from the sky. A lesser known but no less important story comes from 2 Kings when Elisha fed a hundred hungry men with twenty loaves. When his disciples protested that it wouldn’t be enough Elisha prayed and God provided. Everyone ate enough to be satisfied and there were leftovers. Jesus, of course, is called the bread of life, feeding our souls with good food. Even his birth place, Bethlehem has meaning. In Hebrew, Beth- means house, and Lehem- means bread. Jesus was born in the house of bread. Our story this morning continues this thread of miracles, bread and soul food.
Matthew’s version of the story begins in a lonely place apart. Following the devastating news that John the Baptist has been beheaded Jesus withdrew from the crowds. In his grief he wanted to be alone. But when the crowds heard what had happened they needed to find the one person who could make sense of such a tragedy. Jesus may have wanted to be alone but that was not what the crowd needed. They were sad, they were hurting and they were hungry. Jesus had plans of arriving to a quiet place on the beach but when he arrived already a crowd had gathered. Perhaps his initial thoughts were less than kind about this crowd but our text says, he had compassion on them. And so, Jesus sits with them for the afternoon, talking to them, feeding their souls. However, as evening approaches the disciples realize there is no place nearby to grab a bite to eat. It is that remote. They encourage Jesus to send the crowds away.
Throughout the afternoon Jesus may have realized something. That in our grief there are times when we may want to be alone but what we need is to be surrounded by our community. We, as a community, would do well to remember that being together is nourishing. Seeming to know this all the more as night approached Jesus decided that instead of sending them away they needed to have a meal together. Sometimes in our grief it is not about what you eat but with whom you eat it.
The disciples obviously have their worries. At this moment they aren’t concerned about who they are eating with but rather if there will be any food at all. They looked around and could see very little, five loaves and two fish are meagre ingredients indeed. What can they do with so little? How can these small portions have any effect on the thousands that are gathered? Again, Barbara Brown Taylor, has a unique look on this miracle. “If the disciples operated out of a sense of scarcity, then Jesus operated out of a sense of plenty. He looked at the same things the disciples looked at, but where they saw not enough, he saw plenty: plenty of time, plenty of food, and plenty of possibilities with the resources at hand…Jesus knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that wherever there was plenty of God there would be plenty of everything else.”
Stepping away from the story for a moment there is a sense that this is rather timely for us. I hear the realities of the church, the truth about an ageing congregation, the challenges facing a church in decline, and these are all concerns that must be listened to. However, if Jesus can turn five loaves and two fish into a meal for 5,000, imagine what God can do with a church that is full of wisdom, generousity, joy and experience. We often feel limited, by our limitations, we often see scarcity and are held back when in fact there is plenty. We may not have plenty of children, but we have plenty of God’s children. We may not have plenty of youth, but we have plenty of youthful spirits. We may not have plenty of space, but we have plenty of room. Wherever there is plenty of God there is plenty of everything else. Imagine what miracles can be done in this place.
We often expect miracles to happen in an instant but perhaps miracles happen over time too. We expect miracles to come directly from God with little of our own actions. I often use the mantra, Let go and Let God, and it’s a good one. But sometimes we shouldn’t just let go but rather get going. Jesus uses his words carefully when instructing the disciples. He says, “They need not go away, YOU give them something to eat.” Jesus is not offering to do the miracle alone. Jesus is not offering his own bread, that of course will come later. Jesus tells them to “look around, problem solve this one on your own. Of course I’m here to lend a hand, but look around you and see the possibilities. Stop waiting for a miracle and participate in one instead.”
You know, in the Lord’s prayer we say, “Give us this day OUR daily bread.” It isn’t give us this day, YOUR daily bread or MY daily bread but OUR. Soul food isn’t about the ingredients but rather who you are eating it with. We may have meagre ingredients that at first don’t look like much but when they are brought to Jesus, the flavour is abundant. So let’s bring what we have, bring who we are, leave what we don’t need, and use all the rest so that God’s will is plentiful in this place.

 

August 3, 2014

Bible Text: Genesis 32:22-31, Matthew 14:13-21, Psalm 17:1-7 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Everyone of us has a comfort food. Growing up my favourite and staple was peanut-butter and honey, open faced. As I grew up my tastes became more refined and now my comfort food is, kraft dinner, with a side of beans. Not only is it easy to prepare but there is nostalgia associated with it. It is my soul food.
Now of course traditional Soul food comes from the American south. It is food that originated in Africa and was brought over during the slave trade. The slaves brought with them staples such as okra and rice and combined them with First Nations staples such as corn, or grits, black eyed peas and sweet potato. Soul food became a way of survival for many of those slaves working on plantations. Slaves were fed as cheaply as possible, often with the leftovers, even waste foods from the plantation. As a result many were forced to make do with the ingredients at hand. They developed recipes, delicious ones at that, which used lard, collards, cornmeal and discarded cuts of meat. Many supplemented their diet by growing pots of herbs for flavour and fishing or hunting. Quickly, food that became a necessity took on extraordinary flavours. In fact, it’s practically a miracle that soul food can make catfish and cornmeal taste as good as it does. Meagre ingredients from a dark time in American history has become something that master chefs try to emulate. Urban dictionary also describes soul food as food that is eaten for your soul to survive. Food isn't just about feeding the physical needs of the body but about nourishing the soul.
In some ways using the term soul food or comfort food to describe what Jesus did is accurate. Jesus turned a meagre, basic, survival meal, into something that fed 5,000 people and in feeding the body he fed their souls. Jesus says to us all, come, sit, and eat with me and be transformed, see God in your midst, be comforted and nourish your soul.
One of the reasons why this story is so familiar is because it is one of the only miracles of Jesus that is found in all four Gospels. In fact our Gospel story this morning is one of many bread miracles that occurs throughout Scripture. Jesus' miracle reflects stories like the one of the wandering in the wilderness, the Old Testament story of how manna fell from the sky. A lesser known but no less important story comes from 2 Kings when Elisha fed a hundred hungry men with twenty loaves. When his disciples protested that it wouldn't be enough Elisha prayed and God provided. Everyone ate enough to be satisfied and there were leftovers. Jesus, of course, is called the bread of life, feeding our souls with good food. Even his birth place, Bethlehem has meaning. In Hebrew, Beth- means house, and Lehem- means bread. Jesus was born in the house of bread. Our story this morning continues this thread of miracles, bread and soul food.
Matthew's version of the story begins in a lonely place apart. Following the devastating news that John the Baptist has been beheaded Jesus withdrew from the crowds. In his grief he wanted to be alone. But when the crowds heard what had happened they needed to find the one person who could make sense of such a tragedy. Jesus may have wanted to be alone but that was not what the crowd needed. They were sad, they were hurting and they were hungry. Jesus had plans of arriving to a quiet place on the beach but when he arrived already a crowd had gathered. Perhaps his initial thoughts were less than kind about this crowd but our text says, he had compassion on them. And so, Jesus sits with them for the afternoon, talking to them, feeding their souls. However, as evening approaches the disciples realize there is no place nearby to grab a bite to eat. It is that remote. They encourage Jesus to send the crowds away.
Throughout the afternoon Jesus may have realized something. That in our grief there are times when we may want to be alone but what we need is to be surrounded by our community. We, as a community, would do well to remember that being together is nourishing. Seeming to know this all the more as night approached Jesus decided that instead of sending them away they needed to have a meal together. Sometimes in our grief it is not about what you eat but with whom you eat it.
The disciples obviously have their worries. At this moment they aren't concerned about who they are eating with but rather if there will be any food at all. They looked around and could see very little, five loaves and two fish are meagre ingredients indeed. What can they do with so little? How can these small portions have any effect on the thousands that are gathered? Again, Barbara Brown Taylor, has a unique look on this miracle. “If the disciples operated out of a sense of scarcity, then Jesus operated out of a sense of plenty. He looked at the same things the disciples looked at, but where they saw not enough, he saw plenty: plenty of time, plenty of food, and plenty of possibilities with the resources at hand...Jesus knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that wherever there was plenty of God there would be plenty of everything else.”
Stepping away from the story for a moment there is a sense that this is rather timely for us. I hear the realities of the church, the truth about an ageing congregation, the challenges facing a church in decline, and these are all concerns that must be listened to. However, if Jesus can turn five loaves and two fish into a meal for 5,000, imagine what God can do with a church that is full of wisdom, generousity, joy and experience. We often feel limited, by our limitations, we often see scarcity and are held back when in fact there is plenty. We may not have plenty of children, but we have plenty of God's children. We may not have plenty of youth, but we have plenty of youthful spirits. We may not have plenty of space, but we have plenty of room. Wherever there is plenty of God there is plenty of everything else. Imagine what miracles can be done in this place.
We often expect miracles to happen in an instant but perhaps miracles happen over time too. We expect miracles to come directly from God with little of our own actions. I often use the mantra, Let go and Let God, and it's a good one. But sometimes we shouldn't just let go but rather get going. Jesus uses his words carefully when instructing the disciples. He says, “They need not go away, YOU give them something to eat.” Jesus is not offering to do the miracle alone. Jesus is not offering his own bread, that of course will come later. Jesus tells them to “look around, problem solve this one on your own. Of course I'm here to lend a hand, but look around you and see the possibilities. Stop waiting for a miracle and participate in one instead.”
You know, in the Lord's prayer we say, “Give us this day OUR daily bread.” It isn't give us this day, YOUR daily bread or MY daily bread but OUR. Soul food isn't about the ingredients but rather who you are eating it with. We may have meagre ingredients that at first don't look like much but when they are brought to Jesus, the flavour is abundant. So let's bring what we have, bring who we are, leave what we don't need, and use all the rest so that God's will is plentiful in this place.

 

Bible Text: Genesis 32:22-31, Matthew 14:13-21, Psalm 17:1-7 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Everyone of us has a comfort food. Growing up my favourite and staple was peanut-butter and honey, open faced. As I grew up my tastes became more refined and now my comfort food is, kraft dinner, with a side of beans. Not only is it easy to prepare but there is nostalgia associated with it. It is my soul food.
Now of course traditional Soul food comes from the American south. It is food that originated in Africa and was brought over during the slave trade. The slaves brought with them staples such as okra and rice and combined them with First Nations staples such as corn, or grits, black eyed peas and sweet potato. Soul food became a way of survival for many of those slaves working on plantations. Slaves were fed as cheaply as possible, often with the leftovers, even waste foods from the plantation. As a result many were forced to make do with the ingredients at hand. They developed recipes, delicious ones at that, which used lard, collards, cornmeal and discarded cuts of meat. Many supplemented their diet by growing pots of herbs for flavour and fishing or hunting. Quickly, food that became a necessity took on extraordinary flavours. In fact, it’s practically a miracle that soul food can make catfish and cornmeal taste as good as it does. Meagre ingredients from a dark time in American history has become something that master chefs try to emulate. Urban dictionary also describes soul food as food that is eaten for your soul to survive. Food isn’t just about feeding the physical needs of the body but about nourishing the soul.
In some ways using the term soul food or comfort food to describe what Jesus did is accurate. Jesus turned a meagre, basic, survival meal, into something that fed 5,000 people and in feeding the body he fed their souls. Jesus says to us all, come, sit, and eat with me and be transformed, see God in your midst, be comforted and nourish your soul.
One of the reasons why this story is so familiar is because it is one of the only miracles of Jesus that is found in all four Gospels. In fact our Gospel story this morning is one of many bread miracles that occurs throughout Scripture. Jesus’ miracle reflects stories like the one of the wandering in the wilderness, the Old Testament story of how manna fell from the sky. A lesser known but no less important story comes from 2 Kings when Elisha fed a hundred hungry men with twenty loaves. When his disciples protested that it wouldn’t be enough Elisha prayed and God provided. Everyone ate enough to be satisfied and there were leftovers. Jesus, of course, is called the bread of life, feeding our souls with good food. Even his birth place, Bethlehem has meaning. In Hebrew, Beth- means house, and Lehem- means bread. Jesus was born in the house of bread. Our story this morning continues this thread of miracles, bread and soul food.
Matthew’s version of the story begins in a lonely place apart. Following the devastating news that John the Baptist has been beheaded Jesus withdrew from the crowds. In his grief he wanted to be alone. But when the crowds heard what had happened they needed to find the one person who could make sense of such a tragedy. Jesus may have wanted to be alone but that was not what the crowd needed. They were sad, they were hurting and they were hungry. Jesus had plans of arriving to a quiet place on the beach but when he arrived already a crowd had gathered. Perhaps his initial thoughts were less than kind about this crowd but our text says, he had compassion on them. And so, Jesus sits with them for the afternoon, talking to them, feeding their souls. However, as evening approaches the disciples realize there is no place nearby to grab a bite to eat. It is that remote. They encourage Jesus to send the crowds away.
Throughout the afternoon Jesus may have realized something. That in our grief there are times when we may want to be alone but what we need is to be surrounded by our community. We, as a community, would do well to remember that being together is nourishing. Seeming to know this all the more as night approached Jesus decided that instead of sending them away they needed to have a meal together. Sometimes in our grief it is not about what you eat but with whom you eat it.
The disciples obviously have their worries. At this moment they aren’t concerned about who they are eating with but rather if there will be any food at all. They looked around and could see very little, five loaves and two fish are meagre ingredients indeed. What can they do with so little? How can these small portions have any effect on the thousands that are gathered? Again, Barbara Brown Taylor, has a unique look on this miracle. “If the disciples operated out of a sense of scarcity, then Jesus operated out of a sense of plenty. He looked at the same things the disciples looked at, but where they saw not enough, he saw plenty: plenty of time, plenty of food, and plenty of possibilities with the resources at hand…Jesus knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that wherever there was plenty of God there would be plenty of everything else.”
Stepping away from the story for a moment there is a sense that this is rather timely for us. I hear the realities of the church, the truth about an ageing congregation, the challenges facing a church in decline, and these are all concerns that must be listened to. However, if Jesus can turn five loaves and two fish into a meal for 5,000, imagine what God can do with a church that is full of wisdom, generousity, joy and experience. We often feel limited, by our limitations, we often see scarcity and are held back when in fact there is plenty. We may not have plenty of children, but we have plenty of God’s children. We may not have plenty of youth, but we have plenty of youthful spirits. We may not have plenty of space, but we have plenty of room. Wherever there is plenty of God there is plenty of everything else. Imagine what miracles can be done in this place.
We often expect miracles to happen in an instant but perhaps miracles happen over time too. We expect miracles to come directly from God with little of our own actions. I often use the mantra, Let go and Let God, and it’s a good one. But sometimes we shouldn’t just let go but rather get going. Jesus uses his words carefully when instructing the disciples. He says, “They need not go away, YOU give them something to eat.” Jesus is not offering to do the miracle alone. Jesus is not offering his own bread, that of course will come later. Jesus tells them to “look around, problem solve this one on your own. Of course I’m here to lend a hand, but look around you and see the possibilities. Stop waiting for a miracle and participate in one instead.”
You know, in the Lord’s prayer we say, “Give us this day OUR daily bread.” It isn’t give us this day, YOUR daily bread or MY daily bread but OUR. Soul food isn’t about the ingredients but rather who you are eating it with. We may have meagre ingredients that at first don’t look like much but when they are brought to Jesus, the flavour is abundant. So let’s bring what we have, bring who we are, leave what we don’t need, and use all the rest so that God’s will is plentiful in this place.

