July 21, 2019
Learning and Serving
When I was young and fair, my father took me out to a country road to learn how to drive. I had just passed my “365” which was the name for the beginner’s license back in the day; it now called a G1. He did the driving while we made our way into the back roads north of Port Hope where he shared with the basics of driving. He parked the car at the side of the road and we switched places with me now being in the driver’s seat. He told me to put my foot on the break, move in the gear from park into drive and release the break. I did that and asked before we got going too quickly, “Now what do I do?” And he simply replied, “Get on with it!” That was one of my father’s phrases that he used, often in my hearing, as if to say, you’ve learned what I have taught you, now do it. My father was a ‘get on with it sort of man’, and yet accessed situations before jumping in. His approach was a nice blend of thinking before you act and getting on with it. This story might be construed as an introduction to today’s gospel reading from Luke. We might think of my father’s approach to life as a nice blend of Martha the active one and Mary, the thoughtful one. The only problem with that Jesus said Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her. And, Jesus really isn’t mad a Martha for working.
To get to the meaning of this story we have to start at the beginning. The first verse in today’s passion reads: 38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.Martha does the welcoming because hospitality has always been important and the early church was no exception. This story tells us that a preoccupation with arrangements can lead to losing what the real purpose is, God’s people, not the stuff. I have to keep telling myself to concentrate on the people in my life and not the stuff. In this case it’s Jesus. This is especially apparent when Martha cannot allow Mary to spend time listening to Jesus.
The next couple of verses read, 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”The real issue here is not between Marth’s doing and Mary’s listening, but between hearing the word and anxious behavior. The front cover of our bulletin really doesn’t capture her anxiety; Martha is too focused on Jesus. Martha was distracted which in Greek means, "to be pulled from all directions". And, if we read the passage we see the me/I language creeping in: “Lord, do you not care that mysister has left meto do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”It’s not about me or Martha, or you, it about God, about Jesus.
And finally, the last two verses: 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Jesus chastises her for being worried and distracted.Now, none of us would ever have that problem.This passage is interesting because it speaks of a woman at the feet of Jesus learning, while the previous passages speaks of an outcast, a Samaritan doing the right thing.The message of the Good Samaritan is “Go and do likewise” while Mary has choose the better part of listening and remaining still. If we were to ask Jesus which example applies to us, the Samaritan or Mary, his answer would probably be, “yes”.Service to God and God’s people is who we are, and yet focusing on Jesus is central to our faith. We end our liturgy today with the words, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.Learning how to love the lord is a life journey, a journey of ups and downs, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings.Serving is certainly not a bad thing, but anxiety is not healthy. Perhaps that's why there is a statement about peace in this dismissal. We should experience peace and joy in our learning and our serving. Amen.
The Fourth Sunday of Pentecost
July 7, 2019
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.
Carry each other
The check is in the mail. One size fits all. I just need five minutes of your time. Your table will be ready in a few minutes. Open wide, it won't hurt a bit. Let's have lunch sometime. That dress is lovely. That Hawaiian shirt suits you. Today’s sermon is short. Some of these phrases most of us have heard and/or used before are referred to as white lies. White here means free from evil intent.These phrases are used to smooth the water, keep the peace, to be diplomatic, to be nice, or shield someone from a hurtful or emotionally damaging truth.The opposite being, that Hawaiian shirt doesn’t suit you, in fact, it looks awful. So what do we do as Christians when we are faced with these situations when these transgressions are made possibly daily in our lives?
Paul states in today’s reading from his letter to the Galatians,“My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness”. A few weeks ago at an early morning Bible study I attend one of the members made the remark which woke everyone up. He said that when we use a white lie, where’s our integrity? Pure and simply, he was right and that ended the discussion. He had said in a spirit of gentleness, but there was no doubt what he was saying.
I thought I might be able to find something in the original Greek work that might help us understand what Paul is saying. The word used in today’s is “transgression” as you will notice and not sin. The usual Greek used for sin ishamartia, but this word is paraptoma. It means: to fall beside or near something; a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness a sin, misdeed. Billy Graham shortly before his death said,“Sin was malice, gossip, the white lie, anger. ‘It gets into the holy eyes of God.’” In Graham’s view, a “white lie” was a sin, pure and simple.It’s a lie and we try to stay away from the white lie and say, “That Hawaiian shirt doesn’t suit you”. I think we cross a line, the judgment line, when we add it looks awful – leave that to God, if God in fact judges shirts.
