The Five Plus One Senses of Easter

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 This morning is a five sense morning, and that’s s-e-n-s-e not c-e-n-t-s. Our five senses come alive when we hear this familiar story and go through the familiar motions. We have the smells of spring, sweet smelling flowers and dew on the grass, the sights of familiar symbols, the empty cross and tomb, the rock rolled away, the messenger sitting beside it. We hear the message, the words “Do not be afraid for He is risen”. We taste the hot crossed buns, donuts, and remember Easter dinners. And we feel. We feel the joy, the confusion, the relief and the possibilities. This is Easter morning. This is the Easter story.

What a morning it must have been that very first morning. Certainly the women we hear about in Matthew’s version had a five senses morning. To start off emotionally they would have been heartbroken, grieving and hurt. The morning did not start off as we often start it, with joy and tribulation, but instead with pain filled emotion. The one whom they followed, the one who changed their lives, the one who promised a change in the world was now lying in a tomb. They were feeling sadness and despair.

We hear that they have come to see the tomb. The original Greek word was theorasai, which means to watch, to observe or to hold a vigil. The women were coming with incense and spices to lay around the body, the smell of oil wafted from the jar as they walked. They were coming to sit and watch, to see their Lord, their rabbi wrapped in a burial cloth. They were coming to hold vigil to pray, and hear the prayers of each other. They were tasting the bitter flavour of loneliness that comes from losing someone they love. These senses are not the ones we associate with Easter but they were the ones the women had anticipated.

Things changed in one single sudden moment. The word “suddenly” is repeated in our passage. Sometimes this is what our life with God is like, sudden changes amidst the norm. Sudden moments of revelation. Suddenly God is made visible through acts of grace, or forgiveness, or joy even sorrow. As the women approached the tomb they suddenly felt a great earthquake. They felt the message of Easter before the heard or saw a thing. Isn’t that true for us too sometimes- we often will feel something, particularly feel emotion before anything else. God often works in our lives in the same manner. Providing us with a feeling before all else, sometimes shaking our very foundations in new and awesome ways. Some times we cannot meet Jesus without being shaken. They women feel the message- a great seismos that shakes their foundations. How true that is- the very thoughts they have about this morning, the very plans they have for how it will turn out are going to be turned upside down.

Suddenly, they see a message. To them the angel looks like lightning-something that is bright, blinding, and frighteningly powerful. The angel is strong enough to roll back the stone and certainly frightening enough to scare the soldiers- they are literally scared stiff, unable to move, unable to run, unable to shout out. What a sight it would have been, two women expecting one thing and suddenly experiencing something that causes the strong guards to tremble.

Then they hear the message, “Do not be afraid. Jesus is not here. He has been raised, just as he said.” The angel invites these women to see for themselves that no body is there. What a message to hear. What the angel says is not a command, do not be afraid, but rather a comforting assurance. There is nothing to fear, you need not fear. This calming voice comes from an authority who speaks with power that is beyond this world- and that can be frightening- but with no need to fear, we have an opportunity to serve. It is now that the messenger gives a command, “Go quickly, and tell his disciples.” The women are likely still afraid, courage is not about throwing caution to the wind, but rather action despite danger. Their fear though, now also contains joy. The good news of Jesus’ resurrection has been announced. The command now,is given to go and spread the word. The women obviously fulfilled this command. Matthew’s version is about the first announcement in what was to become a continuous chain of announcements, with one messenger repeating the message to the next, down through the ages that, “He is not in the tomb. He has been raised.” Upon hearing these words, I imagine the women dropped their spices and jars of oil and ran. The smell of this unused oil released out into the air.

If you were able to attend our Sonrise service, you know that taste is part of this story too. That Jesus offered food soon after his resurrection. We know from other gospel accounts that sometimes it took Jesus breaking bread with the disciples for them to even recognize him. Taste and see that the Lord, our God, is good, is risen, is alive in every moment we commune over a meal. Although the sense of taste is not so much a part of the womens’ experience, it is a part of the story.

It is hard for any of us to imagine how the women felt. Even the gospel writers struggle. The Gospel of John ends by saying that all the books in the world could not fully describe all the signs that Jesus did. In a similar vein, our Gospel this morning, simply announces. He has been raised. The resurrection of Jesus is announced, not explained. I think, in many ways this is due to the fact that words are not enough to explain it. For these faithful women, the significance of the angel’s message is emotional and they come to a major realization, Jesus, the one whom they’ve followed these last three years is indeed the Messiah. The resurrection of Jesus is the heart of the Christian gospel. Everything changes with the announcement that “he is not here.” Words can not describe how those women must have felt.

Upon witnessing, feeling, seeing and hearing the angel and the angel’s message the women leave quickly with fear and great joy, those are the mixed emotions I’ve been talking about and while they are running with all these senses pulsing through their body they run into Jesus. The first words out of his mouth are, “Greetings!”

At that moment whatever fear and joy, and whatever other emotions the women were feeling, however fast they were running, whatever senses they were experiencing, everything stops. In elation they fall to their knees, grab hold of Jesus’ feet and worship. The women display exactly what all of us in a post-resurrection moment need to do. To stop, whatever is racing through our minds, to stop are usual motions of daily activities, to stop and come together in worship. Their reaction is the response we should have all have . Which brings me to the sixth sense, and I’m not talking about some ethereal sense- some supernatural or prophetic sense but the sense of faith.

Donald Juel says of the Easter story, “None of the Gospels can really end the story of Jesus. The whole point is that it continues- and its significance continues….Jesus is full of surprises. The world’s uneasiness in the presence of Jesus is fully justified. He will not be found by tradition that defines human life; even death has no final power over him. The end only marks a new beginning- a beginning of the good news that Jesus becomes our source of life.”

Jesus is not bound by the end of the chapters in the Gospels. There is no “the end” that finishes this Easter experience. Instead our sense of faith, continues with Jesus into the future. A future that God has in store for creation, for us. We walk by faith not by sight, touch, sound, smell or taste. We have faith in God, that we are included in this story. We can only trust that God will one day finish this story with hope, promise and joy.

Amen

April 20, 2014

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 This morning is a five sense morning, and that's s-e-n-s-e not c-e-n-t-s. Our five senses come alive when we hear this familiar story and go through the familiar motions. We have the smells of spring, sweet smelling flowers and dew on the grass, the sights of familiar symbols, the empty cross and tomb, the rock rolled away, the messenger sitting beside it. We hear the message, the words “Do not be afraid for He is risen”. We taste the hot crossed buns, donuts, and remember Easter dinners. And we feel. We feel the joy, the confusion, the relief and the possibilities. This is Easter morning. This is the Easter story.

What a morning it must have been that very first morning. Certainly the women we hear about in Matthew's version had a five senses morning. To start off emotionally they would have been heartbroken, grieving and hurt. The morning did not start off as we often start it, with joy and tribulation, but instead with pain filled emotion. The one whom they followed, the one who changed their lives, the one who promised a change in the world was now lying in a tomb. They were feeling sadness and despair.

We hear that they have come to see the tomb. The original Greek word was theorasai, which means to watch, to observe or to hold a vigil. The women were coming with incense and spices to lay around the body, the smell of oil wafted from the jar as they walked. They were coming to sit and watch, to see their Lord, their rabbi wrapped in a burial cloth. They were coming to hold vigil to pray, and hear the prayers of each other. They were tasting the bitter flavour of loneliness that comes from losing someone they love. These senses are not the ones we associate with Easter but they were the ones the women had anticipated.

Things changed in one single sudden moment. The word “suddenly” is repeated in our passage. Sometimes this is what our life with God is like, sudden changes amidst the norm. Sudden moments of revelation. Suddenly God is made visible through acts of grace, or forgiveness, or joy even sorrow. As the women approached the tomb they suddenly felt a great earthquake. They felt the message of Easter before the heard or saw a thing. Isn't that true for us too sometimes- we often will feel something, particularly feel emotion before anything else. God often works in our lives in the same manner. Providing us with a feeling before all else, sometimes shaking our very foundations in new and awesome ways. Some times we cannot meet Jesus without being shaken. They women feel the message- a great seismos that shakes their foundations. How true that is- the very thoughts they have about this morning, the very plans they have for how it will turn out are going to be turned upside down.

Suddenly, they see a message. To them the angel looks like lightning-something that is bright, blinding, and frighteningly powerful. The angel is strong enough to roll back the stone and certainly frightening enough to scare the soldiers- they are literally scared stiff, unable to move, unable to run, unable to shout out. What a sight it would have been, two women expecting one thing and suddenly experiencing something that causes the strong guards to tremble.

Then they hear the message, “Do not be afraid. Jesus is not here. He has been raised, just as he said.” The angel invites these women to see for themselves that no body is there. What a message to hear. What the angel says is not a command, do not be afraid, but rather a comforting assurance. There is nothing to fear, you need not fear. This calming voice comes from an authority who speaks with power that is beyond this world- and that can be frightening- but with no need to fear, we have an opportunity to serve. It is now that the messenger gives a command, “Go quickly, and tell his disciples.” The women are likely still afraid, courage is not about throwing caution to the wind, but rather action despite danger. Their fear though, now also contains joy. The good news of Jesus' resurrection has been announced. The command now,is given to go and spread the word. The women obviously fulfilled this command. Matthew's version is about the first announcement in what was to become a continuous chain of announcements, with one messenger repeating the message to the next, down through the ages that, “He is not in the tomb. He has been raised.” Upon hearing these words, I imagine the women dropped their spices and jars of oil and ran. The smell of this unused oil released out into the air.

If you were able to attend our Sonrise service, you know that taste is part of this story too. That Jesus offered food soon after his resurrection. We know from other gospel accounts that sometimes it took Jesus breaking bread with the disciples for them to even recognize him. Taste and see that the Lord, our God, is good, is risen, is alive in every moment we commune over a meal. Although the sense of taste is not so much a part of the womens' experience, it is a part of the story.

It is hard for any of us to imagine how the women felt. Even the gospel writers struggle. The Gospel of John ends by saying that all the books in the world could not fully describe all the signs that Jesus did. In a similar vein, our Gospel this morning, simply announces. He has been raised. The resurrection of Jesus is announced, not explained. I think, in many ways this is due to the fact that words are not enough to explain it. For these faithful women, the significance of the angel's message is emotional and they come to a major realization, Jesus, the one whom they've followed these last three years is indeed the Messiah. The resurrection of Jesus is the heart of the Christian gospel. Everything changes with the announcement that “he is not here.” Words can not describe how those women must have felt.

Upon witnessing, feeling, seeing and hearing the angel and the angel's message the women leave quickly with fear and great joy, those are the mixed emotions I've been talking about and while they are running with all these senses pulsing through their body they run into Jesus. The first words out of his mouth are, “Greetings!”

At that moment whatever fear and joy, and whatever other emotions the women were feeling, however fast they were running, whatever senses they were experiencing, everything stops. In elation they fall to their knees, grab hold of Jesus' feet and worship. The women display exactly what all of us in a post-resurrection moment need to do. To stop, whatever is racing through our minds, to stop are usual motions of daily activities, to stop and come together in worship. Their reaction is the response we should have all have . Which brings me to the sixth sense, and I'm not talking about some ethereal sense- some supernatural or prophetic sense but the sense of faith.

Donald Juel says of the Easter story, “None of the Gospels can really end the story of Jesus. The whole point is that it continues- and its significance continues....Jesus is full of surprises. The world's uneasiness in the presence of Jesus is fully justified. He will not be found by tradition that defines human life; even death has no final power over him. The end only marks a new beginning- a beginning of the good news that Jesus becomes our source of life.”

Jesus is not bound by the end of the chapters in the Gospels. There is no “the end” that finishes this Easter experience. Instead our sense of faith, continues with Jesus into the future. A future that God has in store for creation, for us. We walk by faith not by sight, touch, sound, smell or taste. We have faith in God, that we are included in this story. We can only trust that God will one day finish this story with hope, promise and joy.

Amen

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

 This morning is a five sense morning, and that’s s-e-n-s-e not c-e-n-t-s. Our five senses come alive when we hear this familiar story and go through the familiar motions. We have the smells of spring, sweet smelling flowers and dew on the grass, the sights of familiar symbols, the empty cross and tomb, the rock rolled away, the messenger sitting beside it. We hear the message, the words “Do not be afraid for He is risen”. We taste the hot crossed buns, donuts, and remember Easter dinners. And we feel. We feel the joy, the confusion, the relief and the possibilities. This is Easter morning. This is the Easter story.

What a morning it must have been that very first morning. Certainly the women we hear about in Matthew’s version had a five senses morning. To start off emotionally they would have been heartbroken, grieving and hurt. The morning did not start off as we often start it, with joy and tribulation, but instead with pain filled emotion. The one whom they followed, the one who changed their lives, the one who promised a change in the world was now lying in a tomb. They were feeling sadness and despair.

We hear that they have come to see the tomb. The original Greek word was theorasai, which means to watch, to observe or to hold a vigil. The women were coming with incense and spices to lay around the body, the smell of oil wafted from the jar as they walked. They were coming to sit and watch, to see their Lord, their rabbi wrapped in a burial cloth. They were coming to hold vigil to pray, and hear the prayers of each other. They were tasting the bitter flavour of loneliness that comes from losing someone they love. These senses are not the ones we associate with Easter but they were the ones the women had anticipated.

Things changed in one single sudden moment. The word “suddenly” is repeated in our passage. Sometimes this is what our life with God is like, sudden changes amidst the norm. Sudden moments of revelation. Suddenly God is made visible through acts of grace, or forgiveness, or joy even sorrow. As the women approached the tomb they suddenly felt a great earthquake. They felt the message of Easter before the heard or saw a thing. Isn’t that true for us too sometimes- we often will feel something, particularly feel emotion before anything else. God often works in our lives in the same manner. Providing us with a feeling before all else, sometimes shaking our very foundations in new and awesome ways. Some times we cannot meet Jesus without being shaken. They women feel the message- a great seismos that shakes their foundations. How true that is- the very thoughts they have about this morning, the very plans they have for how it will turn out are going to be turned upside down.

Suddenly, they see a message. To them the angel looks like lightning-something that is bright, blinding, and frighteningly powerful. The angel is strong enough to roll back the stone and certainly frightening enough to scare the soldiers- they are literally scared stiff, unable to move, unable to run, unable to shout out. What a sight it would have been, two women expecting one thing and suddenly experiencing something that causes the strong guards to tremble.