 

Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

Bible Text: Matthew 13:31-33; Matthew 13:44-52 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Here is a fun fact, did you know that Canada is the largest producer of the mustard seed. Producing over 186, 400 tonnes a year. Did you know that the largest miller of dry mustard in the world is in….Hamilton, Ontario. It’s true. G.S. Dunn Limited is that company and up until the year 2010, the Hamilton Mustard Festival, over the labour day weekend was the largest festival of its kind. The festival celebrated the history of the mustard seed, and explained its many uses both in cooking and for medicinal purposes. The seed is of course used as a spice but its oil can also be used for such things as fabrics and fuel. I say that, it used to be the largest festival of its kind because Middleton, Wisconsin now has the largest festival celebrating this simple seed. Incidentally, national mustard day, is this coming Saturday, August 2. I also happen to dislike mustard very much. However, these facts and tidbits are always going through my mind when we encounter this passage from Matthew, the first parable being that story of the mustard seed. The mustard seed is a symbol used by many Christians to represent faith and charity. A reminder that no matter how small our acts of kindness may be they can grow into great results. Interestingly enough, it is also a symbol of humility in Buddhism, and Jewish philosopher Nahmanides (Nah-man-nid-ez) compared the knowable universe to the size of a mustard seed. The plant likely originated in India which explains its presence in some Hindi art. This ordinary seed has, for a long time, become a symbol of the sacred.

Sometimes it is difficult to explain or speak about holy things. Our language is unable to articulate the beauty of heaven, the confidence in faith or the relief from burdens that one encounters. Throughout the Psalms in particular but sentiments throughout Scripture state that words cannot describe the love of God. And yet, we often try, using linguistic tools like similes and metaphors, rhetoric and allegory. Sometimes we do well, and others we fall flat. Often the assumption is that we are communicating hyperbole, exaggerating our words to get our point across. Believing in God is like falling in love, like bungee jumping, or being born again. And there is nothing wrong with using these figures of speech, its true, faith can come upon us like a rushing wind, a blast of music or roaring ocean. But then, sometimes faith is simple, albeit still difficult to convey.

In our passage from Matthew Jesus takes some everyday items and breaks them open, even invites those listening to see them in a new manner. The parables found in Matthew are often this way. Jesus tells stories of lost sheep, seeds in fields or workers in a vineyard. Jesus uses simple everyday encounters that the listeners would understand and even with which they could identify.

There is relief in the fact that even Jesus, the one most tied to God, the one most likely to be able to articulate the love of God, used simple, everyday, ordinary examples. Of course this was not because Jesus couldn’t use grander language, but rather, we couldn’t have understood it otherwise. In fact, most of the time the disciples ask Jesus to explain what he meant because they could not understand his meaning. Jesus made, often surprising, comparisons between that which was holy and that which was secular. Allowing us the opportunity to see things and understand things differently. As a result, in many regards, the passage we read this morning is no different from other parables because Jesus does use the ordinary to explain the extraordinary. However, unlike other parables, Jesus launches into these comparisons leaving little time for lead up or the usual Q&A. The similes and metaphors come quickly, with no warning or preparation, no explanation and certainly no story. Perhaps Jesus doesn’t want those hearing him to think too much about them or get stuck on one versus another. Or perhaps Jesus is teaching us to see the kingdom of heaven in all of creation, no matter how ordinary, no matter how simple, no matter what our situation.

The comparison of the mustard seed and the yeast are easy enough. Two very basic items that aren’t very impressive but the results can be astounding- a tree big enough for birds to nest in, bread enough to feed the family for days. The kingdom of heaven is like this because it is surprising, potent, and more to it than meets the eye. But then it becomes more difficult to identify the aspects of the kingdom within the other items. Finding buried treasure is based on luck. A rich man becomes richer because he is good at his trade and knows when one pearl is better than the rest. And the final comparison makes us believe that it is not about us finding it but rather it finding us. Other than being ordinary items or strange amounts of luck these metaphors seems to have little in common, in fact some seem contrary to others.

Barbara Brown Taylor, modern day theologian extraordinaire finds a commonality. She states, “The striking thing about all these images is their essential hidden-ness- the mustard seed hidden in the ground, the yeast hidden in the dough, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl hidden among all the others, the net hidden in the depths of the sea. If the kingdom of heaven is like these, then it is not something readily apparent to the eye but something that must be searched for, something just below the surface of things waiting there to be discovered and claimed.”

When we understand the hidden nature of all these items it sounds like kingdom of heaven is mythical, is the stuff not of the ordinary but of fairy tales. Jesus references buried treasure after all! If we look at them as items hidden, waiting to be exposed, items that are suddenly discovered and change lives then they are less ordinary. But that is the key, the kingdom of heaven only becomes the kingdom of heaven when it is revealed. These items are useless if they remain hidden, the seed does nothing if it is not buried first, the yeast is tasteless until it is placed in the dough, the treasure has no value until it is found, the pearl means nothing until someone in the know has the right eye, the net produces nothing until it is pulled up from the sea-but when these items are used and found, their full potential is recognized

The church often uses the term seekers or searchers for those who have not “discovered” the church yet. One could easily claim that the church is like these items, it has no value to the community until it is revealed, until it is active, until it is found. I, however, also believe that we are all seeking and searching. There is no superiority between those in attendance this morning and those who are not here. It in fact does not matter where we search so long as we keep our eyes open and are willing to reveal the hidden holy within the ordinary.

Matthew Brough, a Presbyterian minister at Trinity in Winnipeg, reforms our Gospel passage saying,

“The Kingdom of Heaven is not just a tree growing from a tiny seed. It’s that tree with birds that come to nest in its branches.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just a hidden treasure. It’s someone selling his fortune to buy the property where he found it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just the finest pearl. It’s a merchant who stops trading in pearls just to keep that one.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just the best catch of fish. It’s a net being cast that catches every kind of fish, to be sorted later.

The Kingdom of Heaven is always greater than our imaginings or what we initially see. It’s messier than we’d like it to be, more complex than what we want. It refuses to stay in our private spirituality or the comfort of our Churches instead mysteriously spilling over into our lives.”

If we want to speak of heavenly things, if we want to seek the kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven, if we want the hidden holiness to be revealed we must begin with the things we know, the church, the everyday jobs that keep this church in view, the ordinary activities that reach out to our community, the simple acts that you and I can do with and for each other. The kingdom of heaven is like all those things in plain view just waiting to reveal God’s love for all.

 

 

July 27, 2014

Bible Text: Matthew 13:31-33; Matthew 13:44-52 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Here is a fun fact, did you know that Canada is the largest producer of the mustard seed. Producing over 186, 400 tonnes a year. Did you know that the largest miller of dry mustard in the world is in....Hamilton, Ontario. It's true. G.S. Dunn Limited is that company and up until the year 2010, the Hamilton Mustard Festival, over the labour day weekend was the largest festival of its kind. The festival celebrated the history of the mustard seed, and explained its many uses both in cooking and for medicinal purposes. The seed is of course used as a spice but its oil can also be used for such things as fabrics and fuel. I say that, it used to be the largest festival of its kind because Middleton, Wisconsin now has the largest festival celebrating this simple seed. Incidentally, national mustard day, is this coming Saturday, August 2. I also happen to dislike mustard very much. However, these facts and tidbits are always going through my mind when we encounter this passage from Matthew, the first parable being that story of the mustard seed. The mustard seed is a symbol used by many Christians to represent faith and charity. A reminder that no matter how small our acts of kindness may be they can grow into great results. Interestingly enough, it is also a symbol of humility in Buddhism, and Jewish philosopher Nahmanides (Nah-man-nid-ez) compared the knowable universe to the size of a mustard seed. The plant likely originated in India which explains its presence in some Hindi art. This ordinary seed has, for a long time, become a symbol of the sacred.

Sometimes it is difficult to explain or speak about holy things. Our language is unable to articulate the beauty of heaven, the confidence in faith or the relief from burdens that one encounters. Throughout the Psalms in particular but sentiments throughout Scripture state that words cannot describe the love of God. And yet, we often try, using linguistic tools like similes and metaphors, rhetoric and allegory. Sometimes we do well, and others we fall flat. Often the assumption is that we are communicating hyperbole, exaggerating our words to get our point across. Believing in God is like falling in love, like bungee jumping, or being born again. And there is nothing wrong with using these figures of speech, its true, faith can come upon us like a rushing wind, a blast of music or roaring ocean. But then, sometimes faith is simple, albeit still difficult to convey.

In our passage from Matthew Jesus takes some everyday items and breaks them open, even invites those listening to see them in a new manner. The parables found in Matthew are often this way. Jesus tells stories of lost sheep, seeds in fields or workers in a vineyard. Jesus uses simple everyday encounters that the listeners would understand and even with which they could identify.

There is relief in the fact that even Jesus, the one most tied to God, the one most likely to be able to articulate the love of God, used simple, everyday, ordinary examples. Of course this was not because Jesus couldn't use grander language, but rather, we couldn't have understood it otherwise. In fact, most of the time the disciples ask Jesus to explain what he meant because they could not understand his meaning. Jesus made, often surprising, comparisons between that which was holy and that which was secular. Allowing us the opportunity to see things and understand things differently. As a result, in many regards, the passage we read this morning is no different from other parables because Jesus does use the ordinary to explain the extraordinary. However, unlike other parables, Jesus launches into these comparisons leaving little time for lead up or the usual Q&A. The similes and metaphors come quickly, with no warning or preparation, no explanation and certainly no story. Perhaps Jesus doesn't want those hearing him to think too much about them or get stuck on one versus another. Or perhaps Jesus is teaching us to see the kingdom of heaven in all of creation, no matter how ordinary, no matter how simple, no matter what our situation.

The comparison of the mustard seed and the yeast are easy enough. Two very basic items that aren't very impressive but the results can be astounding- a tree big enough for birds to nest in, bread enough to feed the family for days. The kingdom of heaven is like this because it is surprising, potent, and more to it than meets the eye. But then it becomes more difficult to identify the aspects of the kingdom within the other items. Finding buried treasure is based on luck. A rich man becomes richer because he is good at his trade and knows when one pearl is better than the rest. And the final comparison makes us believe that it is not about us finding it but rather it finding us. Other than being ordinary items or strange amounts of luck these metaphors seems to have little in common, in fact some seem contrary to others.

Barbara Brown Taylor, modern day theologian extraordinaire finds a commonality. She states, “The striking thing about all these images is their essential hidden-ness- the mustard seed hidden in the ground, the yeast hidden in the dough, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl hidden among all the others, the net hidden in the depths of the sea. If the kingdom of heaven is like these, then it is not something readily apparent to the eye but something that must be searched for, something just below the surface of things waiting there to be discovered and claimed.”

When we understand the hidden nature of all these items it sounds like kingdom of heaven is mythical, is the stuff not of the ordinary but of fairy tales. Jesus references buried treasure after all! If we look at them as items hidden, waiting to be exposed, items that are suddenly discovered and change lives then they are less ordinary. But that is the key, the kingdom of heaven only becomes the kingdom of heaven when it is revealed. These items are useless if they remain hidden, the seed does nothing if it is not buried first, the yeast is tasteless until it is placed in the dough, the treasure has no value until it is found, the pearl means nothing until someone in the know has the right eye, the net produces nothing until it is pulled up from the sea-but when these items are used and found, their full potential is recognized

The church often uses the term seekers or searchers for those who have not “discovered” the church yet. One could easily claim that the church is like these items, it has no value to the community until it is revealed, until it is active, until it is found. I, however, also believe that we are all seeking and searching. There is no superiority between those in attendance this morning and those who are not here. It in fact does not matter where we search so long as we keep our eyes open and are willing to reveal the hidden holy within the ordinary.

Matthew Brough, a Presbyterian minister at Trinity in Winnipeg, reforms our Gospel passage saying,

“The Kingdom of Heaven is not just a tree growing from a tiny seed. It’s that tree with birds that come to nest in its branches.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just a hidden treasure. It’s someone selling his fortune to buy the property where he found it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just the finest pearl. It’s a merchant who stops trading in pearls just to keep that one.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just the best catch of fish. It’s a net being cast that catches every kind of fish, to be sorted later.

The Kingdom of Heaven is always greater than our imaginings or what we initially see. It’s messier than we'd like it to be, more complex than what we want. It refuses to stay in our private spirituality or the comfort of our Churches instead mysteriously spilling over into our lives.”

If we want to speak of heavenly things, if we want to seek the kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven, if we want the hidden holiness to be revealed we must begin with the things we know, the church, the everyday jobs that keep this church in view, the ordinary activities that reach out to our community, the simple acts that you and I can do with and for each other. The kingdom of heaven is like all those things in plain view just waiting to reveal God's love for all.

 

 

Bible Text: Matthew 13:31-33; Matthew 13:44-52 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Here is a fun fact, did you know that Canada is the largest producer of the mustard seed. Producing over 186, 400 tonnes a year. Did you know that the largest miller of dry mustard in the world is in….Hamilton, Ontario. It’s true. G.S. Dunn Limited is that company and up until the year 2010, the Hamilton Mustard Festival, over the labour day weekend was the largest festival of its kind. The festival celebrated the history of the mustard seed, and explained its many uses both in cooking and for medicinal purposes. The seed is of course used as a spice but its oil can also be used for such things as fabrics and fuel. I say that, it used to be the largest festival of its kind because Middleton, Wisconsin now has the largest festival celebrating this simple seed. Incidentally, national mustard day, is this coming Saturday, August 2. I also happen to dislike mustard very much. However, these facts and tidbits are always going through my mind when we encounter this passage from Matthew, the first parable being that story of the mustard seed. The mustard seed is a symbol used by many Christians to represent faith and charity. A reminder that no matter how small our acts of kindness may be they can grow into great results. Interestingly enough, it is also a symbol of humility in Buddhism, and Jewish philosopher Nahmanides (Nah-man-nid-ez) compared the knowable universe to the size of a mustard seed. The plant likely originated in India which explains its presence in some Hindi art. This ordinary seed has, for a long time, become a symbol of the sacred.

