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So far Rev Matthew has created 143 blog entries.

Order Up: A Freshly Pressed Second Cup Awaits!

By |2017-11-20T15:08:55-04:00November 20th, 2017|Categories: News|

 

Hi folks,

There’s a lot going on at SJUC these days.  At the office, Susan and I have taken to saying “Just remember, it’s not even Christmas!”  Sunday saw hundreds of people turn out for the unveiling of Donna Hogan’s art project that reflects the mission and spirit of SJUC and we topped it off with one very lively potluck.  The energy and spirit on Sunday was one incredible experience. Right now there’s a small army of people sowing fish to our incredible art project (see our Facebook page) and a new sound system is being installed.

 

So for those of you who missed it, or wanted to catch a second helping, here’s the sermon and scriptures from Sunday past.

Blessings,

M

Deuteronomy 7:1-11

Matthew 15:21-39

 

 

 

 

Order Up: Remember Your Second Cup

By |2017-11-06T11:41:46-04:00November 6th, 2017|Categories: Blog Posts, News, Words from Matthew|

This shattered church in the ruins of Neuvilly furnished a temporary shelter for American wounded being treated by the 110th Sanitary Train, 4th Ambulance Corps. France, September 20, 1918. Sgt. J. A. Marshall. (Army)

Hi folks – here’s the sermon from our last Remembrance Sunday at SJUC. It’s a bit of a strange calendar this year, and our worship team really felt it would be better to kick off Remembrance week rather than hold a service after we’ve all been to the cenotaph and legion on the 11th.It was a remarkable day at both Wellington and St. John’s.  Thanks to all who came out and made it what it should be: a time to mourn, to remember, and to reflect how we can meaningfully create change so that our children don’t have to give their lives in anyone’s war.

A special thanks to Grant Kerr who read from his Dad’s diary during WWII.  Grant’s father was a prisoner of war for 2 years, and he recorded his experience in secret during his time in prison.  It’s a remarkable document that brings us face to face with the horror of the war that is both inspiring and disturbing. We all know it takes a spiritual and emotional toll – so thanks Grant for sharing with us!

Also thanks to Tyler Raycroft for reading “In Flander’s Fields” and to Jim Gunn for leading our “Let The Spirit Speak” with a lonesome rendition of Abide With Me on the harmonica.  So much soul food for thought this week.

PS: Remember to check your local paper or legion website about service times on November 11th this Saturday.

See you Sunday,

M

Readings are: John 8:1-11 and Galatians 5:1, 13-15

Rock & Soul: Creature Comfort

By |2017-11-01T15:00:09-03:00November 1st, 2017|Categories: RockSoul|

 
Before we dive into the heady mix that is Arcade Fire’s “Creature Comfort”, let’s do some check in.
 
One of the most common themes I hear on the radio is mental health, or the lack thereof. 
 
There’s a lot of songs about addiction, suicide, and a general malaise about whether we’re good enough as human beings. 
 
This is especially aimed at teens and young kids.
 
The trend is alarming.  The truth is very real for many families and youth that I meet every week who are struggling with mental health and addiction.  If you or someone you know finds yourself in the throws of that struggle,
please, please, please make use of these contacts:
 
Talk to your parents. 
Talk to me. 
Talk to a guidance counselor or a teacher or a friend.
 
What ever you do: don’t suffer in silence.
 
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
 

Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team

The IWK Health Centre provides children and adolescents throughout the province with specialized mental health and addictions services. To learn more about these services visit the IWK Health Centre website.

For support call 902-429-8167 or 1-888-429-8167 (toll free).

This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  
crea·ture com·forts
ˈkrēCHər ˈkəmfərts/
noun: creature comfort
  1. material comforts that contribute to physical ease and well-being, such as good food and accommodations.

 

So while this single didn’t trend really high on the charts, it is in rotation on several stations.  I’m sitting in Good Day Cafe here in Fall River, and I’ve heard it.  I turn on Live 105 on my way home from work and I often hear it.

Sometimes we’re too distracted to notice what’s in the background – of our own minds and what’s trickling in over the airwaves in a mall, a cafe, our car – our stereo – our kids.

Pay attention. 

What’s happening in the background isn’t static.

It’s the voice of those who are struggling crying out in the wilderness.

It’s easy to rhyme off songs that have to do with mental health and suicide and it’s common to hear plenty of religious references in these laments.

I use the word “lament” deliberately.  Many of the Bible’s psalms (songs) are exactly that – intense and passionate expressions of grief or sorrow. 

Is it really any surprise that life a millenia ago was hard and challenged every fiber of the human soul?

I’ve been a fan of Arcade Fire ever since I heard Rebellion (Lies) off of their first studio record, Funeral.

They are such a unique Canadian expression of alternative music.

From what I can gather about this track off their latest release, Everything Now, this song is a response to a fan who almost took their own life while listening to one of their records. 

Imagine yourself on either side of that conversation – how devastating would that be whether the artist or the listener?

The video is posted below.  Take a listen.  Take a moment to pray for everyone, but our youth in particular, who are struggling with an intensity that fills our hearts with grief. The lyrics are also posted below. 

Pay particular attention to the title of the song and the constant and brutal irony that plays out in the lyrics.

“Creature Comfort”
 
Some boys hate themselves
Spend their lives resenting their fathers
Some girls hate their bodies
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback
Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless
Assisted suicide
She dreams about dying all the time
She told me she came so close
Filled up the bathtub and put on our first recordSaying
God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painlessIt goes on and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
On and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
(On and on I don’t know if I want it)
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
(On and on I don’t know if I want it)Some girls hate themselves
Hide under the covers with sleeping pills and
Some girls cut themselves
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback
Some boys get too much, too much love, too much touch
Some boys starve themselves
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback

Creature comfort makes it painless
Bury me penniless and nameless
Born in a diamond mine
It’s all around you but you can’t see it
Born in a diamond mine
It’s all around you but you can’t touch it

Saying
God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless

It’s not painless
She was a friend of mine, a friend of mine
And we’re not nameless, oh

It goes on and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
On and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
(On and on I don’t know if I want it)
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
Well if you’re not sure, better safe than sorry

Creature comfort, make it painless
Creature comfort, make it painless

We’re the bones under your feet
The white lie of American prosperity
We wanna dance but we can’t feel the beat
I’m a liar, don’t doubt my sincerity

Just make it painless
Creature comfort, make it painless

Na-na-na-na na-na-na
Na-na-na-na na-na-na
(Na-na-na-na na-na-na)
(Na-na-na-na na-na-na)
Creature comfort, make it painless

 

At the center of this song, I have the writer of Ecclesiastes singing in my ear:

All streams flow to the sea,
    but the sea is never full;
    to the place where the rivers flow,
    there they continue to flow.
All words are tiring;
    no one is able to speak.
    The eye isn’t satisfied with seeing,
    neither is the ear filled up by hearing.
Whatever has happened—that’s what will happen again;
    whatever has occurred—that’s what will occur again. – Ecc. 1:7-9

 

Isn’t that the chorus of this song? I don’t know what I want.  I don’t know if I want it. 

