Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Easter 06 - Mother's Day

All About the Love….


Well, this is mother’s day.
Do you know that this day is celebrated in almost every country in the world, either in April or May? However, they all trace their roots back to the American Civil War, and the early 1900’s in the US.

In 1870 Julia Ward Howe made a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” ... it ameout of a group of mother's who had been meeting to protest the violence of the American civil war and was trying to re-unite families that had been divided. 

Then in 1908 Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother and began a campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday in the United States. It took 6 years, but it was eventually recognized and spread worldwide.

The original idea that prompted both of these women to start a holiday was the idea of love, and that this love was first learned in the family, and for most of us, through our mother….
It was meant to be a moment to recognize all the goodness that went into bringing you up…

With the Kids

Theme: Show your love by your actions (Mother's Day)
Object: A Mother's Day card

I am sure that all of you know that it is Mother's Day. Did you give your mother a card or a present for Mother's Day? This Mother's Day card says, "Mom, I love you!" Do you think your mother likes to hear you tell her that you love her? Of course she does! But do you know what your mother would like even more? She would like for you to show her that you love her.

What are some ways you can show your mother that you love her? Well, you might help out around the house. You could clean your room or empty the trash. You could show her that you love her by obeying her when she tells you to do something. You can show her you love her by getting along with your brothers and sisters. It is easy to tell your mom that you love her, but if you really love her, your actions will show it!

Do you think that God likes to hear us tell Him that we love Him? I know He does. But He likes it even better when our actions show Him that we love Him. How do we do that? The Bible tells us that, "God showed his love for us by sending His one and only Son so that we might live through him." It goes on to say that, "since God loved us so much, we ought to love one another." One of the best ways to show our love for God is to love one another. Yes, God likes to hear us say, "I love you," but He would rather see us say, "I love you."

As we celebrate Mother's Day, let's tell Mom that we love her, but more important, let's remember to show her that we love her. And as we worship today, let's tell God we love him, but more important, let's remember to show him we love him by loving one another.

Dear Lord, we have come to your house today to say, "I love you." Help us to go out of here today and show you that we love you by our actions. Amen.

Love the Parent Love the Child

Today’s readings are not about mothers per se. But the one thing they all have in common is the idea of love.

Now, love is a difficult concept to get our heads around. I love steak. I love ice cream, there is “tough love” there is the love I have for my daughters, there is the love I have for my girlfriend, there is the love I have for my mother… All of those things are quite different, I think.

Or are they…

When Jesus spoke of love he spoke of a feeling that comes from God. The disciples echoed this and claimed that if you loved God, you would keep the commandments – you would “act” out of love.

Now, none of them really said what this love looked like. There are no real speeches that say, go buy flowers on mother’s day. The Bible does not tell you that it is a commandment to hug someone when they are sad…

Instead, the Bible makes a big deal about being “like” Jesus.

And Jesus was a guy who did certain things… he ate with people who were lonely, he listened whenever anyone talked to him, whether they were rich or poor good or bad, smart or dumb, he laughed when people told him jokes, he danced at parties, he just smiled knowingly when the friends lowered their sick friend through the roof jumping the line…

The thing the disciples knew about Jesus was that he cared, passionately, about everyone and everything….

Now, I know that not all mothers are the epitome of love. I certainly know that not all sons make it easy to love them. But I do know a little about trying to love like God, like Jesus, and I know it is not easy for any of us.

The best opening monologue of any movie – or for that matter any story in my opinion, also comes from the movie, Love Actually – in which we find Hugh grant, playing the Prime minister of England, speaking in the background as the camera pans across a group of people coming into the airport from their plane. He says:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinions starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion love actually is all around.”

The type of love that is based not on passion, not simply on romance, but based on the actual caring heart reaching out to one another, is, all around us... this is what Jesus was trying to say to his disciples when he told them that even when they could no longer see him physically with them - they would still be able to recognize the presence of what Jesus stood for – of love.

But at the same time – this is the type of love that you have to do in order to get.

