2014-06-10

Happy Birthday Church!


This card drawn by my daughter since she felt that the Church should get a birthday card since it is, indeed, its birthday, says: Congratulations church! She asked me whether church is a girl or a boy and 
we settled on it being a girl :). 

And here is the sermon of last Sunday:

The Church's birthday :)

For the Jewish people, Shavuot which is a Hebrew word for "weeks" marks the events described in the Old Testament, when God came down in flames of fire on Mount Sinai and gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites seven weeks after they had escaped from Egypt. This is considered the moment Israel was born as a nation.

What would become Pentecost for Christians was in other words a Jewish feast and it was celebrated 50 days after Passover, hence its name which is derived from the Greek word for fifty.

The apostles whom Jesus had told to go to Jerusalem  were on that day gathered together in a house when a rushing, mighty wind came from heaven and filled the place. They saw something that the Acts describe as looking like tongues of fire and those tongues of fire separated and came down on each of them.

What happened next was that the Holy Spirit manifested Himself to the apostles and to the people who had gathered around them curious about the sound of the wind as they all started to speak in different languages. Every pilgrim heard the apostles speaking to him or her in their own language.

If and when all the apostles were talking at the same time it must have sounded pretty incomprehensible which is probably why some of those who were present then accused the apostles of being drunk.

The Acts continues the story of Pentecost with telling that  Peter stood up and addressed them saying they were not drunk and pointing out that it was only nine o'clock in the morning. Incidentally, that of course doesn’t prove anything but it was nonetheless a fair point.

Then, Peter preached his first sermon. He interpreted the events of that morning in light of a prophecy of the prophet Joel. In that text, God promises to pour out his Spirit on all people, empowering diverse people to exercise divine power. This pouring of the Spirit would be a sign of the coming “day of the Lord.”

Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised and had poured out the Spirit in fulfillment of God’s promise through Joel. Peter’s speech was so powerful that the people were so moved when Peter told them of their part in Jesus' crucifixion that they asked the apostles what they should do.  Peter’s response was the one we all know, which is that they needed to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.  

Around 3,000 (!) people did and were baptized which in itself is rather impressive feat since that’s one seriously large crowd. This huge number of people becoming Christians on that one day is why the Day of Pentecost marked a massive turning point for the very first Christians. The church was born.

Before the events of the first Pentecost, there were as we know followers of Christ, and more than just the 12, but there was not yet a movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Thus, from a historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started but this is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it. In other words, without the Spirit there is no church.
   
What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world also today, although usually not in such a dramatic fashion. I don’t know about you but at least I am yet to have seen or even heard of a heavenly wind and tongues of fire from anywhere. It would be cool, though! What the Bible says and the Church teaches is nevertheless that God pours out His Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples.

As God’s children we are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. We need the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit who helps us to confess Jesus as Lord, empowers us to serve God, binds us together as the body of Christ, helps us to pray, and even intercedes, prays, for us and guides us, leads us to live godly lives.

What is good to remember is that although the Spirit could have been poured out on the followers of Jesus when they were not gathered together God chose differently. The fact that the Spirit was given to a group of Christ’s followers highlights the central part of the church in God’s work in the world. The Holy Spirit is not only given to individuals, but also and importantly to the gathered people of God. The church is God’s temple and the Spirit dwells in the midst of the church.

The community of God’s people is central to God’s work in the world. Thus, Pentecost invites us to consider our own participation in the fellowship, worship, and mission of the church.

The beauty of the story of the first Pentecost is that it is a story about people representing different cultures and countries who are told the good news all at the very same time. This miracle reinforces the multilingual, multicultural, multiracial mission of the church. From the get go the church included everyone and not only this or that group.

As I look around this chapel I look at the church as it was when it was born and as it is always meant to be. Consisting of all, not excluding anyone; inclusive.

All are loved by God. And our job is to reflect God’s love to those around us trusting in the words of the Gospel reading today:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Not all are called to teach, not all are called to evangelize but  all are called to love.

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.
(St. Teresa of Avila)


This is the cake we baked for church coffee. Given that the liturgical color of Pentecost is red we took the next best thing we had :).

2014-06-05

Welcome summer

I wanted to post my sermon from Sunday but, alas, it is not on this computer but at home (cloud services and I aren't quite that far in our relationship that I'd store everything there). Anyhow, wanted to post something to say I haven't vanished so here's is one of my favourite photos from the end of May. The wee ladybug clearly wanted to be photographed because it didn't budge for rather a long time :).






2014-03-27

I wish you enough


Spring is here! :)


I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.

Unity Church, 'I Wish You Enough'



God bless ya'll :).

2014-03-10

Breathing

Sorry about the delay on posting sermons! I have no excuse. It's just been hectic but that is how it usually is always. This is the sermon one, which is more a meditation than a sermon, that I held Shrove Sunday. God bless. 

At its best a sermon will bring comfort, challenge, enlighten and/or excite those who are listening to it. That’s what all preachers strive for and there most certainly are just plain awesome sermons out there.
The very basic problem with a sermon, any sermon, is - at the same time - that it is an interpretation of what someone or several someones think of a Bible reading or several Bible readings. Nothing wrong with that – seriously – but, the thing is, that what a service like this sometimes lacks is space to be together with God, listening to Him. That can of course be done at a different setting and yet to me there is much to be said about coming together and just listening. A little like in a silent retreat.
A text, and today that text is the beautiful description of God’s love written by St. Paul, needs to be conveyed to  the person who is listening to it (or reading it) in a way that allows it to breathe. Breathing to me is the rhythm of the Holy Spirit.
If you attended the Shrove Sunday service last year you might guess that what will happen now is the following:
I’ll read the 13th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and then there will be 5 minutes of silent meditation. I’ll then read it again and we will, again, have 5 minutes of silent meditation.
You can if you’d like to come and kneel in front of the altar or you can walk quietly around around the chapel. The idea is to let God speak to you through the words of Paul and gently start to lead you towards the period of Lent in the coming couple of days.