Now that we understand what Paul is saying about transgressions, he goes on to write about what Christians do when someone has made a transgression. The emphasis in this passage is on cure, not on condemnation. Paul says that, if we do make a slip, the Christian duty is to get them on their feet again. The word he uses is, “restore” which is the same word used for repairing something or for the work of a surgeon when they set a broken limb. The correction is thought of not as a penalty but as a correction in the spirit of gentleness. And Paul goes on to say, “Take care that you yourselves are not tempted”, in so many words, "There but for the grace of God go I."
And finally, Paul talks about carrying each other and carrying our own loads. There is a distinction in verse 2 of carrying each other’s burdens and in verse 5, carrying our own load.Paul says that we are to in verse 2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. “Bono in the U2 song “One” sings (and I’m dating myself):
Well it's too late, tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We're one, but we're not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other
Christians are to “bear the burdens” of others, in the sense of sympathizing with them in their troubles. In verse 5, we read Paul writes, “For all must carry their own loads”.This means that we must answer to God for our own actions. Our responsibility for what we do cannot be shifted on to others. There is a lot packed into these five verses: A lie is a lie, restore those who have made a transgression in a spirit of gentleness and keep wearing those Hawaiian shirts. Amen.
The Second Sunday of Pentecost
June 23, 2019
23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Freed from the Law
Some or perhaps many Christians see life as a trial; they believe that they are on trial for the whole of their earthly lives with God as the judge and when they die, depending on how they lived following the letter of the law, they either get into heaven or go the other way. Here is a story that illustrates how following the letter of the law can get you into trouble.
A professional golfer was playing golf and had a caddy with a reputation of constant chatter. Before they teed off, the golfer said to the caddy, "Don't say a word to me. And if I ask you something, just answer yes or no." During the round, the golfer found the ball next to a tree, where he had to hit under a branch, over a lake and onto the green. He got down on his knees and looked through the trees and sized up the shot. "What do you think?" he asked the caddy. "Five-iron?""No" the caddy said."What do you mean, not a five-iron?" he snorted. "Watch this shot." He hit it and the ball stopped about two feet from the hole. He turned to his caddy, handed him the five-iron and said, "Now what do you think about that? You can talk now." "Sir," the caddy said, "that wasn't your ball."
Today I want to talk very briefly about being freed from the law, clothing ourselves with Christ and being one in Christ. ‘Being freed from the law’. We read in the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in chapter 3: 23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. In Jesus time there was a household servant called the paidagogos.He was not a teacher himself, but was usually an old and trusted servant who was of high moral character. He was in charge of the children’s moral welfare and it was his duty to see that they became an adult.He had one particular duty; every day he had to take the child to the door of the school and make sure they go there and back when school ended. That according to Paul was like the function of the law. It was the function of the law to show us that we are unable to keep it. It was there to lead us to Christ. The law can’t take us into Christ's presence, but it could take us into a position where we might enter his presence. And once we are believers we no longer need the law because we are not dependent on the law, but on grace.
Once we are in the presence of Christ, what does it mean to cloth ourselves with Christ. In the Jewish morning prayer, which Paul must have prayed all his pre-Christian life "I thank thee that Thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman." Paul takes that prayer and reverses it. The old distinctions were gone; all were one in Christ. If there was one thing that could bring us together, it would be that we are all debtors to God’s grace and one in Christ.The love of God will unite a disunited world.
This disunity can be seen in our country with the indigenous people. The Venerable Valerie Kerr, Archdeacon for Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenous Ministry has held that position for a number of years. She, herself, is indigenous and speaks often to churches and groups throughout Canada about the issues faced today by indigenous peoples. She was asked recently, why can’t you just get over what happened, that was then and this is now, move on. She answered was she to get over missing and murdered indigenous women; access to clean water; teenagers still have to travel to go to high school; access to proper healthcare; lack of housing and food security.
This is now, not then, this is in Canada, and this is found in amongst our fellow Christians. How do we respond to this crisis amongst our brothers and sisters is the question we should be asking ourselves. If there is one thought, one take-away in this sermon it would be that we are all one in Christ. May we life that out to its fullest through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.