Then they hear the message, “Do not be afraid. Jesus is not here. He has been raised, just as he said.” The angel invites these women to see for themselves that no body is there. What a message to hear. What the angel says is not a command, do not be afraid, but rather a comforting assurance. There is nothing to fear, you need not fear. This calming voice comes from an authority who speaks with power that is beyond this world- and that can be frightening- but with no need to fear, we have an opportunity to serve. It is now that the messenger gives a command, “Go quickly, and tell his disciples.” The women are likely still afraid, courage is not about throwing caution to the wind, but rather action despite danger. Their fear though, now also contains joy. The good news of Jesus’ resurrection has been announced. The command now,is given to go and spread the word. The women obviously fulfilled this command. Matthew’s version is about the first announcement in what was to become a continuous chain of announcements, with one messenger repeating the message to the next, down through the ages that, “He is not in the tomb. He has been raised.” Upon hearing these words, I imagine the women dropped their spices and jars of oil and ran. The smell of this unused oil released out into the air.

If you were able to attend our Sonrise service, you know that taste is part of this story too. That Jesus offered food soon after his resurrection. We know from other gospel accounts that sometimes it took Jesus breaking bread with the disciples for them to even recognize him. Taste and see that the Lord, our God, is good, is risen, is alive in every moment we commune over a meal. Although the sense of taste is not so much a part of the womens’ experience, it is a part of the story.

It is hard for any of us to imagine how the women felt. Even the gospel writers struggle. The Gospel of John ends by saying that all the books in the world could not fully describe all the signs that Jesus did. In a similar vein, our Gospel this morning, simply announces. He has been raised. The resurrection of Jesus is announced, not explained. I think, in many ways this is due to the fact that words are not enough to explain it. For these faithful women, the significance of the angel’s message is emotional and they come to a major realization, Jesus, the one whom they’ve followed these last three years is indeed the Messiah. The resurrection of Jesus is the heart of the Christian gospel. Everything changes with the announcement that “he is not here.” Words can not describe how those women must have felt.

Upon witnessing, feeling, seeing and hearing the angel and the angel’s message the women leave quickly with fear and great joy, those are the mixed emotions I’ve been talking about and while they are running with all these senses pulsing through their body they run into Jesus. The first words out of his mouth are, “Greetings!”

At that moment whatever fear and joy, and whatever other emotions the women were feeling, however fast they were running, whatever senses they were experiencing, everything stops. In elation they fall to their knees, grab hold of Jesus’ feet and worship. The women display exactly what all of us in a post-resurrection moment need to do. To stop, whatever is racing through our minds, to stop are usual motions of daily activities, to stop and come together in worship. Their reaction is the response we should have all have . Which brings me to the sixth sense, and I’m not talking about some ethereal sense- some supernatural or prophetic sense but the sense of faith.

Donald Juel says of the Easter story, “None of the Gospels can really end the story of Jesus. The whole point is that it continues- and its significance continues….Jesus is full of surprises. The world’s uneasiness in the presence of Jesus is fully justified. He will not be found by tradition that defines human life; even death has no final power over him. The end only marks a new beginning- a beginning of the good news that Jesus becomes our source of life.”

Jesus is not bound by the end of the chapters in the Gospels. There is no “the end” that finishes this Easter experience. Instead our sense of faith, continues with Jesus into the future. A future that God has in store for creation, for us. We walk by faith not by sight, touch, sound, smell or taste. We have faith in God, that we are included in this story. We can only trust that God will one day finish this story with hope, promise and joy.

Amen

Ride On, Ride On In Majesty

Bible Text: Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 118:1-2, Psalm 118:19-29, Matthew 21:1-11 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

The pulpit is no place for politics. However, I do have to admit some sense of relief that Quebec’s Charter of Values is off the table. As I heard from friends serving congregations in Quebec there was concern about what it would do for interfaith dialogue, what it would do to communities of all faiths, how it would alienate many and displace some. It is, nevertheless, a sign of the change in our culture. The privatization of religion has meant that we keep it, both the discussion and practice of faith, to ourselves. It is true the public arena is no place for indoctrination, assimilation, or confrontation but it is a place for education and appreciation. I firmly believe that when we remove any possibility for dialogue about faith from our public spheres we might create tolerance but we also most definitely establish ignorance. We resort to media for teaching- and create assumptions. I am one of the lucky few who are often invited to discuss religion in public. For some years it was a gift I didn’t always appreciate. It used to be that I hated the question upon meeting someone, “And what do you do?” because inevitability when I said, “I am a minister in the Presbyterian church”, there would be that moment even a slight flinch on their face and I knew what it meant, they were replaying our entire conversation until that point to make sure that they had not said or done anything inappropriate. I would often try to calm the situation by saying or doing something…inappropriate. But I realize most people are not given the opportunity to discuss their faith and faith practice and most are deterred from doing so. Jobs can even be at stake and so we resort to subtle symbols of crosses or fish displayed discretely.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately in part due to the political events in our country and around the world but also because I have be wondering about Palm Sunday. In Jesus’ day faith was very public. There were visible signs in appearance but also in engagement. Faith and practice were discussed out in the open, debates were held among the scholars in public places. The people lived their faith first and everything else second. I began to wonder, if Jesus were to enter our city today, even Jerusalem today, would it be much of a parade? Would anyone notice? Would anyone recognize him? Would anyone care?

Matthew’s version of the events clearly establish that those witnessing the event saw Jesus as Majesty, as the King who would bring peace and whose dominion would extend to the ends of the earth. Matthew’s intention is to highlight the key feature that Jesus is being honoured; the cloaks of his disciples provide a cushion and the crowds’ cloaks provide a carpet. What I like about the passage is that the crowd seems to gather immediately and out of nowhere. Perhaps one reason why no such parade could happen now is because most of us spend our time inside-rather than outside waiting for something to happen. It nevertheless seems rather sudden- certainly the disciples did not expect this kind of entry. In other gospel accounts they even seem to question whether Jesus knows what he’s talking about. You know, these days if someone wishes to have a public parade, there would be proper bureaucracy to follow, permits to fill out, approvals to receive. There would be no spontaneity, but then again this wasn’t exactly a spontaneous parade, but rather one that had been planned for quite some time.

For awhile Jesus had been telling his disciples what was about to happen. His destiny appears to include two contradictory things. One, that he must go to Jerusalem and two, that he must endure suffering and death in Jerusalem. Our passage this morning demonstrates the difficulty the disciples have with these words. How is it that upon entering the city he is received with shouts of praise, palms meant for royalty, and encouragement from the crowd and yet continues to teach about his death? Peter in particular has trouble understanding this dichotomy. Jerusalem is supposed to fling open its gates and welcome the Messiah with tremendous rejoicing, not reject him as a common criminal. But the preparations for this parade go back even further, they go back for centuries.

When Israel was in exile, when it had been completely destroyed and when its broken people came back with a revived vision and a hope for rebuilding, the renewal of Jerusalem was synonymous with salvation and it was the Messiah who would bring about the revival for this city. It was the Messiah who would overturn the tables of oppression. Jerusalem is the place where the real journey for Jesus both begins and ends. Jesus arrived at the Mount of Olives with his disciples, where he instructed them to get the donkey and colt. It is the place from which he parades into Jerusalem in triumph, as King. It is also the same place from which the soldiers, after Judas’ kiss, will take him to Caiaphas. Many churches today will move throughout the service from the story of the palms to the stories of the passion. We will hear more of the passion’s narrative on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. We know the story, we know these palms and shouts of praise will turn to cries of crucify him all too quickly.

We hear the words from Psalm 118, “Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the alter.” Matthew incorporates branches into Jesus’ festal procession up to Jerusalem, a tradition reserved for royalty and worship. For a brief moment the crowds’ eyes seem to be opened- they recognize that their long awaited Messiah is among them. That he is the fulfilment of their hopes and dreams, the hopes and dreams of generations of oppressed and distressed people. Note that it is not Jesus who proclaims himself as the Son of David but the crowd. By doing so they evoke his identity as a descendent of the great king and therefore a king himself. This was all part of a promise given by Jeremiah, “David’s righteous branch whom the Lord will raise up, who will reign as king and deal wisely, the one who will execute justice and righteousness.” But no where in this promise do we hear the words that Jesus must die.

There is a divide between the way most of Jerusalem thinks about the Messiah and the way Jesus came as Messiah. This division continues today but it started as early as when Jesus was among his disciples. Right up until his ascension the disciples still expected the restoration of Israel to come via a mighty soldier, a valiant king, a warrior. The sign that Jesus was not the warrior they had expected should have been realized with the use of the colt and donkey. No king, no solider, in his right mind would show up riding either one of those. The truth about Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem is that he is accepting the Messiah’s crown but also the Messiah’s cross.

Theologian and pastor John Jewell states, “The key to understanding Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday is to come to grips with the fact that all of us are on a journey through life which puts us on a road that leads to Jerusalem. In the most personal way Jerusalem is a symbol of the inner core of our lives- some call it the centre of our souls. There is a temple in this personal Jerusalem and there is a throne.” Upon that throne we place Jesus as king but this is not the king we expected. This is a king who rides on a donkey. This is a king who will overthrow the oppressor but not through acts of violent battles but rather through the shouts of a city seeking his death. And his kingdom is not a geographical location but a place within the spirit of those who are his subjects. Jewell states clearly that the kingdom of God is wherever God is in charge.

In the week ahead it will seem as though God has lost control, that God is no longer in charge. The expectations of people will be shattered. Peter will deny who he is and who he serves and the disciples will privatize their practice by hiding in doors. But we have the true gift of knowing the end of the story- or rather the real beginning to this unending story and so we can join the parade and shout, Ride on, Ride on in Majesty and pray that we will stand by the empty tomb in a week’s time. Amen

April 13, 2014

Bible Text: Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 118:1-2, Psalm 118:19-29, Matthew 21:1-11 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

The pulpit is no place for politics. However, I do have to admit some sense of relief that Quebec's Charter of Values is off the table. As I heard from friends serving congregations in Quebec there was concern about what it would do for interfaith dialogue, what it would do to communities of all faiths, how it would alienate many and displace some. It is, nevertheless, a sign of the change in our culture. The privatization of religion has meant that we keep it, both the discussion and practice of faith, to ourselves. It is true the public arena is no place for indoctrination, assimilation, or confrontation but it is a place for education and appreciation. I firmly believe that when we remove any possibility for dialogue about faith from our public spheres we might create tolerance but we also most definitely establish ignorance. We resort to media for teaching- and create assumptions. I am one of the lucky few who are often invited to discuss religion in public. For some years it was a gift I didn't always appreciate. It used to be that I hated the question upon meeting someone, “And what do you do?” because inevitability when I said, “I am a minister in the Presbyterian church”, there would be that moment even a slight flinch on their face and I knew what it meant, they were replaying our entire conversation until that point to make sure that they had not said or done anything inappropriate. I would often try to calm the situation by saying or doing something...inappropriate. But I realize most people are not given the opportunity to discuss their faith and faith practice and most are deterred from doing so. Jobs can even be at stake and so we resort to subtle symbols of crosses or fish displayed discretely.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately in part due to the political events in our country and around the world but also because I have be wondering about Palm Sunday. In Jesus' day faith was very public. There were visible signs in appearance but also in engagement. Faith and practice were discussed out in the open, debates were held among the scholars in public places. The people lived their faith first and everything else second. I began to wonder, if Jesus were to enter our city today, even Jerusalem today, would it be much of a parade? Would anyone notice? Would anyone recognize him? Would anyone care?

Matthew's version of the events clearly establish that those witnessing the event saw Jesus as Majesty, as the King who would bring peace and whose dominion would extend to the ends of the earth. Matthew's intention is to highlight the key feature that Jesus is being honoured; the cloaks of his disciples provide a cushion and the crowds' cloaks provide a carpet. What I like about the passage is that the crowd seems to gather immediately and out of nowhere. Perhaps one reason why no such parade could happen now is because most of us spend our time inside-rather than outside waiting for something to happen. It nevertheless seems rather sudden- certainly the disciples did not expect this kind of entry. In other gospel accounts they even seem to question whether Jesus knows what he's talking about. You know, these days if someone wishes to have a public parade, there would be proper bureaucracy to follow, permits to fill out, approvals to receive. There would be no spontaneity, but then again this wasn't exactly a spontaneous parade, but rather one that had been planned for quite some time.

For awhile Jesus had been telling his disciples what was about to happen. His destiny appears to include two contradictory things. One, that he must go to Jerusalem and two, that he must endure suffering and death in Jerusalem. Our passage this morning demonstrates the difficulty the disciples have with these words. How is it that upon entering the city he is received with shouts of praise, palms meant for royalty, and encouragement from the crowd and yet continues to teach about his death? Peter in particular has trouble understanding this dichotomy. Jerusalem is supposed to fling open its gates and welcome the Messiah with tremendous rejoicing, not reject him as a common criminal. But the preparations for this parade go back even further, they go back for centuries.

When Israel was in exile, when it had been completely destroyed and when its broken people came back with a revived vision and a hope for rebuilding, the renewal of Jerusalem was synonymous with salvation and it was the Messiah who would bring about the revival for this city. It was the Messiah who would overturn the tables of oppression. Jerusalem is the place where the real journey for Jesus both begins and ends. Jesus arrived at the Mount of Olives with his disciples, where he instructed them to get the donkey and colt. It is the place from which he parades into Jerusalem in triumph, as King. It is also the same place from which the soldiers, after Judas' kiss, will take him to Caiaphas. Many churches today will move throughout the service from the story of the palms to the stories of the passion. We will hear more of the passion's narrative on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. We know the story, we know these palms and shouts of praise will turn to cries of crucify him all too quickly.

We hear the words from Psalm 118, “Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the alter.” Matthew incorporates branches into Jesus' festal procession up to Jerusalem, a tradition reserved for royalty and worship. For a brief moment the crowds' eyes seem to be opened- they recognize that their long awaited Messiah is among them. That he is the fulfilment of their hopes and dreams, the hopes and dreams of generations of oppressed and distressed people. Note that it is not Jesus who proclaims himself as the Son of David but the crowd. By doing so they evoke his identity as a descendent of the great king and therefore a king himself. This was all part of a promise given by Jeremiah, “David's righteous branch whom the Lord will raise up, who will reign as king and deal wisely, the one who will execute justice and righteousness.” But no where in this promise do we hear the words that Jesus must die.

There is a divide between the way most of Jerusalem thinks about the Messiah and the way Jesus came as Messiah. This division continues today but it started as early as when Jesus was among his disciples. Right up until his ascension the disciples still expected the restoration of Israel to come via a mighty soldier, a valiant king, a warrior. The sign that Jesus was not the warrior they had expected should have been realized with the use of the colt and donkey. No king, no solider, in his right mind would show up riding either one of those. The truth about Jesus' journey into Jerusalem is that he is accepting the Messiah's crown but also the Messiah's cross.