What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels?

If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong
or a clanging cymbal.

What if I could prophesy    and understand all secrets    and all knowledge?

And what if I had faith that moved mountains?

I would be nothing, unless I loved others.

What if I gave away all that I owned
and let myself be burned alive?
I would gain nothing,  unless I loved others.
Love is kind and patient,
never jealous, boastful,  proud, or rude.

Love isn't selfish or quick tempered.
It doesn't keep a record of wrongs that others do.

Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil.
Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting.
Love never fails!

Everyone who prophesies will stop, and unknown languages
   will no longer be spoken. All that we know  will be forgotten.

We don't know everything,   and our prophecies are not complete.
But what is perfect will someday appear,
and what isn't perfect will then disappear.
When we were children,  we thought and reasoned
   as children do.
 But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways.
 Now all we can see of God  is like a cloudy picture  in a mirror.

Later we will see him face to face.
We don't know everything, but then we will,  
just as God completely understands us.
For now there are faith,
hope, and love.
But of these three,   

the greatest is love. 

2014-02-05

The Lord God is waiting to show how kind he is

Days just seem to rush past me these days there is such a lot to do. But here is my sermon from January 26th (I know!).

Sometimes I really don’t understand our lectionary. Today’s Gospel reading is the ending of the Gospel reading of last Sunday and in my mind it would work far better to keep the whole story in tack: The story being that of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. However, a point can be seen in the way the readings are divided which is that this way the theme of faith becomes more predominant.
To recap the whole story, though, it is about Jesus coming to a Samaritan city and sitting down at the well of the city because he was tired and as it was noontime it was also very hot.
As a woman comes to the well to draw water Jesus asks her to give him some water to drink. The woman is surprised when Jesus, a Jewish man, asks for something to drink from her, a Samaritan woman. A discussion ensues where Jesus tells the woman that he himself is the source of living water and says : “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
The woman misunderstands Jesus and asks for this kind of water so that she wouldn’t have to draw water and Jesus tells her to go
get her husband, and come back. The woman replies that she doesn’t have a husband and gets the most unlikely answer from Jesus since they have only met and Jesus could not possibly know anything about her.
Jesus says to her: “You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband. You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”
At least two things are striking here: the fact that the woman has been rather industrious husband wise, and the fact that she is cohabitating with a man in rather a modern fashion.
Interestingly she doesn’t seem embarrassed about her secret being known by this unknown man but keeps talking with Jesus and gets into a theological discussion with him which ends with her saying; “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”
And Jesus replying: “I Am—the one who speaks with you.”
Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrive and are shocked that he is talking with a woman. But as the Bible says: “No one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” I like this bit in the story tremendously. I like the sense of, oh well, it’s Jesus, that’s exactly the kind of thing he does.
And here we come to our reading today, the part when one person’s revelation, one person’s realisation spreads and leads to something much more. At first people hear the woman’s story and here it is important for me to point out that this female evangelist in fact does something astounding in that she who came to the well at the peak of noon to avoid meeting others is now telling everyone about Jesus. Meeting Jesus quite simply changes everything.
Upon meeting Jesus the people of the town in their turn are so impressed with him that they ask Jesus to stay and he does! He, a Jew, doesn’t say: “No, I cannot, since we Jews cannot associate with Samaritans”, but instead he stays and for two days.
More Samaritans put their faith in Jesus because of what they then hear him tell them and then say to the woman the words every evangelist wants to hear: “We no longer have faith in Jesus just because of what you told us. We have heard him ourselves, and we are certain that he is the Savior of the world!”
Now, I am not an evangelist, not at least in the Billy Graham kind of a way and I doubt I never will be, but given God’s funny sense of humour these are the kinds of comments that can sometimes turn out to be proven wrong. That aside my point is, though, that this is essentially what every pastor desires, to be able to tell about God’s redeeming plan for the entire human race in a way that leads His children to Him and to a point where they can say the very same thing: “We are certain that Jesus is the Savior of the world.”
Isaiah’s words of today were:

The Lord God is waiting
to show how kind he is
and to have pity on you.
The Lord always does right;
he blesses those who trust him.

They are such comforting, gentle, loving words and such a promise.
It is the calling of a pastor to bear witness of God’s love in Jesus our saviour but it is in fact every Christian’s calling, too. Not everyone is an evangelist and on the other hand every Christian really is. We tell the world about our God in the way we treat each other, in the way we talk, in the way we look at the world around us, basically in every possible way and more often than not, not with our words but through our actions. And the message of our life and that of the church, well, it should be and of that I am sure if we trust our God will be that:

The Lord God is waiting
to show how kind he is
and to have pity on you.
The Lord always does right;
he blesses those who trust him.


2014-01-17

I can see clearly now :)

So sorry but must milk this just a little bit :). My eyes were operated the day before yesterday and I now no longer need glasses, well except to read, but not all the time and not unless it's very small print. So may I just say, yay! :)