It’s meaningless.

And the brutal lament of the song is that when you’re lost in that wilderness, the only reprieve from the devastating meaninglessness wasteland, is death.

Wow.

But that’s the reality being contemplated by many who are young, but also those who are much older.

Suicide, eating disorders, cutting/lack of coping skills, social media, lack of purpose, abuse – this song covers all the hot buttons topics in our public conversations, let alone the private conversations with our kids, that we’re anxious to press.

Waiting for feedback from the mirror is just a terribly accurate image for today’s youth. 

Youtube, cell phones, Skype, Facebook – on the bedroom/bathroom wall – they’re all mirrors. They don’t reflect what we want to see or believe about ourselves.

A mirror can only reflect what is often already a one sided image from our own perspective or at worst, an image we’ve bought about ourselves because someone else keeps telling us it’s true.

A mirror can’t actually speak to us, know our inner most thoughts, or build a lasting relationship. 

When this song laments about “God make me famous” it’s not some vain attempt at getting attention and adoration.

It’s a cry for genuine relationship through the means that our culture tells the coming generation that meaning and purpose and peace are found: fame.

The mirror can never give that, not really. Think of how many celebs and musicians have committed suicide – fame also can just be another mirror. 

If life is but a mirror of all the pain someone is already feeling – it’s meaningless.  Something the writer of Ecclesiastes knew very well.

The image of the diamond mine can be taken several ways.  Does it mean that salvation and meaning and purpose and beauty sparkle all around us but the pain is so overwhelming, we’re blind to it?  Does it mean that it’s surely within reach and there’s hope?  I want to hear it as the latter.  I’m pretty sure Arcade Fire meant the former.

So here’s the good news.  As people of faith, we too, have a tradition of lament. 

But lament for us isn’t confined to expressing intense grief and sorrow. 

The most famous psalm of lament that Jesus quoted from the cross was Psalm 22.

I’ve included it here for reflection – read it.  Pray with it.  Do you notice anything? 

The grief is overwhelming – the suffering so loud you can’t get it out of your ears.  And yet. 

And yet even in the chaos, there is blessing.  Even in the grief, there is a broken hallelujah. 

Even in what seems like a period, there is a definite comma – there is hope.

Because as meaningless as life can seem, little is much when God’s in it.

Don’t get lost in the references to animals etc.  Likely these are references to other nations threatening the safety of the Psalmist’s country in times of war and conflict, but imagined purely on their own, we still get the picture of being hemmed in on all sides with no way out…something Jesus surely felt throughout his young life and particularly on the cross.

Psalm 22

 My God! My God,
    why have you left me all alone?
    Why are you so far from saving me—
        so far from my anguished groans?
My God, I cry out during the day,
    but you don’t answer;
    even at nighttime I don’t stop.
You are the holy one, enthroned.
You are Israel’s praise.
Our ancestors trusted you—
    they trusted you and you rescued them;
    they cried out to you and they were saved;
    they trusted you and they weren’t ashamed.

But I’m just a worm, less than human;
    insulted by one person, despised by another.
All who see me make fun of me—
    they gape, shaking their heads:
    “He committed himself to the Lord,
        so let God rescue him;
        let God deliver him
        because God likes him so much.”
But you are the one who pulled me from the womb,
    placing me safely at my mother’s breasts.
10 I was thrown on you from birth;
    you’ve been my God
    since I was in my mother’s womb.
11 Please don’t be far from me,
    because trouble is near
        and there’s no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
    mighty bulls from Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths at me
    like a lion ripping and roaring!
14 I’m poured out like water.
    All my bones have fallen apart.
        My heart is like wax;
        it melts inside me.
15 My strength is dried up
    like a piece of broken pottery.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you’ve set me down in the dirt of death.
16 Dogs surround me;
    a pack of evil people circle me like a lion—
    oh, my poor hands and feet!
17 I can count all my bones!
    Meanwhile, they just stare at me, watching me.
18 They divvy up my garments among themselves;
    they cast lots for my clothes.

19 But you, Lord! Don’t be far away!
    You are my strength!
    Come quick and help me!
20 Deliver mea] from the sword.
    Deliver my life from the power of the dog.
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion.
    From the horns of the wild oxen
    you have answered me!

22 I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    I will praise you in the very center of the congregation!
23 All of you who revere the Lord—praise him!
    All of you who are Jacob’s descendants—honor him!
    All of you who are all Israel’s offspring—
        stand in awe of him!
24 Because he didn’t despise or detest
    the suffering of the one who suffered—
    he didn’t hide his face from me.
    No, he listened when I cried out to him for help.

25 I offer praise in the great congregation
    because of you;
    I will fulfill my promises
    in the presence of those who honor God.
26 Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
    Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
        I pray your hearts live forever!
27 Every part of the earth
    will remember and come back to the Lord;
    every family among all the nations will worship you.
28 Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
    he rules all nations.
29 Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
    will worship him;b]
    all who are descending to the dust
    will kneel before him;
    my being also lives for him.c]
30 Future descendants will serve him;
    generations to come will be told about my Lord.
31 They will proclaim God’s righteousness
        to those not yet born,
        telling them what God has done.

Notice the difference in these two songs?

The psalm is just as painful, if not more so than Arcade Fire’s Creature Comfort.