Theologian and pastor John Jewell states, “The key to understanding Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday is to come to grips with the fact that all of us are on a journey through life which puts us on a road that leads to Jerusalem. In the most personal way Jerusalem is a symbol of the inner core of our lives- some call it the centre of our souls. There is a temple in this personal Jerusalem and there is a throne.” Upon that throne we place Jesus as king but this is not the king we expected. This is a king who rides on a donkey. This is a king who will overthrow the oppressor but not through acts of violent battles but rather through the shouts of a city seeking his death. And his kingdom is not a geographical location but a place within the spirit of those who are his subjects. Jewell states clearly that the kingdom of God is wherever God is in charge.

In the week ahead it will seem as though God has lost control, that God is no longer in charge. The expectations of people will be shattered. Peter will deny who he is and who he serves and the disciples will privatize their practice by hiding in doors. But we have the true gift of knowing the end of the story- or rather the real beginning to this unending story and so we can join the parade and shout, Ride on, Ride on in Majesty and pray that we will stand by the empty tomb in a week's time. Amen

Bible Text: Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 118:1-2, Psalm 118:19-29, Matthew 21:1-11 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

The pulpit is no place for politics. However, I do have to admit some sense of relief that Quebec’s Charter of Values is off the table. As I heard from friends serving congregations in Quebec there was concern about what it would do for interfaith dialogue, what it would do to communities of all faiths, how it would alienate many and displace some. It is, nevertheless, a sign of the change in our culture. The privatization of religion has meant that we keep it, both the discussion and practice of faith, to ourselves. It is true the public arena is no place for indoctrination, assimilation, or confrontation but it is a place for education and appreciation. I firmly believe that when we remove any possibility for dialogue about faith from our public spheres we might create tolerance but we also most definitely establish ignorance. We resort to media for teaching- and create assumptions. I am one of the lucky few who are often invited to discuss religion in public. For some years it was a gift I didn’t always appreciate. It used to be that I hated the question upon meeting someone, “And what do you do?” because inevitability when I said, “I am a minister in the Presbyterian church”, there would be that moment even a slight flinch on their face and I knew what it meant, they were replaying our entire conversation until that point to make sure that they had not said or done anything inappropriate. I would often try to calm the situation by saying or doing something…inappropriate. But I realize most people are not given the opportunity to discuss their faith and faith practice and most are deterred from doing so. Jobs can even be at stake and so we resort to subtle symbols of crosses or fish displayed discretely.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately in part due to the political events in our country and around the world but also because I have be wondering about Palm Sunday. In Jesus’ day faith was very public. There were visible signs in appearance but also in engagement. Faith and practice were discussed out in the open, debates were held among the scholars in public places. The people lived their faith first and everything else second. I began to wonder, if Jesus were to enter our city today, even Jerusalem today, would it be much of a parade? Would anyone notice? Would anyone recognize him? Would anyone care?

Matthew’s version of the events clearly establish that those witnessing the event saw Jesus as Majesty, as the King who would bring peace and whose dominion would extend to the ends of the earth. Matthew’s intention is to highlight the key feature that Jesus is being honoured; the cloaks of his disciples provide a cushion and the crowds’ cloaks provide a carpet. What I like about the passage is that the crowd seems to gather immediately and out of nowhere. Perhaps one reason why no such parade could happen now is because most of us spend our time inside-rather than outside waiting for something to happen. It nevertheless seems rather sudden- certainly the disciples did not expect this kind of entry. In other gospel accounts they even seem to question whether Jesus knows what he’s talking about. You know, these days if someone wishes to have a public parade, there would be proper bureaucracy to follow, permits to fill out, approvals to receive. There would be no spontaneity, but then again this wasn’t exactly a spontaneous parade, but rather one that had been planned for quite some time.

For awhile Jesus had been telling his disciples what was about to happen. His destiny appears to include two contradictory things. One, that he must go to Jerusalem and two, that he must endure suffering and death in Jerusalem. Our passage this morning demonstrates the difficulty the disciples have with these words. How is it that upon entering the city he is received with shouts of praise, palms meant for royalty, and encouragement from the crowd and yet continues to teach about his death? Peter in particular has trouble understanding this dichotomy. Jerusalem is supposed to fling open its gates and welcome the Messiah with tremendous rejoicing, not reject him as a common criminal. But the preparations for this parade go back even further, they go back for centuries.

When Israel was in exile, when it had been completely destroyed and when its broken people came back with a revived vision and a hope for rebuilding, the renewal of Jerusalem was synonymous with salvation and it was the Messiah who would bring about the revival for this city. It was the Messiah who would overturn the tables of oppression. Jerusalem is the place where the real journey for Jesus both begins and ends. Jesus arrived at the Mount of Olives with his disciples, where he instructed them to get the donkey and colt. It is the place from which he parades into Jerusalem in triumph, as King. It is also the same place from which the soldiers, after Judas’ kiss, will take him to Caiaphas. Many churches today will move throughout the service from the story of the palms to the stories of the passion. We will hear more of the passion’s narrative on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. We know the story, we know these palms and shouts of praise will turn to cries of crucify him all too quickly.

We hear the words from Psalm 118, “Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the alter.” Matthew incorporates branches into Jesus’ festal procession up to Jerusalem, a tradition reserved for royalty and worship. For a brief moment the crowds’ eyes seem to be opened- they recognize that their long awaited Messiah is among them. That he is the fulfilment of their hopes and dreams, the hopes and dreams of generations of oppressed and distressed people. Note that it is not Jesus who proclaims himself as the Son of David but the crowd. By doing so they evoke his identity as a descendent of the great king and therefore a king himself. This was all part of a promise given by Jeremiah, “David’s righteous branch whom the Lord will raise up, who will reign as king and deal wisely, the one who will execute justice and righteousness.” But no where in this promise do we hear the words that Jesus must die.

There is a divide between the way most of Jerusalem thinks about the Messiah and the way Jesus came as Messiah. This division continues today but it started as early as when Jesus was among his disciples. Right up until his ascension the disciples still expected the restoration of Israel to come via a mighty soldier, a valiant king, a warrior. The sign that Jesus was not the warrior they had expected should have been realized with the use of the colt and donkey. No king, no solider, in his right mind would show up riding either one of those. The truth about Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem is that he is accepting the Messiah’s crown but also the Messiah’s cross.

Theologian and pastor John Jewell states, “The key to understanding Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday is to come to grips with the fact that all of us are on a journey through life which puts us on a road that leads to Jerusalem. In the most personal way Jerusalem is a symbol of the inner core of our lives- some call it the centre of our souls. There is a temple in this personal Jerusalem and there is a throne.” Upon that throne we place Jesus as king but this is not the king we expected. This is a king who rides on a donkey. This is a king who will overthrow the oppressor but not through acts of violent battles but rather through the shouts of a city seeking his death. And his kingdom is not a geographical location but a place within the spirit of those who are his subjects. Jewell states clearly that the kingdom of God is wherever God is in charge.

In the week ahead it will seem as though God has lost control, that God is no longer in charge. The expectations of people will be shattered. Peter will deny who he is and who he serves and the disciples will privatize their practice by hiding in doors. But we have the true gift of knowing the end of the story- or rather the real beginning to this unending story and so we can join the parade and shout, Ride on, Ride on in Majesty and pray that we will stand by the empty tomb in a week’s time. Amen

Care-a-Van

Bible Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Mark 2:1-12

Helen Boyd speaks about Care-a-Van.

April 6, 2014

Bible Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Mark 2:1-12

Helen Boyd speaks about Care-a-Van.

Bible Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Mark 2:1-12

Helen Boyd speaks about Care-a-Van.

Family Sunday March 30, 2014

Bible Text: Psalm 149:1-5, Proverbs 2:1-11, Luke 18:15-17 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

The first Family Sunday service was a success but due to its unique “had to be there” nature we do not have an audio recording or sermon to post.  Next Family Sunday service is June 29th.

March 30, 2014

Bible Text: Psalm 149:1-5, Proverbs 2:1-11, Luke 18:15-17 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

The first Family Sunday service was a success but due to its unique "had to be there" nature we do not have an audio recording or sermon to post.  Next Family Sunday service is June 29th.

Bible Text: Psalm 149:1-5, Proverbs 2:1-11, Luke 18:15-17 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

The first Family Sunday service was a success but due to its unique “had to be there” nature we do not have an audio recording or sermon to post.  Next Family Sunday service is June 29th.

Thirsty Traveler

Bible Text: John 4:5-42 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

ipad, iphone, file for download

These days it is easy to find out about someone’s past. What I mean is, that people can search out someone with a few simple moves of the mouse. Many employers will do a “google” search on a potential employee to find out if they have any skeletons in the closet. Have you ever googled yourself? If you have little web presence than there’s likely nothing of great import, although it is always interesting to find out who else shares your name and what they have been up to. It is frightfully easy to do. We are often warned that anything we post on the internet will remain there in cyberspace despite our efforts to erase it from the records. Jesus didn’t have the luxury of a google search in his day but then again he didn’t need one. He manages to surprise the Samaritan woman at the well in a lot of ways, but primarily by telling her, her past without much effort.

Before we can understand this woman’s story we must understand the setting. It is a story rooted in history and juxtaposed with social commentary. The gospel is in the details of this story but it is a story that began during the return of the Israelites to Palestine following decades of exile. Samaritans were descendants of the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom who unlike their Southern counterparts, during the exile, intermarried with the Babylonians. As a result, when all the Israelites returned to their land following years of exile the Samaritans were regarded us impure, as people who had given up their identity, laws and culture. This friction between the two groups had been going on since the fifth century B.C.E. That’s at least four hundred years of resentment, anger and hatred. The Samaritans also denied the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple due in part because they had their own temple on Mount Gerizim, which only but a century before this conversation at the well, had been razed by the Hebrews in the Southern Kingdom of Jerusalem. The animosity was mutual and had resulted in many a conflict.

Once we know this setting we have a better understanding of how peculiar it would have been for a travelling Jewish man to approach a Samaritan woman at the well. Just as it is difficult to erase posts in cyberspace it is difficult to erase centuries of hostility and yet Jesus takes the plunge and dives right in without hesitation.

Initially this story is structured much like the one we heard last week with Nicodemus. The narrative leads to conversation, which is filled with misunderstanding, which leads to teaching. What sets it apart is that this conversation is Jesus’ longest-recorded conversation with anyone in the Bible. I spent some time last week talking about the darkness which Nicodemus approaches in and that it is a symbol for the darkness of unknowing- of ignorance and unbelief. But this woman comes at mid-day- when the blazing sun prevents most people from leaving the house. It is, however, the only time this woman is able to get water from the well uninterrupted by the local gossips or critics. If this woman was expecting another hot, quiet, afternoon at the well, she is mistaken. Instead the heat is warded off by the refreshing and cool waters provided by this chatty, travelling stranger.

Jesus surprises this woman by stepping across the line of ethnic hostility and approaches her as any other human being. In fact, he assumes an inferior position when he asks her for a favour, for a drink of water, which by the way he never gets because the conversation quickly changes from his request for water to her request for his living water.

As the conversation unwinds, the woman struggles to understand as he speaks in theological metaphors and like Nicodemus her initial reaction is literalistic. The woman first understands Jesus to be referring to water from Jacob’s well and asks how he will give her this water without a bucket. But Jesus’ reference to living water is a play on words. In Greek, the phrase ‘living water’ refers to that of a flowing body of water as oppose to still water. Jesus is offering fresh, rather than stagnant water. Jesus is linking this living water to the gift of eternal life which gushes up, even wells up, in hope. Unlike Nicodemus the woman then understands that Jesus is referring to something much greater than this water from a well.

As soon as the woman asks for the living water Jesus takes the initiative in revealing who he truly is by simply challenging her to call upon her husband. Through his internal search Jesus reveals that he knows all about her, except her name- an important detail because most of us need the name of someone in order to google them. Many commentaries call Jesus tactic provocative theology because it appears that even when Jesus tells this woman everything she has ever done he does not seem to take an interest in her sordid past. Unlike with some of the other woman Jesus knows he does not say to her “Go and sin no more” nor does he accuse her of sinning at all. Jesus tells her what he knows not to criticize her but rather to demonstrate his prophetic capacities. I like the realization that Jesus knows our inner most thoughts, our sordid pasts, our doubts, and failings and still offers us that living water. The woman perceives his abilities and realizes she is among a great prophet- and so she continues this stimulating conversation. She immediately asks him a question that has theologically divided her people from his for centuries.

To her surprise Jesus does not debate her but rather declares that true worship of God is not geographically defined but rather defined by God’s own nature, which is Spirit and truth. That is to say, that God transcends gender, race, tradition, place and liturgy so that all who are capable can dwell in God’s presence, can maintain a relationship. The Spirit is introduced here deliberately because it is through the Spirit that one grows deeper or wells up in a relationship with God through Christ. The Samaritan woman has entered a relationship with Jesus and she realizes that he might be more than just a prophet.

My feminist side wishes we knew her name. But another part of me says that the fact that she remains nameless allows this woman to be me or you, or anyone we meet at the well. This text also demonstrates that it is not what we know but who we know. It is about having an encounter, an experience with Jesus, whose light and love shines on our past and our future. The woman’s final act in our story is that she drops everything- she leaves the well, even leaves her bucket and goes out witnessing, telling people to come and see Jesus. It takes courage and wherewithal to drop everything and go and share what we know but it is the only response we can give when abundant grace is gushing out of us like a fast flowing river. Amen

 

March 23, 2014

Bible Text: John 4:5-42 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

ipad, iphone, file for download

These days it is easy to find out about someone's past. What I mean is, that people can search out someone with a few simple moves of the mouse. Many employers will do a “google” search on a potential employee to find out if they have any skeletons in the closet. Have you ever googled yourself? If you have little web presence than there's likely nothing of great import, although it is always interesting to find out who else shares your name and what they have been up to. It is frightfully easy to do. We are often warned that anything we post on the internet will remain there in cyberspace despite our efforts to erase it from the records. Jesus didn't have the luxury of a google search in his day but then again he didn't need one. He manages to surprise the Samaritan woman at the well in a lot of ways, but primarily by telling her, her past without much effort.

Before we can understand this woman's story we must understand the setting. It is a story rooted in history and juxtaposed with social commentary. The gospel is in the details of this story but it is a story that began during the return of the Israelites to Palestine following decades of exile. Samaritans were descendants of the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom who unlike their Southern counterparts, during the exile, intermarried with the Babylonians. As a result, when all the Israelites returned to their land following years of exile the Samaritans were regarded us impure, as people who had given up their identity, laws and culture. This friction between the two groups had been going on since the fifth century B.C.E. That's at least four hundred years of resentment, anger and hatred. The Samaritans also denied the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple due in part because they had their own temple on Mount Gerizim, which only but a century before this conversation at the well, had been razed by the Hebrews in the Southern Kingdom of Jerusalem. The animosity was mutual and had resulted in many a conflict.

Once we know this setting we have a better understanding of how peculiar it would have been for a travelling Jewish man to approach a Samaritan woman at the well. Just as it is difficult to erase posts in cyberspace it is difficult to erase centuries of hostility and yet Jesus takes the plunge and dives right in without hesitation.

