June 28

06/28/2015

 
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5th Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 5: 21-43

When I was a child, 10 years old and in Grade 5 to be exact, there was this girl in my classroom by the name of Michelle Rhodes.  Michelle came from a very poor family, but what was most memorable about them, was just how dirty Michelle and her brother and sisters were.  I think there were 4 or 5 children in the family and it seemed to all of us that they were never clean.  Their clothes, their hands and faces, their hair, were always dirty and unkempt.  I mean, you could really see the dirt. 

Of course, children, being as mean as they could be, would always tease the Rhodes children and accuse them of having “fleas.”  During recess, or before and after school, children would run up to Michelle and the others, “touch” them and then run away, screaming that they were now infested with Michelle’s “fleas.”  Often WE would begin chasing other classmates who were “clean,” and touch them and give them Michelle’s “fleas.” 

All of this was pretty cruel to say the least, as we taunted and scorned the “unclean” child, while those of us who were clean, felt pretty good about ourselves.

On the face of it, that story pretty much sums up the antics of schoolyard children, who don’t seem to know any better.  Yet, what I have described to you, is not exactly a new concept.  In fact, the practise of “clean” people, taunting and scorning “unclean” people, is a centuries old custom.  We understand that in first century Palestine, it was very common, for “clean” people to heap scorn upon those who were deemed “unclean.”

I know that in the past, I have made reference to the culture of first century Palestine and how society was segregated between the “clean” and the unclean.”  Such “uncleanness,” was not characterized by dirty hands and faces, or unkempt clothes, along the lines of Michelle Rhodes.  Rather, “clean” vs. “unclean,” was determined through the keeping of rituals, or through one’s “birth certificate.”

In first century Palestine, the “clean” people, were the Jewish people, the sons and daughters of Abraham. WHO were the “unclean?”  The “unclean” were those people who WEREN’T Jewish, such as the Gentiles, or the Samaritans, who were considered “half-breeds.”  The “unclean,” were those people who didn’t faithfully keep the laws and rituals of the day.  They were the people who didn’t wash their hands at the right times, or in the right manner.  

Women were often deemed “unclean.”  A woman who recently had a baby, was considered “unclean,” until after a certain time period, when she would go to the temple and make a sacrifice.  When Mary and Joseph go to the temple to “name” Jesus after his birth, Mary is also there to make a sacrifice, in order to be “clean” again.  Women who were menstruating, were considered “unclean.”

People who were ill, who had diseases, were considered, “unclean.”  Dead bodies were considered “unclean.” 

So what did it mean when the “clean” and the “unclean,” met or came in contact?  Well, the “clean” and the “unclean” often did not come into contact, because the “clean” would not allow it.  Much like a bunch of 5th graders who run around trying to shake of Michelle Rhodes’ “fleas,” the clean would work very hard at not contacting the “unclean.”  If there was contact, it was assumed that the “clean,” would be contaminated and would themselves, be “unclean.”  They would be required to run away to the Temple, to perform some ritual, so that they would then become “clean” again. 

A wide gap existed between the “clean” and the “unclean.” 

All of this makes today’s gospel reading quite shocking and dramatic, for in the reading from Mark, we have 2 examples of “unclean” people.  In our gospel reading, Jesus is walking towards the home of Jarius, a temple official, whose daughter is near death and who seeks the healing powers of Jesus.  Jarius was a “clean” person, a male of power and status and he approaches Jesus, who is deemed to be “clean” because he is male rabbi and teacher.  Jesus goes to see the daughter of Jarius, who is a Jewish girl, who is also assumed to be “clean,” because her father is “clean.”  

Along the way, Jesus encounters a woman who is suffering from some sort of flow of blood.  She is UNCLEAN.  Here is a woman who is either ill, or diseased, or in some way is deemed to be “unclean,” and she KNOWS it.  She is unclean and she knows that it is not right for her to “touch” a “clean” person. 

