Harrow United Church
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SERMONS


May 11th - "What if I'm not perfect?"

"What if my Mom's not perfect?" What does Christianity have to offer on Mother's Day?

Baptism of Jesus - and Leah Too! (January 12, 2014)

Scripture: Matthew chapters 3 and 4

We are trying something a little different at Harrow over the next couple of months - reading our way through an entire gospel - Matthew. We don't often read any book of the Bible through in sequence, and it seemed like it might be a good idea.

Last week we read chapters 1 & 2 (or at least Phil did - with all the begats!) - the genealogy of Jesus, the dreams of Joseph and of the magi, the threats and the travels to Egypt and back to Jerusalem, and finally on to Nazareth. Today we start on chapter 3: 1In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea ... In what days, I want to ask - just after Jesus and his family returned to Jerusalem and Nazareth??

It seems at times that we get snapshots of the life and times of Jesus - give examples here.

Sort of like the photo album of Leah's life may become. Even with digital technology and large computer databases, it won't be possible to preserve (or at least to preserve and look at) all the moments of her life. There will be some special ones - some for remarkable achievements, some for worry or anxiety, and some simply for joy or ordinary days.

Today's gospel reading reminds us of the story (the snapshot) of Jesus' baptism - and then his temptations, and then the beginnings of his mission.

Leah - today is baptized, but learning to live and to love are life-long endeavours (as we all know!) Infant baptism is not because an infant needs "cleansing" - at least not in the same way as those of us who have lived a little longer - not like those who came out to be baptized by John (I baptize you to wash away your sins, but the one who comes after will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire) Nevertheless, it is sign and symbol that we are one in the pilgrimage of life with Jesus - who chose to be baptized, and then was tempted in the desert, sorting out his identity and call to follow God's ways.

So too, Leah will, with the help of her parents, grandparents, and faith community be strengthened as she faces all the temptations to be something other than the fullness of what she is meant to be. And she will strengthened and confirmed by the power of the Holy Spirit - and the community of faith and family - to live as one who follows God's ways - as revealed in the life of Christ.

Baptism gets us ready - but it's the next steps of the journey (One More Step Along the World I Go) that continue our formation, force us to make choices, and challenge us to find our strength and our purpose in God's redeeming love. May we be strong in faith together.

I can`t wait to find out what snapshots will be part of that album - and I'm sure there are others who wait with even more anticipation

BORN ANEW (March 16, 2014)

Scripture: John 3:1-17

  • What would you do differently if you could be born again? [of course the world is different now than it was when you were born ... so maybe that would affect other things]
  • Bring my sprouting mini tulip bulbs and some pots and soil. Invite folks to plant them - think about new life irresistibly springing forth - God is bringing to life - we can ignore, watch, assist (water) ...
    • Play with different voices/attitudes for Nicodemus as he engages Jesus - challenging, inquisitive, looking for opportunity to trap Jesus or looking for weaknesses in Jesus' teachings, argumentative, sincerely questioning ... Kate Huey (Samuel) "do the answers from Jesus anger him, perplex him, or lead him to new life?
    • "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?"
    • "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."
    • "How can these things be?"
  • Picking up on Borg quote below: being born to see life through a lens of 'sacred' and how that maybe changes us ...
  • How often are we like Nicodemus - misunderstanding (or perhaps being deliberately dense) when invited to be 'born anew' - to see with new eyes, experience with a changed heart - begin to perceive God's realm - already here in our midst?
  • Some from the 3 churches went this week to see the former St. James UC - Roger attended from Harrow. Pat Wotton described to me after the Irish Stew how the renovation had been done essentially by 3 volunteers; the key, however, was that the new congregation (Plymouth Brethren) began by looking at the shell, the square footage, the basic outline of the building, and imagining what they would need/like to have (like we might do when house shopping - how would we use this space - knowing we want to have room to entertain, a space for the babies, a sewing room, a workshop, a mudroom ...) From there, the plans grew and transformation took place. How often are we limited because we think only 'inside the box'? What would it mean to think outside the box?
  • I wonder what it's like to be born ... none of us can remember that experience firsthand - at least in any conscious way. There is some research & evidence to suggest that it takes some weeks before a newborn sees anything but vague shapes - at least beyond a distance of a few feet. Gradually, it would seem, we adjust to life in this world after we leave the world of the womb. It is certainly often so when we leave our old ways of being and thinking and find ourselves in the 'new world' of Christian faith. Seeing clearly, recognizing anything familiar, grasping for something with a familiar sound ... we sometimes feel at a loss - and may not even know what it is that we are needing, searching for, feeling alone or alienated about. We sense only our distress. Some of us may even (want to) behave like a newborn - wailing our discomfort.
  • Like the tulip - we alternate among seasons and possibilities - born anew / again not once, but repeatedly
  • We know this cycle - new life after shoulder surgery; recovery after grief; children no waking us through the night ...
  • May we know Christ's light drawing us, God's love encouraging us, the Spirit's power with us in life made new

Everybody Needs Water (March 23, 2014)

Scripture: John 4: 5-42

One day earlier this week, I answered the doorbell here at the church. There stood the letter carrier who regularly serves our route. My first thought was that he was going to give me mail or ask for a signature; instead, he asked if he could come in, get a drink, and fill his water bottle.