But in our faith tradition, lament goes like this:

  1. Speaking directly to God

2. Telling God what’s breaking our heart and soul (the lament)

3. Confession of trust that even so, God will be God – and God is good.

4. Asking God to do something specific (“Save me!”)

5. Praise  (“My being also lives for God”)

If you’re struggling, try praying this way.

While I appreciate what Arcade Fire is trying to do – it ends in despair.  Even on the cross, Jesus taught us never to end the song that way. There’s still a bridge that will shift the whole key of our lives that needs to be sung.

Your lament isn’t meaningless. 

On the contrary, it is full of purpose and determination. 

Faith is believing in what we cannot see yet (2 Cor 5:7), and trusting that even in the dead of night, God is at work and we are too. When I’ve ministered to people who are dealing with their mental health, I see how true that really is.

The cross was not the end for Jesus. It was a gateway to a transformation of a very real life – a life we see and experience today as people who strive to live in the wake of crucifixion AND resurrection. It was hell for him. 

Sometimes, life is hell for us.  But hell doesn’t have the last word. 

It gets better when we get out from the mirror and get behind the life God craves for us all – a life rich with community, purpose, and safety.  A life where we can be ourselves, broken but whole, and know that we are accepted, affirmed, and that our life matters.

We make the road of faith by walking it with Jesus when we realize how true this is.

It’s no hop, skip and a jump to freedom.  Sometimes it’s marching through the long dark night of the soul. We find courage to take a step at a time, to wade through the water, when we are not alone.  That’s essential. 

You are not alone.

One last word to share – Jesus lived in a time where people often used God as a way to get what they want, to oppress others, to enslave others.  Just think of the adulterous woman in John’s gospel (John 7:53-8:11)

Jesus saw people differently.  He wanted us to look at everyone and ask: how can I set that person free?

As my time in ministry suggests, the first step is paying attention to the people around us and listening to them talk about the crosses they are carrying.

The second step? Authentically reaching out, and braving the road with them – even when it leads to Calvary – trusting always and working always to a single end: for us – the end is naught but the beginning of something new.

Keep it rockin’ and keep it real,

M

 

Order Up: A Fresh Second Cup Awaits…

By |2017-11-01T12:14:21-03:00November 1st, 2017|Categories: Blog Posts, Words from Matthew|

If you’re looking for a cup of inspiration, then we were on point last Sunday.  A big thanks for the ovation after the sermon and to the choir for almost taking the roof off the place with a spectacular rendition of Amazing Grace.  Vera Gillis opened our ears and hearts with why SJUC is such an important place in our lives and our faith – thanks Vera!  All in all it was a great Sunday. 

Check out the link below to listen to the sermon, “Will we rival or reconcile?”

 

 

See you on Sunday as together, we make time to remember as a very important week begins in November.

 

M

A Second Cup: 2 Sundays and a funeral

By |2017-10-26T16:29:47-03:00October 26th, 2017|Categories: News, Words from Matthew|

Most of you notice that when I take a while between postings, the church is moving at warp speed and I just don’t have time.  That’s the case for this post! 

Below you will find sermons from the last two Sunday mornings at SJUC and the funeral of Reid Myers.  I recorded the latter sermon because it’s one I wanted to remember.  It was an absolute honour to lead Reid’s service and I was and remain deeply inspired by his life. You can tell it was a sermon that keeps on giving because it also inspired the following Sunday’s sermon.

 

If things calm down a bit, expect another Rock & Soul to hit the blog next week!

 

See you Sunday,

M

 

From October 15th: Plotting Goodness

 

 

From October 22nd: It’s Never To Late To Grow Good Things

 

Reid Myers Celebration of Life: Keep On Growin’

A Second Cup: Stepping Out of the Flood Zone

By |2017-10-11T14:38:26-03:00October 11th, 2017|Categories: Blog Posts, News, Words from Matthew|

 

Hi folks – check out last week’s sermon below.  I did a big post for Rock & Soul this week so that’s where I spent my blog time.  I wish I had time to do it all!  Thanks for your kind words and support.  Remember, feel free to share anything you see with anyone for whom it just might be what they need to hear.  What makes for Good News is precisely that: sharing it!

 

Blessings,

M

 

 

Rock & Soul: Now That We’re Dead

By |2017-10-11T13:56:44-03:00October 11th, 2017|Categories: Blog Posts, News, RockSoul, What's Happening|

 

Ok, so we’re back at Rock & Soul for a Halloween inspired encore.  I cut my guitar chops on records like Master of Puppets, …And Justice For All, and the Black Album. If you don’t know these titles than you don’t know one of the biggest, highest record selling bands of history: Metallica.

I can’t say I was a huge fan of Loaded and Re-Loaded, which I bought but never really bought into. However, James and the boys are back in a vengeance with this latest single release “Now That We’re Dead” off their latest record, “Hardwired…To Self Destruct”.  This single reached #2 on the Mainstream Rock billboard.

If you’re rolling your eyes at the titles, good for you: welcome to heavy metal drama at its finest!

When I first heard this song, I immediately connected biblical stories.  It’s rife with religious imagery.  If you surf Reddit very much, even on a website that is traditionally very secular and anti-religious, people were curious. 

 

It’s fascinating to note that while lots of people aren’t part of a church or think of living their faith as an intentional choice both personally and communally, the impact of the bible on our culture is still loud and clear.

So What! interviewed James Hetfield on the lyrics:

“NOW THAT WE’RE DEAD”

JH: Yeah, at the end of the day we’re all the same. Having something to believe in, maybe there’s an afterlife. Maybe it started out as wanting to be more of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. We’re in this together.

Helping each other through life. And you know, “now that we’re dead,” I mean that could mean lots of things. Actually, you are dead. You’re onto the next life. Or you’ve gone through something horrible as a couple. Now you’re [both] on the other side of it. So, trusting in another person.

And at the end of the day, your behaviors, whatever you’ve done, they’re just behaviors. You can amend them, you can make up for them, and together, move on with a clean conscience. There’s [also] an exploration feel of, like, “I don’t know what’s next – come on, let’s try it. Let’s go. Let’s do it.”

 

Ummm…ok. Let’s recap:

 

1) Humanity is equal.

