A member of the Canadian Senate and two friends, a rabbi and a Hindu holy man, had car trouble on a quiet country road. When they called the Motor League they were told that it would be morning before a truck could be sent so they walked to the nearby farmhouse and asked if they might stay for the night. The farmer was an hospitable fellow but explained that he only had room in the house for two of them. There was, however, a cot in the barn where one could be quite comfortable.
The rabbi spoke right up: “That’s no problem. My people wandered in the desert forty years. I am humble enough to sleep in the barn.” With that he accepted a blanket and pillow and headed to the barn. Moments later, however, he was back and explained to the farmer that the pig in his barn was a problem. “In my faith the pig is an unclean animal,” he said. “It is not possible for me to sleep where it is.”
His Hindu friend immediately spoke up and offered to take his place but that solution lasted only a couple of minutes. The Hindu was back and saying to the farmer, “In my religion the cow is sacred. You did not tell me there was a cow in your barn. I could not possibly sleep on such holy ground.”
That left only the Senator to step up. He grumbled and complained but did the right thing. He went to the barn. The farmer was relieved until, just minutes later, there was again a knock on the door. Frustrated and regretting his hospitable nature, the farmer opened the door. And there was the pig and the cow.
Today is another important milestone in the life and work of our congregation here at Eastminster United Church. Today we recognize the many members and adherents of this church who have offered themselves in a leadership role to a particular work for the next church year. We will hear them declare together their willingness to share their talents and faith. It takes courage and a sense of purpose to endeavour to work together to ensure the ministries of Christ in this place are maintained and enriched.
As I prepared for this service of commitment, I titled this homily Me? God’s Masterpiece? I have done so to emphasize how important we all are in the fabric of this church. Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesus speaks of the grace of God which gives us newness of life and overcomes our limitations. Continue reading →
Did you hear about the old guy who went to his doctor for a check-up? After the poking, prodding, listening and testing, the doctor said, “You’re in pretty good shape for your age but, you know, I’m not a magician. I can’t make you any younger.”
“I don’t expect you to make me younger,” said the old guy. “Just make sure I get older.”
Today we are making a special effort to celebrate and thank those of us who, by virtue of good genes, clean living or competent medical care, have managed to do just that, to get older. This celebration is something the people of Eastminster do every year because we know how easy it is to take for granted those whose leadership, work and generosity has provided the rich legacy we have inherited, the seniors who continue to lead us by your example and encourage us with your caring and support us with your prayers. Our church and community are truly blessed by the continuing ministry of our seniors. And we thank you.
This weekend is known as Victoria Day Weekend set aside in Canada to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria and the current monarch of Canada who presently is Queen Elizabeth the Second. In many ways in Canada, this long weekend is the unofficial kickoff of spring. It is considered safe to plant anything without fear of frost after this date.
However for the church community, today is the celebration of Pentecost Sunday honouring the gift of the Holy Spirit by God to the early church and citizens of the world.
Writer Andrew Collis reminds us that before this critical event in the life of the early church, the Jews had celebrated a feast they called Pentecost or Shavuot which was a celebration of the fruitfulness of the land, blessed by the sun, rain and “breath” of God. This image of God’s breathing new life was central from the time of the creation story when God was said to breathe the gift of life into men and women as highlighted in the story of Adam and Eve. Continue reading →
Once upon a time, a certain child was about to be born. Just before he was due to depart the heavenly place where children originate, he went to God and said, “They tell me you are ready to send me into the world. Since I am so small and helpless, how will I survive?”
God replied, “Among the many angels, I have chosen one just for you. She will be waiting for you and will take care of you.”
Jesus was speaking to a very different people in a very different world. We can’t really know what the promise of such peace beyond understanding meant to them. We can admit, however, the extent to which, for people like us in this world, that promise can seem too good to be true. What is it about us, about our culture, which makes genuine peace so rare, so elusive, too good to be true.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest item on any menu anywhere is a Middle Eastern delicacy which is sometimes prepared for the weddings of Bedouin sheiks. The chefs begin with cooked eggs which are stuffed into fish which are stuffed into cooked chickens. The chickens are then stuffed into a sheep or goat which is then stuffed inside a whole camel which is roasted until ready to serve. I assume they season to taste!
Today’s New Testament reading tells the familiar story of the call of God to Saul of Tarsus, the man we know as St. Paul, the tireless evangelist and Christian congregation builder in the first century AD.
This story speaks to the reality of God`s choices of spokespersons and moral leaders throughout history. It points to the power of one who speaks with authority in word and example which can bring about transformation and change. Continue reading →
A high school English teacher noticed that one of the guys in the class was day-dreaming. She had enough teaching experience to recognize the signs and this particular student had a habit of letting his mind wander to matters which tend to preoccupy the imaginations of adolescent boys. To help him re-connect with the class, she asked him to read a passage out loud. When he was finished the teacher said, “Now tell us what that means to you.”
“I can’t,” he replied. “I wasn’t listening.”
It’s not just teenagers who are able to read without listening. For example, it often happens that Betty will tell me over Sunday lunch about some dumb thing I said in a sermon but I wasn’t listening well enough to hear it. And I think it can happen to any of us when we read scripture. There may be passages which we have read and heard again and again but later realize that we were not really listening.
If you didn’t know better, based on how He repeated Himself in their final conversation, you might conclude that Jesus considered His friend Peter to be a little slow, as if the elevator didn’t go all the way to the top, or the wheel was still spinning but the hamster had died.
As I said last week, Jesus may be described as the greatest lover of all so it’s not surprising that, after their last breakfast together, Jesus asked His friend the lovers’ question. “Peter,” He said, “do you love me?” Perhaps feeling guiltily sensitive about how he had denied his friend, Peter answered unequivocally, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
Jesus then did something which lovers and others everywhere can appreciate: He told Peter to prove it. “If you really do love me, then feed my lambs.”