Sometimes it is difficult to explain or speak about holy things. Our language is unable to articulate the beauty of heaven, the confidence in faith or the relief from burdens that one encounters. Throughout the Psalms in particular but sentiments throughout Scripture state that words cannot describe the love of God. And yet, we often try, using linguistic tools like similes and metaphors, rhetoric and allegory. Sometimes we do well, and others we fall flat. Often the assumption is that we are communicating hyperbole, exaggerating our words to get our point across. Believing in God is like falling in love, like bungee jumping, or being born again. And there is nothing wrong with using these figures of speech, its true, faith can come upon us like a rushing wind, a blast of music or roaring ocean. But then, sometimes faith is simple, albeit still difficult to convey.

In our passage from Matthew Jesus takes some everyday items and breaks them open, even invites those listening to see them in a new manner. The parables found in Matthew are often this way. Jesus tells stories of lost sheep, seeds in fields or workers in a vineyard. Jesus uses simple everyday encounters that the listeners would understand and even with which they could identify.

There is relief in the fact that even Jesus, the one most tied to God, the one most likely to be able to articulate the love of God, used simple, everyday, ordinary examples. Of course this was not because Jesus couldn’t use grander language, but rather, we couldn’t have understood it otherwise. In fact, most of the time the disciples ask Jesus to explain what he meant because they could not understand his meaning. Jesus made, often surprising, comparisons between that which was holy and that which was secular. Allowing us the opportunity to see things and understand things differently. As a result, in many regards, the passage we read this morning is no different from other parables because Jesus does use the ordinary to explain the extraordinary. However, unlike other parables, Jesus launches into these comparisons leaving little time for lead up or the usual Q&A. The similes and metaphors come quickly, with no warning or preparation, no explanation and certainly no story. Perhaps Jesus doesn’t want those hearing him to think too much about them or get stuck on one versus another. Or perhaps Jesus is teaching us to see the kingdom of heaven in all of creation, no matter how ordinary, no matter how simple, no matter what our situation.

The comparison of the mustard seed and the yeast are easy enough. Two very basic items that aren’t very impressive but the results can be astounding- a tree big enough for birds to nest in, bread enough to feed the family for days. The kingdom of heaven is like this because it is surprising, potent, and more to it than meets the eye. But then it becomes more difficult to identify the aspects of the kingdom within the other items. Finding buried treasure is based on luck. A rich man becomes richer because he is good at his trade and knows when one pearl is better than the rest. And the final comparison makes us believe that it is not about us finding it but rather it finding us. Other than being ordinary items or strange amounts of luck these metaphors seems to have little in common, in fact some seem contrary to others.

Barbara Brown Taylor, modern day theologian extraordinaire finds a commonality. She states, “The striking thing about all these images is their essential hidden-ness- the mustard seed hidden in the ground, the yeast hidden in the dough, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl hidden among all the others, the net hidden in the depths of the sea. If the kingdom of heaven is like these, then it is not something readily apparent to the eye but something that must be searched for, something just below the surface of things waiting there to be discovered and claimed.”

When we understand the hidden nature of all these items it sounds like kingdom of heaven is mythical, is the stuff not of the ordinary but of fairy tales. Jesus references buried treasure after all! If we look at them as items hidden, waiting to be exposed, items that are suddenly discovered and change lives then they are less ordinary. But that is the key, the kingdom of heaven only becomes the kingdom of heaven when it is revealed. These items are useless if they remain hidden, the seed does nothing if it is not buried first, the yeast is tasteless until it is placed in the dough, the treasure has no value until it is found, the pearl means nothing until someone in the know has the right eye, the net produces nothing until it is pulled up from the sea-but when these items are used and found, their full potential is recognized

The church often uses the term seekers or searchers for those who have not “discovered” the church yet. One could easily claim that the church is like these items, it has no value to the community until it is revealed, until it is active, until it is found. I, however, also believe that we are all seeking and searching. There is no superiority between those in attendance this morning and those who are not here. It in fact does not matter where we search so long as we keep our eyes open and are willing to reveal the hidden holy within the ordinary.

Matthew Brough, a Presbyterian minister at Trinity in Winnipeg, reforms our Gospel passage saying,

“The Kingdom of Heaven is not just a tree growing from a tiny seed. It’s that tree with birds that come to nest in its branches.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just a hidden treasure. It’s someone selling his fortune to buy the property where he found it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just the finest pearl. It’s a merchant who stops trading in pearls just to keep that one.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just the best catch of fish. It’s a net being cast that catches every kind of fish, to be sorted later.

The Kingdom of Heaven is always greater than our imaginings or what we initially see. It’s messier than we’d like it to be, more complex than what we want. It refuses to stay in our private spirituality or the comfort of our Churches instead mysteriously spilling over into our lives.”

If we want to speak of heavenly things, if we want to seek the kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven, if we want the hidden holiness to be revealed we must begin with the things we know, the church, the everyday jobs that keep this church in view, the ordinary activities that reach out to our community, the simple acts that you and I can do with and for each other. The kingdom of heaven is like all those things in plain view just waiting to reveal God’s love for all.

 

 

and How is Your Day?

Bible Text: 2 Chronicles 15:1-4; 2 Chronicles 15:10-15, Matthew 6:31-34 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

July 20, 2014

Bible Text: 2 Chronicles 15:1-4; 2 Chronicles 15:10-15, Matthew 6:31-34 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

Bible Text: 2 Chronicles 15:1-4; 2 Chronicles 15:10-15, Matthew 6:31-34 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

Jesus in a Jar

Bible Text: John 8:1-12, Luke 19:1-10 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

July 13, 2014

Bible Text: John 8:1-12, Luke 19:1-10 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

Bible Text: John 8:1-12, Luke 19:1-10 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

When was the last time?

Bible Text: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Luke 11:1-13 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

July 6, 2014

Bible Text: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Luke 11:1-13 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

Bible Text: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Luke 11:1-13 | Preacher: Rev. Roy Cowieson

What are you afraid of?

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Fear is a funny thing, isn’t it. For example, despite all my desires to climb a mountain or go to the highest height to have the best view, I know my legs, my body would not permit me. There comes a moment in an ascent, be it an escalator, stairwell, or mountainside, that if I can see the world below my body begins to quake. Heights are not my thing. I’m also afraid of deep, dark water, the odd spider, depending on the size, and we know that apparently caves give me the heebie geebies. As a child I wasn’t afraid of a monster under my bed or the dark, but actually terrified of mascots, particularly the sugary breakfast cereal mascot Captain Crunch. Fear can catch us off guard too, we may discover that despite thinking we could handle something, fear will pop up and prevent us from moving forward. Sometimes fear is irrational. We know that logically there is no reason to fear something but it happens anyway. Fear can also cause us to do irrational things. Whether a threat is real or imagined fear can cause us to experience anxiety or simply concern but it can also cause us to panic or experience terror. Fear is also one of the most pervasive and powerful motivating forces in the human experience. Many people in control recognize the power of fear and use it to ensure conformity in various ways. Fear is the driving force behind many aspects of our economy.

Last week we discussed characteristics of discipleship, which included curiousity, doubt, authority, and being called before being equipped. I have wondered if being courageous means being fearless but I don’t think so. Courage is facing fear, acknowledging it, naming it, but not ignoring it. In fact the Webster’s dictionary defines courage as the “ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous”. Courage is certainly a characteristic of discipleship. But most of us are more like the Lion in the land of oz. We put on a brave face but when reality hits we can cower. Jesus recognizes that fear has the potential to cause failure in discipleship. In this difficult passage which juxtaposes warnings with words of comfort Jesus is trying to get the disciples to acknowledge their fear so that they may have courage.

Jesus knows the disciples are already courageous, after all, they have left the security of their families, jobs, and homelands to follow him. This passage comes immediately after the twelve are called and given their mission. If this is Jesus’ way of giving a pep talk- it is rather distressing. He is extremely realistic about the threats they might face. He warns them that by following him, life will be frighteningly difficult. But at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their ability to be disciples.

Jesus begins our passage by stating, “Have no fear of them.” Who is this “them” that he speaks of? We know it refers to the Pharisees and Synagogue leadership because Jesus makes a comment earlier in the passage that “They will flog you in their synagogues”. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees outright and Jesus knows that this is not going to win them any favours. In fact, Jesus warns the disciples that by associating with him they will experience difficulties. Associating with certain categories of undesirable people will bring dire consequences.

Also, part of the authority given to Jesus is to break open the hypocrisy of the religious leadership. It is a certain kind of leadership that can lead to and in secrecy and a certain kind of power that closes the books to the average people, so that the people are afraid and therefore easier to control. But Jesus says, God will be the one to uncover everything that is covered and will reveal all the secrets.

I suspect this “them” that Jesus is referring to is not limited to the pharisees and religious leaders. One must also remember that Jesus and the people of the New Testament were living in an oppressive state. Pax Romana, Roman peace was certainly not peace-filled. For the Roman empire peace was not so much the absence of war but rather the moment when ones opposition and enemies were so beaten down that they had lost their ability to resist. This peace was provided through control and fear. The Hebrew people had hope in a Messiah that would over turn this fear and oppression. The statements Jesus makes in this passage is the closest Jesus comes to saying that indeed this system will be overturned through him, the Messiah. But following him means a break from the norm, means redefining the socio-economic structure of the day and that it will be met with resistance, force-filled control and violence from the oppressors.

Discipleship means the disciples will have the ability and authority to heal, cleanse and forgive, but it also means becoming completely vulnerable with dependence on God. Jesus says that this vulnerability could include arrests, violence, persecution, hatred and opposition from the religious leaders as well as opposition from family members. After all not only is God, through Jesus, revealing words spoken in secret but also membership with Jesus can lead to the tearing apart of families.

Jesus focuses on the difficulties that will face the disciples, because naming them aloud, acknowledging the suffering that will be encountered is the first freeing step from fear. Fear loses its power when we refuse to allow that fear to stop us from facing our most difficult challenges. This is easier said than done, we know that, the disciples knew it and Jesus is aware of it. However, in our vulnerability there is strength, because instead of fear controlling our lives we turn to God. In amongst these words of fear Jesus soothes the disciples with words of comfort.

Stanley Saunders from Columbia Seminary says “Jesus describes worst case scenarios, and they are bad, but with these warnings are statements of reassurance and repeated calls to resist fear. The most important element of reassurance lies in the integral relationship that is affirmed between the disciples and Jesus, and through Christ, God. Even though doing so will bring suffering, the gospel must be proclaimed and the gospel lived is the most powerful tool at the disciples’ disposal against all the powers of this world. God alone is the one who we should fear.”

But God’s power surpasses that of human rulers. Jesus reassures the disciples that God is not, in fact, like the powers who control them with fear but rather God’s power contains grace and mercy. Repeatedly Jesus says “Do not fear”. Why should they or we not fear? The threat of death for the disciples is the most powerful form of fear. But Jesus says, God’s power surpasses all those fears and God’s power is nothing like those human powers. God knows and cares even for the sparrows that are sold two for a penny. God knows even the hairs on our heads better than we do. God knows our fears and promises to be present through them. The threat of violence and isolation from the family are real concerns for the disciples. However, in their simplicity, vulnerability and dependence on God, it is God’s presence that posses real power. These fears that the disciples have are no longer a determining force in their lives because the one who has ultimate power over their whole being exercises that power with love.

Like the disciples we look at the human systems that control with fear and power, systems of oppression, poverty, false and superficial peace, systems that work in a world of secrecy and we are asked to speak against them without fear, in vulnerability, with trust in God’s presence. The fears we have need not be pervasive powers in our lives because the one who has ultimate power over our whole beings exercises that power with grace, mercy and love. Amen

June 22, 2014

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Fear is a funny thing, isn't it. For example, despite all my desires to climb a mountain or go to the highest height to have the best view, I know my legs, my body would not permit me. There comes a moment in an ascent, be it an escalator, stairwell, or mountainside, that if I can see the world below my body begins to quake. Heights are not my thing. I'm also afraid of deep, dark water, the odd spider, depending on the size, and we know that apparently caves give me the heebie geebies. As a child I wasn't afraid of a monster under my bed or the dark, but actually terrified of mascots, particularly the sugary breakfast cereal mascot Captain Crunch. Fear can catch us off guard too, we may discover that despite thinking we could handle something, fear will pop up and prevent us from moving forward. Sometimes fear is irrational. We know that logically there is no reason to fear something but it happens anyway. Fear can also cause us to do irrational things. Whether a threat is real or imagined fear can cause us to experience anxiety or simply concern but it can also cause us to panic or experience terror. Fear is also one of the most pervasive and powerful motivating forces in the human experience. Many people in control recognize the power of fear and use it to ensure conformity in various ways. Fear is the driving force behind many aspects of our economy.

Last week we discussed characteristics of discipleship, which included curiousity, doubt, authority, and being called before being equipped. I have wondered if being courageous means being fearless but I don't think so. Courage is facing fear, acknowledging it, naming it, but not ignoring it. In fact the Webster's dictionary defines courage as the “ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous”. Courage is certainly a characteristic of discipleship. But most of us are more like the Lion in the land of oz. We put on a brave face but when reality hits we can cower. Jesus recognizes that fear has the potential to cause failure in discipleship. In this difficult passage which juxtaposes warnings with words of comfort Jesus is trying to get the disciples to acknowledge their fear so that they may have courage.

Jesus knows the disciples are already courageous, after all, they have left the security of their families, jobs, and homelands to follow him. This passage comes immediately after the twelve are called and given their mission. If this is Jesus' way of giving a pep talk- it is rather distressing. He is extremely realistic about the threats they might face. He warns them that by following him, life will be frighteningly difficult. But at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their ability to be disciples.

Jesus begins our passage by stating, “Have no fear of them.” Who is this “them” that he speaks of? We know it refers to the Pharisees and Synagogue leadership because Jesus makes a comment earlier in the passage that “They will flog you in their synagogues”. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees outright and Jesus knows that this is not going to win them any favours. In fact, Jesus warns the disciples that by associating with him they will experience difficulties. Associating with certain categories of undesirable people will bring dire consequences.

Also, part of the authority given to Jesus is to break open the hypocrisy of the religious leadership. It is a certain kind of leadership that can lead to and in secrecy and a certain kind of power that closes the books to the average people, so that the people are afraid and therefore easier to control. But Jesus says, God will be the one to uncover everything that is covered and will reveal all the secrets.