2) We’re in this life together. There’s more to life than we know or imagine.

3) We have to help each other.

4) In order to find resurrection (“new life”) we need to let some things go (“die”)

5) Your behaviours don’t define you.  There is hope.  It’s never too late to find reconciliation and new life.

6) We don’t know what happens around the next turn, so let’s go there together, trusting we aren’t alone.

So who knew the lead singer of one of the world’s greatest heavy metal bands can preach the gospel of Jesus and hit number 2 on a billboard with none the wiser? Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but only just.

We all know that’s what baptism is about right? At least in part, it’s a ritualized way of demonstrating we have to let some things go in order for something new to begin.  For God, death isn’t the end.  God is never finished creating, and baptism is always a sign that even with death, behold, God is making all things new.  Even me and you. 

Just see Isaiah 43:18-19, 65:17, Revelation 21:5, Ephesians 2:15, 4:24, Hebrews 8:13. 

It’s a kinda well established theme in scripture eh?

So, put on your Halloween best, crank those laptop speakers and enjoy some serious skull candy by listening to the audio below. The official video has more than 14.4 million hits.

 

Below is a road trip through each verse that connects the bible with the song. As always, what it means is up to you, but here’s how I hear it…

 

When darkness falls
May it be
That we should see the light

 

[John 1:1] 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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

“The light” in John’s gospel is the life of God’s Word of creation in Jesus.  In the original language of the gospel, it’s translated as “Logos”.  You know that word because you see it in Psych-ology , Bi-ology, Physi-ology, etc. 

It’s a principle around and through which something is created – in the biblical case – the universe.  John’s gospel notes that the way society and culture is organized often turns a blind eye to the power of love and justice. Haven’t you seen the news lately? 

The Good News is that even though what was true then is also true now, the light is still shining even though darkness falls. 

One of the most powerful verses of John is that Jesus transcends the way we belong – not by nation, or blood relation, creed or clan, “but to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”  (John 1:12)

In my ear, the song hopes we can see the possibility of new life even if it means letting go of what we know all too well. 

 

When reaper calls
May it be
That we walk straight and right

 

[Isaiah 40:3]  A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
 make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

 

[Mark 1:1]  The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

Without getting caught in the cultural semantics of some religious minds and ears, we make  the road by walking it and the way we walk needs to change. Biblically, this is not some take on heterosexuality…I’m pretty sure no one was talking about being “straight” as a cultural reference 2000 years ago. 

What people were talking about then, and now, is that death is a great equalizer regardless of whether we are rich or poor.  But rather than treating this pearl of wisdom as a judgement we ought to be afraid of because it’s only delivered after we leave this earthly life, the First Testament and the Gospel imagined a greater motivator: New life. Here. Now.

“I am the truth, the way, and the life.” What else did you think Jesus meant? The question is whether you want to walk that way, and if you do, that means letting go of a lot of baggage that’s weighing us all down.

God is paving the road ahead of those who have the courage to walk it.  That road will lead out of death’s valley and into new life – a promised land where something incredible and never before imagined is about to begin.

It sounds great. It’s terrifying in its own right and not because we need to be afraid of divine judgement at the end of days.  It’s scary because it’s possible to find new life.  But do we have the courage to step out into what we cannot already see?  To explore what we don’t already know?  In order to see the light, you’ve got to be willing to step out into the grey.

 

When doubt returns
May it be
That faith shall permeate our scars
  

[John 20:24-31] But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

There’s one thing you can count on in life – for every step forward on the road, you’re going to be knocked back a few. The gospel never denies this.  No one said resurrection is easy. The question we ought to ask might be: is it worth it?

The Risen Christ isn’t shiny and new. He didn’t come fresh out of the action figure with kung-fu grip box off God’s assembly line. He’s full of scars.  Scars don’t just tell the story of our trauma, they also tell the story of new life.  Scars don’t just relive our past, they speak to the present “us” and who we are becoming. They define what we’ve been through, not who we will become.

That’s the story of Jesus. That’s the road of faith we make by walking together. And doubt my friends, like Thomas reminds us, is an essential part of that journey.  Success doesn’t require courage.  Counting on what we already know, doesn’t require faith in what we haven’t discovered yet. 

Welcome to Christianity 101.

 

When we’re seduced
Then may it be
That we not deviate our cause
   [MK 1:9-15]

 

[Mark 1:9-15] In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Our cultural and societal ways of understanding what it means to be human are at odds with what God intends in creation.  The intention, the logos, is not that a few sit on top of pyramids while the masses slave and suffer below (there’s that little story about Egypt you might have heard about in the bible). 

But what’s seductive about what we know is the status quo is comforting in its own right.  Why question the big things in life?  Isn’t it hard enough just to get by? Just keep your head down – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Nothing is a more broken portrait of God’s image than slavery to what we already know and do to one another as human beings. God has created and is creating.  If we are fully alive, than we are active partners of the spiritual evolution God is birthing too.

As soon as Jesus is baptized, he’s tempted by the status quo.  He’s presented with the option of grasping at power as sure as our metaphorical ancestors decided to in Eden. But Jesus won’t walk that way. 

The word repent basically means, “question everything”.  It’s a 180 degree turn in a different direction. If you know anything about Jesus’ life, you know that’s exactly what he did.  It got him killed.  For those with faith to see, it also raised a new life for all.

No wonder people are cynical about religion, whose mantra has long been twisted into “question nothing”. The light of Jesus ministry shines in the darkness of John’s death – someone who also questioned everything and paid the price for it.

 

All sinners, a future
All saints, a past
Beginning, the ending
Return to ash 

[Genesis 3:19] By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”

I often get asked where the “dust to dust” line of a funeral comes from.  Well, if you’ve ever been up at night wondering, now you know.  The saying comes from the ending of the garden story of Adam and Eve. I love how the song recognizes what the bible does too: the line between sinner and saint is especially blurry, much to the contrary of what religion has often taught us.

At funerals, I don’t recite this line to give death any comfort.  I see death as only a means to life’s grander scheming.  The return to ash is not the end, but the seed for something new to spring forth. I know what you’re thinking – that’s a stretch.  In church, we call that faith.