Initially this story is structured much like the one we heard last week with Nicodemus. The narrative leads to conversation, which is filled with misunderstanding, which leads to teaching. What sets it apart is that this conversation is Jesus' longest-recorded conversation with anyone in the Bible. I spent some time last week talking about the darkness which Nicodemus approaches in and that it is a symbol for the darkness of unknowing- of ignorance and unbelief. But this woman comes at mid-day- when the blazing sun prevents most people from leaving the house. It is, however, the only time this woman is able to get water from the well uninterrupted by the local gossips or critics. If this woman was expecting another hot, quiet, afternoon at the well, she is mistaken. Instead the heat is warded off by the refreshing and cool waters provided by this chatty, travelling stranger.

Jesus surprises this woman by stepping across the line of ethnic hostility and approaches her as any other human being. In fact, he assumes an inferior position when he asks her for a favour, for a drink of water, which by the way he never gets because the conversation quickly changes from his request for water to her request for his living water.

As the conversation unwinds, the woman struggles to understand as he speaks in theological metaphors and like Nicodemus her initial reaction is literalistic. The woman first understands Jesus to be referring to water from Jacob's well and asks how he will give her this water without a bucket. But Jesus' reference to living water is a play on words. In Greek, the phrase 'living water' refers to that of a flowing body of water as oppose to still water. Jesus is offering fresh, rather than stagnant water. Jesus is linking this living water to the gift of eternal life which gushes up, even wells up, in hope. Unlike Nicodemus the woman then understands that Jesus is referring to something much greater than this water from a well.

As soon as the woman asks for the living water Jesus takes the initiative in revealing who he truly is by simply challenging her to call upon her husband. Through his internal search Jesus reveals that he knows all about her, except her name- an important detail because most of us need the name of someone in order to google them. Many commentaries call Jesus tactic provocative theology because it appears that even when Jesus tells this woman everything she has ever done he does not seem to take an interest in her sordid past. Unlike with some of the other woman Jesus knows he does not say to her “Go and sin no more” nor does he accuse her of sinning at all. Jesus tells her what he knows not to criticize her but rather to demonstrate his prophetic capacities. I like the realization that Jesus knows our inner most thoughts, our sordid pasts, our doubts, and failings and still offers us that living water. The woman perceives his abilities and realizes she is among a great prophet- and so she continues this stimulating conversation. She immediately asks him a question that has theologically divided her people from his for centuries.

To her surprise Jesus does not debate her but rather declares that true worship of God is not geographically defined but rather defined by God's own nature, which is Spirit and truth. That is to say, that God transcends gender, race, tradition, place and liturgy so that all who are capable can dwell in God's presence, can maintain a relationship. The Spirit is introduced here deliberately because it is through the Spirit that one grows deeper or wells up in a relationship with God through Christ. The Samaritan woman has entered a relationship with Jesus and she realizes that he might be more than just a prophet.

My feminist side wishes we knew her name. But another part of me says that the fact that she remains nameless allows this woman to be me or you, or anyone we meet at the well. This text also demonstrates that it is not what we know but who we know. It is about having an encounter, an experience with Jesus, whose light and love shines on our past and our future. The woman's final act in our story is that she drops everything- she leaves the well, even leaves her bucket and goes out witnessing, telling people to come and see Jesus. It takes courage and wherewithal to drop everything and go and share what we know but it is the only response we can give when abundant grace is gushing out of us like a fast flowing river. Amen

 

Bible Text: John 4:5-42 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

ipad, iphone, file for download

These days it is easy to find out about someone’s past. What I mean is, that people can search out someone with a few simple moves of the mouse. Many employers will do a “google” search on a potential employee to find out if they have any skeletons in the closet. Have you ever googled yourself? If you have little web presence than there’s likely nothing of great import, although it is always interesting to find out who else shares your name and what they have been up to. It is frightfully easy to do. We are often warned that anything we post on the internet will remain there in cyberspace despite our efforts to erase it from the records. Jesus didn’t have the luxury of a google search in his day but then again he didn’t need one. He manages to surprise the Samaritan woman at the well in a lot of ways, but primarily by telling her, her past without much effort.

Before we can understand this woman’s story we must understand the setting. It is a story rooted in history and juxtaposed with social commentary. The gospel is in the details of this story but it is a story that began during the return of the Israelites to Palestine following decades of exile. Samaritans were descendants of the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom who unlike their Southern counterparts, during the exile, intermarried with the Babylonians. As a result, when all the Israelites returned to their land following years of exile the Samaritans were regarded us impure, as people who had given up their identity, laws and culture. This friction between the two groups had been going on since the fifth century B.C.E. That’s at least four hundred years of resentment, anger and hatred. The Samaritans also denied the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple due in part because they had their own temple on Mount Gerizim, which only but a century before this conversation at the well, had been razed by the Hebrews in the Southern Kingdom of Jerusalem. The animosity was mutual and had resulted in many a conflict.

Once we know this setting we have a better understanding of how peculiar it would have been for a travelling Jewish man to approach a Samaritan woman at the well. Just as it is difficult to erase posts in cyberspace it is difficult to erase centuries of hostility and yet Jesus takes the plunge and dives right in without hesitation.

Initially this story is structured much like the one we heard last week with Nicodemus. The narrative leads to conversation, which is filled with misunderstanding, which leads to teaching. What sets it apart is that this conversation is Jesus’ longest-recorded conversation with anyone in the Bible. I spent some time last week talking about the darkness which Nicodemus approaches in and that it is a symbol for the darkness of unknowing- of ignorance and unbelief. But this woman comes at mid-day- when the blazing sun prevents most people from leaving the house. It is, however, the only time this woman is able to get water from the well uninterrupted by the local gossips or critics. If this woman was expecting another hot, quiet, afternoon at the well, she is mistaken. Instead the heat is warded off by the refreshing and cool waters provided by this chatty, travelling stranger.

Jesus surprises this woman by stepping across the line of ethnic hostility and approaches her as any other human being. In fact, he assumes an inferior position when he asks her for a favour, for a drink of water, which by the way he never gets because the conversation quickly changes from his request for water to her request for his living water.

As the conversation unwinds, the woman struggles to understand as he speaks in theological metaphors and like Nicodemus her initial reaction is literalistic. The woman first understands Jesus to be referring to water from Jacob’s well and asks how he will give her this water without a bucket. But Jesus’ reference to living water is a play on words. In Greek, the phrase ‘living water’ refers to that of a flowing body of water as oppose to still water. Jesus is offering fresh, rather than stagnant water. Jesus is linking this living water to the gift of eternal life which gushes up, even wells up, in hope. Unlike Nicodemus the woman then understands that Jesus is referring to something much greater than this water from a well.

As soon as the woman asks for the living water Jesus takes the initiative in revealing who he truly is by simply challenging her to call upon her husband. Through his internal search Jesus reveals that he knows all about her, except her name- an important detail because most of us need the name of someone in order to google them. Many commentaries call Jesus tactic provocative theology because it appears that even when Jesus tells this woman everything she has ever done he does not seem to take an interest in her sordid past. Unlike with some of the other woman Jesus knows he does not say to her “Go and sin no more” nor does he accuse her of sinning at all. Jesus tells her what he knows not to criticize her but rather to demonstrate his prophetic capacities. I like the realization that Jesus knows our inner most thoughts, our sordid pasts, our doubts, and failings and still offers us that living water. The woman perceives his abilities and realizes she is among a great prophet- and so she continues this stimulating conversation. She immediately asks him a question that has theologically divided her people from his for centuries.

To her surprise Jesus does not debate her but rather declares that true worship of God is not geographically defined but rather defined by God’s own nature, which is Spirit and truth. That is to say, that God transcends gender, race, tradition, place and liturgy so that all who are capable can dwell in God’s presence, can maintain a relationship. The Spirit is introduced here deliberately because it is through the Spirit that one grows deeper or wells up in a relationship with God through Christ. The Samaritan woman has entered a relationship with Jesus and she realizes that he might be more than just a prophet.

My feminist side wishes we knew her name. But another part of me says that the fact that she remains nameless allows this woman to be me or you, or anyone we meet at the well. This text also demonstrates that it is not what we know but who we know. It is about having an encounter, an experience with Jesus, whose light and love shines on our past and our future. The woman’s final act in our story is that she drops everything- she leaves the well, even leaves her bucket and goes out witnessing, telling people to come and see Jesus. It takes courage and wherewithal to drop everything and go and share what we know but it is the only response we can give when abundant grace is gushing out of us like a fast flowing river. Amen

 

Curious Nicodemus

Bible Text: John 3:1-21 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Out of curiosity, Mike and I decided to explore some of the outdoor adventures in this region. Now, although I enjoy hiking, kayaking, and bird watching I tend to do all those activities with safety in mind. I never kayak in windy weather, I enjoy the hikes that are well marked, I will never get to close to a dangerous bird- I’m not what you would say, a big risk taker. Which is why exploring out of curiosity can be a very stupid thing. Out of curiosity, Mike and I signed up to take the “wet and wild tour” at the Horne Lake Caves. Now, because it was a guided tour I assumed that there would be an element of safety. I knew I would get wet and so I wore all my rain-gear and a pair of gumboots. They provided a helmet with a head lamp- after all I understood that it would be dark. And yet I stand before you feeling lucky to be alive. At one point, while I was scaling a 2 meter waterfall in complete darkness with my feet on ledges below and my hands embracing the slippery rock above I thought, at some point I will be able to preach about this. While squeezing between the upper and lower rock face which was on a diagonal and a stream up to my knees was flowing quickly below I thought, only if I survive will I be able to preach about this. Mike meanwhile, was enthralled with the adventure, jumping like a mountain goat from rock to rock. There are three requirements needed to call something a cave. One, it must be natural, meaning that a mine, which is man-made is not a cave. Two, it must have an entry point large enough for an adult to enter-albeit they might have to be able to dislocate their limbs to get through the hole, and three, the cave must endure 24hr- 7 days a week of total darkness. When we turned off our headlamps- which was one of the “fun” things our guide had us do- it was truly dark. Instead of our eyes adjusting to the light- which was no existent- if we were to spend more than 3 days in the cave we would have gone blind. It was total darkness. It sounds fun doesn’t it! Because of curiosity I now know I never need to go spelunking again.
But thankfully our curiosity does not always lead us to such dangerous discoveries. In fact, sometimes our curiosity can save us- even if we are in complete darkness. Nicodemus was a curious man but only under the cover of darkness did he pursue his curiosity about Jesus. Nicodemus was a learned man steeped in scholarship and reason. In the version we read from John says that Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews. We know from the appearance of Nicodemus at a few other events in Jesus’ life that he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. The word Sanhedrin comes from the Greek word synedroin which means “to sit together”. Much like the Greek word Presbyter which means elder who gather- the Sanhedrin would gather together in council to discuss matters of faith and relevance. I make the comparison between an elder or a presbyter, and the Sanhedrin because it helps us understand the role Nicodemus had in the community. Imagine what it would be like if we saw one of the elders checking out the new minister down the street- perhaps you don’t need to imagine. But if Nicodemus had been seen by a member of his community going to Jesus for teaching he would have been at the receiving end of an inquisition. As a result it is only in the darkness of the night that he is driven by his curiosity, pulled by his insatiable desire, to figure out just who this man Jesus really is.
He comes at night perhaps because he is fearful of the opinions of his peers. But also because we can all recognize the symbolism of being in the dark. Of being in a time of unbelief, ignorance and quite likely temptation. Even upon his arrival at Jesus’ lodgings he still appears to be in the dark continually confounded by Jesus’ statements.
I can not ignore the statement that Jesus makes when he says that no one can see the kingdom without being born from above. You will see in the footnotes of our NRSV text that it can also mean be born anew and in many translations it is understood as being born again. The Greek word is anaothen and it can mean anew, again, and from above, each one is correct in its literal translation. But that’s exactly the problem, Nicodemus’ confusion happens when he takes Jesus’ words literally. This is an import thing for us to remember- that even in our desire to be believers in the light of God- we sometimes try to fit the metaphors, allegories, and stories into literal spaces- spaces too small for a God so big. Fortunately for us, this discourse, this late night discussion brings some essential teachings to light. This is not really a discussion about whether one must be born again, anew or from above- rather it is a discourse of the difference of that of the flesh, mortal, human, flawed, and that of the Spirit, immortal, divine, flawless.
Something very strange happens in this passage. Nicodemus seems to fade back into the shadows. We never find out if he stayed to get the answers he was looking for or at least some resolution from his confusion. We do know that Nicodemus defends Jesus later on in the Gospel and then later accompanies Joseph of Arimathea with spices to Jesus’ burial. Again it serves as a reminder to us that sometimes belief happens in an instant but, most ofter, over time with the Spirit gently pushing us in that direction. This is a common theme in John’s Gospel. There are some who come to faith quickly and others who take more time. John invites those- then and now- who have difficulty believing that this story of love and sacrifice is relevant to them- to come along for the ride or as John puts it, time and time again, “to come and see”. Faith in John’s gospel is always a verb, and the act of believing takes time and is not a once-and-done action but rather is an ongoing work of the Spirit- who, as Jesus puts it to Nicodemus, blows where it chooses. For some, the coming of the Spirit and faith will be a dramatic life changing event, but for others, like Nicodemus, it will move more slowly and may not be realized until much later in life.
What is lost in the English translation is something rather vital. As Jesus is answering Nicodemus the language of “you” changes. It shifts from the singular to the plural. In verse 11 Jesus answers Nicodemus’ last question and transitions seamlessly from addressing Nicodemus to the entire group. No longer are these answers just for one curious man but for an entire curious community. From that transition from one man to the whole we receive the most recognizable Christian statement and the Bible’s most famous verse.
John 3:16 holds a special place in the hearts of countless Christians- for good reason, it lays out God’s love for the whole world. Notice that God does not ask the world if it wishes to be the recipient of God’s love. God just goes ahead and loves, and not only loves but gives the world his Son. Maybe we wonder, “Suuuure it’s free. But what’s the catch.” The catch is we can run into the darkness and remain there until we go blind or we can stand in the blinding light in the hopes that we too can radiate some of that love from our own beings. Last week I asked you to understand the devil within us, to even get to know that dark side so that we can come out of the Lenten journey knowing God’s love for us. But we must also remember that we are created in God’s image- meaning we must also acknowledge the divinity in each one of us. Thanks to Nicodemus’ curiosity and Spirit-led conversion from dark to light we learn that God’s love is surprising, all encompassing, unasked for and undeserved—it is also given unconditionally. God loves us, whether we like it or not. No wonder we can’t help but be curious. Amen