There was this man who was trying to read a serious book, but his little daughter kept interrupting him. She would lean on his knee and look up and say, “Daddy I love you.” And he would reach down and pat her absently on the head and say “Yes dear, I love you too.” And then give her a little push, an encouraging suggestion to be on her way, to go play, so he could get back to his book. But as this happened a couple of times it never satisfied the little girl, so finally she ran across the room, jumped up on his lap, threw her arms around him and said, “Daddy I love you, and I just have to DO something about it!” You see, as we grow in love we are not content with the small talk love, or the pat on the head love, we want to get involved and DO something about it.

When Jesus was nearing the end of his ministry with the disciples – it was this message that he meant to get across... think back to what Jesus said was the greatest commandment we should follow: "You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself." After he said that, Jesus went on to finish with... "DO THIS and you will live."

If you love me – if you are a follower of Jesus – if you love God; you will keep my commandments.


There is a little bit of Mother’s Day and Jesus’ Sermon overlap in this sermon.
I don’t think Jesus would mind.

The Catholic Church took the motherhood of Jesus seriously enough to make Mary, the mother of Jesus, more than a Saint.

The thing is that Jesus wanted us all to understand love and compassion, and he wanted us to live that way. And today, on Mother’s day, we can remember the first person who ever showed us that type of compassion… our mother.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Easter 5 B

Connected to the Vine

If I said the word “Evangelism” I wonder what you would hear.

The Dictionary defines it as spreading the Christian Gospel by personal witness or zealous advocacy.
Some might define it as “being on fire for the Lord” and going out and trying to convert everyone…

Jesus defined it as working in the vineyard.

Anyone out there drink wine… or how about this, ever visited a vineyard? It's really interesting to see how the grapes are grown. I used to live in wine country in Quebec, half of the people I knew were trying to make a go of it, starting their own vineyard… I have also been to a couple in Nova Scotia… There is the Jost Vineyard, which is in a place called Malagash, and there is another one down near Wolfville Nova Scotia, Pres D’en Haut.

Most people don't think of Nova Scotia as wine country, it is a pretty harsh climate all in all, and grapes need warmth and sunlight… these two are located in what is called a micro-climate, they are places where the temperature, because of sea air and hills, and what have you, remains pretty constant for a longer period of time.

Jesus is always talking about vineyards. It is a metaphor he uses all the time… so in case you have never been, here is what you need to know – they are chaotic… Grape vines do not grow in a straight line, they need to be supported on trellis… grapes are fragile, if the birds don’t get them the frost might.

Ah, but then again, anyone who has eaten a fresh grape right off the vine knows, it is worth it.

Branches (Story Time)

Adapted from Sermons4Kids.com
Object: Two branches that has been broken from a tree -- one with leaves withering, the other without any leaves at all.

-          Recently I was working in the yard and I found this branch underneath a tree. I guess it had been broken off by the wind. It still has some buds on it…
-          Do you think that if I took it and planted it in the ground it would come back to life? No, that wouldn't work, because the branches get the nutrients that they need to live from the tree.
-           Branches cannot live or grow without the tree.

Jesus said something similar… he said, "I am the vine and you are the branches….”

What do you think he meant?

I think we are supposed to stay connected to God. We will be stronger, we will grow, we will do great things.

The Tree of Life

So here is another question for you… anyone ever been to the Animal Kingdom Park in Disney World in Florida?

In the centre of that the Animal Kingdom is a massive tree, which they call, the Tree of Life. It is really a towering statue, shaped like a tree, branches, leaves, everything… but the Trunk, which is as big as a house, is carved with intricate animal carvings; presumably, of all the animals, insects, birds and fish on the earth… or at least most of them.

It is pretty symbolic. It shows we are all connected, all part of the same tree… unfortunately, it is also fake. Last week a branch, or two, or three… you get conflicting stories, fell off and almost hit some people sitting on a park bench.
There is a difference between being glued onto the “tree of life” and being a part of the real vine.

We are a part of God’s vine. We are strengthened and supported by that connection.
I don’t suppose you have heard the radio ad lately for Ronald McDonald House… it is really effective. It starts out and says look at your finger. Well… look at your finger. How much can you lift with your finger? A light shopping bag perhaps…. Now look at your hand. Do you know that your hand is 40 times stronger than your finger….