 

Now that we’re dead, my dear
We can be together
Now that we’re dead, my dear
We can live forever
  

At SJUC we’ve been having a lot of fun reading Brian McLaren’s “We Make The Road by Walking”, as you can tell by this post and most of my preaching this fall.  One of the ideas he challenges is that eternal life is just endless time.  Surely to goodness faith has a greater imagination than just doing the same things here on earth, up in heaven, for ever because it’s easier. Most popular religious imagination is just that: persecuting your enemies after Jesus comes back to pick you up and take you away to paradise while the left behind rot in hell.

Lord. Have. Mercy. 

How can anyone read the Lord’s Prayer and say that stuff with a straight face?

I rather like Brian’s challenge that scripture calls for us to “seek aliveness” – that we are called to be fully alive, over brimming with the stuff, and filled with the creative energy of God in all things.

In my mind the song imagines death as necessary only to new life that is very much possible here and now – on earth as it is in heaven.  Living forever isn’t just endless time on the clock for more of the same, eternal life is discovering the One who created and is creating even here, even now, in us all.

 

When all is pain
May it be
It’s all we’ve ever known
  

 

[Psalm 51:6,8-12] You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy that looks remarkably like our own, the psalmist sang of pain.  A lot.  There’s quite a bit of it in this life in case you hadn’t noticed.

And yet, the psalm doesn’t let pain end the possibility of life – that doesn’t require faith.  The biblical singer imagines a new possibility, one of restoration and purpose in what seems like a meaningless situation that’s full of anguish.  Study after study shows prayer and spiritual community are manna for the soul and help our distress tolerance immensely.  Yes, church can be good for you.

 

When flame consumes
May it be
It warms our dying bones 

[PROV 25:4] Take away the dross from the silver,
    and the smith has material for a vessel;

 

There’s lots of verses I could think of here from the bible, but Proverbs really stands out.  God doesn’t destroy for the sake of destruction.  That runs completely roughshod over the logos of creation we talked about.  At its best, fire is about transformation in the bible.  In this case, much of who we are needs to be refined as human beings, but the aim is for a new vessel to take shape.  God’s eye is always on life – what a world it would be if ours was too.

 

When loss has won
May it be
It’s you I’m madly fighting for 

 

[LK 23:46] Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

I can think of no better lyric to describe Jesus’ last words to the world.  Instead of fear or revenge or judgement, Jesus proved to be made of a different word altogether: Love.  Grace. Mercy. Hope. Loss can win all it wants in this world.  I want to put my money on the Creator.  She’s playing the long game of life instead of the short gains of death, and Jesus knew it. He fought for it until he breathed his last, and even then, even now.

 

When Kingdom comes
May it be
We walk right through that open door 

 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

What Jesus desperately believed with every fiber of the witness in his body that the gospels lay down, is this: Here.  Now. The kingdom comes.  Even here.  Even now.  The kingdom comes. Even today.  Even in you and me.  The kingdom comes.

Behold, Christ stands at the door and knocks.  To answer is to leave what we know on the shoreline behind us, and discover something altogether new.  Do we have courage?  Do we have faith? Are we willing to walk this way?  There will be pain, doubt, and sacrifice.

The question remains, now that we’re dead my dear, are we finished?

I’m paraphrasing the lyrics but, Beyond the black, can we rise again?

Or will we walk right through that open door?

Like the song, my bet, is definitely on the latter.

 

Rock on,

 

M

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Second Cup: Sermons from Sept 24th and October 1st

By |2017-10-05T11:54:50-03:00October 5th, 2017|Categories: News, Words from Matthew|

Hi folks – It’s been a wild few weeks at the church and as a result, I’m a little behind on my postings.  This one will just be the sermons themselves, but I will offer more soon.  For Rock & Soul fans, I’m already working on the next post and shout have it up soon.  I hope these sermons offer you something to sip on as we continue to make the road by walking it together.

 

Blessings,

M

God’s Not Finished.

 

Grow With God. Go With Christ.

Second Cup: “To Be Or Not To Be More Human?” Sermon from Sept 17th 2018

By |2017-09-20T11:26:45-03:00September 20th, 2017|Categories: News, Words from Matthew|

So as I sip on what we talked about on Sunday, I can’t help but wonder about another saying we throw around a lot:

There’s two things for certain in life: death…and taxes.

Death. And Taxes. Nothing gets me out of bed in the morning like looking forward to that grim reality.

Why do we talk about life that way?  It’s not just negative or cynical.  After all, both of these are inevitable – it’s true.

But life isn’t just about death and taxes. If that’s what our days and nights consisted of…well…why bother living in the first place?

Surely there are other things we can count on – like the sun rising every morning, the stars shining at night, the breath that fills our lungs, to name but a few.

In a lifetime full of uncertainty and the twists and turns we can’t foresee that send us into a tailspin, it’s nice to have something you can count on.  Perhaps that’s what’s really going on in the underbelly of that folk wisdom.

We like certainty and predictability precisely because when it seems like the ground is often shifting beneath our feet, it’s nice to have something to stand on.

As we mentioned on Sunday, the Pharisees aren’t the only people in the Gospel’s story that live defensively. Everyone Jesus meets, and I mean just about everyone, lives defensively.

The encounter with Jesus is an encounter with the living Word of God – with life itself.  Life demands that if we want to be fully alive, we have to let go of pretending that living defensively is what we are created to do. 

It means giving something up, so our hands really are free to take up the cross and walk. So that we are truly free to become fully alive by the possibility of what God’s tomorrow will hold. 

Creation isn’t something that happened in the past.  It’s ongoing.  As we say in a New Creed – God created and is creating.  What is God creating in you today?  Are you clinging to who you were or are you becoming someone new?

When we live as if everything we do has to hold on to who we already are and what we already own, we ensure one inevitable conclusion.  Like death and taxes, it’s an extinction agenda for a human organism.

Every part of creation is made to be fully alive, to grow, to risk, to reach out and explore.

I can’t help but wonder at how we see this dynamic playing out on the world stage with North Korea.  We hear the defensive voice that’s wants to preserve “me and mine” over “you and yours” on all sides of this issue.  If you do this, we’ll retaliate with that.