March 16, 2014

Bible Text: John 3:1-21 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Out of curiosity, Mike and I decided to explore some of the outdoor adventures in this region. Now, although I enjoy hiking, kayaking, and bird watching I tend to do all those activities with safety in mind. I never kayak in windy weather, I enjoy the hikes that are well marked, I will never get to close to a dangerous bird- I'm not what you would say, a big risk taker. Which is why exploring out of curiosity can be a very stupid thing. Out of curiosity, Mike and I signed up to take the “wet and wild tour” at the Horne Lake Caves. Now, because it was a guided tour I assumed that there would be an element of safety. I knew I would get wet and so I wore all my rain-gear and a pair of gumboots. They provided a helmet with a head lamp- after all I understood that it would be dark. And yet I stand before you feeling lucky to be alive. At one point, while I was scaling a 2 meter waterfall in complete darkness with my feet on ledges below and my hands embracing the slippery rock above I thought, at some point I will be able to preach about this. While squeezing between the upper and lower rock face which was on a diagonal and a stream up to my knees was flowing quickly below I thought, only if I survive will I be able to preach about this. Mike meanwhile, was enthralled with the adventure, jumping like a mountain goat from rock to rock. There are three requirements needed to call something a cave. One, it must be natural, meaning that a mine, which is man-made is not a cave. Two, it must have an entry point large enough for an adult to enter-albeit they might have to be able to dislocate their limbs to get through the hole, and three, the cave must endure 24hr- 7 days a week of total darkness. When we turned off our headlamps- which was one of the “fun” things our guide had us do- it was truly dark. Instead of our eyes adjusting to the light- which was no existent- if we were to spend more than 3 days in the cave we would have gone blind. It was total darkness. It sounds fun doesn't it! Because of curiosity I now know I never need to go spelunking again.
But thankfully our curiosity does not always lead us to such dangerous discoveries. In fact, sometimes our curiosity can save us- even if we are in complete darkness. Nicodemus was a curious man but only under the cover of darkness did he pursue his curiosity about Jesus. Nicodemus was a learned man steeped in scholarship and reason. In the version we read from John says that Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews. We know from the appearance of Nicodemus at a few other events in Jesus' life that he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. The word Sanhedrin comes from the Greek word synedroin which means “to sit together”. Much like the Greek word Presbyter which means elder who gather- the Sanhedrin would gather together in council to discuss matters of faith and relevance. I make the comparison between an elder or a presbyter, and the Sanhedrin because it helps us understand the role Nicodemus had in the community. Imagine what it would be like if we saw one of the elders checking out the new minister down the street- perhaps you don't need to imagine. But if Nicodemus had been seen by a member of his community going to Jesus for teaching he would have been at the receiving end of an inquisition. As a result it is only in the darkness of the night that he is driven by his curiosity, pulled by his insatiable desire, to figure out just who this man Jesus really is.
He comes at night perhaps because he is fearful of the opinions of his peers. But also because we can all recognize the symbolism of being in the dark. Of being in a time of unbelief, ignorance and quite likely temptation. Even upon his arrival at Jesus' lodgings he still appears to be in the dark continually confounded by Jesus' statements.
I can not ignore the statement that Jesus makes when he says that no one can see the kingdom without being born from above. You will see in the footnotes of our NRSV text that it can also mean be born anew and in many translations it is understood as being born again. The Greek word is anaothen and it can mean anew, again, and from above, each one is correct in its literal translation. But that's exactly the problem, Nicodemus' confusion happens when he takes Jesus' words literally. This is an import thing for us to remember- that even in our desire to be believers in the light of God- we sometimes try to fit the metaphors, allegories, and stories into literal spaces- spaces too small for a God so big. Fortunately for us, this discourse, this late night discussion brings some essential teachings to light. This is not really a discussion about whether one must be born again, anew or from above- rather it is a discourse of the difference of that of the flesh, mortal, human, flawed, and that of the Spirit, immortal, divine, flawless.
Something very strange happens in this passage. Nicodemus seems to fade back into the shadows. We never find out if he stayed to get the answers he was looking for or at least some resolution from his confusion. We do know that Nicodemus defends Jesus later on in the Gospel and then later accompanies Joseph of Arimathea with spices to Jesus' burial. Again it serves as a reminder to us that sometimes belief happens in an instant but, most ofter, over time with the Spirit gently pushing us in that direction. This is a common theme in John's Gospel. There are some who come to faith quickly and others who take more time. John invites those- then and now- who have difficulty believing that this story of love and sacrifice is relevant to them- to come along for the ride or as John puts it, time and time again, “to come and see”. Faith in John's gospel is always a verb, and the act of believing takes time and is not a once-and-done action but rather is an ongoing work of the Spirit- who, as Jesus puts it to Nicodemus, blows where it chooses. For some, the coming of the Spirit and faith will be a dramatic life changing event, but for others, like Nicodemus, it will move more slowly and may not be realized until much later in life.
What is lost in the English translation is something rather vital. As Jesus is answering Nicodemus the language of “you” changes. It shifts from the singular to the plural. In verse 11 Jesus answers Nicodemus' last question and transitions seamlessly from addressing Nicodemus to the entire group. No longer are these answers just for one curious man but for an entire curious community. From that transition from one man to the whole we receive the most recognizable Christian statement and the Bible's most famous verse.
John 3:16 holds a special place in the hearts of countless Christians- for good reason, it lays out God's love for the whole world. Notice that God does not ask the world if it wishes to be the recipient of God's love. God just goes ahead and loves, and not only loves but gives the world his Son. Maybe we wonder, “Suuuure it's free. But what's the catch.” The catch is we can run into the darkness and remain there until we go blind or we can stand in the blinding light in the hopes that we too can radiate some of that love from our own beings. Last week I asked you to understand the devil within us, to even get to know that dark side so that we can come out of the Lenten journey knowing God's love for us. But we must also remember that we are created in God's image- meaning we must also acknowledge the divinity in each one of us. Thanks to Nicodemus' curiosity and Spirit-led conversion from dark to light we learn that God's love is surprising, all encompassing, unasked for and undeserved—it is also given unconditionally. God loves us, whether we like it or not. No wonder we can't help but be curious. Amen

Bible Text: John 3:1-21 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Out of curiosity, Mike and I decided to explore some of the outdoor adventures in this region. Now, although I enjoy hiking, kayaking, and bird watching I tend to do all those activities with safety in mind. I never kayak in windy weather, I enjoy the hikes that are well marked, I will never get to close to a dangerous bird- I’m not what you would say, a big risk taker. Which is why exploring out of curiosity can be a very stupid thing. Out of curiosity, Mike and I signed up to take the “wet and wild tour” at the Horne Lake Caves. Now, because it was a guided tour I assumed that there would be an element of safety. I knew I would get wet and so I wore all my rain-gear and a pair of gumboots. They provided a helmet with a head lamp- after all I understood that it would be dark. And yet I stand before you feeling lucky to be alive. At one point, while I was scaling a 2 meter waterfall in complete darkness with my feet on ledges below and my hands embracing the slippery rock above I thought, at some point I will be able to preach about this. While squeezing between the upper and lower rock face which was on a diagonal and a stream up to my knees was flowing quickly below I thought, only if I survive will I be able to preach about this. Mike meanwhile, was enthralled with the adventure, jumping like a mountain goat from rock to rock. There are three requirements needed to call something a cave. One, it must be natural, meaning that a mine, which is man-made is not a cave. Two, it must have an entry point large enough for an adult to enter-albeit they might have to be able to dislocate their limbs to get through the hole, and three, the cave must endure 24hr- 7 days a week of total darkness. When we turned off our headlamps- which was one of the “fun” things our guide had us do- it was truly dark. Instead of our eyes adjusting to the light- which was no existent- if we were to spend more than 3 days in the cave we would have gone blind. It was total darkness. It sounds fun doesn’t it! Because of curiosity I now know I never need to go spelunking again.
But thankfully our curiosity does not always lead us to such dangerous discoveries. In fact, sometimes our curiosity can save us- even if we are in complete darkness. Nicodemus was a curious man but only under the cover of darkness did he pursue his curiosity about Jesus. Nicodemus was a learned man steeped in scholarship and reason. In the version we read from John says that Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews. We know from the appearance of Nicodemus at a few other events in Jesus’ life that he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. The word Sanhedrin comes from the Greek word synedroin which means “to sit together”. Much like the Greek word Presbyter which means elder who gather- the Sanhedrin would gather together in council to discuss matters of faith and relevance. I make the comparison between an elder or a presbyter, and the Sanhedrin because it helps us understand the role Nicodemus had in the community. Imagine what it would be like if we saw one of the elders checking out the new minister down the street- perhaps you don’t need to imagine. But if Nicodemus had been seen by a member of his community going to Jesus for teaching he would have been at the receiving end of an inquisition. As a result it is only in the darkness of the night that he is driven by his curiosity, pulled by his insatiable desire, to figure out just who this man Jesus really is.
He comes at night perhaps because he is fearful of the opinions of his peers. But also because we can all recognize the symbolism of being in the dark. Of being in a time of unbelief, ignorance and quite likely temptation. Even upon his arrival at Jesus’ lodgings he still appears to be in the dark continually confounded by Jesus’ statements.
I can not ignore the statement that Jesus makes when he says that no one can see the kingdom without being born from above. You will see in the footnotes of our NRSV text that it can also mean be born anew and in many translations it is understood as being born again. The Greek word is anaothen and it can mean anew, again, and from above, each one is correct in its literal translation. But that’s exactly the problem, Nicodemus’ confusion happens when he takes Jesus’ words literally. This is an import thing for us to remember- that even in our desire to be believers in the light of God- we sometimes try to fit the metaphors, allegories, and stories into literal spaces- spaces too small for a God so big. Fortunately for us, this discourse, this late night discussion brings some essential teachings to light. This is not really a discussion about whether one must be born again, anew or from above- rather it is a discourse of the difference of that of the flesh, mortal, human, flawed, and that of the Spirit, immortal, divine, flawless.
Something very strange happens in this passage. Nicodemus seems to fade back into the shadows. We never find out if he stayed to get the answers he was looking for or at least some resolution from his confusion. We do know that Nicodemus defends Jesus later on in the Gospel and then later accompanies Joseph of Arimathea with spices to Jesus’ burial. Again it serves as a reminder to us that sometimes belief happens in an instant but, most ofter, over time with the Spirit gently pushing us in that direction. This is a common theme in John’s Gospel. There are some who come to faith quickly and others who take more time. John invites those- then and now- who have difficulty believing that this story of love and sacrifice is relevant to them- to come along for the ride or as John puts it, time and time again, “to come and see”. Faith in John’s gospel is always a verb, and the act of believing takes time and is not a once-and-done action but rather is an ongoing work of the Spirit- who, as Jesus puts it to Nicodemus, blows where it chooses. For some, the coming of the Spirit and faith will be a dramatic life changing event, but for others, like Nicodemus, it will move more slowly and may not be realized until much later in life.
What is lost in the English translation is something rather vital. As Jesus is answering Nicodemus the language of “you” changes. It shifts from the singular to the plural. In verse 11 Jesus answers Nicodemus’ last question and transitions seamlessly from addressing Nicodemus to the entire group. No longer are these answers just for one curious man but for an entire curious community. From that transition from one man to the whole we receive the most recognizable Christian statement and the Bible’s most famous verse.
John 3:16 holds a special place in the hearts of countless Christians- for good reason, it lays out God’s love for the whole world. Notice that God does not ask the world if it wishes to be the recipient of God’s love. God just goes ahead and loves, and not only loves but gives the world his Son. Maybe we wonder, “Suuuure it’s free. But what’s the catch.” The catch is we can run into the darkness and remain there until we go blind or we can stand in the blinding light in the hopes that we too can radiate some of that love from our own beings. Last week I asked you to understand the devil within us, to even get to know that dark side so that we can come out of the Lenten journey knowing God’s love for us. But we must also remember that we are created in God’s image- meaning we must also acknowledge the divinity in each one of us. Thanks to Nicodemus’ curiosity and Spirit-led conversion from dark to light we learn that God’s love is surprising, all encompassing, unasked for and undeserved—it is also given unconditionally. God loves us, whether we like it or not. No wonder we can’t help but be curious. Amen

Listening to the Heartbeat of God (part 2)

Bible Text: Resp. Ps. 95 & 97, John 13:31-34, Matthew 5:17-20 | Preacher: Rev. Charles Scott

Introduction

Last week we ended our meditation on the problem of integration of the Peter and John traditions when we place our emphasis on one or the other. The spirituality of John can produce an individualistic focus on self which ignores the community and worship, the corrective and service opportunities which the community can offer. It includes the prayer support, the sacraments, the encouragement and support necessary to live out our lives according to the model presented by Christ.

On the other hand a focus on the Peter tradition with its emphasis on the external can lead to a misguided focus on the outward. It often expresses itself with a commitment to using our resources to maintain structures, outmoded traditions which stand in the way of ministry and mission. In personal terms the necessary changes in our lives becomes impossible so that we are no longer open to the Spirit and the transformation helpful to live a more abundant life in Christ. I would put this question to you to consider. As we get older it becomes more difficult for us to introduce change into our lives. But if we accept that transformation is an ongoing process in our lives, when was the last time that any fundamental change occurred in your life in response to the work of the Spirit?

I would suggest that we are all prone to follow a particular route in our lives simply because our comfort zone often determines our choice. Certainly I am aware of this process in my life, but I am also aware that periodically the Spirit of Christ shatters my illusion of comfort to open me to a re-balancing of the two traditions. This is a continuous process in the Christian life. The old saying that a rut is simply a coffin with the ends kicked out often is reflected in our lives. The inner life of the Spirit evident in the solitude of prayer, worship, study and community is to be reflected in the outward life expressed by the fruits of the Spirit: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GENEROSITY, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, AND SELF-CONTROL.

1) The Necessity of the Peter Tradition

Our text in Matthew emphasizes for us the necessary place of law and structure in our lives. We all recognize the need and place of structure in order to function. Without law no society can operate. The Psalmist puts it this way: THE LAW OF THE LORD IS PERFECT, REVIVING THE SOUL; THE DECREES OF THE LORD ARE SURE, MAKING WISER THE SIMPLE; THE PRECEPTS OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT, REJOICING THE HEART. This applies to our bodies as well as to the whole of creation. Without structure or laws of life which regulate our bodily functions we cannot exist as human beings. Without the structure of our skeletons our bodies would simply be unable to function. Looking after our bodies with proper nutrition and exercise is critical for us. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 104 expresses the necessary inter-relationship of the earth and the whole cosmos in this manner: O LORD, HOW MANIFOLD ARE YOUR WORKS! IN WISDOM YOU HAVE MADE THEM ALL. Couched in terms of Genesis God in his love and wisdom brought the order of law and life out of A FORMLESS VOID AND DARKNESS.

