Sunday at Scarboro – March 18, 2018

Worship Start Time:  10:30am
Preaching: Rev. Erin Klassen
Theme: Lent V - The Time Has Come

The coffee is hot at 10:00am, come in and get comfortable. Service begins at 10:30 and is followed by coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall.

Come and explore the season of Lent, our theme is "Promises, Promises". You are invited to experience your Lenten journey on the labyrinth in the Memorial Hall.

Co-op gift cards in denominations of $25, $50 and $100 are available after church until March 25, Palm Sunday. Use them to shop for your groceries or give a little something at Easter, a percentage of the proceeds goes back to the church.

Looking forward to Holy Week:

  • Palm Sunday will be an inter-generational service, with special guests, Arise Dance YYC. Communion will be served, and all are welcome to join in.
  • We will have a Maundy Thursday service on March 29 at 7pm in the Chapel. This simple service commemorates Jesus' commandment for his disciples to love and serve one another.
  • We are hosting Central, Knox and Chinese United here at Scarboro for Good Friday at 10:30am on March 30 - **Contact the office if you would like to volunteer and help host this service.**
  • Easter Sunday on April 1st will be a joyful service of music and celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Promises, Promises: Lent V – The Time Has Come
March 18, 2018
Rev. Erin Klassen

I wasn’t certain how I was going to enter into our Scriptures this week. I was discussing it with my family over dinner and my six year old said, “Mommy, I think I know what you can say in your sermon.”

I have her permission to share this and to quote her:

We’re brave.
We’re strong.
And God is always with us.

Yep.

As we say in many a clergy group, that’ll preach.

The people to whom Jeremiah was prophesying were in the midst of exile, it was a time that felt chaotic and uncertain. Into that anxiety and disorder, Jeremiah speaks words of comfort and assurances of God’s presence. The people to whom the Gospel of John was written were struggling to understand the identity of Christ and to get along in an increasingly diverse community. Into that difference and dissension, John writes with language and imagery that would have been widely accessible, indicating that Christ has come for all people. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Much time has passed and yet into our world of uncertainty and anxiety, of figuring out how to honour our diversity, the message remains the same.

Be brave, my friends, for we are strong and God is always with us.

 

Let’s talk about the passage of time for a minute, because once again, we have this very interesting interplay between the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, this discussion of time.

In Jeremiah: The days are surely coming

In the Gospel: The hour has come

 

In this season of Lent - this time of contemplation and reflection - of journeying toward the cross while also knowing what is at the end of that road, there is this sense that the time is now, the hour is almost here. There is a sense of “already, but also not yet”. This is so often the feeling when we are dealing with the meeting of God’s time and our time. The ancient Greeks has two words for time, kairos and chronos. Chronos is sequential or chronological time, when it is mentioned in the Bible, it is a specific day or time or hour. Kairos on the other hand, has more of a qualitative nature, it is the right, critical or opportune moment for action. In the New Testament it means “the appointed time of the purpose of God.”

 

This is that time. In Jeremiah, in the Gospel of John, here and now. The crucial time of God and for God.

The days are surely coming”, says YHWH.

 

God is speaking to us in this time.

Telling us of God’s unwavering faithfulness, to us. Not the other way around.

In fact, God speaks of the covenant that we know so well, the one we discussed only a few weeks ago, the one signified by the Ten Commandments, a promise of freedom and hope. It is a covenant that we often struggle to live out.

 

Here, God reminds us of that covenant and makes another one with us. God speaks of being as close as a spouse, leading the people by the hand. Think of the people that you might lead by the hand, those that you would walk with holding hands. It’s a pretty intimate gesture. And yet, here is God saying that God wants to be closer to us than even that.

 

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts;
               and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 

God’s love and the knowledge of God will be within us. We won’t have to teach each other about God, because we will just know. God will be as close to us as in our hearts. God will be in our hearts.

 

This is a promise of presence and faithfulness.
An unqualified announcement of redemption.
A note that any one of us, at any time can access the Holy, within us and around us - unrestricted and unmediated.
A statement: I am yours and you are mine.