The second person who is “unclean” in our gospel, is actually the daughter of Jairus.  By the time Jesus arrives at the home of Jairus, the little girl has died.  VERY “unclean.”  Dead bodies were considered “unclean,” so it would not be right, for a “clean” person to come into contact with that dead body.  Yet the “clean” Jesus is ushered into the room where the “unclean” body lay.  This was NOT right.

But.... this is where we encounter the gospel, the good news, God’s surprise.  The “clean” comes into contact with the “unclean,” and an apparent violation has taken place.  However, it is no violation at all, in fact, the contact appears welcome.  Jesus the “clean,” is touched by the “unclean” woman and rather than Jesus becoming “unclean,” it is the woman who becomes “clean.”  She is healed, her bleeding has stopped and she is now “clean.”

The “clean” Jesus goes into the room where this apparently “unclean” body lay, and he voluntarily touches the body.  Rather than Jesus becoming “unclean,” the corpse comes alive, the little girl rises and she is now “clean.” 

This story violated every first century sensibility; this was not the way the world operated, the “clean” and the unclean” did not mix.  If they did mix due to some unfortunate circumstance, then it was assumed that the “clean,” were changed, for the bad.  

But the way of the world, was not the kingdom of God.  When the unclean, encountered the “clean,” the economy of Jesus was such that THEY changed.  HE did not change, THEY did.  THEY became clean.  The power of God, through Christ, made the “unclean” “clean, ALL the time. 

THIS is the bedrock of our faith, the good news of God through Jesus.  The point of our gospel is that Jesus makes us “clean.” 

He makes US “clean?”  Does that mean that we are “Unclean?”   I think deep down inside, we assume that we are at some point, “unclean.”  When we struggle, when we make mistakes, we may assume that we are “unclean.”  Sometimes, people point at us and say, “unclean,” even when we may think otherwise.  Like Michelle Rhodes, we may have dirty faces and dirty hands and we may think that is okay, until.... someone comes along, singles us out and scorns us by telling everybody that we have “fleas.” 

On top of that, if you throw in our own guilt and fear, there is a possibility that we might feel “unclean.” 

The good news for us today, the promise for us today, is that we can be made “clean.”  When we come into contact with Jesus, we are made “clean.” The question is, HOW do we touch the hem of his cloak?  How do we come into contact with Jesus?

When we hear the Word, we have met Jesus. 

When we gather and together we speak and hear the words of confession and forgiveness, we come into contact with Jesus.  We come with faces hid, we are ashamed, we come from behind, we may not be worthy to be in his presence, yet we come, knowing that he lets us close. 

When we come to the baptismal font, we hear the promise that we are washed clean.

We come and ask for his mercy, because we know that he is so ready to extend his mercy to us. 

We come to the altar, we raise our hands for bread and wine.  This is Jesus, this is our contact with him; he touches us in a very real way.  His presence, his spirit, enters into our lives, into our bodies and goes deep down inside of us.  We touch and taste, the promise, the hope, where we are made “clean,” now and in the future.

We are made CLEAN.

With that, we are sent OUT.  We are sent out, to tell others that for even one brief shining moment, we were made “clean” by the power of God through Jesus.  We are “CLEAN,” and others can be “clean” as well and I bet there are many people who yearn for that feeling. 

I don’t know what ever happened to Michelle Rhodes.  A year or two later, in Grade 7 I think, Michelle and her family moved away and I never saw her again.  As far as I know, she still had “fleas.”  But maybe she didn’t have “fleas,” and maybe for one brief moment, she understood that she just might be “clean.” 

In Grade 5, on Valentines’ Day, our classroom was eating cupcakes with the little candy hearts on them and we were exchanging valentines.  I had lots of valentines given to me, as did every other kid, except Michelle.  Michelle got ONE valentine that day.... and she got it from ME.  Much to my dismay, my mother insisted that I give a valentine to EVERY kid in my grade 5 class.  Either I gave a valentine to EVERY person, OR I would not be allowed to hand out any at all.  I resented that. 