I suspect this “them” that Jesus is referring to is not limited to the pharisees and religious leaders. One must also remember that Jesus and the people of the New Testament were living in an oppressive state. Pax Romana, Roman peace was certainly not peace-filled. For the Roman empire peace was not so much the absence of war but rather the moment when ones opposition and enemies were so beaten down that they had lost their ability to resist. This peace was provided through control and fear. The Hebrew people had hope in a Messiah that would over turn this fear and oppression. The statements Jesus makes in this passage is the closest Jesus comes to saying that indeed this system will be overturned through him, the Messiah. But following him means a break from the norm, means redefining the socio-economic structure of the day and that it will be met with resistance, force-filled control and violence from the oppressors.

Discipleship means the disciples will have the ability and authority to heal, cleanse and forgive, but it also means becoming completely vulnerable with dependence on God. Jesus says that this vulnerability could include arrests, violence, persecution, hatred and opposition from the religious leaders as well as opposition from family members. After all not only is God, through Jesus, revealing words spoken in secret but also membership with Jesus can lead to the tearing apart of families.

Jesus focuses on the difficulties that will face the disciples, because naming them aloud, acknowledging the suffering that will be encountered is the first freeing step from fear. Fear loses its power when we refuse to allow that fear to stop us from facing our most difficult challenges. This is easier said than done, we know that, the disciples knew it and Jesus is aware of it. However, in our vulnerability there is strength, because instead of fear controlling our lives we turn to God. In amongst these words of fear Jesus soothes the disciples with words of comfort.

Stanley Saunders from Columbia Seminary says “Jesus describes worst case scenarios, and they are bad, but with these warnings are statements of reassurance and repeated calls to resist fear. The most important element of reassurance lies in the integral relationship that is affirmed between the disciples and Jesus, and through Christ, God. Even though doing so will bring suffering, the gospel must be proclaimed and the gospel lived is the most powerful tool at the disciples' disposal against all the powers of this world. God alone is the one who we should fear.”

But God's power surpasses that of human rulers. Jesus reassures the disciples that God is not, in fact, like the powers who control them with fear but rather God's power contains grace and mercy. Repeatedly Jesus says “Do not fear”. Why should they or we not fear? The threat of death for the disciples is the most powerful form of fear. But Jesus says, God's power surpasses all those fears and God's power is nothing like those human powers. God knows and cares even for the sparrows that are sold two for a penny. God knows even the hairs on our heads better than we do. God knows our fears and promises to be present through them. The threat of violence and isolation from the family are real concerns for the disciples. However, in their simplicity, vulnerability and dependence on God, it is God's presence that posses real power. These fears that the disciples have are no longer a determining force in their lives because the one who has ultimate power over their whole being exercises that power with love.

Like the disciples we look at the human systems that control with fear and power, systems of oppression, poverty, false and superficial peace, systems that work in a world of secrecy and we are asked to speak against them without fear, in vulnerability, with trust in God's presence. The fears we have need not be pervasive powers in our lives because the one who has ultimate power over our whole beings exercises that power with grace, mercy and love. Amen

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Fear is a funny thing, isn’t it. For example, despite all my desires to climb a mountain or go to the highest height to have the best view, I know my legs, my body would not permit me. There comes a moment in an ascent, be it an escalator, stairwell, or mountainside, that if I can see the world below my body begins to quake. Heights are not my thing. I’m also afraid of deep, dark water, the odd spider, depending on the size, and we know that apparently caves give me the heebie geebies. As a child I wasn’t afraid of a monster under my bed or the dark, but actually terrified of mascots, particularly the sugary breakfast cereal mascot Captain Crunch. Fear can catch us off guard too, we may discover that despite thinking we could handle something, fear will pop up and prevent us from moving forward. Sometimes fear is irrational. We know that logically there is no reason to fear something but it happens anyway. Fear can also cause us to do irrational things. Whether a threat is real or imagined fear can cause us to experience anxiety or simply concern but it can also cause us to panic or experience terror. Fear is also one of the most pervasive and powerful motivating forces in the human experience. Many people in control recognize the power of fear and use it to ensure conformity in various ways. Fear is the driving force behind many aspects of our economy.

Last week we discussed characteristics of discipleship, which included curiousity, doubt, authority, and being called before being equipped. I have wondered if being courageous means being fearless but I don’t think so. Courage is facing fear, acknowledging it, naming it, but not ignoring it. In fact the Webster’s dictionary defines courage as the “ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous”. Courage is certainly a characteristic of discipleship. But most of us are more like the Lion in the land of oz. We put on a brave face but when reality hits we can cower. Jesus recognizes that fear has the potential to cause failure in discipleship. In this difficult passage which juxtaposes warnings with words of comfort Jesus is trying to get the disciples to acknowledge their fear so that they may have courage.

Jesus knows the disciples are already courageous, after all, they have left the security of their families, jobs, and homelands to follow him. This passage comes immediately after the twelve are called and given their mission. If this is Jesus’ way of giving a pep talk- it is rather distressing. He is extremely realistic about the threats they might face. He warns them that by following him, life will be frighteningly difficult. But at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their ability to be disciples.

Jesus begins our passage by stating, “Have no fear of them.” Who is this “them” that he speaks of? We know it refers to the Pharisees and Synagogue leadership because Jesus makes a comment earlier in the passage that “They will flog you in their synagogues”. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees outright and Jesus knows that this is not going to win them any favours. In fact, Jesus warns the disciples that by associating with him they will experience difficulties. Associating with certain categories of undesirable people will bring dire consequences.

Also, part of the authority given to Jesus is to break open the hypocrisy of the religious leadership. It is a certain kind of leadership that can lead to and in secrecy and a certain kind of power that closes the books to the average people, so that the people are afraid and therefore easier to control. But Jesus says, God will be the one to uncover everything that is covered and will reveal all the secrets.

I suspect this “them” that Jesus is referring to is not limited to the pharisees and religious leaders. One must also remember that Jesus and the people of the New Testament were living in an oppressive state. Pax Romana, Roman peace was certainly not peace-filled. For the Roman empire peace was not so much the absence of war but rather the moment when ones opposition and enemies were so beaten down that they had lost their ability to resist. This peace was provided through control and fear. The Hebrew people had hope in a Messiah that would over turn this fear and oppression. The statements Jesus makes in this passage is the closest Jesus comes to saying that indeed this system will be overturned through him, the Messiah. But following him means a break from the norm, means redefining the socio-economic structure of the day and that it will be met with resistance, force-filled control and violence from the oppressors.

Discipleship means the disciples will have the ability and authority to heal, cleanse and forgive, but it also means becoming completely vulnerable with dependence on God. Jesus says that this vulnerability could include arrests, violence, persecution, hatred and opposition from the religious leaders as well as opposition from family members. After all not only is God, through Jesus, revealing words spoken in secret but also membership with Jesus can lead to the tearing apart of families.

Jesus focuses on the difficulties that will face the disciples, because naming them aloud, acknowledging the suffering that will be encountered is the first freeing step from fear. Fear loses its power when we refuse to allow that fear to stop us from facing our most difficult challenges. This is easier said than done, we know that, the disciples knew it and Jesus is aware of it. However, in our vulnerability there is strength, because instead of fear controlling our lives we turn to God. In amongst these words of fear Jesus soothes the disciples with words of comfort.

Stanley Saunders from Columbia Seminary says “Jesus describes worst case scenarios, and they are bad, but with these warnings are statements of reassurance and repeated calls to resist fear. The most important element of reassurance lies in the integral relationship that is affirmed between the disciples and Jesus, and through Christ, God. Even though doing so will bring suffering, the gospel must be proclaimed and the gospel lived is the most powerful tool at the disciples’ disposal against all the powers of this world. God alone is the one who we should fear.”

But God’s power surpasses that of human rulers. Jesus reassures the disciples that God is not, in fact, like the powers who control them with fear but rather God’s power contains grace and mercy. Repeatedly Jesus says “Do not fear”. Why should they or we not fear? The threat of death for the disciples is the most powerful form of fear. But Jesus says, God’s power surpasses all those fears and God’s power is nothing like those human powers. God knows and cares even for the sparrows that are sold two for a penny. God knows even the hairs on our heads better than we do. God knows our fears and promises to be present through them. The threat of violence and isolation from the family are real concerns for the disciples. However, in their simplicity, vulnerability and dependence on God, it is God’s presence that posses real power. These fears that the disciples have are no longer a determining force in their lives because the one who has ultimate power over their whole being exercises that power with love.

Like the disciples we look at the human systems that control with fear and power, systems of oppression, poverty, false and superficial peace, systems that work in a world of secrecy and we are asked to speak against them without fear, in vulnerability, with trust in God’s presence. The fears we have need not be pervasive powers in our lives because the one who has ultimate power over our whole beings exercises that power with grace, mercy and love. Amen

Trinity Sunday

Bible Text: Genesis 1:1-2, Genesis 1:4, Psalm 8, Matthew 28:16-20 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 I recently read the following quote on a colleague’s Facebook page, “Abraham was really old, Jacob was a liar, Moses had a stuttering problem, David was an adulterer, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran away from God, Job went bankrupt, John the baptist ate bugs, Martha worried about everything, Zacchaeus was really short, Paul was a murderer, Timothy was young and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the equipped but equips the called.” Perhaps this is what Trinity Sunday is all about because that statement is no truer for me, I’m not perfect, than anyone of my colleagues, but also no truer for the disciples who fell asleep during prayer, had petty arguments, often misunderstood, and even denied Jesus. However, for all their imperfections, our Trinitarian God gave and equipped the disciples with moments of true discipleship and the verses we hear from Matthew’s gospel gives us a clear look at what it means to be disciples of Jesus.

We have to remember that preceding our passage the Gospel of Matthew is very dramatic. There is a lot that goes on in a very short period of time. Jesus dies, then there is an earthquake, an angel rolls away the stone, the women show up at the tomb to find it empty. Jesus suddenly appears to them and asks them to pass along a message to the disciples. The women go to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee, where it all began, and where Jesus will meet them. Aside from these unearthly events, in the background there are rumours that it is the disciples who have stolen the body, that Jesus has in fact not risen from the dead but rather this is one big hoax. We even read that this is the story most people have been told to this day. That it is all just a lie.

In Matthew’s gospel none of the disciples have a resurrection experience at the tomb. All of them have received this strange and unbelievable message from the women. As a result they are beginning to listen to these rumours and some of them are debating whether the resurrection is true. However, all of them are curious to see what will happen and so they travel to the mountain in Galilee. The disciples are as diverse as us. They all have their questions, their curiosities, their strengths, their weaknesses, their moments of true belief and their moments of total doubt.

We all have different stories about how we ended up here. Some of those stories are about unwavering faith, strong convictions, and trust in God. But I bet there are also lots of stories about doubt, struggle, curiousity, and expectations. No matter how we have gotten here it is in setting out on the journey that discipleship begins to take root.

When the disciples reach the mountain Jesus appears, some see and begin to worship. This is a true mountaintop experience. Imagine the elation, the joy, and the reverence. But what we often forget is that the text says “and some doubted”. This doubt however does not make the doubters have any less of a mountaintop experience. Doubt is a part of the process. This is “Trinity Sunday”. The Trinity is one of the most abstract mysteries of faith, how do we explain this three in one, how do we explain the distinct but the same characteristics. Through doubt we are able to formulate some answers and ask greater questions. On this mountain, among these disciples there is both worship and uncertainty, devotion and hesitancy. This mixture of faith and doubt are characteristics of discipleship as well.

Like the disciples we receive the message to go to where Jesus will meet us. We trust that Jesus will be here and for many that is enough to offer worship, to sing our praises and bring our prayers. But along with this worship we are still allowed to wonder what it all means. Like the disciples we bring our doubts to the place where Jesus promises to meet us.

How does Jesus receive this mixed response from his disciples? He gives them all the exact same message. Jesus does not separate those who worshipped and those who doubted. Jesus does not say, “OK, those of you who really get it, you go and be disciples to all nations, you others, those of you who doubted, get out of here.” No, instead he gives them all the same commission. The message from the women to go is what brought the disciples to this mountain and now the command by Jesus to go is what will take these disciples into the valley. Sometimes I wonder if that was really a good idea, that the bumbling, doubting, imperfect disciples get lumped into the confident, believing, sure disciples. However, Biblically we see the proof that it is not about whether they are equipped or not but rather through the Trinity they will become equipped.

Jesus finishes this commission by reminding them that despite his physical absence he is with them always, to the end of the age. Through the Trinity, through the creative power of God, through the redeeming possibilities of Christ, through the gifts of the Spirit we are able to be as equipped as the disciples. Through God the creator, as we heard in Genesis there is power, strength and certainty. Through Christ’s authority we are empowered to go out. But we go out in diversity- through the Holy Spirit we each have different gifts. Paul says to the Corinthians, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” None of us are perfect, ok, maybe Mike is, but that’s not what makes us who we are- we are followers and it is the one whom we follow who is perfect. We are doubters but it is the one who inspires belief that gives us faith.

Maybe sometimes we feel old like Abraham, maybe sometimes we feel like liars like Jacob, maybe sometimes we stutter through life like Moses, hopefully none of us have the urge to preach naked like Isaiah, but maybe sometimes we have had moments when we ran away from God like Jonah , maybe we are worriers like Martha, or maybe we are young like Timothy and maybe sometimes we feel dead like Lazarus. But that does not make us any less equipped to be disciples, to go, to go down the mountain and into the valley.

Amen

June 15, 2014

Bible Text: Genesis 1:1-2, Genesis 1:4, Psalm 8, Matthew 28:16-20 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 I recently read the following quote on a colleague's Facebook page, “Abraham was really old, Jacob was a liar, Moses had a stuttering problem, David was an adulterer, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran away from God, Job went bankrupt, John the baptist ate bugs, Martha worried about everything, Zacchaeus was really short, Paul was a murderer, Timothy was young and Lazarus was dead. God doesn't call the equipped but equips the called.” Perhaps this is what Trinity Sunday is all about because that statement is no truer for me, I'm not perfect, than anyone of my colleagues, but also no truer for the disciples who fell asleep during prayer, had petty arguments, often misunderstood, and even denied Jesus. However, for all their imperfections, our Trinitarian God gave and equipped the disciples with moments of true discipleship and the verses we hear from Matthew's gospel gives us a clear look at what it means to be disciples of Jesus.

