Our Purpose and Mission Statement

Working to build God's dream. Help wanted!

We the people of Glen Rhodes United Church, are determined that our life together will be fully inclusive for people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, differing abilities, ethnic origins and economic circumstances. Therefore, we hope that God will work in us so that we will be a sensitive congregation, willing to share our faith and gifts in language and worship, in the life and work of our church and wherever God calls us to do justice in the wider community, with compassion, fun and laughter

Monday, 28 October 2013

"Give us this day" Robin Wardlaw October 27, 2013

Pentecost 23, Year C
Readings: (Joel 2:23–32); Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 16–18; Luke 18:9–14 
 
Time races by. Yesterday we were getting started. The day before we were children, with all time stretching out before us. Change seems to happen faster now, and we know that people have been saying that in every generation. The psalm reminds us that it’s harvest time again—so soon!—and we are grateful for everything that rain and sun and soil give us year after year.
On Reformation Sunday, which we are combining with Peace Sunday this year, we think back five hundred years to the eruption against entitlement and privilege that split the church. Many people were upset that bishops were rich, and set up in those positions by powerful parents and benefactors. The church had stopped being the church, in other words. Martin Luther picked up the flickering torch lit by Anabaptists and other earlier reformers and nailed it to the door of the church in Wittenburg, in what is now Germany.
 
This week, a German bishop was disciplined for his lavish lifestyle. By the pope, no less. Can the Catholic Church change, and align itself with the poor? What about the other churches? What about this church? We do that. Can we change to take into account generations of people coming up who look for very different things in their spiritual lives, who see church the way it has been done as almost irrelevant?
 
It’s about focusing in what is truly important. Paul seems to be reviewing things at the end of his life, the end of about twenty years of intense missionary activity. He’s under house arrest in Rome, meeting with people, writing letters, and waiting for his trial by imperial officials. “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He is confident that Christ will have the crown of righteousness to award him, “…and not only to me but also to all who have longed for Christ’s appearing.” There is the strong sense that he is letting go. No more big trips around the Mediterranean planned. He’s not going to make it all the way to Hispania, what we call Spain, after all. His great goal, to preach Christ to all the world.
 
Perhaps we are like Paul, in the stage of life where our big adventures are all behind us. Different things may weigh on our minds these days, for the most part, than whether or not the crown of righteousness awaits us, but maybe these old scriptures are not completely dated. Look at the gospel passage, from Luke. A story about two men at the temple, total opposites in their image of themselves. The religious guy sounds obnoxious. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” No. I’m good, I’m solid. I make God feel good. The tax collector comes to the temple with a very different agenda.

This story has the effect of making us wonder about ourselves. As it was intended. Every week, the World Council of Churches puts up prayer concerns on its website to help churches know what to pray for when they are praying their way around the world. This week, our prayer focus is on island nations in the Indian Ocean. Wouldn’t I love to know who wrote that other Christians around the globe should pray for“The leading of the Spirit for churches to renounce self-justification and rather work for the establishment of justice and human rights for all.”Self-justification. I’m OK. No flies on me.
 
It’s this kind of spiritual and intellectual laziness that gets a person into trouble, often. And not just individuals. Our nation is allowed to launch missile strikes from drone aircraft and kill people in your country. Our industry is allowed to use the air we all breathe or the water we all drink for our waste disposal. Our sect is entitled to blow up innocent people in markets or buses or places of worships. We are justified.
 
Reformers want change, but not through violence. Martin Luther started off as a reformer, then turned more vengeful and bitter as the church opposed his ideas. He ended up supporting violence against poor people, people who had been inspired by his early writing to believe they were loved by God and had a claim to full humanity and all that entails.
Peace is not just the absence of open conflict. Syria is not at peace, but neither is Bangladesh, where people sew our shirts for a dollar a day. And we don’t enjoy peace either, if people have to visit a food bank to make it to the end of the month. Peace and reform are closely connected.
 
Let’s hear from others about what it takes to get peace, one American, one South African to start.
 
“It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt
 
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela
 
Believe in it, work at it, she said. Work with your enemy, says Mandela. He is celebrated around the world because he could somehow do that. He could see beyond his own suffering, his own mistreatment to the well being of his whole country. How badly do I want peace?
 
Here are a two more Americans with a very similar view of peace.
 
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace. Helen Keller
 
What about Canadians? Here are a couple from the only Canadian every to win a Nobel prize for peace.
 
“The grim fact is that we prepare for war like precocious giants, and for peace like retarded pygmies.”
 
“But while we all pray for peace, we do not always, as free citizens, support the policies that make for peace or reject those which do not. We want our own kind of peace, brought about in our own way.” Lester B. Pearson
Our hero, Jesus, didn’t live into old age. A few brief years to share the vision that burned within him. His share of the world’s work and the world’s struggles lasted something like three years, we believe. What if he had escaped the casual brutality of the empire somehow? What would his ministry have looked like after ten years, thirty, fifty? That was never going to happen, of course. He had as much chance of staying free as a Russian billionaire who speaks against the current regime, or a feminist in Saudi Arabia.
 
The only Member of Parliament to vote against war in 1939 was James Shaver Woodsworth, a Methodist and then United Church minister who founded the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. This is his grace before a meal.
"We are thankful for these and all the good things of life. We recognize that they are a part of our common heritage and come to us through the efforts of our brothers and sisters the world over. What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. To this end, may we take our share in the world's work and the world's struggles."
What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. …we take our share in the world's work and the world's struggles. Or do we? Roosevelt, Mandela, Woodsworth—they’re all talking about the work required, the struggle. Can’t I just be peaceful? Isn’t that enough? Can’t I just treat others with respect, keep the weeds down around the yard, recycle like I’m supposed to and be thought of as a peacemaker? I’m not Eleanor, I’m not Nelson, I’m not J.S. I’m just, you know, an ordinary person.
 
This is our struggle as Christians, isn’t it? If, together, we are the body of Christ, what would we not do for Christ’s vision, God’s dream of a different kind of world? Peace, reform: our commitment, my commitment. Peace, a world re-formed: the promise of Holy Love. They don’t require a wholesale change in the way a person is in the world, but rather a different awareness, a different appreciation. What did Pearson say, again? “…while we all pray for peace, we do not always, as free citizens, support the policies that make for peace or reject those which do not.”
 
How do I know which policies make for peace? They will be the ones that make for more justice. They will be the ones that allow people with less to organize, say, to protect their rights, that curb the power of the powerful. They will be the ones that see the harvest as something that flows to everyone, not just the person with the biggest stick. The policies that protect the fish, the corals, the wild things and wild places. You know all this.
 
If we need to set up a peace school here, to figure how to make peace, let’s do it. If we need to practice our lines or our skills, our discernment of the policies that make for peace, we can. We have this inheritance—stories and traditions of the faith. We will add to the legacy in our time and leave something Christ-like behind us. We will not give in to smugness, that we are somehow justified by our own actions. Our race is not over. Our fight—for peace—is not yet done.

 

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