I can still see Michelle, holding up that valentine, with a squirrel and a heart on it, and looking over at me, from her desk, two rows over.  She was smiling as she held up one lousy little valentine and she said thank you.  At the time, I hoped that nobody noticed and maybe no one did.

However, years later, it seems very different.  Thanks be to God and my mother, Michelle got a valentine.  Maybe for one brief moment, Michelle might have understood that she did not have “fleas.”  She was “clean,” at least until recess. 

Touched by Jesus for one moment?  I think so.  



Amen

 

June 21

06/21/2015

43 Comments

 
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4th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
2 Corinthians 6: 1-13
Mark 4:   35-41

Objects:   a large plastic machete an “Acme Siren”

I need two volunteers.   I need someone quite small and I need someone who is larger; preferably a child and an adult.   I am going to arm this adult with a sword.   I am not going to give the child a weapon, in fact I am going to give the child an “Acme Siren.”

So folks, now that they are lined up for “battle,” what do you say to this child?  Do you have any advice for this child?  Any coaching?

            (invite responses and make comments on those responses)

How about THIS for advice or comment?   “May the LORD be with you!"

We may laugh at that comment, or we may groan when we hear such a comment.   In the face of adversity, danger, fear and dread, such a comment might not feel very adequate. 

And yet, this is the comment, the advice that King Saul gives David, the shepherd boy.  In our first Scripture reading we have the famous story of David and Goliath.   The nation of Israel and the Philistine nation are squared off against each other, ready to do battle.   The Philistines propose a simple solution to resolve this fight:   each nation will present a champion and the two will fight.   Whichever champion wins the fight, in effect wins the battle and the losers become slaves to the winners. 

The Philistines present the giant Goliath and all the soldiers of the nation of Israel quake in fear; no one wants to go out and fight Goliath.  No one that is, except little David, the shepherd boy.   David offers to fight Goliath and immediately King Saul rejects this little scamp as the champion of Israel.   But because no one else wants to go out and fight Goliath, Saul figures that he should at least arm David with weapons and protection.   The armour that is put on David is too big and he casts it all aside; David will simply contest Goliath with his sling-shot.

As David prepares to go and “battle” Goliath, what does Saul say to him?  In the end, Saul has nothing to offer but the following:   “May the LORD be with you!"

Was that adequate?

We all know people who are facing difficult and maybe even dire circumstances, circumstances which have all the appearances of a pitched battle.   Health, relationships, lack of employment, addictions, poverty, homelessness, loneliness…   there are lots of battles being waged.   What do you say to people who are facing adversity, danger, fear and dread? 


“May the LORD be with you?!"


Is that adequate?

In the second reading, from 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.”

In the face of internal and external forces and struggles, Paul is saying to the church in Corinth:   God is indeed with you, you are not alone; you have not been abandoned.   God is with you, the grace of God is with you and the grace of God does not abide with you in vain.   God’s presence, God’s grace upon you, is NOT without purpose.   God’s presence, God’s grace is given to us with a purpose

To those who are facing adversity, danger, fear and dread, the apostle Paul would ALSO say, “May the LORD be with you!"

The disciples of Jesus are in the boat and their boat is being tossed about by a huge storm; they are facing adversity, danger, fear and dread.   Will the storm do them in?  What word was given them?  Was there anybody to say to them, “May the LORD be with you?"

No one spoke those words to them, but in fact, the Lord WAS with them.   The Lord Jesus was with them, beside them in their journey across the Sea of Galilee.  Eventually the Lord who was with them, spoke, calmed their fears and gave them renewed faith and courage. 

This was the message that Mark wanted to convey to the fledging Christian movement.  A small group of people who follow Jesus are facing all kinds of struggles, both internal and external.   Mark reminds them that while their boat may be tossed around by a variety of storms, Jesus is in the boat with them and this lord of the universe will conquer all that is before them. 