In Matthew Christ is the fulfilment of the law, for it guides us in living a life of righteousness, of peace and justice in which we live in a right relationship with God and all life forms. As the text tells us we are not simply to live like the Scribes and Pharisees. They tended to live in terms of externals for all to see. The law became the means by which they attempted to control and manipulate the lives of others. There have been many instances recently by which those in power have attempted to use the law to stifle legitimate descent. I have often thought that the term Party Whip is an appropriate term to control anyone from objecting to a particular party. Our present materialistic and busy age sets a great store on the outward appearance and possessions and activity. As Graham Vietch suggested we live a difficult Christian life in the midst of an all- encompassing culture which shapes our responses unconsciously. The law which in the manner of its fulfilment modelled by the Christ, is a guide and corrective for each one of us. Faithful action is a necessary ingredient of the Christian life.

Another emphasis in the Peter tradition is expressed by the church; its memory in its traditions, the sacraments and Bible, its worship and fellowship. It is like a family which in its relationships helps us to live with one another in peace and harmony. Parents are to model for their children what it is to live with the give and take of family life. The church is this family for us. It becomes a shelter and necessary rock for our lives.

It can open our inner vision to creation so that we can see it with fresh eyes as God’s gift to us. In our times of loneliness and trouble we have all drawn comfort from singing the church’s hymns, saying prayers together with folk who like us, have known temptation, loss and emptiness. The church service gives voice to our yearnings for God’s goodness at the heart of humanity. When we are brought to repentance in light of the love and law of God modelled in Christ we are not turning away from ourselves to become someone different so much are we are returning to our true self to become what we are personally created to be. We are made in the goodness of the image of God.

2) The Necessity of the John Tradition

Lest we think that we can function with a primary emphasis on one tradition let me suggest an image. We recognize that structures are necessary. But as I have suggested like our own skeleton it is useless unless the life of the body is infused by the spirit of life. The Gospel lesson in John indicates the nature of this life in the new commandment that Jesus gives to us. I GIVE YOU A NEW COMMANDMENT, THAT YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER. JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, YOU SHOULD ALSO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. BY THIS EVERYONE WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES, IF YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

This ancient tradition is a treasury of the house of faith which enables us to discern God’s presence in all of life. Harvey Coxes, a writer of the Book of the Secular Society which I read in theology many years ago has made the comment that we are moving into the Age of the Spirit. Science recognizes and explores the interrelationship of all life both on earth and throughout the cosmos. Earth is held in its orbit a particular distance from the sun so that life can exist. It is simply one expression of this reality. Cosmonauts have recognized this fact. Our bodies are an expression of the inter-connectedness of all life. As we damage this relationship with the creation we begin to make life more difficult. The various species of animal and bird life which have been destroyed by our way of live and which continues to threaten these species warn us of danger. They are similar to the canaries which were used in the mines to warn of the release of life threatening gas. They tell us that all is not well with the creation upon which we rely and to which we are intricately related. We are dependent for life on the creation. Because this is God’s world and God is the source of all life we have an obligation to care for one another and the creation. It is the way we are TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

The John tradition emphasizes the essential goodness of all life. In the Church’s symbols and rituals they clearly point to the world which is God’s dwelling place. As we listen to the agony of the world in its people, in the creation itself we can hear the heartbeat of God, the continual suffering and pain of God. I have mentioned on occasion that none of us can carry the pain of the world, even of those closest to ourselves. But in Christ we know and recognize the God who carries this pain and suffering for us.

3) Putting the Two Together

It’s interesting that Peter and John were together at the last supper and both went to the empty tomb in response to the news of the women. Peter and John also went to the temple together in the Book of Acts in chapter 3. In each case Peter was the active one who went in to the tomb first and spoke to the lame man at the temple. John on the other hand hung back and may have reflected on what he was seeing and about to do. It was to the Beloved disciple that Jesus on the cross gave the responsibility to care for his mother. They reflect the character of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to Christ while Martha organized lunch. We need both of these traditions in our lives. We need this balance in our spirituality, believing and hoping in our God given goodness on the one hand and being wise and alert to our sinful leanings on the other.

It is like a surgical procedure. The aim of medicine is to enable the healthy energy deep within to assert itself against any disease or malaise that is threatening our well- being. This transformation from sickness to health in ourselves, others and the creation comes through love. This love of Christ wells up from life’s deepest springs, the place of God’s abiding.

Where do we listen for the heartbeat of God? For those of us who belong to the Christian household the primary source is the Christ, in the teaching and life of Christ, his joy and suffering; the stories of scripture and the life of the saints, in the beauty and pain of life, in the poor and dispossessed, in the life of creation and our own hearts. We do so through the medium of prayer in silence and solitude as did the Christ if we are prepared to listen. Both the Peter and John tradition plays a part in this stethoscope of listening.

July 21, 2013

Bible Text: Resp. Ps. 95 & 97, John 13:31-34, Matthew 5:17-20 | Preacher: Rev. Charles Scott

Introduction

Last week we ended our meditation on the problem of integration of the Peter and John traditions when we place our emphasis on one or the other. The spirituality of John can produce an individualistic focus on self which ignores the community and worship, the corrective and service opportunities which the community can offer. It includes the prayer support, the sacraments, the encouragement and support necessary to live out our lives according to the model presented by Christ.

On the other hand a focus on the Peter tradition with its emphasis on the external can lead to a misguided focus on the outward. It often expresses itself with a commitment to using our resources to maintain structures, outmoded traditions which stand in the way of ministry and mission. In personal terms the necessary changes in our lives becomes impossible so that we are no longer open to the Spirit and the transformation helpful to live a more abundant life in Christ. I would put this question to you to consider. As we get older it becomes more difficult for us to introduce change into our lives. But if we accept that transformation is an ongoing process in our lives, when was the last time that any fundamental change occurred in your life in response to the work of the Spirit?

I would suggest that we are all prone to follow a particular route in our lives simply because our comfort zone often determines our choice. Certainly I am aware of this process in my life, but I am also aware that periodically the Spirit of Christ shatters my illusion of comfort to open me to a re-balancing of the two traditions. This is a continuous process in the Christian life. The old saying that a rut is simply a coffin with the ends kicked out often is reflected in our lives. The inner life of the Spirit evident in the solitude of prayer, worship, study and community is to be reflected in the outward life expressed by the fruits of the Spirit: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GENEROSITY, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, AND SELF-CONTROL.

1) The Necessity of the Peter Tradition

Our text in Matthew emphasizes for us the necessary place of law and structure in our lives. We all recognize the need and place of structure in order to function. Without law no society can operate. The Psalmist puts it this way: THE LAW OF THE LORD IS PERFECT, REVIVING THE SOUL; THE DECREES OF THE LORD ARE SURE, MAKING WISER THE SIMPLE; THE PRECEPTS OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT, REJOICING THE HEART. This applies to our bodies as well as to the whole of creation. Without structure or laws of life which regulate our bodily functions we cannot exist as human beings. Without the structure of our skeletons our bodies would simply be unable to function. Looking after our bodies with proper nutrition and exercise is critical for us. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 104 expresses the necessary inter-relationship of the earth and the whole cosmos in this manner: O LORD, HOW MANIFOLD ARE YOUR WORKS! IN WISDOM YOU HAVE MADE THEM ALL. Couched in terms of Genesis God in his love and wisdom brought the order of law and life out of A FORMLESS VOID AND DARKNESS.

In Matthew Christ is the fulfilment of the law, for it guides us in living a life of righteousness, of peace and justice in which we live in a right relationship with God and all life forms. As the text tells us we are not simply to live like the Scribes and Pharisees. They tended to live in terms of externals for all to see. The law became the means by which they attempted to control and manipulate the lives of others. There have been many instances recently by which those in power have attempted to use the law to stifle legitimate descent. I have often thought that the term Party Whip is an appropriate term to control anyone from objecting to a particular party. Our present materialistic and busy age sets a great store on the outward appearance and possessions and activity. As Graham Vietch suggested we live a difficult Christian life in the midst of an all- encompassing culture which shapes our responses unconsciously. The law which in the manner of its fulfilment modelled by the Christ, is a guide and corrective for each one of us. Faithful action is a necessary ingredient of the Christian life.

Another emphasis in the Peter tradition is expressed by the church; its memory in its traditions, the sacraments and Bible, its worship and fellowship. It is like a family which in its relationships helps us to live with one another in peace and harmony. Parents are to model for their children what it is to live with the give and take of family life. The church is this family for us. It becomes a shelter and necessary rock for our lives.

It can open our inner vision to creation so that we can see it with fresh eyes as God’s gift to us. In our times of loneliness and trouble we have all drawn comfort from singing the church’s hymns, saying prayers together with folk who like us, have known temptation, loss and emptiness. The church service gives voice to our yearnings for God’s goodness at the heart of humanity. When we are brought to repentance in light of the love and law of God modelled in Christ we are not turning away from ourselves to become someone different so much are we are returning to our true self to become what we are personally created to be. We are made in the goodness of the image of God.

2) The Necessity of the John Tradition

Lest we think that we can function with a primary emphasis on one tradition let me suggest an image. We recognize that structures are necessary. But as I have suggested like our own skeleton it is useless unless the life of the body is infused by the spirit of life. The Gospel lesson in John indicates the nature of this life in the new commandment that Jesus gives to us. I GIVE YOU A NEW COMMANDMENT, THAT YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER. JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, YOU SHOULD ALSO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. BY THIS EVERYONE WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES, IF YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

This ancient tradition is a treasury of the house of faith which enables us to discern God’s presence in all of life. Harvey Coxes, a writer of the Book of the Secular Society which I read in theology many years ago has made the comment that we are moving into the Age of the Spirit. Science recognizes and explores the interrelationship of all life both on earth and throughout the cosmos. Earth is held in its orbit a particular distance from the sun so that life can exist. It is simply one expression of this reality. Cosmonauts have recognized this fact. Our bodies are an expression of the inter-connectedness of all life. As we damage this relationship with the creation we begin to make life more difficult. The various species of animal and bird life which have been destroyed by our way of live and which continues to threaten these species warn us of danger. They are similar to the canaries which were used in the mines to warn of the release of life threatening gas. They tell us that all is not well with the creation upon which we rely and to which we are intricately related. We are dependent for life on the creation. Because this is God’s world and God is the source of all life we have an obligation to care for one another and the creation. It is the way we are TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

The John tradition emphasizes the essential goodness of all life. In the Church’s symbols and rituals they clearly point to the world which is God’s dwelling place. As we listen to the agony of the world in its people, in the creation itself we can hear the heartbeat of God, the continual suffering and pain of God. I have mentioned on occasion that none of us can carry the pain of the world, even of those closest to ourselves. But in Christ we know and recognize the God who carries this pain and suffering for us.

3) Putting the Two Together

It’s interesting that Peter and John were together at the last supper and both went to the empty tomb in response to the news of the women. Peter and John also went to the temple together in the Book of Acts in chapter 3. In each case Peter was the active one who went in to the tomb first and spoke to the lame man at the temple. John on the other hand hung back and may have reflected on what he was seeing and about to do. It was to the Beloved disciple that Jesus on the cross gave the responsibility to care for his mother. They reflect the character of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to Christ while Martha organized lunch. We need both of these traditions in our lives. We need this balance in our spirituality, believing and hoping in our God given goodness on the one hand and being wise and alert to our sinful leanings on the other.

It is like a surgical procedure. The aim of medicine is to enable the healthy energy deep within to assert itself against any disease or malaise that is threatening our well- being. This transformation from sickness to health in ourselves, others and the creation comes through love. This love of Christ wells up from life’s deepest springs, the place of God’s abiding.

Where do we listen for the heartbeat of God? For those of us who belong to the Christian household the primary source is the Christ, in the teaching and life of Christ, his joy and suffering; the stories of scripture and the life of the saints, in the beauty and pain of life, in the poor and dispossessed, in the life of creation and our own hearts. We do so through the medium of prayer in silence and solitude as did the Christ if we are prepared to listen. Both the Peter and John tradition plays a part in this stethoscope of listening.

Bible Text: Resp. Ps. 95 & 97, John 13:31-34, Matthew 5:17-20 | Preacher: Rev. Charles Scott

Introduction

Last week we ended our meditation on the problem of integration of the Peter and John traditions when we place our emphasis on one or the other. The spirituality of John can produce an individualistic focus on self which ignores the community and worship, the corrective and service opportunities which the community can offer. It includes the prayer support, the sacraments, the encouragement and support necessary to live out our lives according to the model presented by Christ.

On the other hand a focus on the Peter tradition with its emphasis on the external can lead to a misguided focus on the outward. It often expresses itself with a commitment to using our resources to maintain structures, outmoded traditions which stand in the way of ministry and mission. In personal terms the necessary changes in our lives becomes impossible so that we are no longer open to the Spirit and the transformation helpful to live a more abundant life in Christ. I would put this question to you to consider. As we get older it becomes more difficult for us to introduce change into our lives. But if we accept that transformation is an ongoing process in our lives, when was the last time that any fundamental change occurred in your life in response to the work of the Spirit?

I would suggest that we are all prone to follow a particular route in our lives simply because our comfort zone often determines our choice. Certainly I am aware of this process in my life, but I am also aware that periodically the Spirit of Christ shatters my illusion of comfort to open me to a re-balancing of the two traditions. This is a continuous process in the Christian life. The old saying that a rut is simply a coffin with the ends kicked out often is reflected in our lives. The inner life of the Spirit evident in the solitude of prayer, worship, study and community is to be reflected in the outward life expressed by the fruits of the Spirit: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GENEROSITY, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, AND SELF-CONTROL.

1) The Necessity of the Peter Tradition

Our text in Matthew emphasizes for us the necessary place of law and structure in our lives. We all recognize the need and place of structure in order to function. Without law no society can operate. The Psalmist puts it this way: THE LAW OF THE LORD IS PERFECT, REVIVING THE SOUL; THE DECREES OF THE LORD ARE SURE, MAKING WISER THE SIMPLE; THE PRECEPTS OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT, REJOICING THE HEART. This applies to our bodies as well as to the whole of creation. Without structure or laws of life which regulate our bodily functions we cannot exist as human beings. Without the structure of our skeletons our bodies would simply be unable to function. Looking after our bodies with proper nutrition and exercise is critical for us. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 104 expresses the necessary inter-relationship of the earth and the whole cosmos in this manner: O LORD, HOW MANIFOLD ARE YOUR WORKS! IN WISDOM YOU HAVE MADE THEM ALL. Couched in terms of Genesis God in his love and wisdom brought the order of law and life out of A FORMLESS VOID AND DARKNESS.