As a species, we’re remarkably flippant with the possibility of executing millions of human beings in a nuclear holocaust. Wow.  It’s been just long enough for short human memories to forget what happened at Hiroshima.

Holding on to the idea that war and violence will yield a peaceable kingdom is ridiculous and ensures one inevitable conclusion: extinction – either of some or all creation. Human beings have been inherently defensive and violent for a long time.  Isn’t it time for something new?

It’s a good thing you and I have encountered the Word of Life who calls us to come and follow a way out of the same defensive patterns that lead to the same dead ends that truly tax the human soul to the point that we can’t afford to pay anymore.

You can’t carry the cross if your hand is bunched up in a fist.

Look at your life today – what are you carrying?  What do you need to take up?  Do you have the courage to let go, and open your own hands to God and receive what’s even now, is being offered?

Blessings,

M

Mark 3:1-6Common English Bible (CEB)

Healing on the Sabbath

Jesus returned to the synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Step up where people can see you.” Then he said to them, “Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they said nothing. Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he did, and his hand was made healthy. At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus.

Common English Bible (CEB)Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

 

Wellington Call To Worship (Gathering Pentecost 2 2017 p. 24 by Robin Wardlaw)

Listen! Listen to the waters of creation.

Listen to the plants and trees.

Listen to the creatures who creep and walk and fly.

Listen to the ancient hills and colourful reefs.

Listen to their joy, their wisdom, and their grief.

Let’s bring to this place all the other places we’ve been.

Let’s bring to this time, all the moments of awe and beauty we’ve had.

And in all things, let us worship God.

 

Prayer For The Journey (All): In gratitude and humble trust, we make this road by walking with You. We’re grateful for the beauty of the earth, for the wonder of being human, for the blessing of all life.  We’re humbled by the trust You place in our hands. You have shaped us in Your image, of what is good and true. We confess, we don’t always reflect the best of Your intentions. Help us to be wise in how we handle the holy things of life: our relationships with one another, with the earth, and with You. In all things, may we hold one another in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, who shows us the colour and the shape of what it means to live in Your love for everything and everyone. Amen.

Rock & Soul: The Violence by Rise Against

By |2017-09-12T20:44:13-03:00September 12th, 2017|Categories: RockSoul, What's Happening|

So welcome to Rock & Soul – this Bible goes to 11!

Contrary to what we often hear, I believe our culture is incredibly theological and spiritual.

In each post, I’ll take a song I’ve heard from my own collection or something that’s tearing up the charts and connect it to the Bible, the gospel, and our collective soul.

Some people just hear the radio or a playlist. I hear the gospel being shouted from the rooftops.

To that end my friends, here’s what this little corner of the digital universe is about: Rock & Soul.

 

First up on the playlist is a band my 20 something nephew was a big fan of, Rise Against.

Ok, disclaimer time. If you don’t like punk rock or hard core, this won’t earn a heart on your Apple Music of Google Play. These guys still generate plenty of harmonies and slick melodies, but if you’re looking for Bieber-esque…this ain’t your jam.

Still, I beg you – you’ve come this far – don’t turn back now.

Growing up in St. John’s Newfoundland in the 1990’s during the grunge revolution, there was a huge outpouring of “All Ages” shows, most of which were put on by punk bands. We met in Lion’s Clubs, curling rinks, and high school gyms. I grew up with punk and hard rock and to this day, continue to love it and play it myself.

While I would say that you should never discourage expanding your horizons, the lyrics are sufficient and posted below.

On YouTube alone they’ve earned over 2.7 million views for this tune that’s really right out of Genesis.

That YouTube audio is here too and it’s on heavy rotation over at Live 105 in Halifax.

Dancing on the crumbling precipice
The rocks are coming loose just at the edge
Are we laughing? Are we crying?
Are we drowning? Are we dead?
Or is it all a dream?

The bombs are getting closer everyday
“That can never happen here” we used to say
Have these wars come to our doorstep?
Has this moment finally come?
Or is it all a dream?

Chorus: Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
Is the violence in our nature
Just the image of our maker?
Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
To become something greater
Than the violence in our nature?
Are we not good enough
Or is it all a dream?

To a predetermined fate are we condemned
Or maybe we’re a book without an end
We’re not stories, we’re not actors
We’re awake and in control 
And this is not a dream

So can we break this mold
And set in motion something new
Forgetting what we know
An evolution overdue 
Fight the current
Pull the ripcord
Get away!

Chorus

We travel back to what we take
We need a storm, let’s pray for rain now
To wash these roads away
Let’s get off track and wander far
Same roads lead to same destinations 
Follow nothing but your heart

We’re talking in our sleep 
And sleeping through our lives
We dream of the places where we never die
We step from our shadows and into the light

Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
Is the violence in our nature
Just the image of our maker?
Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
To become something greater
Than the violence in our nature?
Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
Are we not good, good enough?
Or was it all a dream?

Songwriters: Brandon Barnes / Joe Principe / Timothy Mcilrath / Zach Blair
The Violence lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

So why did I choose this song? Simple. The chorus.

These are profound and spiritual questions.

What does it really mean to be human? Look at the endless violence in the news cycle whether from war or terror. Are we “good” or are we “bad”? Why?

Wait a minute – is this a punk rock song that’s singing in the same key as Genesis chapter 1 and 2? Pretty much.

Literally the song asks if being made in God’s image necessitates violence. If you’ve read the bible, it really is a lot of sex, drugs, and rock and soul.

Human beings are messy by nature because just as the biblical writers understanding of God evolves in the bible, we’re evolving too. We make mistakes along the way. We solve problems and yes, we often make new ones.

From the time of creation where the serpent famously tempts humanity to desire being in competition with God more than being in relationship with all of creation (Genesis 1 and 2), to when Noah literally has to contend with the flood as this song calls for in the second verse, the fingerprints of Genesis are all over this tune (Genesis 9:7-17).

To the song’s credit, the violence of the flood in Genesis doesn’t change anything. It’s the fact that afterward, God demands we have to change our relationship.

The rainbow is a promise that violence can never be the way out if we want new life. Many of the biblical authors rejected the idea that God demands violence and sacrifice as over time, their cultural and spiritual experience of God evolved.