I am sure that we all know someone who is staring a giant in the face.   I am sure we all know of people who are in the boat, being buffeted by the waves.   Who knows, maybe it is us who are facing the storm or are in some form of battle.  

To all of us who struggle in any way, God’s word for us today is, “May the LORD be with you!"

 Is that enough?   It will have to be enough.   The reality is that God is with us even when we wonder and are not sure.   The God we meet through Jesus is with us and will speak to our adversity and our fears.

We do not know what God will say and when God will speak and act.   The only thing we know is that God will speak and act, to let us know that we are not alone and that God will somehow still the storm.   In the meantime, this gives us the hope and the strength and the courage to live on in the face of life’s difficulties. 

“May the LORD be with you!"  



Amen.


 

June 14

06/14/2015

36 Comments

 
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June 14, 2015
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
1Samuel 15:  34 – 16:  13
Mark 4:   26-34

Eleven years ago, I was in Tanzania on my sabbatical.  As I journeyed throughout Naibili Lutheran Parish, we would often walk alongside and through farmers’ fields.  One day I asked about a rather tall plant that somewhat resembled a sunflower.  I was told that they were millet plants, and the millet harvested from the plant were eaten like a breakfast cereal.  During that particular walk, I was told that even though the millet plant was quite tall, it actually came from a very small seed, a seed not much bigger than that of a mustard seed. 

I was shown a millet seed and it was amazing to think that such a tall plant could come from such a tiny seed.   The millet seed is not even as small as a mustard seed, but the same principle applies. While we might expect big seeds to produce big plants, the reverse is sometimes true; sometimes the small seed produces the biggest results. 

That is one of the themes which runs throughout the Scripture readings for today:  sometimes the small seed produces the biggest results.  And if one were to expound upon that principle in a theological way, you could say:    GOD can use small things to do big things.

In the gospel reading for today, Jesus says, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

 

With what can we compare the kingdom of God......  It is like a mustard seed.             The kingdom of God, the reign and rule of God, which highlights the grace and mercy of God, through love, equity, sharing and good stewardship of what God has given, is broadcast by the disciples, as a farmer might broadcast his seeds upon the ground during planting time.   The kingdom of God, the reign and rule of God, a time of mercy and compassion, is a bit of a mystery in that the seed is planted and it grows, no matter how much the farmer works the fields. 

Why is it like a mustard seed the tiniest seed on earth?  Shouldn’t bigger seeds get planted so that the bigger kingdom results? 

It seems Jesus is suggesting that “bigger is not better,” and he is doing so for a lot of important reasons.                                   

First of all, the bigger is better thinking, is not and was not the way of Jesus.  The life, the ministry of Jesus, was not representative of the bigger is better way.  Dying the death of a common criminal, as a way of expressing God’s love and the granting of God’s salvation to humanity, was not a bigger and better method. 

Jesus himself is a good example. 

Second, the story of David, illustrates the way of God; it is another good example.  The story of David was part of Jesus’ religious history.

David, the shepherd boy, who takes on the wild animals while protecting the sheep, who slays the Philistine Goliath, is just that, a boy, a little boy. 

In the book of 1 Samuel, we read of the prophet Samuel’s anointing of the little shepherd boy, to declare that David will be the next king of Israel. 

GOD sends Samuel out to anoint the next king of Israel.  God connects Samuel with a man by the name of Jesse who has 7 sons, all of whom are big, strong brutes.  Every time that Samuel thinks he is looking upon the next king of Israel, God tells him to pass that fellow by. 

Finally, after going through those 7 young men, Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more boys.   Yes, there is one more boy, the youngest, the baby in the family.   This boy is ruddy in the face.  In other words, his skin is pink; he has a baby-face.   When David is brought before Samuel, he can see that David is a baby; he is a momma’s boy.  

And God says, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one."
           

THIS is the one.   This is the littlest boy in the family, this is the baby of the family and this is who God wants to be the next king.  Of course, all of this defies human logic; the biggest, strongest and toughest, should be the next king, not the runt of the litter.  But that is not the way God seems to operate.  