We have to remember that preceding our passage the Gospel of Matthew is very dramatic. There is a lot that goes on in a very short period of time. Jesus dies, then there is an earthquake, an angel rolls away the stone, the women show up at the tomb to find it empty. Jesus suddenly appears to them and asks them to pass along a message to the disciples. The women go to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee, where it all began, and where Jesus will meet them. Aside from these unearthly events, in the background there are rumours that it is the disciples who have stolen the body, that Jesus has in fact not risen from the dead but rather this is one big hoax. We even read that this is the story most people have been told to this day. That it is all just a lie.

In Matthew's gospel none of the disciples have a resurrection experience at the tomb. All of them have received this strange and unbelievable message from the women. As a result they are beginning to listen to these rumours and some of them are debating whether the resurrection is true. However, all of them are curious to see what will happen and so they travel to the mountain in Galilee. The disciples are as diverse as us. They all have their questions, their curiosities, their strengths, their weaknesses, their moments of true belief and their moments of total doubt.

We all have different stories about how we ended up here. Some of those stories are about unwavering faith, strong convictions, and trust in God. But I bet there are also lots of stories about doubt, struggle, curiousity, and expectations. No matter how we have gotten here it is in setting out on the journey that discipleship begins to take root.

When the disciples reach the mountain Jesus appears, some see and begin to worship. This is a true mountaintop experience. Imagine the elation, the joy, and the reverence. But what we often forget is that the text says “and some doubted”. This doubt however does not make the doubters have any less of a mountaintop experience. Doubt is a part of the process. This is “Trinity Sunday”. The Trinity is one of the most abstract mysteries of faith, how do we explain this three in one, how do we explain the distinct but the same characteristics. Through doubt we are able to formulate some answers and ask greater questions. On this mountain, among these disciples there is both worship and uncertainty, devotion and hesitancy. This mixture of faith and doubt are characteristics of discipleship as well.

Like the disciples we receive the message to go to where Jesus will meet us. We trust that Jesus will be here and for many that is enough to offer worship, to sing our praises and bring our prayers. But along with this worship we are still allowed to wonder what it all means. Like the disciples we bring our doubts to the place where Jesus promises to meet us.

How does Jesus receive this mixed response from his disciples? He gives them all the exact same message. Jesus does not separate those who worshipped and those who doubted. Jesus does not say, “OK, those of you who really get it, you go and be disciples to all nations, you others, those of you who doubted, get out of here.” No, instead he gives them all the same commission. The message from the women to go is what brought the disciples to this mountain and now the command by Jesus to go is what will take these disciples into the valley. Sometimes I wonder if that was really a good idea, that the bumbling, doubting, imperfect disciples get lumped into the confident, believing, sure disciples. However, Biblically we see the proof that it is not about whether they are equipped or not but rather through the Trinity they will become equipped.

Jesus finishes this commission by reminding them that despite his physical absence he is with them always, to the end of the age. Through the Trinity, through the creative power of God, through the redeeming possibilities of Christ, through the gifts of the Spirit we are able to be as equipped as the disciples. Through God the creator, as we heard in Genesis there is power, strength and certainty. Through Christ's authority we are empowered to go out. But we go out in diversity- through the Holy Spirit we each have different gifts. Paul says to the Corinthians, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” None of us are perfect, ok, maybe Mike is, but that's not what makes us who we are- we are followers and it is the one whom we follow who is perfect. We are doubters but it is the one who inspires belief that gives us faith.

Maybe sometimes we feel old like Abraham, maybe sometimes we feel like liars like Jacob, maybe sometimes we stutter through life like Moses, hopefully none of us have the urge to preach naked like Isaiah, but maybe sometimes we have had moments when we ran away from God like Jonah , maybe we are worriers like Martha, or maybe we are young like Timothy and maybe sometimes we feel dead like Lazarus. But that does not make us any less equipped to be disciples, to go, to go down the mountain and into the valley.

Amen

Bible Text: Genesis 1:1-2, Genesis 1:4, Psalm 8, Matthew 28:16-20 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 I recently read the following quote on a colleague’s Facebook page, “Abraham was really old, Jacob was a liar, Moses had a stuttering problem, David was an adulterer, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran away from God, Job went bankrupt, John the baptist ate bugs, Martha worried about everything, Zacchaeus was really short, Paul was a murderer, Timothy was young and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the equipped but equips the called.” Perhaps this is what Trinity Sunday is all about because that statement is no truer for me, I’m not perfect, than anyone of my colleagues, but also no truer for the disciples who fell asleep during prayer, had petty arguments, often misunderstood, and even denied Jesus. However, for all their imperfections, our Trinitarian God gave and equipped the disciples with moments of true discipleship and the verses we hear from Matthew’s gospel gives us a clear look at what it means to be disciples of Jesus.

We have to remember that preceding our passage the Gospel of Matthew is very dramatic. There is a lot that goes on in a very short period of time. Jesus dies, then there is an earthquake, an angel rolls away the stone, the women show up at the tomb to find it empty. Jesus suddenly appears to them and asks them to pass along a message to the disciples. The women go to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee, where it all began, and where Jesus will meet them. Aside from these unearthly events, in the background there are rumours that it is the disciples who have stolen the body, that Jesus has in fact not risen from the dead but rather this is one big hoax. We even read that this is the story most people have been told to this day. That it is all just a lie.

In Matthew’s gospel none of the disciples have a resurrection experience at the tomb. All of them have received this strange and unbelievable message from the women. As a result they are beginning to listen to these rumours and some of them are debating whether the resurrection is true. However, all of them are curious to see what will happen and so they travel to the mountain in Galilee. The disciples are as diverse as us. They all have their questions, their curiosities, their strengths, their weaknesses, their moments of true belief and their moments of total doubt.

We all have different stories about how we ended up here. Some of those stories are about unwavering faith, strong convictions, and trust in God. But I bet there are also lots of stories about doubt, struggle, curiousity, and expectations. No matter how we have gotten here it is in setting out on the journey that discipleship begins to take root.

When the disciples reach the mountain Jesus appears, some see and begin to worship. This is a true mountaintop experience. Imagine the elation, the joy, and the reverence. But what we often forget is that the text says “and some doubted”. This doubt however does not make the doubters have any less of a mountaintop experience. Doubt is a part of the process. This is “Trinity Sunday”. The Trinity is one of the most abstract mysteries of faith, how do we explain this three in one, how do we explain the distinct but the same characteristics. Through doubt we are able to formulate some answers and ask greater questions. On this mountain, among these disciples there is both worship and uncertainty, devotion and hesitancy. This mixture of faith and doubt are characteristics of discipleship as well.

Like the disciples we receive the message to go to where Jesus will meet us. We trust that Jesus will be here and for many that is enough to offer worship, to sing our praises and bring our prayers. But along with this worship we are still allowed to wonder what it all means. Like the disciples we bring our doubts to the place where Jesus promises to meet us.

How does Jesus receive this mixed response from his disciples? He gives them all the exact same message. Jesus does not separate those who worshipped and those who doubted. Jesus does not say, “OK, those of you who really get it, you go and be disciples to all nations, you others, those of you who doubted, get out of here.” No, instead he gives them all the same commission. The message from the women to go is what brought the disciples to this mountain and now the command by Jesus to go is what will take these disciples into the valley. Sometimes I wonder if that was really a good idea, that the bumbling, doubting, imperfect disciples get lumped into the confident, believing, sure disciples. However, Biblically we see the proof that it is not about whether they are equipped or not but rather through the Trinity they will become equipped.

Jesus finishes this commission by reminding them that despite his physical absence he is with them always, to the end of the age. Through the Trinity, through the creative power of God, through the redeeming possibilities of Christ, through the gifts of the Spirit we are able to be as equipped as the disciples. Through God the creator, as we heard in Genesis there is power, strength and certainty. Through Christ’s authority we are empowered to go out. But we go out in diversity- through the Holy Spirit we each have different gifts. Paul says to the Corinthians, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” None of us are perfect, ok, maybe Mike is, but that’s not what makes us who we are- we are followers and it is the one whom we follow who is perfect. We are doubters but it is the one who inspires belief that gives us faith.

Maybe sometimes we feel old like Abraham, maybe sometimes we feel like liars like Jacob, maybe sometimes we stutter through life like Moses, hopefully none of us have the urge to preach naked like Isaiah, but maybe sometimes we have had moments when we ran away from God like Jonah , maybe we are worriers like Martha, or maybe we are young like Timothy and maybe sometimes we feel dead like Lazarus. But that does not make us any less equipped to be disciples, to go, to go down the mountain and into the valley.

Amen

Keep Calm

Bible Text: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

(I am very aware of the anniversary which passed us on June 6th. Having been to Juno Beach and Beny Surs Mer I have visuals that help me articulate what D-Day was for Canadians, the Allies, and how that day and the days that followed defined World War Two. Although this has little to do with the sermon I felt it was vital for us to acknowledge it. To give thanks for the sacrifices that were made but more importantly to recognize the horrific, fatal, and difficult consequences of war. We will take a moment of silence to reflect)

While listening to stories of D-Day over this past week I was struck by a phrase that I often see on modern day bumper stickers, screen savers and t-shirts. The phrase is “Keep Calm and Carry On” and is often in capital print and includes an image of a tudor crown. Interestingly enough that phrase was first put on motivational posters by the British Government’s Ministry of Information a few months before the declaration of war in 1939. It was intended to boost morale of the British public in the face of uncertainty in the event of a wartime disaster. Despite over 2 million posters with those words on it being printed the distribution was poor. It was not until the year 2000 that the phrase “keep calm and carry on” was re-discovered and reprinted. What started as a very serious effort to remain courageous during wartime has become a silly catch phrase. Since then, numerous parody phrases have popped up including in Calgary, Keep calm and Nenshi on, a promotional campaign in support of their mayor. I understand the phrase, it is important to keep calm in emergency situations and it is important to carry on when struggling to know the future. However, I wondered, what would have happened immediately following the events of Pentecost if instead of quoting Scripture Peter had addressed the frantic crowd by stating, “Don’t worry everybody, these people aren’t drunk, just keep calm and carry on.” First of all, we wouldn’t be the church we are today if everyone had kept calm or just kept on keeping on, just remained with the status quo. There would not have been a call to be a missional church, to receive the spirit with enthusiasm and strength. But I often feel like the church treats Pentecost as if that is all Peter said, keep calm and carry on. Live as you were.

As I mentioned in the “time for the young and young at heart” Pentecost is often viewed as the church’s Birthday. It is true Pentecost is celebrated as the birth of the church. It was with the arrival of the Spirit that the disciples were able to leave Jerusalem and preach. But as is common with anyone of our own birthdays we can become reflective and retrospective. A birthday celebration can become an exercise in looking backwards. Pentecost in particular can become a reflection upon the legacy of the church, a self-affirming pat on the back that we have made it this far. For two thousand years we have managed to maintain a Christendom. But this is not what the story of Pentecost tells us. If when we look at the versions of the events found in Matthew or John, Pentecost is not a look at our past but rather a call to live out the future. It is not an inward look but an outward action. In the Gospel of John, Jesus sends the apostolic community as the Father sent him and he breathes the Holy Spirit on them to empower them to go out and do ministry.

Many modern day theologians such as Douglas John Hall, Darrell Guder and Walter Bruggeman, note that we are no longer living in a Christendom world, a world dominated by Christian values, or Christian theology, or Christian States, but rather we are living in a post-Christendom world. However, instead of viewing this as the fall of the church, as the moment when the Spirit is no longer at work in our world, these theologians see it as an opportunity for the events of Pentecost to truly take effect. For the church to be truly missional in its intention. It can no longer be assumed that people know the Scriptures or practice prayer and we know there are less people in the churches than out of them. With this paradigm shift comes opportunity. Guder even states that “Our movement into a post-Christendom setting is in fact a liberating shift for us. Our situation today is closer to that of the pre-Constatinian church, that is, the church of the apostles, although certainly not identical. It makes it possible for us to read Scripture in ways we have not done for a long time.”

What these theologians are getting at is that we are more like the early church than we have been in centuries. Which means we have the major responsibility of being the missional witnesses Jesus calls us to be. At the beginning of Acts we hear Jesus’ ascension and Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” To witness, being witnesses, is the overarching word that defines and describes the Christian community’s purpose and function in Acts. This is not about the status quo but abut something much larger. This is not about doing the same old, same old, but allowing the Spirit to give us the courage and strength to try new things, to experience new ministries, to witness to people who have never encountered Scripture before.

Pentecost also points to the fact that a missional church is a radical new inclusive church. This community which Joel speaks about and which Peter says is realized is incredibly inclusive. It is gender inclusive, “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”, it is age inclusive, “the young and the old shall have visions and dreams.” And we know from the variety of witnesses to this event that it is ethnically inclusive. It makes me wonder in what other ways we can be an inclusive community.

It also makes me realize that Pentecost is not a once and done event. Ok, perhaps the wind and flames are, but the work of the apostles, the work of the early church and the work of the Spirit is not complete. We are at a crossroads in which we can discover that it is not about lamenting that the good old days or the golden age of the church is past, because if we are honest about our retrospective we will see that the legacy of the church has not always been a good one, but instead we can look to the possibilities of a pentecostal future (and I mean that it the most Presbyterian of ways). We can discover that the Holy Spirit enables us to proclaim the gospel in places and ways that Christendom never could. It’s time for a new phrase, Keep calm, sure, but Witness On because the spirit empowers us to do ministry and serve in missional ways not only to those within our walls but also beyond them. Amen 

June 8, 2014

Bible Text: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

(I am very aware of the anniversary which passed us on June 6th. Having been to Juno Beach and Beny Surs Mer I have visuals that help me articulate what D-Day was for Canadians, the Allies, and how that day and the days that followed defined World War Two. Although this has little to do with the sermon I felt it was vital for us to acknowledge it. To give thanks for the sacrifices that were made but more importantly to recognize the horrific, fatal, and difficult consequences of war. We will take a moment of silence to reflect)

While listening to stories of D-Day over this past week I was struck by a phrase that I often see on modern day bumper stickers, screen savers and t-shirts. The phrase is “Keep Calm and Carry On” and is often in capital print and includes an image of a tudor crown. Interestingly enough that phrase was first put on motivational posters by the British Government's Ministry of Information a few months before the declaration of war in 1939. It was intended to boost morale of the British public in the face of uncertainty in the event of a wartime disaster. Despite over 2 million posters with those words on it being printed the distribution was poor. It was not until the year 2000 that the phrase “keep calm and carry on” was re-discovered and reprinted. What started as a very serious effort to remain courageous during wartime has become a silly catch phrase. Since then, numerous parody phrases have popped up including in Calgary, Keep calm and Nenshi on, a promotional campaign in support of their mayor. I understand the phrase, it is important to keep calm in emergency situations and it is important to carry on when struggling to know the future. However, I wondered, what would have happened immediately following the events of Pentecost if instead of quoting Scripture Peter had addressed the frantic crowd by stating, “Don't worry everybody, these people aren't drunk, just keep calm and carry on.” First of all, we wouldn't be the church we are today if everyone had kept calm or just kept on keeping on, just remained with the status quo. There would not have been a call to be a missional church, to receive the spirit with enthusiasm and strength. But I often feel like the church treats Pentecost as if that is all Peter said, keep calm and carry on. Live as you were.

