Call to Worship:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is discord, union
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
Seek to be understood as to understand
Seek to be loved as to love
For it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Dancing the Circle Wider (speaking notes, but the spirit does lead)
July 20, 2014 @ Centennial Presbyterian Church (10:30 a.m.)
Matthew 25: 31-46
quote for sermon 2
And with those two scriptures, and the quote I just shared to open, everyone lets out a groan thinking, oh there goes the poverty worker again preaching on about helping the needy and trying to make those haves feel bad…
Or not. For if you were here last week we discovered our voice through the story of a peasant girl of some note, Mary, Mother of Jesus. So this week, we hear her son’s words.
For you see when I hear these words, I reflect on these stories I truly think about the heart they are speaking too, the spirit of the words, not the letter of the words. Literal reading of holy stories is such a late 19th to 20th century phenomenon; we miss the true mysticism of these words.
Who are the poor? What were the deeper sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? Who are the least of these?
Jesus said his life fulfilled The Law & The Prophets, Ezekiel’s words challenge the institutional church to actually live their faith, not hide behind words. Jesus’ calls us out of our comfort zone. The true depth wasn’t the “sin of the week” that one can target to make themselves feel good, na, and it wasn’t even speaking about have and have not’s, although that is a part of it. These speak to the heart of community, family, and something that needs to be challenged within our faith, we are not a community hierarchy, and we are a circle with a heart beating in the centre called Jesus. Why a circle? Because it speaks to the equality of all.
Think about it, when you boil Sodom and Gomorrah down, the true sin was inhospitality, brutality, and exertion of power not love. Who have we ever made feel unwelcome? Personally? Communally? Who do we need to open the circle wide to so Ezekiel will not be speaking to our institution?
Yet even more challenging is this teaching of Jesus. Where he points to those that if the community, their family, that which the church says we are with humanity, do not choose to care for then we are not doing our faith. Who are the least of these for us in the 21st century church?
There’s the big meta issues, the Drop-In Centre has a banner on it inviting one inside to meet the other 1%; we can talk of those trafficked into human slavery of all brutalities; former prisoners and addicts. These are the easy ones for a person of faith to name of because, well they are sort of already named on the page. But who are those that truly need an uplifting and loving community to exist?
I could share the experience my family had running the Rainbow Chapel out of our living room in Rundle, where we became a hub of love if you will. Where neighbours say no problem, and some still do, to knock on the door, many times where we would sit down for a meal and be throwing on extras because our door was a rotating experience of who was going to be at family dinner that night. Our kids made many friends and discovered many new aunts and uncles and being loved on from what some would say is the fringes.
Simple, our circle was drawn wide. As an aside, at my Mum’s funeral I discovered she had opened our home on the block when first built running a free food Hubbard for neighbours in need.
Who should draw your circle wide? Who are you comfortable with coming into your home and being friends with?
Is it a young adult recently out of prison attempting to turn their life around? Widowers? Seniors? A family whose loved one is in prison and needs support? A single teenage mother or father? That couple not married, but living together in a deeper love than most married couples? Differently abled persons? Those so spiritually abused they have no desire to know the loving God, until they come to a family and discover through the lives of others? Someone in the process of transitioning genders? An older gay couple struggling to adopt their first children? An older woman coming into her sexuality and love of women for the first time in her life? Someone throwing off the patriarchal shackles of their Christianity and learning to dance the circle of a loving God? Children gleefully playing and discovering together, teenagers seeking a safe space to be themselves and for many it simply is a place they do not have to be the label their school community has placed on them. New Canadians struggling wit the immigration process, awaiting for years their family members, admitting they left to come here when their child was born and now their child back home is almost school age, sharing joy when word comes of the reunification. Watching language barriers melt away through the youngest members. It is letting the abused in, and not judging or pushing, but just giving a space they can exist and rediscover themselves. Someone struggling to be seen beyond their previous labels of addict, nerd, sex worker, pimp, criminal and just wanting to be their name for once….
Who are those you feel God calling you to draw the circle wide to include?
(Leave a space of silence for congregation to respond)
A church that draws the circle wide is one, as Pope Francis said, that has gone outside of itself into the streets of its community and taken its lumps to get to know its neighbours. It is one that has celebrated triumphs, wept and grieved with those in crisis, had their hearts fall a little when someone embraced continues a negative choice of life… yet you stand awaiting a possible good outcome or just a shoulder for the tears.
Are we ready to heed Jesus words’ a seek those others may class as least, others may state are “sinner”, others or even ourselves may cast a label on to keep them outside the circle, are we ready to widen the circle and welcome them in?
Will we dance with God today and meet Jesus in each person and welcome them as such into our circle?