God CAN use small things to do big things, and maybe that is God’s preferred method of operation.  

God using the little things, the small things, was in evidence everywhere I went during my sabbatical in Naibili parish in northern Tanzania.

One day, a group of people from Naibili and Mowara, gathered with the Masai peoples of the region, about 8 kms from Makiwaru village where I was staying.  We met to walk around a large field, picking up very big rocks.   The rocks were used to form a foundation upon which a church would be built, so that the Masai of the area, could attend a church in their region and not have to walk for hours to get to a church.  That pile of stones was not very big, but I bet a building will be there eventually.  The kingdom of God grew by one more, small and insignificant seed. 

One day, while walking through the bush, in remote areas around Naibili, we encountered an elderly man who could barely walk on his crude crutches.  He lived in a little mud hut about the size of most of our bathrooms and he was alone and he was hungry.  Pastor Mosha left instructions with the church elders who were walking with us, that members of the congregation were to take turns delivering meals to this unfortunate gentleman.  The kingdom of God could not be left behind.  The kingdom grew by one more, small and insignificant seed. 

Ah you say, but that is Africa.  Of course, the church is growing over there by leaps and bounds, of course, the kingdom of God is growing.  They MUST be using bigger seeds than taht of the mustard seed.  Actually, I think the opposite may be true; the church is growing in Africa, but it is indeed growing one small seed at a time.

But maybe, just maybe, the kingdom of God is growing here, one small mustard seed at a time.   Are we aware of that?  Do we see it?  Do we see what God is up to?

Consider the current ministry of St. Paul’s.  What are those little seeds that we sow?   Do we have evidence of what those seeds of ministry become?   How is God working through the small things, the little and seemingly insignificant things in this world?

Consider providing a meal for elementary school children once a month.   What is the value of such a meal?   What is the outcome, the benefit?   Only 2 dozen children are fed each time.   Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but God is involved.  

A half a dozen people gather each week to make quilts.  On the face of it, not a very big program.   Where do those quilts go, who receives them and of what value are they?   Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but God is involved. 

Forty or fifty people gather around the Salvation Army crisis response vehicle for soup, sandwich, sweets.   They browse through used clothing, they can even pick up soap and socks and other important items.  What is the outcome?   What is the benefit?   Do things change or get better?   Not always.  Someone could argue that this is not all that important, yet God is involved somehow.

We bemoan the size of our Sunday School, our youth group and our general lack of young people.  We can remember better and more plentiful days.   Do we see a beneficial outcome?  We might point towards our own failures and yet, we stop short because God is involved somehow. 

God will always be involved with us and with the people in our community and our neighbourhood.  God challenges us to look beyond the bigger is better mentality and God challenges us to look for God, see God in every aspect of life, including the seemingly small and insignificant.   That is where God is, that is where the kingdom of God occurs.  

That is where God brings us together with the weak and the vulnerable and that is where God’s mustard seed is planted.   God brings us into the presence of the weak and the vulnerable and says to us, “there is the one.  Anoint that one so that such a little one will understand that God’s favour is upon them.”

That is where God is, that is where the kingdom of God occurs.    Amen.

 

June 7

06/07/2015

12 Comments

 
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2nd Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 5, Lectionary 10)
Mark 3:20-35

Three years ago I went to Penticton to visit my mother and one day in particular, I was driving my mother home after running some errands.   As we drove past the library on Skaha Lake Road, I noticed a bicycle parked on the sidewalk and it was plastered with hand-made signs.   The signs said things like:

            Jesus is Lord

            Listen to the Lord God Almighty

            Repent

            The world is coming to an end

           
As I drove on, I was trying to imagine who would be driving a bike like that around Penticton.   What did that person look like?   What might that person be thinking... or not?