It goes on to make the point that families are like that, stronger together, and so when a child is sick and their family is with them at a Ronald McDonald House…
Well, that ad is not far from what Jesus is saying, we are the branches attached to the true vine and because of that… we are stronger.

Ah… you might ask, but what about those times when we do not feel strong? What about the people who do not feel that connection? Are they any less connected? No, of course not, everyone is a part of the vine, we are all, as it says in another passage, children of God… and God’s love is flowing out from the vine for anyone and everyone…

Part of our job, then, as the faithful few is not just to recognize our connection to God and live our lives that way but it is also to help others live as if they are branches too; to help others to feel connected to God.

So how do we do that?


Christians often think that they must go out and convince others to believe. We forget that God is at work in the hearts of people, drawing those who will listen into relationship.
As the reading from 1 John says, the love of God comes from God; we cannot instill it.

Our role is to have our eyes open to the places where we can help a person to hear and respond to that voice that is already calling them from within.

The story of Philip and the Eunuch is a great example of this… it is a random encounter, it is a moment in time on a bus, or a subway, or an elevator… when this Eunuch, a court official for the Queen, notices Philip reading a Bible….

I heard of someone who wore a cross pin on their lapel for exactly this reason. In case anyone notices.

Of course, the thing is, Philip jumped right in there and started talking about his faith.

In the world of business, they teach you to prepare an ‘Elevator Speech’ … think of it this way, suppose you have the best idea for a movie out there, or the perfect invention… and all of a sudden you find yourself on an elevator with Steven Spielberg, or Donald Trump. You have one minute to sell them your idea… go.

The thing is, you should have it practised, you should have it memorized, when Spielberg says, “I wish someone had a really great idea,” you need to be ready.

This, my friends, is evangelism 101. “You go to church? Why?”

Philip had his elevator speech ready, and it was so effective, that the Ethiopian wanted to be baptised right there, right then…

And it really isn’t hard. The thing I have noticed is that people are already curious about why you do the things you do. Everyone loves a story. So what if we were just more open about what we believed, where we went to church, why… what if we were a little more prepared for the questions and had good answers worked out?

See, Evangelism is not hard, and it is not hitting anyone over the head with a hammer… It is seeing what needs to be said in the right time, and the right place and doing it.

It is talking to the strangers, feeding the hungry, helping someone out when they drop their keys and are holding a bag of groceries… it is a hundred little things that show people the love God has put in our hearts.


Back to the vineyard; Jesus once hinted that we were to take care of the vineyard while the owner was gone. Later he says we are the branches that are meant to bear fruit.

Out of the chaos and beauty of our lives, there is a lot that really is up to us. There is just no way around it. God works through us…. Plain and simple.

So… how are you going to go out there and cultivate?

Easter 4 B

Risking It All


Today I want to talk about Risk… about taking chances.

One of the things we forget about in our comfortable pew is the concept that being a Christian entails some risk – or that doing something new involves risk – or that standing up for what you believe involves risk…

What are the things that you would take risks for? Do you usually play it safe or take chances? What do you think God would have you do?

Teddy Roosevelt, one of the great leaders of that smallish country down south of us, once said, “No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.”

This was the way the disciples felt at the very beginning. It was the way Jesus felt. They thought that this whole Christianity thing was worth taking a whole lot of risk for… they thought the people that God loved were worth the risk…

That is what we will explore today.
With the Kids – The Good Shepherd

-           Does anyone have pets? What kinds?

-          What does it take to have a pet? A big responsibility…

-          Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”

o   Takes care of the sheep
o   Feeds the sheep
o   Will even risk life and death for the sheep

-          We ultimately do what we do for love. That is what Jesus was talking about – God’s love for us.
Hanging in the Glebe

Did anyone read the book, “the Bishop’s Man”?
On the surface it is a book about a Catholic Priest in Cape Breton who is called upon by the Bishop to clean up some of the messes left behind when priests do bad things.

But the real story comes from the internal thinking of said priest. He sits alone in his house and wonders whether loneliness drives us slowly crazy. He once seems to have had a brief love interest and is forever battling the demons of knowing he went against his vows. He drinks to forget about his pain and this gives us an insight into why people choose forgetfulness.
I like him.