In Matthew Christ is the fulfilment of the law, for it guides us in living a life of righteousness, of peace and justice in which we live in a right relationship with God and all life forms. As the text tells us we are not simply to live like the Scribes and Pharisees. They tended to live in terms of externals for all to see. The law became the means by which they attempted to control and manipulate the lives of others. There have been many instances recently by which those in power have attempted to use the law to stifle legitimate descent. I have often thought that the term Party Whip is an appropriate term to control anyone from objecting to a particular party. Our present materialistic and busy age sets a great store on the outward appearance and possessions and activity. As Graham Vietch suggested we live a difficult Christian life in the midst of an all- encompassing culture which shapes our responses unconsciously. The law which in the manner of its fulfilment modelled by the Christ, is a guide and corrective for each one of us. Faithful action is a necessary ingredient of the Christian life.

Another emphasis in the Peter tradition is expressed by the church; its memory in its traditions, the sacraments and Bible, its worship and fellowship. It is like a family which in its relationships helps us to live with one another in peace and harmony. Parents are to model for their children what it is to live with the give and take of family life. The church is this family for us. It becomes a shelter and necessary rock for our lives.

It can open our inner vision to creation so that we can see it with fresh eyes as God’s gift to us. In our times of loneliness and trouble we have all drawn comfort from singing the church’s hymns, saying prayers together with folk who like us, have known temptation, loss and emptiness. The church service gives voice to our yearnings for God’s goodness at the heart of humanity. When we are brought to repentance in light of the love and law of God modelled in Christ we are not turning away from ourselves to become someone different so much are we are returning to our true self to become what we are personally created to be. We are made in the goodness of the image of God.

2) The Necessity of the John Tradition

Lest we think that we can function with a primary emphasis on one tradition let me suggest an image. We recognize that structures are necessary. But as I have suggested like our own skeleton it is useless unless the life of the body is infused by the spirit of life. The Gospel lesson in John indicates the nature of this life in the new commandment that Jesus gives to us. I GIVE YOU A NEW COMMANDMENT, THAT YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER. JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, YOU SHOULD ALSO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. BY THIS EVERYONE WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES, IF YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

This ancient tradition is a treasury of the house of faith which enables us to discern God’s presence in all of life. Harvey Coxes, a writer of the Book of the Secular Society which I read in theology many years ago has made the comment that we are moving into the Age of the Spirit. Science recognizes and explores the interrelationship of all life both on earth and throughout the cosmos. Earth is held in its orbit a particular distance from the sun so that life can exist. It is simply one expression of this reality. Cosmonauts have recognized this fact. Our bodies are an expression of the inter-connectedness of all life. As we damage this relationship with the creation we begin to make life more difficult. The various species of animal and bird life which have been destroyed by our way of live and which continues to threaten these species warn us of danger. They are similar to the canaries which were used in the mines to warn of the release of life threatening gas. They tell us that all is not well with the creation upon which we rely and to which we are intricately related. We are dependent for life on the creation. Because this is God’s world and God is the source of all life we have an obligation to care for one another and the creation. It is the way we are TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

The John tradition emphasizes the essential goodness of all life. In the Church’s symbols and rituals they clearly point to the world which is God’s dwelling place. As we listen to the agony of the world in its people, in the creation itself we can hear the heartbeat of God, the continual suffering and pain of God. I have mentioned on occasion that none of us can carry the pain of the world, even of those closest to ourselves. But in Christ we know and recognize the God who carries this pain and suffering for us.

3) Putting the Two Together

It’s interesting that Peter and John were together at the last supper and both went to the empty tomb in response to the news of the women. Peter and John also went to the temple together in the Book of Acts in chapter 3. In each case Peter was the active one who went in to the tomb first and spoke to the lame man at the temple. John on the other hand hung back and may have reflected on what he was seeing and about to do. It was to the Beloved disciple that Jesus on the cross gave the responsibility to care for his mother. They reflect the character of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to Christ while Martha organized lunch. We need both of these traditions in our lives. We need this balance in our spirituality, believing and hoping in our God given goodness on the one hand and being wise and alert to our sinful leanings on the other.

It is like a surgical procedure. The aim of medicine is to enable the healthy energy deep within to assert itself against any disease or malaise that is threatening our well- being. This transformation from sickness to health in ourselves, others and the creation comes through love. This love of Christ wells up from life’s deepest springs, the place of God’s abiding.

Where do we listen for the heartbeat of God? For those of us who belong to the Christian household the primary source is the Christ, in the teaching and life of Christ, his joy and suffering; the stories of scripture and the life of the saints, in the beauty and pain of life, in the poor and dispossessed, in the life of creation and our own hearts. We do so through the medium of prayer in silence and solitude as did the Christ if we are prepared to listen. Both the Peter and John tradition plays a part in this stethoscope of listening.

Listening to the Heartbeat of God (part 1)

Bible Text: John 1:1-9 | Preacher: Rev. Charles Scott

Introduction

This morning we will embark on a journey together in terms of our worship experience and hopefully an appreciation of an ancient Celtic wisdom. This ancient wisdom stirred a sense of awe and wonder in Sharon and I in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. There will be a period of silence following some Taize music opening us to a sense of the Presence of this God. Music is a wondrous gift of God given to us to enjoy but also to create a receptive openness to this Presence. I recently listened to a scientist who suggested that our music reflects the rhythms of the universe. Every culture on earth has some form of music which expresses the poetry of life, our deep pain and joy. In the Bible the psalms give voice to the music of our hearts and the creation.

The meditation period will comprise one sermon spread over 2 Sundays. After each Sunday morning worship, I will be in the Library to receive your comments, positive or negative, about the worship experience. As many of you know Sharon and I journeyed to Scotland and France to participate in the Taize and Iona communities. The former introduced us to a form of singing, very simple but lovely tunes focused on Biblical texts and periods of silence. We participated with the Brothers of this ecumenical community along with some 800 young people. When we travelled to Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, we received lectures on Celtic Spirituality best expressed by the Gospel of John. Along with this tradition we will also consider the Peter tradition revealed more by the synoptic Gospels.

It was an interesting and transforming juxtaposition between the 2 experiences. Taize wedded together sung biblical texts and silence. They focused on the presence of God in the Christ through the Spirit which became apparent in these moments. I recognize that many of you experience the loneliness of silence when you experience the loss of a loved one with whom you have lived and known life together over many years. This silence, particularly in the evening time can be devastating; no one with which to share the day and lie within the intimacy and vulnerability of sleep. But there is a silence of presence as expressed by the story in I Kings. A SOUND OF SHEER SILENCE. This is what Sharon and I experienced in Taize.

1) The John Perspective

I have always been drawn to John’s Gospel. In some respects it is quite different from the synoptic Gospels; of Matthew, Mark, Luke. John is a much more reflective type of Gospel with the intertwining of the great themes of Word, Light, and Life in the Prologue. These will be joined by Water and Bread as an expression of what is absolutely necessary for a life in God in this world and the next. In the story of Nicodemus the Spirit becomes the primary person who is absolutely necessary for the Life as God intends, not only for His human creatures but all life. The text in the Book of Revelation reads: THEN I SAW A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH, FOR THE FIRST HEAVEN AND THE FIRST EARTH HAD PASSED AWAY.

The image which informs and shapes Celtic spirituality is the picture of John, the Beloved disciple, leaning toward the Christ at the last supper, to listen to THE HEARTBEAT OF GOD. This image is understood in the context of the Prologue of John which reflects the unique and intimate relationship between Christ and God. IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD. HE WAS IN THE BEGINNING WITH GOD. ALL THINGS CAME INTO BEING THROUGH HIM, AND WITHOUT HIM NOT ONE THING CAME INTO BEING. WHAT HAS COME INTO BEING IN HIM WAS LIFE, AND THE LIFE WAS THE LIGHT OF ALL PEOPLE.

Notice that John uses the text directly from Genesis to indicate that not only is earth an expression of this life but the whole cosmos is integrated into this understanding. All, the whole cosmos reflects the reality of God in Christ by the Spirit. Christ is the creative Word that brought all life into existence. Here is a free translation of this text. IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. BEFORE THERE WAS ONLY EMPTY DARKNESS AND THE DEEP ETERNAL WATERS. BUT IN THE DARK A WIND BEGAN TO STIR. IT WAS THE BREATH OF LIFE. IT WAS GOD SAYING, ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT.’ It affirms that the voice of God in Christ is to be found in all living things. This has profound implication for us who recognize this reality in terms of our relationships with one another and the creation. In some respects we who live carefully protected from the elements of nature have forgotten this memory. It points to who we ought to be and to whom we belong. This truth, that we are created in the image of God, is hidden in the depths of our soul.

John reflects a spirituality that sees God in the whole of life; that understands all things as inter related, in relationship. God is recognized in all life forms in the creation. What is deepest within us is not opposed to God but reflects this God. As we know we may ignore this reality but we cannot escape it. We are innately good, not evil, because of this image. The Scriptures suggests that we are to search out this reality in ourselves and others. We are to treat others as if they house the Christ at the centre of their life, certainly not easy to do. This is John’s universal perspective; a perspective in which Christ is the source of all life. A type of cosmic Christ.

In a real sense John represents the way of contemplation, of prayer and reflection. Obviously it is not the whole meaning and implication of story of John but it is a major theme. It is also reflected in the Epistles in which John as an old man addresses the congregations he loves as his LITTLE CHILDREN. In the Book of Revelation he addresses the ANGEL OF THE CHURCH or in another translation THE SPIRIT OF THE CHURCH. He ends with his understanding the transformation of the cosmos with the words: THEN I SAW A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH; FOR THE FIRST HEAVEN AND THE FIRST EARTH HAD PASSED AWAY, AND THE SEA WAS NO MORE. Revelation is an affirmation of this comic theme. John writes from the Island of Patmos where he was imprisoned encouraging the church to remain faithful to the end of time when there will be NO MORE MOURNING AND CRYING AND PAIN.

2 The Peter Perspective

As I suggested the Synoptic Gospels have a somewhat different slant on things. The Gospel of Matthew written for a Jewish audience is much more focused on a particular understanding of Christ. Here Peter is to be the ROCK ON WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO BE BUILT. This tradition in some senses has become the predominate understanding of the church historically. This tradition sees God in relation to a particular people. Thus the Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy. AN ACCOUNT OF THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS THE MESSIAH, SON OF DAVID, SON OF ABRAHAM. Jesus brings salvation to the world through a particular line of descent. He belongs to a particular family and heritage with a history and prophetic tradition. It is always necessary to particularize our response to God in our time and place, our history and culture, our traditions and rituals. This is what Matthew does for us. He relates the Christ to a particular people, in a particular time with a particular religious culture.

The strength of the Peter tradition is that it enshrines the light of truth within the life of the church, in its tradition and sacraments. It is indeed the rock and shelter especially in times of stormy change. It allows us in times of personal confusion and crisis to turn to the familiar house of prayer where our mothers and fathers in the faith found truth and guidance.

The Peter tradition also underlines our capacity for sin and warns us to be on guard against this tendency in ourselves and others. This reality is also reflected in John when it says HE CAME TO HIS OWN AND HIS OWN DID NOT RECEIVE HIM. In the Gospels Christ is the One who fulfils the law and is the model for this corrective in our lives. His body, the Church, is to be the embodiment of this corrective. While its leadership and people often fail in this regard it still has this responsibility. As Graham Vietch pointed out some weeks ago our culture is often so dominating that we are reluctant to confront it in our own lives and the lives of others. But it was something that Christ often did in his ministry and which was a major reason for his death.

The Peter tradition emphasizes faithful action.

3) Separate Entities

The reality is that if we do not work to balance these perspectives and traditions in our lives the culture in which we are a part soon overshadows and directs our understanding of the Christ, shapes our response to the social, political and economic crisis of our time and misdirects our use of the gifts and resources that God gives to us.

For example, to emphasize the spiritual nature of the John tradition without the Peter tradition can produced a spirituality which is no longer connected to the corrective of the Church and is cut off from its truth and the guidance it provides. It can produce a individualistic, narcissistic, spirituality which focuses on self. It may well produce a psychological peace but is disconnected from the social realities which confront us. It is a type of contemplating one’s navel and reflects a disconnect between our spirituality and the social context to which we belong and must minister. It can become a community of like-minded people with a particular mindset with which we agree. In this social context there can be a loss of honesty, openness, and transformative growth.

One the other hand an emphasis on the Peter tradition which is more focused on law and structure can mean that our gifts and resources are poured into these structures rather than ministry and service. I remember well serving one of our churches in Edmonton which had a rather large sanctuary and organ. One particularly cold month it cost $5000. to heat the building. Congregations are struggling to keep such building operational but it strikes me that some way is going to have to be found to deal with this problem since it is diverting a good deal of money into structures rather than ministry and mission. I read an article by last years Moderator of the General Assembly in Scotland. He mentioned that as soon as the churches run our of money we will return to the times of the early church with its zeal and sharing, depending on God for our resources. I am sure that in our context this would be considered foolish, certainly not prudent. Yet this is the manner in which the early church began.

Next week we will consider the balance and relationship which is necessary between the two traditions and perspective

July 14, 2013

Bible Text: John 1:1-9 | Preacher: Rev. Charles Scott

Introduction

This morning we will embark on a journey together in terms of our worship experience and hopefully an appreciation of an ancient Celtic wisdom. This ancient wisdom stirred a sense of awe and wonder in Sharon and I in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. There will be a period of silence following some Taize music opening us to a sense of the Presence of this God. Music is a wondrous gift of God given to us to enjoy but also to create a receptive openness to this Presence. I recently listened to a scientist who suggested that our music reflects the rhythms of the universe. Every culture on earth has some form of music which expresses the poetry of life, our deep pain and joy. In the Bible the psalms give voice to the music of our hearts and the creation.

The meditation period will comprise one sermon spread over 2 Sundays. After each Sunday morning worship, I will be in the Library to receive your comments, positive or negative, about the worship experience. As many of you know Sharon and I journeyed to Scotland and France to participate in the Taize and Iona communities. The former introduced us to a form of singing, very simple but lovely tunes focused on Biblical texts and periods of silence. We participated with the Brothers of this ecumenical community along with some 800 young people. When we travelled to Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, we received lectures on Celtic Spirituality best expressed by the Gospel of John. Along with this tradition we will also consider the Peter tradition revealed more by the synoptic Gospels.

It was an interesting and transforming juxtaposition between the 2 experiences. Taize wedded together sung biblical texts and silence. They focused on the presence of God in the Christ through the Spirit which became apparent in these moments. I recognize that many of you experience the loneliness of silence when you experience the loss of a loved one with whom you have lived and known life together over many years. This silence, particularly in the evening time can be devastating; no one with which to share the day and lie within the intimacy and vulnerability of sleep. But there is a silence of presence as expressed by the story in I Kings. A SOUND OF SHEER SILENCE. This is what Sharon and I experienced in Taize.

