Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter 2 A

I get by with a little help from my friends...


Easy answers are great things, are they not?

If only we could have them more of the time.

I would like to think that every now and again I could have something I was totally and without reservation sure of…. But so far that has never happened.

Death and Taxes… the only two things you can count on…. However, in my humble opinion not even those two are sure… my taxes change year by year and I never know whether I owe money or am going to get like a huge bonus… and death? Surely you have come to the same conclusion as I have; that I might live to be 120 years old and I might be dead by the end of the day… Doesn’t sound very certain does it?

Really, is there anything that you don’t wonder about, at least every now and again? It could be as simple as, is red wine a good or a bad thing… all the way up to, why do people who seem to be good have such bad things happen to them…

There are moments when conviction grabs hold of us… you are going to hear one in a second when I read from Peter’s first sermon in Jerusalem… but even for Peter, the head of the church after Jesus died, that conviction was fleeting and he had his bad moments… He thought too much… he had a lot of questions…

And I would like to suggest to you that thinking about things is the reason that God gave us the minds we have in the first place.

Elijah the Pancake Hunter

Story from Mark Gillman “God’s Mailbox”


So what is conviction? IS your faith more precious than Gold? Are you willing like Peter to stand in the marketplace and declare that Jesus has died and is risen and that it changes everything? Do you love him? Believe in him? Or like the Psalmist is your heart glad that God leads you through each and every moment of life – preserving you from danger?

You know what news is, right? News is anything that is “out of the ordinary” at the end of the day those reporters come on TV or sit down behind their computers and start talking about everything that was surprising… a shooting… which hardly ever happens… a stabbing down on Main Street… only once in the last five years… and NDP upsurge… unheard of… these things are news.

The fact that someone was so assured of God’s love and grace that they did not fear the enemy, or death,… the fact that they felt they knew the purpose of their life… like Paul wrote in our letter or The Psalmist wrote in his poem - this was news.

Most people were far more like Elisha the Pancake Hunter – just trying to figure things out…

Or like Thomas… Unsure of what it all means… but we will get there…

For now I want you to recognize that the type of faith that moves mountains and never wavers – that faith has almost never happened. And when it does, it is fleeting.


There are characters in the Bible I have real affinity for. I guess I like the underdogs… I always want to defend Joseph when Christmas comes around, and point out that he did not get enough recognition for his part in the whole Mary pregnancy scandal thing….

Then there is Judas… the most misunderstood and vilified of all the Biblical Characters; who I swear thought he was doing a good thing in forcing Jesus’ hand… or at least believed he was doing what God and even Jesus wanted him to do in order to make things happen according to plan.

Thomas is another one who I don’t get why he has a negative reputation… Let’s be serious; I come to you and tell you that I have seen your dead friend walking around last night… is you going to believe me right away?

Besides which, the other disciples were not unafraid and confident… they were cowering in the back while Jesus tried to convince them it was all right…

So let’s skip this and say Thomas was not extraordinary… that the doubting Thomas thing should not have stuck the way it did; and look at it a different way.

This story is about recognizing resurrection.

Thomas is not the main character, just one of the characters.

It is a story about us…. About what we need in order to know that God is at work in the world…

More importantly – it is a story about what is possible once you find out.

Thomas was the disciple who needed time, space, and evidence in order to come up with a plan to move forward. He wanted to figure it out and he had his doubts about what was happening.

He was also the only disciple to spread Christianity outside of the Roman Empire… he travelled to Egypt; He travelled to India; he travelled throughout Syria; he apparently wrote one of the most interesting collections of quotes from Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas – and he got into a few fights with Peter along the way.

That is why his impact on Christianity has all but been forgotten. That is why he got the bad name… it was political…

What Thomas actually was as a person was the most effective and surest of all the twelve… he was the one who was careful, who had doubts, but then used those doubts to figure out his life and to move on…

He never looked for easy answers and neither should we.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter A

as a pre-note; this is what I had in front of me on Easter morning. I am not sure how much it resembles what I actually preached. The stories are the same; but the way it is woven together happened more on the fly than normal....

Easter is...


What do you refuse to believe in?

I have a few – money buys happiness, might makes right, despair is stronger than hope...

I refuse to believe that bullies will have the last word. I refuse to believe that I am anything less than perfect in God’s eyes. I refuse to believe that people are as mean as they often seem to be...

I refuse to believe that evil has the last word... I guess that is at the heart of what I am talking about...

I have hope.

That, for me, is what Easter is all about.


Two eggs needed. One normal, one ‘blown’. (Google if don’t know how) Start the talk with the great Easter Day and how the tomb which they thought would be full was empty. Think how surprised the women were when they saw it was empty. Often talk about eggs at Easter etc. I’ve got an egg here and a badminton racket. Now look I’m going to try and hit this egg to the back of the church. Throw egg up and deliberately miss. (Egg splaters all over a tray) Oh dear I missed that one. Lets try again. Take blown egg and this time hit it of course its just bits of shell. The look of horror that passes children’s faces when you hit it is amazing. Then talk about how they all expected the egg to be full but what a surprise it was empty

Life – Death – John

In John's Gospel, there is a story often entitled, “Jesus Speaks About His Death.” It comes right after the events of Palm Sunday. Jesus says to a group of people, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

That reminds me of a type of tree that I encountered once. Along the Cabot Trail, in Cape Breton, there is a trail called the Jack Pine Trail. You can find these forests throughout Canada. There are all these unique-looking trees growing in the cracks of rocks. The interesting thing about Jack Pine trees is that they need forest fires to open their cones in order for new trees to grow. So, in the process, the trees get destroyed in order for there to be new life. Wildfires naturally occur as nature's way of making sure this happens. It's painful to watch these trees burn but from the ashes of death and destruction, beauty and life arise.

Every night we look at the bright moon and the twinkling stars and we marvel over the vastness of the universe and the beauty of creation. But at daybreak, the moon fades until it disappears and we have to say goodbye for a little while. But as the moon sets, the glorious sun – that ball of fire in the sky – it rises and brings life to the earth.


We are in the midst of Spring. We have been witnessing transformation around us. From the deadness and cold of winter comes the beauty of delicate little flowers popping up and melodic little birds filling the air. And now that spring is hear, the pain of winter has become a distant memory. At the time, mountains of snow and below zero temperatures plagued our every day.

But now we don't think about that. Instead we celebrate what is before us. We shout, “Hallelujah!” when we can grab a light jacket as we head out the door. We want to sing as we spend time outdoors once again – at the park, in our backyards, going for a walk. The darkness has passed and the light surrounds us.

A couple of days ago, we remembered the agony that Jesus endured. We lived the pain of the cross, the moments of uncertainty and despair. But now that we see in our mind's eye, an empty tomb, a risen Christ, renewed hope – we put those feelings aside and focus on celebrating!