  • We have all heard about (and perhaps experienced first hand!) the water troubles in Winnipeg - frozen lines, water resource centres, neighbours helping out
  • If we were to be at one of those centres where people are filling water jugs or taking showers, I wonder who we might encounter if we were alert? Or even if we weren't?
  • Samaritan woman and Jesus (recap)
  • Why had she come alone? Lots of possibilities (besides the most common assumption)
  • It starts with Jesus asking something of her (not offering something to her)
  • We don't know much about the Samaritan woman (though we hear Jesus knew all about her) but we know her life could not have been easy - she had had 5 husbands. She was probably just trying to get through her days. Most of us have been there at one time or another, though perhaps not for so prolonged a time as this woman had.
  • The conversation with this stranger (a Jew! And a man!) was perhaps a welcome break, a refreshment of sorts. At least at first. But it evolves into something more. She knows from the outset that he is thirsty. As they converse, her thirst (for something more than a cup of water) becomes evident, and Jesus says he can satisfy that thirst. - to turn her life around? To make it easier, bring her friendship and companionship?
  • As I contemplated this story from John's gospel, I got to wondering: where would the 'well' be today? Starbucks? Tim Horton's (in Afghanistan or elsewhere)? The dog park? The hospital emergency ward? The school drop-off/pick-up zone? The resource centre for those with frozen water pipes?
  • What are the gathering places? The intersections of our lives with the lives of others? The opportunities for mixing with folks who may not be just like us? For being put in the position of having someone ask us to do something for them?
  • What are the burdens they bear, the hidden (or not so hidden) scars?
  • What would it mean to hear "You'd never have to come here again" - to those who are relying on neighbours' taps and city of Winnipeg resource centres for their water supply, their hygiene, their laundry ... Now imagine what it might have meant to that Samaritan woman - or to anyone who has to haul water every day, simply to survive.
  • Not just where might we encounter the Christ? But also where are others having accidental encounters with the Holy One, with the conversations that offer salvation? What solitary hearts are out there that would be gladdened by such an encounter? And who are we to bottle up Jesus and God and keep them here in our building? (as if we could actually bottle up the God of Life and contain the Maker and Mender of the Universe in a building or even a community of our own creation!)
  • Note that this encounter takes place in Sychar - in Samaria - not in the territory of the Jews - those who were Jesus' own community and heritage - but the territory of those who were considered 'other', those with whom contact was to be avoided - and this particular 'other' was apart even from her own community. What does this have to say to us?
  • 4:33 So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?"
    4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."
    4:35 Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'?
    But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. If Jesus' 'food' was to do the will of the One who sent him … and the disciples don't have a foggy clue what he's talking about (because they are concerned with menial matters like lunch), what does that have to say to us? "The fields are ripe for harvesting" - there is great hunger everywhere for the Good News we find in Christ - good news about concern for the outcast and the stranger, good news for the afflicted and the downtrodden, good news for the voiceless and the invisible, good news for the hardworking and the righteous, good news for the peacemakers and peace-brokers … there is great hunger surely even now for this good news. Yes it would be nice to have our potholes filled and our water running clean and freely; it would be even nicer to know our children are safe and our broken-hearted and tormented have a warm safe shelter. It would be still more hungers if we had faith that those entrusted with power, those in positions of influence, whether in business, politics, sport, the arts - it would still more hungers if we found these people were more interested in seeking the common good, the common wealth than in maintaining their own grip on power and authority. There is no shortage of hunger. Or of thirst. Sometimes it's pretty simple to satisfy that thirst - especially if the thirsty one makes their need known. I let the letter carrier into the church with his refillable bottle, and we both went happily on our ways. It's not always that easy. But it is possible. It's what draws us to the God we know in Christ Jesus. It's what sustains us when we are desolate or alone or full of questions. It's the cause of our rejoicing on those occasions when our thirst - or another's - is satisfied, even if only for a time.
  • Finish with singing the Good News (and dancing in the aisles) Stand on the Rock [Ps 95]

Jesus In Twitterverse

Scripture: Matthew chapters 7 and 8

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