 

Because, as humans go, we can sometimes be a bit obtuse, almost 700 years pass in chronological time until,

                Jesus, answered them, “The hour has come”

 

Chronologically, sequentially, much time has passed, but it is still God’s time, time for action and understanding. Because the idea of God’s covenant, God’s knowledge, Godself, being as close to us as flesh and blood is still tricky to grasp let alone understand and take to heart. So, God become flesh and blood and does walk among us.

 

Now, among those who had come up to worship at the Passover festival were some Greeks. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put forth this request: “Please, we would like to see Jesus.”

 

With this request, the gospel writer signals that just like God’s law being written in the hearts of all the people, Jesus’ mission and ministry, is for everyone. Up until this point Jesus has been surrounded by a select few, and his teachings have been presumed to for the Hebrew people. Here, John through Jesus, or Jesus through John, is saying that is not so.

 

As one of my favourite worship writers, the Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell puts it, “This is the moment that God is doing something new - God is branching beyond the boundaries the people have known, including death, to bring new life, to become the new covenant in people’s hearts.”

 

Now, a couple millennia later, we are just as uncomprehending as ever. We struggle to make sense of what has been said and written. Unless a grain of wheat falls…? If you love your life you’ll lose it…? It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours…?

And when I am lifted up from this earth, I will draw all people to myself.

 

Even though we lose sight of God’s vision for creation and in Jeremiah, we hear God saying that God is not giving up - God’s word will be a living word (in us). In John, we see Jesus living this out as the word made flesh.

 

The time is still now. Kairos. God’s time. The appointed moment for action.

If we are uncertain of what action to take, let us turn back to the covenant, to the Scriptures.

 

In her book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott tells of “a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi, who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, "Why on our hearts, and not in them?" The rabbi answered, "Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside."

 

I invite you now to take some time, chronological and appointed, to consider what is written on your heart. Perhaps a word or a phrase, something that you know of God. If you aren’t sure, what is it that you wish was written on your heart?

Check out the latest news, updated every Friday:

Sunday at Scarboro – March 11, 2018

Worship Start Time:  10:30am
Preaching: Rev. Lee Spice
Theme: Lent IV - Journey Into The Light

The coffee is hot at 10:00am, come in and get comfortable. Service begins at 10:30 and is followed by coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall.

Come and explore the season of Lent, our theme is "Promises, Promises". You are invited to experience your Lenten journey on the labyrinth in the Memorial Hall.

Co-op gift cards in denominations of $25, $50 and $100 are available after church until March 25, Palm Sunday. Use them to shop for your groceries or give a little something at Easter, a percentage of the proceeds goes back to the church.

Looking forward to Holy Week:

  • Palm/Passion Sunday will be an inter-generational service, with special guests, Arise Dance YYC. Communion will be served, and all are welcome to join in.
  • We will have a Maundy Thursday service on March 29 at 7pm in the Chapel. This simple service commemorates Jesus' commandment for his disciples to love and serve one another.
  • We are hosting Central, Knox and Chinese United here at Scarboro for Good Friday at 10:30am on March 30 - **Contact the office if you would like to volunteer and help host this service.**
  • Easter Sunday on April 1st will be a joyful service of music and celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Promises, Promises: Lent IV – For God So Loved the World
March 11, 2018
Rev. Lee Spice

OK, I’ll admit that these are two weird scriptures to put together. It’s been the practice, here at Scarboro, at least recently, to use at least some the readings that have been set out for us each week.  The schedule of readings is called the lectionary, and today we have a couple of doozies.

First, an odd tale about those Israelites in the wilderness. My study Bible says this is the last of the complaint stories – Oh thank goodness! – and the people are grumbling, “We’re going to die out here in the stupid wilderness, we HATE the wilderness and there’s no food and water and we detest this miserable food…come all the way out here…you brought us here…why??”

And God, who has led them out of slavery, and provided them with manna and quails to eat – God, who made water come from a ROCK, for heaven’s sake…sounds like God finally loses God’s own patience with the people and sends poisonous snakes to bite them.