1) The John Perspective

I have always been drawn to John’s Gospel. In some respects it is quite different from the synoptic Gospels; of Matthew, Mark, Luke. John is a much more reflective type of Gospel with the intertwining of the great themes of Word, Light, and Life in the Prologue. These will be joined by Water and Bread as an expression of what is absolutely necessary for a life in God in this world and the next. In the story of Nicodemus the Spirit becomes the primary person who is absolutely necessary for the Life as God intends, not only for His human creatures but all life. The text in the Book of Revelation reads: THEN I SAW A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH, FOR THE FIRST HEAVEN AND THE FIRST EARTH HAD PASSED AWAY.

The image which informs and shapes Celtic spirituality is the picture of John, the Beloved disciple, leaning toward the Christ at the last supper, to listen to THE HEARTBEAT OF GOD. This image is understood in the context of the Prologue of John which reflects the unique and intimate relationship between Christ and God. IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD. HE WAS IN THE BEGINNING WITH GOD. ALL THINGS CAME INTO BEING THROUGH HIM, AND WITHOUT HIM NOT ONE THING CAME INTO BEING. WHAT HAS COME INTO BEING IN HIM WAS LIFE, AND THE LIFE WAS THE LIGHT OF ALL PEOPLE.

Notice that John uses the text directly from Genesis to indicate that not only is earth an expression of this life but the whole cosmos is integrated into this understanding. All, the whole cosmos reflects the reality of God in Christ by the Spirit. Christ is the creative Word that brought all life into existence. Here is a free translation of this text. IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. BEFORE THERE WAS ONLY EMPTY DARKNESS AND THE DEEP ETERNAL WATERS. BUT IN THE DARK A WIND BEGAN TO STIR. IT WAS THE BREATH OF LIFE. IT WAS GOD SAYING, ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT.’ It affirms that the voice of God in Christ is to be found in all living things. This has profound implication for us who recognize this reality in terms of our relationships with one another and the creation. In some respects we who live carefully protected from the elements of nature have forgotten this memory. It points to who we ought to be and to whom we belong. This truth, that we are created in the image of God, is hidden in the depths of our soul.

John reflects a spirituality that sees God in the whole of life; that understands all things as inter related, in relationship. God is recognized in all life forms in the creation. What is deepest within us is not opposed to God but reflects this God. As we know we may ignore this reality but we cannot escape it. We are innately good, not evil, because of this image. The Scriptures suggests that we are to search out this reality in ourselves and others. We are to treat others as if they house the Christ at the centre of their life, certainly not easy to do. This is John’s universal perspective; a perspective in which Christ is the source of all life. A type of cosmic Christ.

In a real sense John represents the way of contemplation, of prayer and reflection. Obviously it is not the whole meaning and implication of story of John but it is a major theme. It is also reflected in the Epistles in which John as an old man addresses the congregations he loves as his LITTLE CHILDREN. In the Book of Revelation he addresses the ANGEL OF THE CHURCH or in another translation THE SPIRIT OF THE CHURCH. He ends with his understanding the transformation of the cosmos with the words: THEN I SAW A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH; FOR THE FIRST HEAVEN AND THE FIRST EARTH HAD PASSED AWAY, AND THE SEA WAS NO MORE. Revelation is an affirmation of this comic theme. John writes from the Island of Patmos where he was imprisoned encouraging the church to remain faithful to the end of time when there will be NO MORE MOURNING AND CRYING AND PAIN.

2 The Peter Perspective

As I suggested the Synoptic Gospels have a somewhat different slant on things. The Gospel of Matthew written for a Jewish audience is much more focused on a particular understanding of Christ. Here Peter is to be the ROCK ON WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO BE BUILT. This tradition in some senses has become the predominate understanding of the church historically. This tradition sees God in relation to a particular people. Thus the Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy. AN ACCOUNT OF THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS THE MESSIAH, SON OF DAVID, SON OF ABRAHAM. Jesus brings salvation to the world through a particular line of descent. He belongs to a particular family and heritage with a history and prophetic tradition. It is always necessary to particularize our response to God in our time and place, our history and culture, our traditions and rituals. This is what Matthew does for us. He relates the Christ to a particular people, in a particular time with a particular religious culture.

The strength of the Peter tradition is that it enshrines the light of truth within the life of the church, in its tradition and sacraments. It is indeed the rock and shelter especially in times of stormy change. It allows us in times of personal confusion and crisis to turn to the familiar house of prayer where our mothers and fathers in the faith found truth and guidance.

The Peter tradition also underlines our capacity for sin and warns us to be on guard against this tendency in ourselves and others. This reality is also reflected in John when it says HE CAME TO HIS OWN AND HIS OWN DID NOT RECEIVE HIM. In the Gospels Christ is the One who fulfils the law and is the model for this corrective in our lives. His body, the Church, is to be the embodiment of this corrective. While its leadership and people often fail in this regard it still has this responsibility. As Graham Vietch pointed out some weeks ago our culture is often so dominating that we are reluctant to confront it in our own lives and the lives of others. But it was something that Christ often did in his ministry and which was a major reason for his death.

The Peter tradition emphasizes faithful action.

3) Separate Entities

The reality is that if we do not work to balance these perspectives and traditions in our lives the culture in which we are a part soon overshadows and directs our understanding of the Christ, shapes our response to the social, political and economic crisis of our time and misdirects our use of the gifts and resources that God gives to us.

For example, to emphasize the spiritual nature of the John tradition without the Peter tradition can produced a spirituality which is no longer connected to the corrective of the Church and is cut off from its truth and the guidance it provides. It can produce a individualistic, narcissistic, spirituality which focuses on self. It may well produce a psychological peace but is disconnected from the social realities which confront us. It is a type of contemplating one’s navel and reflects a disconnect between our spirituality and the social context to which we belong and must minister. It can become a community of like-minded people with a particular mindset with which we agree. In this social context there can be a loss of honesty, openness, and transformative growth.

One the other hand an emphasis on the Peter tradition which is more focused on law and structure can mean that our gifts and resources are poured into these structures rather than ministry and service. I remember well serving one of our churches in Edmonton which had a rather large sanctuary and organ. One particularly cold month it cost $5000. to heat the building. Congregations are struggling to keep such building operational but it strikes me that some way is going to have to be found to deal with this problem since it is diverting a good deal of money into structures rather than ministry and mission. I read an article by last years Moderator of the General Assembly in Scotland. He mentioned that as soon as the churches run our of money we will return to the times of the early church with its zeal and sharing, depending on God for our resources. I am sure that in our context this would be considered foolish, certainly not prudent. Yet this is the manner in which the early church began.

Next week we will consider the balance and relationship which is necessary between the two traditions and perspective

Bible Text: John 1:1-9 | Preacher: Rev. Charles Scott

Introduction

This morning we will embark on a journey together in terms of our worship experience and hopefully an appreciation of an ancient Celtic wisdom. This ancient wisdom stirred a sense of awe and wonder in Sharon and I in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. There will be a period of silence following some Taize music opening us to a sense of the Presence of this God. Music is a wondrous gift of God given to us to enjoy but also to create a receptive openness to this Presence. I recently listened to a scientist who suggested that our music reflects the rhythms of the universe. Every culture on earth has some form of music which expresses the poetry of life, our deep pain and joy. In the Bible the psalms give voice to the music of our hearts and the creation.

The meditation period will comprise one sermon spread over 2 Sundays. After each Sunday morning worship, I will be in the Library to receive your comments, positive or negative, about the worship experience. As many of you know Sharon and I journeyed to Scotland and France to participate in the Taize and Iona communities. The former introduced us to a form of singing, very simple but lovely tunes focused on Biblical texts and periods of silence. We participated with the Brothers of this ecumenical community along with some 800 young people. When we travelled to Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, we received lectures on Celtic Spirituality best expressed by the Gospel of John. Along with this tradition we will also consider the Peter tradition revealed more by the synoptic Gospels.

It was an interesting and transforming juxtaposition between the 2 experiences. Taize wedded together sung biblical texts and silence. They focused on the presence of God in the Christ through the Spirit which became apparent in these moments. I recognize that many of you experience the loneliness of silence when you experience the loss of a loved one with whom you have lived and known life together over many years. This silence, particularly in the evening time can be devastating; no one with which to share the day and lie within the intimacy and vulnerability of sleep. But there is a silence of presence as expressed by the story in I Kings. A SOUND OF SHEER SILENCE. This is what Sharon and I experienced in Taize.

1) The John Perspective

I have always been drawn to John’s Gospel. In some respects it is quite different from the synoptic Gospels; of Matthew, Mark, Luke. John is a much more reflective type of Gospel with the intertwining of the great themes of Word, Light, and Life in the Prologue. These will be joined by Water and Bread as an expression of what is absolutely necessary for a life in God in this world and the next. In the story of Nicodemus the Spirit becomes the primary person who is absolutely necessary for the Life as God intends, not only for His human creatures but all life. The text in the Book of Revelation reads: THEN I SAW A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH, FOR THE FIRST HEAVEN AND THE FIRST EARTH HAD PASSED AWAY.

The image which informs and shapes Celtic spirituality is the picture of John, the Beloved disciple, leaning toward the Christ at the last supper, to listen to THE HEARTBEAT OF GOD. This image is understood in the context of the Prologue of John which reflects the unique and intimate relationship between Christ and God. IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD. HE WAS IN THE BEGINNING WITH GOD. ALL THINGS CAME INTO BEING THROUGH HIM, AND WITHOUT HIM NOT ONE THING CAME INTO BEING. WHAT HAS COME INTO BEING IN HIM WAS LIFE, AND THE LIFE WAS THE LIGHT OF ALL PEOPLE.

Notice that John uses the text directly from Genesis to indicate that not only is earth an expression of this life but the whole cosmos is integrated into this understanding. All, the whole cosmos reflects the reality of God in Christ by the Spirit. Christ is the creative Word that brought all life into existence. Here is a free translation of this text. IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. BEFORE THERE WAS ONLY EMPTY DARKNESS AND THE DEEP ETERNAL WATERS. BUT IN THE DARK A WIND BEGAN TO STIR. IT WAS THE BREATH OF LIFE. IT WAS GOD SAYING, ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT.’ It affirms that the voice of God in Christ is to be found in all living things. This has profound implication for us who recognize this reality in terms of our relationships with one another and the creation. In some respects we who live carefully protected from the elements of nature have forgotten this memory. It points to who we ought to be and to whom we belong. This truth, that we are created in the image of God, is hidden in the depths of our soul.

John reflects a spirituality that sees God in the whole of life; that understands all things as inter related, in relationship. God is recognized in all life forms in the creation. What is deepest within us is not opposed to God but reflects this God. As we know we may ignore this reality but we cannot escape it. We are innately good, not evil, because of this image. The Scriptures suggests that we are to search out this reality in ourselves and others. We are to treat others as if they house the Christ at the centre of their life, certainly not easy to do. This is John’s universal perspective; a perspective in which Christ is the source of all life. A type of cosmic Christ.

In a real sense John represents the way of contemplation, of prayer and reflection. Obviously it is not the whole meaning and implication of story of John but it is a major theme. It is also reflected in the Epistles in which John as an old man addresses the congregations he loves as his LITTLE CHILDREN. In the Book of Revelation he addresses the ANGEL OF THE CHURCH or in another translation THE SPIRIT OF THE CHURCH. He ends with his understanding the transformation of the cosmos with the words: THEN I SAW A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH; FOR THE FIRST HEAVEN AND THE FIRST EARTH HAD PASSED AWAY, AND THE SEA WAS NO MORE. Revelation is an affirmation of this comic theme. John writes from the Island of Patmos where he was imprisoned encouraging the church to remain faithful to the end of time when there will be NO MORE MOURNING AND CRYING AND PAIN.

2 The Peter Perspective

As I suggested the Synoptic Gospels have a somewhat different slant on things. The Gospel of Matthew written for a Jewish audience is much more focused on a particular understanding of Christ. Here Peter is to be the ROCK ON WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO BE BUILT. This tradition in some senses has become the predominate understanding of the church historically. This tradition sees God in relation to a particular people. Thus the Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy. AN ACCOUNT OF THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS THE MESSIAH, SON OF DAVID, SON OF ABRAHAM. Jesus brings salvation to the world through a particular line of descent. He belongs to a particular family and heritage with a history and prophetic tradition. It is always necessary to particularize our response to God in our time and place, our history and culture, our traditions and rituals. This is what Matthew does for us. He relates the Christ to a particular people, in a particular time with a particular religious culture.

The strength of the Peter tradition is that it enshrines the light of truth within the life of the church, in its tradition and sacraments. It is indeed the rock and shelter especially in times of stormy change. It allows us in times of personal confusion and crisis to turn to the familiar house of prayer where our mothers and fathers in the faith found truth and guidance.

The Peter tradition also underlines our capacity for sin and warns us to be on guard against this tendency in ourselves and others. This reality is also reflected in John when it says HE CAME TO HIS OWN AND HIS OWN DID NOT RECEIVE HIM. In the Gospels Christ is the One who fulfils the law and is the model for this corrective in our lives. His body, the Church, is to be the embodiment of this corrective. While its leadership and people often fail in this regard it still has this responsibility. As Graham Vietch pointed out some weeks ago our culture is often so dominating that we are reluctant to confront it in our own lives and the lives of others. But it was something that Christ often did in his ministry and which was a major reason for his death.

The Peter tradition emphasizes faithful action.

3) Separate Entities

The reality is that if we do not work to balance these perspectives and traditions in our lives the culture in which we are a part soon overshadows and directs our understanding of the Christ, shapes our response to the social, political and economic crisis of our time and misdirects our use of the gifts and resources that God gives to us.

For example, to emphasize the spiritual nature of the John tradition without the Peter tradition can produced a spirituality which is no longer connected to the corrective of the Church and is cut off from its truth and the guidance it provides. It can produce a individualistic, narcissistic, spirituality which focuses on self. It may well produce a psychological peace but is disconnected from the social realities which confront us. It is a type of contemplating one’s navel and reflects a disconnect between our spirituality and the social context to which we belong and must minister. It can become a community of like-minded people with a particular mindset with which we agree. In this social context there can be a loss of honesty, openness, and transformative growth.

One the other hand an emphasis on the Peter tradition which is more focused on law and structure can mean that our gifts and resources are poured into these structures rather than ministry and service. I remember well serving one of our churches in Edmonton which had a rather large sanctuary and organ. One particularly cold month it cost $5000. to heat the building. Congregations are struggling to keep such building operational but it strikes me that some way is going to have to be found to deal with this problem since it is diverting a good deal of money into structures rather than ministry and mission. I read an article by last years Moderator of the General Assembly in Scotland. He mentioned that as soon as the churches run our of money we will return to the times of the early church with its zeal and sharing, depending on God for our resources. I am sure that in our context this would be considered foolish, certainly not prudent. Yet this is the manner in which the early church began.

Next week we will consider the balance and relationship which is necessary between the two traditions and perspective

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this is the sermon text

May 6, 2012

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this is the sermon text