As I mentioned in the “time for the young and young at heart” Pentecost is often viewed as the church's Birthday. It is true Pentecost is celebrated as the birth of the church. It was with the arrival of the Spirit that the disciples were able to leave Jerusalem and preach. But as is common with anyone of our own birthdays we can become reflective and retrospective. A birthday celebration can become an exercise in looking backwards. Pentecost in particular can become a reflection upon the legacy of the church, a self-affirming pat on the back that we have made it this far. For two thousand years we have managed to maintain a Christendom. But this is not what the story of Pentecost tells us. If when we look at the versions of the events found in Matthew or John, Pentecost is not a look at our past but rather a call to live out the future. It is not an inward look but an outward action. In the Gospel of John, Jesus sends the apostolic community as the Father sent him and he breathes the Holy Spirit on them to empower them to go out and do ministry.

Many modern day theologians such as Douglas John Hall, Darrell Guder and Walter Bruggeman, note that we are no longer living in a Christendom world, a world dominated by Christian values, or Christian theology, or Christian States, but rather we are living in a post-Christendom world. However, instead of viewing this as the fall of the church, as the moment when the Spirit is no longer at work in our world, these theologians see it as an opportunity for the events of Pentecost to truly take effect. For the church to be truly missional in its intention. It can no longer be assumed that people know the Scriptures or practice prayer and we know there are less people in the churches than out of them. With this paradigm shift comes opportunity. Guder even states that “Our movement into a post-Christendom setting is in fact a liberating shift for us. Our situation today is closer to that of the pre-Constatinian church, that is, the church of the apostles, although certainly not identical. It makes it possible for us to read Scripture in ways we have not done for a long time.”

What these theologians are getting at is that we are more like the early church than we have been in centuries. Which means we have the major responsibility of being the missional witnesses Jesus calls us to be. At the beginning of Acts we hear Jesus' ascension and Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” To witness, being witnesses, is the overarching word that defines and describes the Christian community's purpose and function in Acts. This is not about the status quo but abut something much larger. This is not about doing the same old, same old, but allowing the Spirit to give us the courage and strength to try new things, to experience new ministries, to witness to people who have never encountered Scripture before.

Pentecost also points to the fact that a missional church is a radical new inclusive church. This community which Joel speaks about and which Peter says is realized is incredibly inclusive. It is gender inclusive, “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”, it is age inclusive, “the young and the old shall have visions and dreams.” And we know from the variety of witnesses to this event that it is ethnically inclusive. It makes me wonder in what other ways we can be an inclusive community.

It also makes me realize that Pentecost is not a once and done event. Ok, perhaps the wind and flames are, but the work of the apostles, the work of the early church and the work of the Spirit is not complete. We are at a crossroads in which we can discover that it is not about lamenting that the good old days or the golden age of the church is past, because if we are honest about our retrospective we will see that the legacy of the church has not always been a good one, but instead we can look to the possibilities of a pentecostal future (and I mean that it the most Presbyterian of ways). We can discover that the Holy Spirit enables us to proclaim the gospel in places and ways that Christendom never could. It's time for a new phrase, Keep calm, sure, but Witness On because the spirit empowers us to do ministry and serve in missional ways not only to those within our walls but also beyond them. Amen 

Bible Text: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

(I am very aware of the anniversary which passed us on June 6th. Having been to Juno Beach and Beny Surs Mer I have visuals that help me articulate what D-Day was for Canadians, the Allies, and how that day and the days that followed defined World War Two. Although this has little to do with the sermon I felt it was vital for us to acknowledge it. To give thanks for the sacrifices that were made but more importantly to recognize the horrific, fatal, and difficult consequences of war. We will take a moment of silence to reflect)

While listening to stories of D-Day over this past week I was struck by a phrase that I often see on modern day bumper stickers, screen savers and t-shirts. The phrase is “Keep Calm and Carry On” and is often in capital print and includes an image of a tudor crown. Interestingly enough that phrase was first put on motivational posters by the British Government’s Ministry of Information a few months before the declaration of war in 1939. It was intended to boost morale of the British public in the face of uncertainty in the event of a wartime disaster. Despite over 2 million posters with those words on it being printed the distribution was poor. It was not until the year 2000 that the phrase “keep calm and carry on” was re-discovered and reprinted. What started as a very serious effort to remain courageous during wartime has become a silly catch phrase. Since then, numerous parody phrases have popped up including in Calgary, Keep calm and Nenshi on, a promotional campaign in support of their mayor. I understand the phrase, it is important to keep calm in emergency situations and it is important to carry on when struggling to know the future. However, I wondered, what would have happened immediately following the events of Pentecost if instead of quoting Scripture Peter had addressed the frantic crowd by stating, “Don’t worry everybody, these people aren’t drunk, just keep calm and carry on.” First of all, we wouldn’t be the church we are today if everyone had kept calm or just kept on keeping on, just remained with the status quo. There would not have been a call to be a missional church, to receive the spirit with enthusiasm and strength. But I often feel like the church treats Pentecost as if that is all Peter said, keep calm and carry on. Live as you were.

As I mentioned in the “time for the young and young at heart” Pentecost is often viewed as the church’s Birthday. It is true Pentecost is celebrated as the birth of the church. It was with the arrival of the Spirit that the disciples were able to leave Jerusalem and preach. But as is common with anyone of our own birthdays we can become reflective and retrospective. A birthday celebration can become an exercise in looking backwards. Pentecost in particular can become a reflection upon the legacy of the church, a self-affirming pat on the back that we have made it this far. For two thousand years we have managed to maintain a Christendom. But this is not what the story of Pentecost tells us. If when we look at the versions of the events found in Matthew or John, Pentecost is not a look at our past but rather a call to live out the future. It is not an inward look but an outward action. In the Gospel of John, Jesus sends the apostolic community as the Father sent him and he breathes the Holy Spirit on them to empower them to go out and do ministry.

Many modern day theologians such as Douglas John Hall, Darrell Guder and Walter Bruggeman, note that we are no longer living in a Christendom world, a world dominated by Christian values, or Christian theology, or Christian States, but rather we are living in a post-Christendom world. However, instead of viewing this as the fall of the church, as the moment when the Spirit is no longer at work in our world, these theologians see it as an opportunity for the events of Pentecost to truly take effect. For the church to be truly missional in its intention. It can no longer be assumed that people know the Scriptures or practice prayer and we know there are less people in the churches than out of them. With this paradigm shift comes opportunity. Guder even states that “Our movement into a post-Christendom setting is in fact a liberating shift for us. Our situation today is closer to that of the pre-Constatinian church, that is, the church of the apostles, although certainly not identical. It makes it possible for us to read Scripture in ways we have not done for a long time.”

What these theologians are getting at is that we are more like the early church than we have been in centuries. Which means we have the major responsibility of being the missional witnesses Jesus calls us to be. At the beginning of Acts we hear Jesus’ ascension and Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” To witness, being witnesses, is the overarching word that defines and describes the Christian community’s purpose and function in Acts. This is not about the status quo but abut something much larger. This is not about doing the same old, same old, but allowing the Spirit to give us the courage and strength to try new things, to experience new ministries, to witness to people who have never encountered Scripture before.

Pentecost also points to the fact that a missional church is a radical new inclusive church. This community which Joel speaks about and which Peter says is realized is incredibly inclusive. It is gender inclusive, “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”, it is age inclusive, “the young and the old shall have visions and dreams.” And we know from the variety of witnesses to this event that it is ethnically inclusive. It makes me wonder in what other ways we can be an inclusive community.

It also makes me realize that Pentecost is not a once and done event. Ok, perhaps the wind and flames are, but the work of the apostles, the work of the early church and the work of the Spirit is not complete. We are at a crossroads in which we can discover that it is not about lamenting that the good old days or the golden age of the church is past, because if we are honest about our retrospective we will see that the legacy of the church has not always been a good one, but instead we can look to the possibilities of a pentecostal future (and I mean that it the most Presbyterian of ways). We can discover that the Holy Spirit enables us to proclaim the gospel in places and ways that Christendom never could. It’s time for a new phrase, Keep calm, sure, but Witness On because the spirit empowers us to do ministry and serve in missional ways not only to those within our walls but also beyond them. Amen 

An Epic Hike

Bible Text: John 14:1-14 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 

It is likely no surprise that we, Mike and I, like hiking or going for walks. Some of you have picked up on this and have shared with us your favourite walks or given us suggestions and we appreciate them all. There is something about the smell of the trees and dirt, something about the sounds of the birds or flowing water, something about just being outside, rain or shine in God’s creation. Likely this love of walking among the woods started at a very young age when our family would head out of Sunday afternoons and hit trails along the Niagara Escarpment. However, I am also someone who likes order and certainly likes to know where I am going. If the trail is not well worn or clearly marked I can panic. Or, if there is a trail that heads off in one direction that was not on the map my anxiety level can rise. Mike has adjusted to this behaviour and now has started taking a picture of the map at the trail-head with his cell phone so that we can consult it when we inevitably have a debate about which direction to head next. The idea of being lost in the woods terrifies me. And there is a reality about the woods in these here parts in particular. I learned in girl guides to be prepared and for that reason I usually walk in the woods with a cougar stick and bear bell. The last thing I want is to be surprised by any one of the wildly wonderful creatures lurking in the forest. I recently had a conversation about the West Coast Trail. The thing is, when I read that one of the most infamous portions of the trail are the 200 feet of ladders up and down both sides of Cullite creek, or that Parks Canada warns all hikers that the trail is strenuous and difficult and beginner or novice hikers should not attempt it or on the official website it states that the trail is not without personal risk and it has the reputation as the most grueling trek in North America. Oh yeah and that hikers can expect to have to wade across some rivers and creeks and always be on the look out for cougars, bears, or wolves, I tend to wonder why any one would hike it. Although I definitely commend the many hikers who have taken this trail and I am sure there are beautiful spots that make it all worth it but for the record, that is not my idea of a good Sunday afternoon trail. Give me the boardwalk trail of Paradise meadows or any of the well marked trails throughout this region over that any day.

It is for these reasons that I feel for Thomas and Philip. I know exactly what it is like to feel lost or confused about which way to go. As I mentioned this chapter is part of a larger conversation referred to as Jesus’ farewell discourse. This particular passage opens up with Jesus attempting to reassure his disciples. However, it seems to do the exact opposite. Instead of the disciples feeling like they are on the right course there is an unmarked trail that confuses their sense of direction. Jesus has washed their feet and commanded the disciples to love and serve one another. He has also foretold of his betrayal by Judas and the denial of Peter. No wonder they are upset and confused. How can they trust one another let alone love on another knowing that all these betrayals and denials are lurking in the background, hiding in the woods.

It is after all these predictions that Jesus tells his disciples not to worry. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, Believe in God, believe also in me.” Some translations, like the NRSV use the term believe, while others use the word trust. I tend to lean toward the term trust because it seems to evoke a deep relationship while the term believe is often used as a superficial catch phrase. With regards to the Greek either word trust or believe is appropriate. But let’s imagine Jesus says, “Trust God and trust me.” I hear this as an imperative-Jesus is commanding the disciples to trust even to keep trusting in him. Do not let your hearts be troubled, continue to do what you are doing, trust in God and trust in me and things will work out. This line is often used in funeral services and rightly so, we are most often troubled or hurting when we are faced with the mystery of life and death. Jesus’ attempt to reassure and give comfort to the disciples gives us assurance and comfort in the face of unknown. These are words of comfort and hope, promise and plain speech and there is little mincing of words as to what’s soon to take place.

Jesus’ farewell words to his disciples in this conversation anticipate the events that lie ahead, the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is also important to note that it also assumes the ascension. The resurrection is not the end of the story. Jesus is trying to tell the disciples that the not only is the crucifixion going to happen but to wait and see for the resurrection followed by the ascension.

Despite Jesus’ efforts the disciples seem to be particularly agitated about Jesus promise regarding a place. Jesus says, “There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home and I will show you the way. In fact I’ll be sure to come and get you.” Jesus is not describing resurrected life but ascended life with God. Both Thomas and Philip have a moment of panic. Thomas says “But Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How can you expect us to know the way?” Thomas flat out says-we don’t know where the trail-head is, how will we be able to spot the trail when we don’t know what we’re looking for? Philip adds to the conversation. “Not only do we not know where we are going but we don’t even know what the Father looks like.” The anxiety about being left alone is clouding their vision, their perception, their hearts, their ability to understand the words of hope that Jesus is trying to share. Their panic is only causing them to be more lost. Instead of seeing the well beaten trail they only see the overgrown forest.

If they were listening with calm hearts and open minds they would hear the good news that Jesus is the road. Jesus is the trail-head. Jesus is the way. To see Jesus is to see the Father. And they, more than any others have seen Jesus’ face, heard his voice, and more importantly, have seen what he did, his works and his ministry. To know Jesus is to know the Father. Our own anxieties and fears can confuse us, cloud our vision and distort our perceptions. We can not see the trail for the panic of getting lost.

Certainly fear can close our ears and hearts to words of hope. It is particularly difficult to hear words of assurance when we have had heartfelt prayers that have gone unanswered, when our hearts are broken and our trust has been shattered. Jesus after all continues to tell the disciples that if they really mean it, if they pray with honesty and truth, that those desires will be fulfilled. Instead of seeing a clear answer or the way, we can get angry or frustrated, and understandably our faith is challenged. But what Jesus is saying is that there is room in this relationship for honest acknowledgement of our confusion, our lack of power or control, our frustration when our requests seemingly go unheard. In all those experiences we are called to continue to trust and abide, believe, in the most authentic way, in Jesus.