In short hand, this is how I’ve always understood why our ancestors of faith told that terrible story of Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-19).

It’s horrendous that child sacrifice wasn’t uncommon in ancient times.

It’s miraculous the biblical writers challenged this practice and wrote a story that pushes back against any such understanding of God.

 

I think the song is also bang on – we’re not actors or stories. We’re not fans on the sidelines of a life that isn’t our own. We are the protagonists of our own lives – something Jesus urged us to be focused on.

15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16

 

As in the first verse of the song, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus also danced on the precipice with a tempter who promised power over others through domination.

8 Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”[d] 11 The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.  –Matthew 4:8-11

 

Jesus didn’t jive with any of that. He showed us a different way. Grace, Mercy, Peace and Justice for all.

13 “Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” –Matthew 9:13

 

When the lyrics wonder if we’re sleeping though our lives and the moment in history that’s confronted humanity’s apathy for change and transformation, that’s right out of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Don’t you remember a little episode when the disciples kept falling asleep while Jesus pleaded for them to waken and realize what was really at stake?

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.[b] See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

 

We dine on apathy to our peril. Change starts with a single step and we need to ask if we really are stepping out of the same patterns that lead to the same places in our lives and our world.

For the ancient Israelites, didn’t dream of falling asleep at the wheel but of  a promised land. A home. A new horizon where everything was possible. Where safety and security were had for all. Where the economy empowered the people rather than forced the strong to consume the weak. It wasn’t just a “nowhere else to go” kind of place.

 

Jesus called this dream the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God depending on which Gospel you read.

Walking on that path was called “The Way” of Jesus – the first name followers of Jesus subscribed to and long before we started calling ourselves “Christians”.

 

Is the Kingdom of God just a dream? Are we not brave enough to walk a new direction and transform our lives and the world around us? This is the challenge and the invitation of Jesus who simply said, “Come, follow me.”

The song insists just as Jesus did in the gospels, that a life of faith (becoming something greater than the violence of our nature) is ours to choose.

 

Jesus challenged us to believe this all the time.  Consider that time when everyone was going to stone a woman to death for adultery – what was Jesus response?

“Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” And “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

John 8:1-11

 

The first in the kingdom of God isn’t the greatest because they can bully everyone else into submission – they are the servant of all.

 

Are you sleeping through your life, or are you awake to the possibility that you can change the world of so many around you? What about our church?

As Rage Against the Machine would echo: “There’s no better place than here, no better time than now”, to take up the cross and follow. If Jesus showed us anything, it was that God dreams we are so much better than violence.

 

After all – Jesus transformed the cross from an instrument of violence and death into a rainbow…into a sign that this world can be so much better and being that change you want to see in the world is the farthest thing from fantasy.

The revolution of life we seek won’t be found in violence. It’s spiritual. It’s always been spiritual.

Our ancestors of faith knew it. Jesus knew it. And yes, even a punk rock song knows it too.

 

The question has always been, does it matter enough for you to be brave enough and make the road of new life by walking enough ’till we get to the promised land?

Or is it “all a dream”?

 

Like the song, the question is yours and mine to answer in the life we lead today, and all those to come.

M

Sermons & Catch Up For September 10th 2017

By |2017-09-11T13:00:46-03:00September 11th, 2017|Categories: News, Words from Matthew|

 

Hi Everyone,

Well it’s been a very busy few weeks as SJUC wakes up from summer slumber. As a result, I missed an entry last week. 

 

Below you’ll find the sermons from:

September 3rd’s “Better The Devil You Know Than The Christ You Don’t ” (with a title like that, how can you resist?)

This sermon was based on Matthew 16:21-28 (Get Behind Me Satan Sunday!)

 

And September 10th’s “Are You Too Worried To Be Alive?”

 

This sermon was based on two readings that we shared in different ways during the service:

Genesis 1:1-2:3 (Creation Story)

Matthew 6:25-34 (Today’s worry is enough for today)

 

I’ll be back in regular posting mode next week for A Second Cup, so this will have to tide you over.  I’m also hoping to get my Rock & Soul blog off the ground this week.  This project takes chart topping popular music and connects it to the Bible and to our soul.  Should be fun!

 

‘Till then, stay thirsty!

M

 

 

3 Lies Churches Get Caught In & Sermon from Sunday August 27th 2017

By |2017-08-28T15:35:32-03:00August 28th, 2017|Categories: News, Words from Matthew|

[Scroll down below for the sermon and prayers from last week]

When I hear Jesus ask Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” and I hear Peter’s response, “You’re the Son of the living God, the Christ!” – I take St. Pete to be genuine.

But I am going to venture to say that throwing around titles for Jesus is easy.

The devil’s in the details.  Literally.  Just read the verses that follow our reading from this past Sunday (click here).

I am jumping ahead a bit here, but this Sunday Jesus will call Peter out as being focused on anything other than God’s mission for the kingdom come, and this is the rock on which the church will be built! A rock on which not even the gates of hell itself can shake! But…Jesus just called him Satan…huh?

The gospel has a funny way of laying a firm foundation for faith.

But then, that’s the point.

Peter isn’t lying – he’s making the road by walking with Jesus.  Faith is an adventure, a journey. 

Faith is not a destination.

Confessing Jesus as being the Christ, your personal Lord and Saviour, the “Holy One”, just a cool rabbi, a dashboard figurine or (insert the nomenclature you feel most theologically comfortable with here) etc is not a pop quiz. 

Jesus and Peter aren’t pursuing anything trivial here. 

What’s your faith story? What part does Jesus play in it? That’s the heart of the matter.

In the sermon on Sunday, I note how adults often come to me asking questions about why they were taught what they were taught in Sunday School.

“So I memorized the names of the books in the bible?  So what? I still don’t know what’s in them.  I’m still hungry to live what’s between the covers rather than know whose name is on them!”

Faith is not a matter of reciting the proper answer.  It’s being vulnerable and curious enough to ask holy questions.

Encountering what’s holy challenges us.  It changes us.  No wonder we are overcome when we encounter the divine in our lives. It’s risky. No wonder we’re afraid of getting too close.

To many contemporary Christians, Jesus has the most backwards way of evangelizing. 