But even God changes God’s mind, and Moses is instructed to make a bronze snake, hoist it on a pole, and whenever the people would look at it, if they had been bitten by a snake, they wouldn’t die.

Hmm.  Any chance you’ve not heard this one before?  Possibly because the preacher didn’t know what to do with it?

Then, the wonderful portion from John, which contains THE most well-known verse in the Bible – John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The first verse that my 12-year-old evangelical self-committed to memory.  It’s the one that appears at football games and on signs by the side of the road and on those little anti-glare stickers on athletes’ faces.

At first, I just wanted to rip that verse out of the iron grip of those who take the whole bible literally and wave it about like a weapon. I imagined peeling back the fingers of my 12-year-old self, one by one, and saying, “No – quit waving that thing around – it just is making it seem like you’re the only ones who have the answers.”

And then, it hit me.  It hit me WHY this story is important to conservatives and liberals and evangelicals and mainstream people alike.

This is a love story.

A number of weeks ago, you heard my colleague Erin speak about the end of the Noah story – the one with the ark and the animals and the flood…but that week, Erin spoke about God’s war-bow hung up in the sky, and God’s covenant with people and with the whole earth, that God will never destroy the whole earth again – that God promises to be with us.

Perhaps the first act of God’s love is Creation, and then, this promise that God’s not going to wipe out the world just because we mess up.  Even if we mess up a lot.

Even this weird thing with the snakes in the desert.  And ungrateful, grumbling people get a second chance – they can look up at the bronze snake and live.

But God’s pièce de résistance is what is captured by this beautiful word from the Gospel of John – For God so loved the world, that God gave God’s only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

In other words, not only does God not destroy the world, God enters it.

God does not want God’s children to perish.  God wants God’s children to live. And not just beyond the grave – life everlasting is a way of valuing the life that we live right here on this earth – a life that is transcendent and beautiful and leaves ripples in the pond.

Now, however, we believe that happens, however, we describe that spirit of the Creation of the Universe, the experience of God’s people is this:  God loves the world. THIS world. This grumbling, complaining, messed up world.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out why God WOULD love this world.

Looking into the stories that come from the Bible, it’s not really that difficult to see the reality of our world reflected there.  

Over the years, people have built up kingdoms and countries.  They have drawn lines on maps and separated peoples from other peoples and staked claims in virtually everything our planet has to offer.  People have fought over resources and rights to govern. Lives have been lost over sovereignty and who gets to have what.

Lines are drawn between people of differing colours, genders, economic status, and orientations.  Even between rural and urban. You can bet that, if there’s some kind of diversity, there will be some kind of imbalance of power.

That was the world of Noah and the world of Moses, and it was the world of Jesus – a world with inequities and oppressions…has very much changed?  

We’ve messed up, in so many ways, as a people, as individuals.

And yet, God loves this world so much, that God is IN it. And even if we can’t figure out exactly how it happens, our Christian story is about the Source of Love in the Universe sending Love Incarnate to dwell amongst the people.  To live with the people. To die with the people, and to be raised to new life, WITH THE PEOPLE.

It’s a love story. It’s about a God, so intimately involved in humanity, that you can’t tease the strands of God out of us – a relationship so deep that it can hardly be described.

That’s the promise. That’s the covenant.

And perhaps the reason that it is told so many times and in so many ways in the Bible, is that, sometimes, it’s really hard to believe.  And yet, people experience it over and over again.

In her book, Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz-Weber shares a minister story in which she messes up bigtime.  It’s a story that is close to my heart because it’s the kind of thing that could happen to me at any time.  It makes my heart hammer because of the number of times that I’ve either come close to this or actually done something like this.

Nadia relates the story of a couple in her church that asked her 18 months in advance to do their wedding.  This couple was very involved in the life of the church – they had met and fell in love there - and so excited to have Nadia do the ceremony.

You guessed it.  A few months before the ceremony, Nadia’s consciousness caught up with her calendar, and she realized she had booked a speaking engagement to Australia over the time that she was supposed to do the wedding.