We all struggle with the feeling that God is absent from our world. That instead of hope we have hopelessness, instead of peace we have war-often carried out in the name of God. Instead of contentment we have the trauma of grief. But this discourse between Jesus and the disciples reminds us that God is not absent nor are we waiting for God’s presence but rather that God is here. God has come. When Jesus says I AM the way we realize that God is present in the life and ministry of Jesus. God is at work. We may not have the luxury of seeing the physical Jesus or hearing his voice and know that it is the face of God, but in his commandment to love one another we are encouraged to look at the faces before us and see Jesus in them. Jesus is pointing to the trail and saying, you don’t have to worry about where its headed, you don’t have to worry about getting lost, you don’t have to worry about what’s lurking in the trees. Do not let your worry get in the way of your life. Do not let the confusion or concern, the panic or the upset cloud your vision. Instead come and follow me because it is the best hike you will ever walk. Amen

 

 

May 18, 2014

Bible Text: John 14:1-14 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 

It is likely no surprise that we, Mike and I, like hiking or going for walks. Some of you have picked up on this and have shared with us your favourite walks or given us suggestions and we appreciate them all. There is something about the smell of the trees and dirt, something about the sounds of the birds or flowing water, something about just being outside, rain or shine in God's creation. Likely this love of walking among the woods started at a very young age when our family would head out of Sunday afternoons and hit trails along the Niagara Escarpment. However, I am also someone who likes order and certainly likes to know where I am going. If the trail is not well worn or clearly marked I can panic. Or, if there is a trail that heads off in one direction that was not on the map my anxiety level can rise. Mike has adjusted to this behaviour and now has started taking a picture of the map at the trail-head with his cell phone so that we can consult it when we inevitably have a debate about which direction to head next. The idea of being lost in the woods terrifies me. And there is a reality about the woods in these here parts in particular. I learned in girl guides to be prepared and for that reason I usually walk in the woods with a cougar stick and bear bell. The last thing I want is to be surprised by any one of the wildly wonderful creatures lurking in the forest. I recently had a conversation about the West Coast Trail. The thing is, when I read that one of the most infamous portions of the trail are the 200 feet of ladders up and down both sides of Cullite creek, or that Parks Canada warns all hikers that the trail is strenuous and difficult and beginner or novice hikers should not attempt it or on the official website it states that the trail is not without personal risk and it has the reputation as the most grueling trek in North America. Oh yeah and that hikers can expect to have to wade across some rivers and creeks and always be on the look out for cougars, bears, or wolves, I tend to wonder why any one would hike it. Although I definitely commend the many hikers who have taken this trail and I am sure there are beautiful spots that make it all worth it but for the record, that is not my idea of a good Sunday afternoon trail. Give me the boardwalk trail of Paradise meadows or any of the well marked trails throughout this region over that any day.

It is for these reasons that I feel for Thomas and Philip. I know exactly what it is like to feel lost or confused about which way to go. As I mentioned this chapter is part of a larger conversation referred to as Jesus' farewell discourse. This particular passage opens up with Jesus attempting to reassure his disciples. However, it seems to do the exact opposite. Instead of the disciples feeling like they are on the right course there is an unmarked trail that confuses their sense of direction. Jesus has washed their feet and commanded the disciples to love and serve one another. He has also foretold of his betrayal by Judas and the denial of Peter. No wonder they are upset and confused. How can they trust one another let alone love on another knowing that all these betrayals and denials are lurking in the background, hiding in the woods.

It is after all these predictions that Jesus tells his disciples not to worry. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, Believe in God, believe also in me.” Some translations, like the NRSV use the term believe, while others use the word trust. I tend to lean toward the term trust because it seems to evoke a deep relationship while the term believe is often used as a superficial catch phrase. With regards to the Greek either word trust or believe is appropriate. But let's imagine Jesus says, “Trust God and trust me.” I hear this as an imperative-Jesus is commanding the disciples to trust even to keep trusting in him. Do not let your hearts be troubled, continue to do what you are doing, trust in God and trust in me and things will work out. This line is often used in funeral services and rightly so, we are most often troubled or hurting when we are faced with the mystery of life and death. Jesus' attempt to reassure and give comfort to the disciples gives us assurance and comfort in the face of unknown. These are words of comfort and hope, promise and plain speech and there is little mincing of words as to what's soon to take place.

Jesus' farewell words to his disciples in this conversation anticipate the events that lie ahead, the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is also important to note that it also assumes the ascension. The resurrection is not the end of the story. Jesus is trying to tell the disciples that the not only is the crucifixion going to happen but to wait and see for the resurrection followed by the ascension.

Despite Jesus' efforts the disciples seem to be particularly agitated about Jesus promise regarding a place. Jesus says, “There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home and I will show you the way. In fact I'll be sure to come and get you.” Jesus is not describing resurrected life but ascended life with God. Both Thomas and Philip have a moment of panic. Thomas says “But Master, we have no idea where you're going. How can you expect us to know the way?” Thomas flat out says-we don't know where the trail-head is, how will we be able to spot the trail when we don't know what we're looking for? Philip adds to the conversation. “Not only do we not know where we are going but we don't even know what the Father looks like.” The anxiety about being left alone is clouding their vision, their perception, their hearts, their ability to understand the words of hope that Jesus is trying to share. Their panic is only causing them to be more lost. Instead of seeing the well beaten trail they only see the overgrown forest.

If they were listening with calm hearts and open minds they would hear the good news that Jesus is the road. Jesus is the trail-head. Jesus is the way. To see Jesus is to see the Father. And they, more than any others have seen Jesus' face, heard his voice, and more importantly, have seen what he did, his works and his ministry. To know Jesus is to know the Father. Our own anxieties and fears can confuse us, cloud our vision and distort our perceptions. We can not see the trail for the panic of getting lost.

Certainly fear can close our ears and hearts to words of hope. It is particularly difficult to hear words of assurance when we have had heartfelt prayers that have gone unanswered, when our hearts are broken and our trust has been shattered. Jesus after all continues to tell the disciples that if they really mean it, if they pray with honesty and truth, that those desires will be fulfilled. Instead of seeing a clear answer or the way, we can get angry or frustrated, and understandably our faith is challenged. But what Jesus is saying is that there is room in this relationship for honest acknowledgement of our confusion, our lack of power or control, our frustration when our requests seemingly go unheard. In all those experiences we are called to continue to trust and abide, believe, in the most authentic way, in Jesus.

We all struggle with the feeling that God is absent from our world. That instead of hope we have hopelessness, instead of peace we have war-often carried out in the name of God. Instead of contentment we have the trauma of grief. But this discourse between Jesus and the disciples reminds us that God is not absent nor are we waiting for God's presence but rather that God is here. God has come. When Jesus says I AM the way we realize that God is present in the life and ministry of Jesus. God is at work. We may not have the luxury of seeing the physical Jesus or hearing his voice and know that it is the face of God, but in his commandment to love one another we are encouraged to look at the faces before us and see Jesus in them. Jesus is pointing to the trail and saying, you don't have to worry about where its headed, you don't have to worry about getting lost, you don't have to worry about what's lurking in the trees. Do not let your worry get in the way of your life. Do not let the confusion or concern, the panic or the upset cloud your vision. Instead come and follow me because it is the best hike you will ever walk. Amen

 

 

Bible Text: John 14:1-14 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 

It is likely no surprise that we, Mike and I, like hiking or going for walks. Some of you have picked up on this and have shared with us your favourite walks or given us suggestions and we appreciate them all. There is something about the smell of the trees and dirt, something about the sounds of the birds or flowing water, something about just being outside, rain or shine in God’s creation. Likely this love of walking among the woods started at a very young age when our family would head out of Sunday afternoons and hit trails along the Niagara Escarpment. However, I am also someone who likes order and certainly likes to know where I am going. If the trail is not well worn or clearly marked I can panic. Or, if there is a trail that heads off in one direction that was not on the map my anxiety level can rise. Mike has adjusted to this behaviour and now has started taking a picture of the map at the trail-head with his cell phone so that we can consult it when we inevitably have a debate about which direction to head next. The idea of being lost in the woods terrifies me. And there is a reality about the woods in these here parts in particular. I learned in girl guides to be prepared and for that reason I usually walk in the woods with a cougar stick and bear bell. The last thing I want is to be surprised by any one of the wildly wonderful creatures lurking in the forest. I recently had a conversation about the West Coast Trail. The thing is, when I read that one of the most infamous portions of the trail are the 200 feet of ladders up and down both sides of Cullite creek, or that Parks Canada warns all hikers that the trail is strenuous and difficult and beginner or novice hikers should not attempt it or on the official website it states that the trail is not without personal risk and it has the reputation as the most grueling trek in North America. Oh yeah and that hikers can expect to have to wade across some rivers and creeks and always be on the look out for cougars, bears, or wolves, I tend to wonder why any one would hike it. Although I definitely commend the many hikers who have taken this trail and I am sure there are beautiful spots that make it all worth it but for the record, that is not my idea of a good Sunday afternoon trail. Give me the boardwalk trail of Paradise meadows or any of the well marked trails throughout this region over that any day.

It is for these reasons that I feel for Thomas and Philip. I know exactly what it is like to feel lost or confused about which way to go. As I mentioned this chapter is part of a larger conversation referred to as Jesus’ farewell discourse. This particular passage opens up with Jesus attempting to reassure his disciples. However, it seems to do the exact opposite. Instead of the disciples feeling like they are on the right course there is an unmarked trail that confuses their sense of direction. Jesus has washed their feet and commanded the disciples to love and serve one another. He has also foretold of his betrayal by Judas and the denial of Peter. No wonder they are upset and confused. How can they trust one another let alone love on another knowing that all these betrayals and denials are lurking in the background, hiding in the woods.

It is after all these predictions that Jesus tells his disciples not to worry. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, Believe in God, believe also in me.” Some translations, like the NRSV use the term believe, while others use the word trust. I tend to lean toward the term trust because it seems to evoke a deep relationship while the term believe is often used as a superficial catch phrase. With regards to the Greek either word trust or believe is appropriate. But let’s imagine Jesus says, “Trust God and trust me.” I hear this as an imperative-Jesus is commanding the disciples to trust even to keep trusting in him. Do not let your hearts be troubled, continue to do what you are doing, trust in God and trust in me and things will work out. This line is often used in funeral services and rightly so, we are most often troubled or hurting when we are faced with the mystery of life and death. Jesus’ attempt to reassure and give comfort to the disciples gives us assurance and comfort in the face of unknown. These are words of comfort and hope, promise and plain speech and there is little mincing of words as to what’s soon to take place.

Jesus’ farewell words to his disciples in this conversation anticipate the events that lie ahead, the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is also important to note that it also assumes the ascension. The resurrection is not the end of the story. Jesus is trying to tell the disciples that the not only is the crucifixion going to happen but to wait and see for the resurrection followed by the ascension.

Despite Jesus’ efforts the disciples seem to be particularly agitated about Jesus promise regarding a place. Jesus says, “There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home and I will show you the way. In fact I’ll be sure to come and get you.” Jesus is not describing resurrected life but ascended life with God. Both Thomas and Philip have a moment of panic. Thomas says “But Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How can you expect us to know the way?” Thomas flat out says-we don’t know where the trail-head is, how will we be able to spot the trail when we don’t know what we’re looking for? Philip adds to the conversation. “Not only do we not know where we are going but we don’t even know what the Father looks like.” The anxiety about being left alone is clouding their vision, their perception, their hearts, their ability to understand the words of hope that Jesus is trying to share. Their panic is only causing them to be more lost. Instead of seeing the well beaten trail they only see the overgrown forest.

If they were listening with calm hearts and open minds they would hear the good news that Jesus is the road. Jesus is the trail-head. Jesus is the way. To see Jesus is to see the Father. And they, more than any others have seen Jesus’ face, heard his voice, and more importantly, have seen what he did, his works and his ministry. To know Jesus is to know the Father. Our own anxieties and fears can confuse us, cloud our vision and distort our perceptions. We can not see the trail for the panic of getting lost.

Certainly fear can close our ears and hearts to words of hope. It is particularly difficult to hear words of assurance when we have had heartfelt prayers that have gone unanswered, when our hearts are broken and our trust has been shattered. Jesus after all continues to tell the disciples that if they really mean it, if they pray with honesty and truth, that those desires will be fulfilled. Instead of seeing a clear answer or the way, we can get angry or frustrated, and understandably our faith is challenged. But what Jesus is saying is that there is room in this relationship for honest acknowledgement of our confusion, our lack of power or control, our frustration when our requests seemingly go unheard. In all those experiences we are called to continue to trust and abide, believe, in the most authentic way, in Jesus.

We all struggle with the feeling that God is absent from our world. That instead of hope we have hopelessness, instead of peace we have war-often carried out in the name of God. Instead of contentment we have the trauma of grief. But this discourse between Jesus and the disciples reminds us that God is not absent nor are we waiting for God’s presence but rather that God is here. God has come. When Jesus says I AM the way we realize that God is present in the life and ministry of Jesus. God is at work. We may not have the luxury of seeing the physical Jesus or hearing his voice and know that it is the face of God, but in his commandment to love one another we are encouraged to look at the faces before us and see Jesus in them. Jesus is pointing to the trail and saying, you don’t have to worry about where its headed, you don’t have to worry about getting lost, you don’t have to worry about what’s lurking in the trees. Do not let your worry get in the way of your life. Do not let the confusion or concern, the panic or the upset cloud your vision. Instead come and follow me because it is the best hike you will ever walk. Amen

 

 

You’re Going The Wrong Way!

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Today’s Gospel reminded me of a scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Steve Martin and John Candy. The bumbling salesman played by John Candy is in the car with the put together white collar business man played by Steve Martin. John Candy sees what he thinks is an on ramp to the highway, completely missing the do not enter and one way signs. As they are driving on the ramp, toward on coming traffic a car beside them tries to tell them to turn around. Which John Candy mistakenly understands as an invitation to drag race. The driver yells out, “Your going the wrong way!” to which John Candy says, “How would he know where we’re going?” At which point there is a nerve wrecking scene with the car just making it between to transport trucks. I often wonder if Jesus ever wanted to yell out to his disciples. “Hey! You’re going the wrong way!”

Two of the disciples are leaving Jerusalem and heading toward the small hamlet of Emmaus. Are they leaving Jerusalem because they too are afraid of the Jewish leadership, as we heard last week, or is it because, with Jesus gone, there is no point for them to remain in the Holy City, despite Jesus requesting that they remain there. We know one of them as Cleopas. The other disciple remains unnamed. Some commentaries argue that it is one of the twelve disciples, others say it is Cleopas’ wife-which only makes sense if they are heading back home. I like to believe the other disciple remains unnamed so that it is everyone of us. The disciples are deep in conversation, going over all that had happened. Again, we find ourselves a few weeks away from Easter while the disciples are actually still living that one day. These disciples have heard that Mary believes Jesus to be alive and that Peter has confirmed that there is no body in the tomb. But as yet, they have not experienced Jesus’ resurrection for themselves and therefore are discussing the recent events. The Greek verb used implies not just a discussion but that they were examining evidence together while walking on the road away from Jerusalem.