He doesn’t begin the journey of faith by telling us his proper name or by asking whether we believe it (in the United Church we just ask you to serve on a committee). 

He invites us. Come and see.  Come and follow me, that’s what he said to Peter.

Come follow me – I’ll show you mercy.  I’ll show you Grace.  I’ll show you Justice.  I’ll show you a love that colours well beyond the lines of what the human imagination allows.  Then…then you’ll want to go and tell the Good News.  Then…then you’ll figure out who I am for you.

For Jesus, living faith is the gateway into having faith. 

The Messiah stuff was left for people to work out as they stepped out…in faith.

Sure, Pete messes up in the next few verses – but don’t forget, he also left everything behind and followed Jesus into a new life (he even gets a new name to prove it). 

Peter is working out who Jesus is – he’s got a name – but he’s still puzzling out the details.  2000 years later, we’re still working on it.

When I hear Jesus ask this question, it’s so easy to spout off the names we hear at least in Christmas Pageants without asking – what do I think are between those syllables?  Lord of Lords.  Son of David.  Son of Man. Saviour.  Christ.

What do those names mean for you?

It’s easy to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s been a popular approach to Christianity for a long time.

The results are predictable and by in large, sad.

Here’s three easy lies Churches often bandy about that demonstrate how we place more emphasis on what we think we know rather than on asking why we know it.

 

Number 1: If we just said the Lord’s Prayer in School, our society would have a spiritual revolution. 

Seriously?  I get that many folks, including me, grew up doing it.  The activity recalls a simpler time perhaps, where the cultural debates of religion and secularism within a multicultural nation were tamer…but only just. 

I’m not saying it isn’t meaningful for many people either, but the reality is that just saying a recipe out loud is very different from actually making a meal that satisfies.  This is also true of prayer. 

Jesus didn’t call for a lip service revolution – he called for an insurrection of the human soul to loose what was tripping us up and to bind what continues to give people life. 

 

Number 2: If we just put a mandatory age for communion, our society would have a spiritual revolution. 

Seriously? It’s curious when Protestant churches say this, they often don’t say a peep about infant baptism.  That’s a whole other list of complaints and church jokes.

I get that with age comes a capacity to more fully ponder Holy Mystery – as does the Catholic church – but to believe that only taking communion as a teenager somehow creates a deep hunger to be engaged in faith while you’re a child is a little bit of a stretch.

Communion isn’t just a notch in your belt.  It’s not a star on your attendance sheet. To draw an analogy from last week’s reading, children should not pant at the table like puppy’s waiting for scraps. 

It’s the bread of heaven!  It’s for everyone!  Didn’t you read the feeding stories in the gospels – 5000 men, 4000 men, and women and children on top of that?

While respecting differences in tradition and theology, for the United Church, communion is a road map for walking the life of Jesus’ love and justice every day. 

Within our United Church tradition, it’s a table where Jesus is host.  Jesus.  Not us.  Not our congregation or denomination.

Jesus. Who an unclean Canaanite idolatrous woman convinced was also given a seat at the table by no less than the Living God of Israel. 

That’s a spiritual revolution. If we spent more time asking one another why we break the bread and pour the “wine”, it would be for us too.

 

Number 3: If it weren’t for Hockey on Sunday, our society would have a spiritual revolution. 

(Insert face palm here)

Notice a theme emerging?  It’s not about a spiritual revolution.  It’s not even about what feeds the soul. 

It’s really about being annoyed that someone chose something else as more important than what you or I consider to be paramount. 

It’s based on resentment, not on Grace, mercy, or love.  It requires not even a peck of faith and it’s wrapped up in a whole host of other things that really don’t have much to do with asking and answering:

But…who do you say that I am? 

Getting up is a choice.  Going to practice before the break of dawn is a choice.  Having worship at 11am is a choice. Going, and actually participating when you go – is a choice. Answering the call of Jesus Christ to come on the journey and going to serve is a choice.

Just changing what time the church gathers or when other groups in our society gather, doesn’t scratch the surface of a journey in faith.  Whether we take a step in any direction, it’s always a choice.

The question is whether we’re honest about where our feet are going and why.

When Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone else about what they’ve said, there’s a reason. They’re still figuring it out.  Much has been seen.  There’s still so much more to be revealed.

We don’t know Jesus by name.

We discover Jesus, by heart.

What’s in your heart?  That’s more important than the name on your lips. 

If you ask the former in faith, you might just find that like one foot in front of the other, the rest will follow.

See you next week for every minister’s favourite day:

“Get Behind Me Satan Sunday!”

Seriously.  It should be a thing.  Like…t-shirts and special bulletins, and best Satan impression gets a prize.

 

Blessings on your long weekend. Until we can sip again,

M

 

Sermon: We Make The Road By Walking

 

Matthew 16:13-20

13 Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human Onea] is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. 18  I tell you that you are Peter.b] And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. 19  I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.

 

Call To Worship –  Like A Rock MV# 92

Listen – All you who seek to stand firm with justice and Grace;

Look to the rock from which you were hewn!

From Abraham and Sarah, an entire nation was born,

From a single life in Galilee, a kingdom has come.

Listen – All you who seek to stand on the Rock that won’t give way;

There is a firm foundation that won’t yield to fear!

For the arms of God’s everlasting mercy are eternal,

The Holy One delivers hope even in the barren and broken places.

Lift your eyes to the heavens!

Look to the earth beneath!

God is with us.

We are not alone! R

* Based on Isaiah 51:1-6

 

Prayer for the Journey:  On the journey of faith, we don’t begin with the destination.  We begin with a single step. We begin to discover You, when we make the road by walking. We make the crooked paths straight and cross the valleys, when we make the road by walking. We send loneliness and fear packing for the hills, when we make the road by walking. We discover You, when we make love, mercy and forgiveness by walking the way of Jesus together.  Then, only then, we come to You.  O Lord, we are on our way! Amen.

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving (All): You open our hearts, our minds, and our spirits.  You fill us with good things.  Everlasting things.  You have blessed this church.  You have blessed my life. You hold on to me, and you will not let me go.  You love me.  And Your love, Your love alone, is my saving Grace.  Bless my life, and what I offer You today, in service and in faithfulness, for the kingdom that even now is rising.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20