Panic.  She spent the next few days trying to do the impossible – to do both things by having the couple change their dates…to try to get out of the Australia thing without looking stupid or breaking the contract…whatever it took.  But then the truth dawned. It was a mess, and in Nadia’s words, “There was no way I was coming out of this looking good, and much more importantly, without harming someone in the process.”

She called the couple.

They reminded her of the words that she shares with everyone at her Church of All Sinners and Saints – that, sometime, she will say or do something stupid.  She will disappoint them. But she always says that newcomers should decide to stay or leave before that happens because if you leave after that happens, you will miss the grace that comes and fills in the cracks that our brokenness leaves behind.

Easier to preach, apparently, than to be on the receiving side of that grace.

The next day, an email from the couple said, “We release you from your commitment to do our wedding.  As much as this is painful, we understand why our pastor needs to be in Australia. We love you. And we forgive you.”

That’s where love hurts, doesn’t it?  That’s the sting of grace when you know you are loved, but you have done nothing to earn or deserve it.  Grace, borne of unconditional love.

Our part of the covenant with God is simply to accept that.  To believe that we’re not all doomed. To believe that we are loved. To have as much faith in humanity as God has in us.  To enter into that relationship with God through the one who shows us the way – Christ Jesus, the Love Incarnate.

Our part is to receive God’s love, for God so loved – still loves – THIS world.  Really.

It is our act of faith to go on, even in the wilderness, even if it is miserable food and has poisonous snakes; because God will always ask us to look up and see that not all is lost.

So, although I still have some things to say about taking the words of scripture literally, and I still want to peel my 12-year-old zealous fingers off of some verses and say, “Quit waving that around,” I don’t feel that way about this one – “For God so loved the world.”  

This is a love story that we can share.  May it be.

Check out the latest news, updated every Friday:

Sunday at Scarboro – February 25, 2018

Worship Start Time:  10:30am
Preaching: Rev. Lee Spice
Theme: Lent II - Covenant of Promise

The coffee is hot at 10:00am, come in and get comfortable. Service begins at 10:30 and is followed by coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall.

Come and explore the season of Lent, our theme is "Promises, Promises" and you can experience your Lenten journey on a labyrinth in the Memorial Hall.

Another Women's Talking Stick Healing Ceremony will take place at 1pm in the Social Room.


Promises, Promises: Lent II – Covenant of Promise
February 25, 2018
Rev. Lee Spice

“Get thee behind me, Satan!”

Now there are words for Lent.  Get thee behind me, chocolate!  Get thee behind me, coffee!  Get thee behind me, wine!  I’ve often heard these words when someone is being tempted…like Jesus may have been tempted by Peter.

The Gospel of Mark is looking back at Jesus’ life, and has Jesus saying that he is going to be abandoned and betrayed and murdered, and rise again.

Peter, the disciple I think is most like many of us, will have none of it – “Say it isn’t so, Jesus!”

And Jesus utters those famous words – “Get behind me, Satan,” or, in the King James Version, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not really calling Peter “The Devil.”  Probably he was referring to the role that Peter was playing as God’s adversary, tempting Jesus away from his mission.  Peter was acting as a stumbling block.

But even this stumbling block cannot stop the unending march of time, and as the gospel writer looked back on it, the events were inevitable.  Jesus would die.  It would be inhumane and horrible.

Jesus’ words are hardly comforting.  Again, here are words that are made for Lent – “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Sacrifice, loss, pain, death… - sounds like it is inevitable.

For the sake of the gospel?  I thought that the word “gospel” meant, the “good news.”

I suppose, then, that the good news is NOT that following Jesus means that you will live without pain.

I suppose that the good news does not mean that you’ll have any kind of protection from disaster.

The earliest Christians would have known that, as they were rounded up and murdered for their faith.  So perhaps they took comfort in knowing that suffering was part and parcel of following Jesus.

But surely, not everybody is supposed to be willing to die for the cause...most Christians didn’t sign up so that they could be led like lambs to the slaughter.

A number of years ago, I heard a preacher talk about Jesus’ words to “take up your cross.”  It seems clear that the gospel writer meant to talk about sacrifice…that he meant that we are called to shoulder the cross along with Jesus and enter into his crucifixion, and, through Christ, God enters into our pain.  But this particular preacher examined that word, “cross,” as in, “take up your cross,” and found something interesting.