Journeys, and no not the band but the act of travelling, are a major theme in Luke’s Gospel. The entire second half of Luke centres around Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The story of Emmaus reflects many themes in the Gospel. Luke begins by stating to Theophilus, the recipient of this Gospel, that Luke’s goal is for Theophilus to recognize the certainty about Jesus. The Greek term is epignosis. It is Luke’s desire for Theophilus to experience epignosis, a deep “AHA” moment. The kind of sight that is revelatory. It is also the term is used in describing what happens with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Epignosis opens the eyes of the disciples to recognize Jesus’ presence in their midst, walking alongside them on their journey. Even when they are going in the wrong direction. In a wonderful act of ministry and accompaniment, Jesus is wiling even to accompany the two disciples as they walk away from Jerusalem. If he accompanies the disciples in their walk in the wrong direction, how often is Jesus accompanying us in our walk.

In the middle of their walk and talk, in the middle of their debate, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But the disciples are unable to recognize who it is. This is certainly the case as we walk too. I don’t know how many times I have been on my walk and only too late do I realize Jesus was walking with me. But Jesus, nevertheless, does not give up on these disciples and stop walking with them. Instead He asks, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently?”

The disciples, feeling shame and grief are also surprised that this traveller has no idea what has occurred in Jerusalem. They see him as a transient sojourner, someone who clearly has not been up-to-date with the world. “Obviously sir, you have been living under a rock these three days. But let us explain why the long faces. The man we had hoped was the one to redeem Israel has died.” Again the Greek term and tense helps us understand what the disciples are truly feeling. The word is hlpizomen and it is in an imperfect tense meaning the disciples had once had hope in this man but that hope is now gone. We all have our “we had hoped” moments. We had hoped that the results would be better. We had hoped that the treatment would work. We had hoped that this was the last time. We had hoped that it would heal and things could be back to normal. Theologies of hope surround the Easter story but it is in this moment that we realize that there were deep moments of disappointment. A crucial hope has collapsed. I can pretend that the Easter story easily and automatically overcomes all disappointment but it doesn’t. What I can say is that we are all invited to lay our “we had hoped” moments at the foot of the cross, or in the bowl on the communion table and begin ever so slowly to connect our moments of disappointment into the larger journey of transformed hope. A hope that only comes through the long awaited “aha” moment. A moment that can happen even when we’re headed in the wrong direction.

Jesus, who at this time remains a stranger to the disciples, tells them they are fools. Not exactly the kind of support they were expecting. He does, however, provide them with an alternative way of regarding the events in Jerusalem. He places their story about Jesus’ death, his death, into the larger story of God’s action in the world, as recorded by the prophets and Scriptures. It was necessary for this to happen, for Christ to suffer and die, but it is not the end of the story. It is only in the second portion of this narrative, the meal, that the disciples have their epignosis, their aha moment, their recognition that this stranger is not a stranger at all but rather Jesus!

The Emmaus story is foundational for the church and for ministry. We are invited to recognize Jesus in the Scriptures- as we discuss and debate along this road and when we break bread together. Walking, bread braking, Scripture sharing are central to the recognition of God’s presence in our story. It reminds us to take time to walk with our neighbour and to be willing to greet the unexpected stranger.

This morning we welcome new members into our congregation. They are both the disciples who travel with us and Jesus in our midst. As the disciples walked together even as they headed in the wrong direction Jesus accompanied them. Today we all take the vow to accompany each other in this journey. We invite these new members to be our friends on the road, to stand with each other when we have our “we had hoped” moments, to pray with and for us in our daily living, to celebrate hopes realized and mourn with us when we face hopelessness and one never knows how or when Jesus will be revealed in those relationships. We come with our debates and doubts, all of us, but as we worship together we have the opportunity to encounter and recognize Christ.

 

May 4, 2014

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Today's Gospel reminded me of a scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Steve Martin and John Candy. The bumbling salesman played by John Candy is in the car with the put together white collar business man played by Steve Martin. John Candy sees what he thinks is an on ramp to the highway, completely missing the do not enter and one way signs. As they are driving on the ramp, toward on coming traffic a car beside them tries to tell them to turn around. Which John Candy mistakenly understands as an invitation to drag race. The driver yells out, “Your going the wrong way!” to which John Candy says, “How would he know where we're going?” At which point there is a nerve wrecking scene with the car just making it between to transport trucks. I often wonder if Jesus ever wanted to yell out to his disciples. “Hey! You're going the wrong way!”

Two of the disciples are leaving Jerusalem and heading toward the small hamlet of Emmaus. Are they leaving Jerusalem because they too are afraid of the Jewish leadership, as we heard last week, or is it because, with Jesus gone, there is no point for them to remain in the Holy City, despite Jesus requesting that they remain there. We know one of them as Cleopas. The other disciple remains unnamed. Some commentaries argue that it is one of the twelve disciples, others say it is Cleopas' wife-which only makes sense if they are heading back home. I like to believe the other disciple remains unnamed so that it is everyone of us. The disciples are deep in conversation, going over all that had happened. Again, we find ourselves a few weeks away from Easter while the disciples are actually still living that one day. These disciples have heard that Mary believes Jesus to be alive and that Peter has confirmed that there is no body in the tomb. But as yet, they have not experienced Jesus' resurrection for themselves and therefore are discussing the recent events. The Greek verb used implies not just a discussion but that they were examining evidence together while walking on the road away from Jerusalem.

Journeys, and no not the band but the act of travelling, are a major theme in Luke's Gospel. The entire second half of Luke centres around Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. The story of Emmaus reflects many themes in the Gospel. Luke begins by stating to Theophilus, the recipient of this Gospel, that Luke's goal is for Theophilus to recognize the certainty about Jesus. The Greek term is epignosis. It is Luke's desire for Theophilus to experience epignosis, a deep “AHA” moment. The kind of sight that is revelatory. It is also the term is used in describing what happens with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Epignosis opens the eyes of the disciples to recognize Jesus' presence in their midst, walking alongside them on their journey. Even when they are going in the wrong direction. In a wonderful act of ministry and accompaniment, Jesus is wiling even to accompany the two disciples as they walk away from Jerusalem. If he accompanies the disciples in their walk in the wrong direction, how often is Jesus accompanying us in our walk.

In the middle of their walk and talk, in the middle of their debate, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But the disciples are unable to recognize who it is. This is certainly the case as we walk too. I don't know how many times I have been on my walk and only too late do I realize Jesus was walking with me. But Jesus, nevertheless, does not give up on these disciples and stop walking with them. Instead He asks, “What's this you're discussing so intently?”

The disciples, feeling shame and grief are also surprised that this traveller has no idea what has occurred in Jerusalem. They see him as a transient sojourner, someone who clearly has not been up-to-date with the world. “Obviously sir, you have been living under a rock these three days. But let us explain why the long faces. The man we had hoped was the one to redeem Israel has died.” Again the Greek term and tense helps us understand what the disciples are truly feeling. The word is hlpizomen and it is in an imperfect tense meaning the disciples had once had hope in this man but that hope is now gone. We all have our “we had hoped” moments. We had hoped that the results would be better. We had hoped that the treatment would work. We had hoped that this was the last time. We had hoped that it would heal and things could be back to normal. Theologies of hope surround the Easter story but it is in this moment that we realize that there were deep moments of disappointment. A crucial hope has collapsed. I can pretend that the Easter story easily and automatically overcomes all disappointment but it doesn't. What I can say is that we are all invited to lay our “we had hoped” moments at the foot of the cross, or in the bowl on the communion table and begin ever so slowly to connect our moments of disappointment into the larger journey of transformed hope. A hope that only comes through the long awaited “aha” moment. A moment that can happen even when we're headed in the wrong direction.

Jesus, who at this time remains a stranger to the disciples, tells them they are fools. Not exactly the kind of support they were expecting. He does, however, provide them with an alternative way of regarding the events in Jerusalem. He places their story about Jesus' death, his death, into the larger story of God's action in the world, as recorded by the prophets and Scriptures. It was necessary for this to happen, for Christ to suffer and die, but it is not the end of the story. It is only in the second portion of this narrative, the meal, that the disciples have their epignosis, their aha moment, their recognition that this stranger is not a stranger at all but rather Jesus!

The Emmaus story is foundational for the church and for ministry. We are invited to recognize Jesus in the Scriptures- as we discuss and debate along this road and when we break bread together. Walking, bread braking, Scripture sharing are central to the recognition of God's presence in our story. It reminds us to take time to walk with our neighbour and to be willing to greet the unexpected stranger.

This morning we welcome new members into our congregation. They are both the disciples who travel with us and Jesus in our midst. As the disciples walked together even as they headed in the wrong direction Jesus accompanied them. Today we all take the vow to accompany each other in this journey. We invite these new members to be our friends on the road, to stand with each other when we have our “we had hoped” moments, to pray with and for us in our daily living, to celebrate hopes realized and mourn with us when we face hopelessness and one never knows how or when Jesus will be revealed in those relationships. We come with our debates and doubts, all of us, but as we worship together we have the opportunity to encounter and recognize Christ.

 

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Today’s Gospel reminded me of a scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Steve Martin and John Candy. The bumbling salesman played by John Candy is in the car with the put together white collar business man played by Steve Martin. John Candy sees what he thinks is an on ramp to the highway, completely missing the do not enter and one way signs. As they are driving on the ramp, toward on coming traffic a car beside them tries to tell them to turn around. Which John Candy mistakenly understands as an invitation to drag race. The driver yells out, “Your going the wrong way!” to which John Candy says, “How would he know where we’re going?” At which point there is a nerve wrecking scene with the car just making it between to transport trucks. I often wonder if Jesus ever wanted to yell out to his disciples. “Hey! You’re going the wrong way!”

Two of the disciples are leaving Jerusalem and heading toward the small hamlet of Emmaus. Are they leaving Jerusalem because they too are afraid of the Jewish leadership, as we heard last week, or is it because, with Jesus gone, there is no point for them to remain in the Holy City, despite Jesus requesting that they remain there. We know one of them as Cleopas. The other disciple remains unnamed. Some commentaries argue that it is one of the twelve disciples, others say it is Cleopas’ wife-which only makes sense if they are heading back home. I like to believe the other disciple remains unnamed so that it is everyone of us. The disciples are deep in conversation, going over all that had happened. Again, we find ourselves a few weeks away from Easter while the disciples are actually still living that one day. These disciples have heard that Mary believes Jesus to be alive and that Peter has confirmed that there is no body in the tomb. But as yet, they have not experienced Jesus’ resurrection for themselves and therefore are discussing the recent events. The Greek verb used implies not just a discussion but that they were examining evidence together while walking on the road away from Jerusalem.

Journeys, and no not the band but the act of travelling, are a major theme in Luke’s Gospel. The entire second half of Luke centres around Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The story of Emmaus reflects many themes in the Gospel. Luke begins by stating to Theophilus, the recipient of this Gospel, that Luke’s goal is for Theophilus to recognize the certainty about Jesus. The Greek term is epignosis. It is Luke’s desire for Theophilus to experience epignosis, a deep “AHA” moment. The kind of sight that is revelatory. It is also the term is used in describing what happens with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Epignosis opens the eyes of the disciples to recognize Jesus’ presence in their midst, walking alongside them on their journey. Even when they are going in the wrong direction. In a wonderful act of ministry and accompaniment, Jesus is wiling even to accompany the two disciples as they walk away from Jerusalem. If he accompanies the disciples in their walk in the wrong direction, how often is Jesus accompanying us in our walk.

In the middle of their walk and talk, in the middle of their debate, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But the disciples are unable to recognize who it is. This is certainly the case as we walk too. I don’t know how many times I have been on my walk and only too late do I realize Jesus was walking with me. But Jesus, nevertheless, does not give up on these disciples and stop walking with them. Instead He asks, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently?”

The disciples, feeling shame and grief are also surprised that this traveller has no idea what has occurred in Jerusalem. They see him as a transient sojourner, someone who clearly has not been up-to-date with the world. “Obviously sir, you have been living under a rock these three days. But let us explain why the long faces. The man we had hoped was the one to redeem Israel has died.” Again the Greek term and tense helps us understand what the disciples are truly feeling. The word is hlpizomen and it is in an imperfect tense meaning the disciples had once had hope in this man but that hope is now gone. We all have our “we had hoped” moments. We had hoped that the results would be better. We had hoped that the treatment would work. We had hoped that this was the last time. We had hoped that it would heal and things could be back to normal. Theologies of hope surround the Easter story but it is in this moment that we realize that there were deep moments of disappointment. A crucial hope has collapsed. I can pretend that the Easter story easily and automatically overcomes all disappointment but it doesn’t. What I can say is that we are all invited to lay our “we had hoped” moments at the foot of the cross, or in the bowl on the communion table and begin ever so slowly to connect our moments of disappointment into the larger journey of transformed hope. A hope that only comes through the long awaited “aha” moment. A moment that can happen even when we’re headed in the wrong direction.

Jesus, who at this time remains a stranger to the disciples, tells them they are fools. Not exactly the kind of support they were expecting. He does, however, provide them with an alternative way of regarding the events in Jerusalem. He places their story about Jesus’ death, his death, into the larger story of God’s action in the world, as recorded by the prophets and Scriptures. It was necessary for this to happen, for Christ to suffer and die, but it is not the end of the story. It is only in the second portion of this narrative, the meal, that the disciples have their epignosis, their aha moment, their recognition that this stranger is not a stranger at all but rather Jesus!

The Emmaus story is foundational for the church and for ministry. We are invited to recognize Jesus in the Scriptures- as we discuss and debate along this road and when we break bread together. Walking, bread braking, Scripture sharing are central to the recognition of God’s presence in our story. It reminds us to take time to walk with our neighbour and to be willing to greet the unexpected stranger.

This morning we welcome new members into our congregation. They are both the disciples who travel with us and Jesus in our midst. As the disciples walked together even as they headed in the wrong direction Jesus accompanied them. Today we all take the vow to accompany each other in this journey. We invite these new members to be our friends on the road, to stand with each other when we have our “we had hoped” moments, to pray with and for us in our daily living, to celebrate hopes realized and mourn with us when we face hopelessness and one never knows how or when Jesus will be revealed in those relationships. We come with our debates and doubts, all of us, but as we worship together we have the opportunity to encounter and recognize Christ.