I dropped my mother off at home and headed back downtown to do a little shopping myself.   I learned from my mother that my wedding anniversary was coming up, so I thought I had better go find a gift for Darlene.   As I was heading north on Skaha Lake Road, I saw the bicycle coming down the sidewalk towards me.

Question:   In your mind, what kind of person would you picture riding a bicycle that had signs on it such as those I described?   What would that person look like?

            (invite responses)

Having heard your responses, I can tell you that this particular fellow looked very scruffy.   He was tall, skinny, wore dirty and tattered clothes.   He had a ball cap on with the bill turned up.   Sorry to say, but his appearance fit all the stereotypes that I might have imagined. 

Now that you have imagined what he looked like, and have discovered what he actually looked like, there are more questions to ask.

Questions:   What kind of person do you think he was?   What would you expect of his personality, his temperament and dare I say it, his mental condition?

            (invite responses)

Would you imagine that he was some kind of a whack job?  Probably.   We have all seen people like that, standing on street corners, walking down streets, displaying all kinds of religious signs.  No doubt, most of us, if we are honest, would assume that such people were crazy, “psycho.”

Was Jesus a “psycho?”  As you read today’s gospel, you almost wonder. 

We shouldn’t be too smug or assume it is heresy to think that some suspicious minds thought he was crazy.   If you were to look at the guy riding on the bike and you think he is a whack job, what was to prevent people 2000 years ago from thinking that Jesus was nuts?

There is a whole bunch of stuff in today’s gospel reading that is not very flattering.  

First of all his own family thinks he is crazy.  

Despite the fact that Jesus has begun his ministry and that it has been highly successful, his family comes to get him and take him away from the crowds and all the notoriety; they think that he is out of his mind.  Why?  Because he is not doing “church” in the right way.  

I am sure that the family of Jesus were quite religious and that they followed the religious system of Judaism and followed it scrupulously.   They knew how to observe the religion, all the customs and rituals.  In other words, they knew how to do “church.”   I don’t think that they thought Jesus was following the religion in the right way, mostly because he wasn’t following the normal ways of observing the religion. 

I can almost hear his mother saying:   “That’s not the way he was raised!”

The family comes to restrain him. 

The crowd thinks he is crazy….. on two accounts.

First of all, what Jesus is proposing is against the grain.   Now his teaching and healing and his forgiveness of people has been wonderful and life-giving to many people but there is an edge to it.  The edge is that he is challenging the conventional wisdom around religion and observance.   He is challenging the temple institution and the crowd senses that this is just a little bit over the top.   “He’s out of his mind!” 

Second, I believe the crowd thinks he is crazy because he seems to rejecting his own family.   Mark gives a mere snapshot of that sentiment.   Jesus wonders who his brothers and sisters are and he seems to be suggesting that his followers and all those who believe in him have in effect become his brothers and sisters.   His followers seem to have replaced his actual family. 

I have a feeling that Jesus is breaking some cultural taboos.   Jesus is rejecting his own family which might have been unthinkable.  

The scribes and Pharisees think he is crazy.   Jesus is striking back at organized religion; he puts everything into question.  He is suggesting that the heart of religion is not in the temple system of sacrificing animals, but instead, resides in him.   HE is the new temple.   HE is the new covenant to replace the ancient covenant God had with Abraham, the ancestor of their religion. 

HE is taking on the task of forgiving sins.   This really makes the Pharisees think that he is crazy, because only God was considered capable of forgiving sins.   If Jesus was claiming to be able to do this, then Jesus must be making a claim to be god.  That was crazy.  The scribes and the Pharisees think Jesus is the devil himself. 

Was Jesus a “psycho?”    Everybody seems to think that he was the guy riding down the street, on the bicycle with the funny signs. 

But seriously, was Jesus REALLY crazy?  In a way he was.   

He was unlike anything that the religious establishment considered legitimate.   He didn’t fit the categories of itinerant preachers that they had come to expect.   His message was quite contrary to conventional wisdom.