Do you know that you can buy Bible Hero Action Figures? You should see them… all muscles and righteous anger. Samson with his bulging arms ready to take on the evil lions… If you have the internet go home and Google “Almighty Heroes Action Figures”.
It is kind of funny…. Except… it’s not. It is kinda what I learned in Sunday school. Ok, maybe the heroes of the Bible were not GI Joe, but they were heroes. Larger than life, capable of miracles, above the law, they were not very much like you and me.

They are hard people to live up to.
Even Jesus, although his action figure is a lot skinnier, is hard to live up to, isn’t he? When we hear in the Bible that we should come and follow Jesus, that we should be like him, do we really think we are capable of it?

How about this – the good shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep, who is able to fight of the lions in the night, who always knows where the good grass is, who would risk life and limb looking for one lost sheep… is that you?
I fear I am more like Father MacAskill from the Bishop’s Man… conflicted about things, wondering about things, trying to do the right thing even though the choices are hard to make….

Ah… but here is the thing. The good father does something. Despite the fact that he is no Saint, he still goes out to confront the people doing wrong. Despite the fact that he does not know what to say, he still goes to be with the family whose son committed suicide. Despite the fact that he is living in a poor area of Cape Breton  he still keeps insisting to the people that they are good honest folk…
He makes a difference because he is willing to risk – because he is willing to put aside all those things about himself that would convince us we cannot possibly help, and then go help.

Now, I personally am a big believer that we need help; that we are capable of much more when we are “filled with the Holy Spirit” so to speak. I think that there is such a thing as divine power, that can sustain us when we could not possibly do it alone.
Can you think of a time when you were really, really afraid to do something, and you said a little prayer, and all of a sudden it seemed like you had the courage to do it? How about a time when you were so overwhelmed or worried and you just all of a sudden got the feeling that everything would be ok?

I truly think that those sort of things happen all the time when we are willing to risk in the first place. We have to be willing to take those first steps, even if they lead into some pretty uncomfortable places… just look at the disciples in our story from Acts, who find themselves in prison; but somehow know that it is the strength of God that has made what they do possible… it was not them alone.
Even the Good Shepherd passage talks about how Jesus knows the father, and the father knows Jesus and that is what makes it all possible…

But again – both the disciples and Jesus always took the first step. It is the fact that they were willing to do something that starts the ball rolling.
And I hate to point it out, but it usually means they get in trouble. We don’t really like people who risk going against the status quo. We don’t really understand people who put other values first and foremost in their lives. We don’t find it easy to be welcoming, and accepting, and loving without counting the cost… none of us do….

But when we risk doing the right thing… we change everything….
There is a story told about a soldier who died in France in World War Two. His buddy’s gathered up the corpse and headed into the village to try and bury the body. When they got to the church the priest informed them that because of the rules, only a Catholic could be buried in the graveyard, but since this man was a protestant, he could do nothing.

The soldiers were uncertain what to do, but finally decided that the best thing they could do would be to bury their friend just outside the cemetery fence.
The next morning, the unit was getting ready to head out so they all went back to pay their last respects. But they could not find the body. They went to the priest, who told them:

“Well, after I saw what you did I spent the first half of the night lying awake wondering about my decision. I spent the second half of the night moving the fence.”
Going Against the Grain

I don’t know… it just seems to me that most of us take the easy road far too often.
I guess I see in these post Easter stories a group of people who were willing to take risks, both large and small…. But we in the church have tended towards the opposite, to playing it safe…

And it is no surprise. The world is becoming less and less concerned with the church. We are on the outside of what is popular and that is probably a chicken and egg thing… because we do not risk the extravagant type of love that Jesus and the disciples did, we have become more and more concerned with keeping the rules, or maintaining the buildings, or any number of things.
I know the way of Jesus matters. I know that the traditions, ideas, and understandings that the church passed down can bring happiness and hope to people. I know that the church has the power to change the world….

But are we willing to take the risks? Are we willing to accept like Jesus?
I think we should.