I was skeptical, so I looked it up myself – as it turns out, that word for “cross” in the Greek means “stake,” as in the kind of stake or peg that you would use to secure your tent to the ground.  While you could take that to mean that Jesus was referring to the part of the cross that is plunged into the ground, you could also argue that this might also be a kind of a play on words, and that another interpretation of “take up your cross” might also be “pull up stakes and follow me.”

“Pull up stakes,” just like God was asking Abram and Sarai – God instructed them to pull up the stakes of their tent and head off to a land that God would show them, and that they would be the parents of a whole nation.  At that, Abram fell on his face, laughing, as did Sarah, later…but they did it.  They pulled up stakes and headed out to….where?

Pull up stakes, and head into the unknown – perhaps into the wilderness.

This time of Lent is wilderness time.  It’s a time in our church year when we can affirm and confirm that life is not always sunshine and roses.  It’s a time when we can confirm that we don’t always know what lies ahead.  Wilderness time is not just a thing that’s in the bible.  It is real life.

Okay, you know how terrifying wilderness time can be.  You are probably intimately acquainted with it.  And even if you have your stakes set into something that is hurting you, it can be terrifying to pull up those stakes and set out into the unknown.

Wilderness time is that time after the last of the booze goes down the drain, and you pull up stakes from the substance that addicts you, and you turn your steps away, but you don’t know exactly where.

Wilderness time is that time right after the pink slip, and you have to pull up stakes and look for work, but the territory into which you are turning seems awfully hostile.

Wilderness time is weeping for dead teenagers and one thrown in the river; and weeping for the generations of children who wept for their parents in faraway schools.  And so you pull up stakes from the bitterness and make your way into the wilderness, with the promise that there might be healing and change and reconciliation, there.

Wilderness time is the time after the doctor’s appointment, when you hear the word “cancer,” and you are suddenly pulling up stakes from security and certainty. And however you saw the future.

Wilderness time is when you realize that a relationship is slowly killing you, so you pull up stakes from co-dependence and turn, and go.

Wilderness time is that time after someone dies, and you are walking in wild and unfamiliar land, and you look around and the rest of the world seems not to notice that the brambles are threatening to rise up and overwhelm you, and so you unstake yourself from the certainties of “before,” and try to figure out what comes “after.”

It is a moment of freefall. This is where the wilderness gets real.

Wilderness time in the church is where we find ourselves in a world with internet friendships that do nothing for real loneliness – a world with school shootings and so many people looking for meaning…the church’s wilderness time is that so many people are looking to nurture their spirit, and don’t see the church having anything to do with that.

And Jesus is saying, “pull up stakes and follow me.”

It is so tempting to turn back.

“Pull up stakes and follow me.”

“Follow me into the wilderness, because wilderness is a part of every life, and I will be with you.

“Follow me, and if you look very closely, you will see the blooms on the cactus and the tiny springs of fresh water and the little animals that scurry and the birds that hide until dusk.

“Follow me, and there are no guarantees for an easy life, but there will be new life.”

“Pull up your stakes and follow, for I will be with you.  I promise.”

And that’s the good news: As my colleague, Erin, so eloquently said last week, we are not alone.  Even when the wilderness looks wild and empty, God is there.  It’s not so much that God sends us into the wilderness – the wilderness is there, in everyone’s life.  The good news is that we never have to walk into it alone.  We have someone to follow – into the unknown, into the shadows, into the pain.

May I be honest with you?  I spent a long time working and reworking this sermon. I just couldn’t find the perfect finish.  I wasn’t able tie it all up with a pretty bow.  And then it occurred to me – this is precisely the point.

Lent is a time when we admit that sometimes, we don’t have answers.  It’s a time when we often don’t even know what lies ahead.

Lent is a time of opening to the uncertain and to the unknown – a time when we can’t tie it all up with a pretty bow.

Lent is a time of taking heart.  It is a time of courage. Courage, which means going forward, even if you are afraid.

And Jesus beckons.  “Follow me.”

Will you?


 

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