Jesus' whole ministry thus far had been about announcing both a new vision of God and a new way of relating to God. And at the heart of that vision and way was the conviction that God is love, that God desires the health and healing of all God's creation, that God stands both with us and for us, that God is determined to love and redeem us no matter what the cost, and that this God chooses to be accessible to us, to all of us -- indeed, to anyone and everyone.

Jesus sets himself against all the powers that would rob humanity and creation of the abundant life God intends -- whether those powers be unclean spirits; disease that ravages the mind, body or spirit; illness that isolates and separates those who suffer from community; or whatever. Jesus introduces a new vision of God and a new way to relate to God...and it's not what any of those religious folk would have expected.

It is possible that Jesus might have been the guy riding the bicycle down the street with all the signs?

Something else was happening that was quite crazy.  The ministry of Jesus was one of forgiveness and compassion and it had drawn a following.  So committed were his followers to that ministry of healing, forgiveness and compassion that he began to think of them as family.   He began to call THEM, his brothers and his sisters.   Pretty crazy.  

Were those followers of Jesus, crazy too?   Maybe.

Those followers of Jesus who felt his love, his acceptance, his forgiveness, his compassion towards them, felt compelled to go out and exhibit the same love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion towards others. 

In the process, they served others, ministered to others; literally stuck their necks out for Jesus.  They even died for him.  The message of Jesus had to get out, no matter what the cost. 

Those followers became the guy riding the bicycle down the street with all the signs.

Do you feel crazy?   Do you feel like getting crazy?

Beyond the pastor, do you feel like you are sitting in a church with a bunch of nut bars?  

What about the people in our society?   Do they look at us as crazy?

Before you disregard that comment, I need to share with you, an experience of one of my colleagues.   One of my colleagues attended a crisis but before arriving at the scene, took off the clergy collar, because my colleague was worried about being identified as a “religious crazy.” 

Newsflash:   not everybody in our society looks upon the church and clergy with favour!   There are people and secular institutions that regard us with suspicion. 

Consider two situations.

First of all, consider what was spoken about and learned of the church and clergy during the 5 years of story-telling to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.   How do you think society will regard us in light of that commission?

Second, a colleague of mine in a different community told me that the “gospel mission” in his town is despised by the street people because they are pounded over the head with Jesus BEFORE they are fed.   No one is given anything to eat until they sit through a worship service.   The street people do not appreciate the treatment.                                                                                       It is possible that the some quarters of society regard us followers of Jesus as crazy?  That is entirely possible.  

Questions:  So what do we do with all of this?   How do we exist as followers of Jesus?

            (invite responses)

Here are some additional thoughts.

Maybe we ARE just a little bit crazy. 

After all, we follow Jesus.  We believe he is God.  We believe that as the son of God, sharing the same essence as God, he DIED for our sins, for all of our wrongs, our transgressions.  

A part of God dies?   On top of that we believe that when he died, and then rose from the grave….. just a minute, nobody rises from the dead.    We believe that when he rose from the grave, he gave us the gift of eternal life.   We will live too. 

We believe that when we take a person and pour water over their heads, they have been washed clean from every mistake they have ever made in their lives or ever will make and that God will forgive them over and over and over again. 

We believe that when we pour water over the head of a person, they have the gift of heaven.   They too will live forever in eternity in God’s presence. 

We believe that the washed person joins us to take part in the ministry and activities of Jesus. 

We believe that when we share a piece of bread and a drink of wine, this Jesus actually enters into our person, that his essence goes deep inside us, so that we can strive to become like him, exercising our own ministry and compassion.

With this Jesus inside of us, we believe that we can go out and heal some of the ills of the world, speak of and live out forgiveness, letting people know that they are worth something in this supposedly “throw away world.” 

We believe that we are sent out to exhibit the same love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion towards others that Jesus has extended to us. 

No matter what the cost.  

Is that crazy?  

In light of this world, it probably is crazy.   Is that a good thing?  Jesus seems to think so.  Amen.