Jesus Shall Reign

4814377195_7e29a73d74_zSince I’ve come back to serve this congregation, I’ve talked a lot about fear.

At first, I was talking more about the anxiety of talking to others about our faith and doing something differently to invite people into our lives in order to share the love of God.

But this week, this week, I need to talk about a fear that reaches deep into our souls and paralyzes us from living the life that we are called to live.

Last weekend as bombs and guns shattered a regular Friday night of amusements in Paris we felt our own sense of security and peace shatter. Closer to home, our community’s heart was ripped open when last weekend a high school student took his own life.

The events of the last week have left us with more tears, much grief and many fears that make us long to hide ourselves behind closed doors and pray that we will be safe.

It only follows that events like these make us feel more insecure, more fearful, and more timid about anything we do.

But there is more than those insecurities. More than our fears. More than our timidity as we remember that today, we look to Christ our King. Today, we remember that our God reigns even as the kingdoms of this world bellow and threaten.

In case we thought that perhaps ours is the only generation to have lived through fears and uncertainties we only need to look to the bible to hear the voices of those who have also been afraid and yet have heard the voice of God calling out to them reminding them to ‘be not afraid.’

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day regarding her fears surrounding world events. She was asking many of the same genuine questions that many of you have been asking. It was clear from our conversation that she was afraid that the life that she has lived up to now was in jeopardy.

While we were talking the pastor in me came out and I reminded her that life looked pretty grim for the disciples during Jesus’ trial, so much so that Peter, the eager one, betrayed him and left him alone to face the earthly powers of violence and death. I reminded her that few of the disciples that followed him while he was living, were there to witness his death. I reminded her that in the days that followed, the disciples locked themselves into a room hiding behind closed doors.

But then I reminded her that they met the risen Christ. I reminded her that Christ is King who defeated death by facing it and allowing it to do its worst to him. I reminded her that in suffering and death on a cross, Jesus met God in the midst of it.

And it was not the end of the story because the God who is and who was and who is to come created new life out of it all.

I remind you of those things as well today.

Our early ancestors in faith experienced their own times of trial and the book of Revelations was written by them during a time when they faced persecution and death for following Christ. Yet they could speak of “grace and peace from the God who is and who was and who is to come.”[1] They could assure each other that they were made to be a kingdom which had no end.[2] They could speak of God’s presence coming to them in the face of much persecution, tragedy and even death itself.

You see the kingdom of Christ “is not from this world”[3] and yet it offers us a sense of peace in the midst of the horrors of the kingdoms of this world.

What are the horrors that you fear?

What are those things that make you want to hide under the covers of your bed?

What are those things that wake you up in the middle of the night with your heart in your throat?

What are those things we need to bring to God?

Because it’s important for us to recognize our fears and to speak them out loud so that we are not paralyzed by them, I’d like you to take some time to write out any fears that hold people’s lives hostage. I’d like you to spell out those fears that keep you from sleeping at night. After you have written them, I will invite you to speak them out loud so that we can offer these fears to God.

It would be easy to take these fears home with you and hold onto them with all of our might as if living with the fear protects us from very real and potent danger.

But there is something healing, something peaceful, something good letting them go to the God who brings the kingdom of peace and the kingdom of love which Jesus showed us in his life and in his death and which he ushered in through the resurrection.

Over the next few weeks, the worship committee is inviting you to bring those things that represent these dark places in our world, in our lives and in our souls where we need the light of Jesus to break in. I invite you to acknowledge these fears and bring newspaper articles or other items that represent them and lay them at the altar of the One who reigns.

But today I want to leave off reminding you that we serve the King of peace and the Lord of love.

We serve the God who is, in these moments of terror. We serve the God who was in many other moments of fear throughout all of history. We serve the God who is to come no matter what the future holds.

I leave you with the words of the final verse of that great hymn of Luther’s, A Mighty Fortress (#504).

“God’s Word forever shall abide, no thanks to foes, who fear it;

for god himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.

Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse,

though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.

The kingdom’s ours forever!”[4]

Sermon preached on November 22,2015 based on John

[1] Revelations 1:4b

[2] Revelations 1:6

[3] John 18:36

[4] Martin Luther. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Photo Credit: “Because of Your Love I am Free”, © 2010 David Woo, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Things That Scare Me

21215051509_84d0e1601f_o.pngThese days I’m reminded of the book Obasan written by Joy Kogawa[1] that was required reading for an English Literature course that I was enrolled in. The book explored how one family was impacted by the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II.

Kogawa’s story impacted me greatly. It was the first time that I was confronted with the reality that perhaps Canada wasn’t as perfect as I had been taught.

I’m reminded of that book these days as I see people responding out of fear and calling on our government to stop bringing in Syrian refugees. As hateful comments appear in public spaces, I’m seeing just how easy it is to slip into a kind of mindset that creates an environment that makes it acceptable to intern groups of people like the Japanese, Hungarian and German people during the World Wars.

As current world events unfold, I have to admit I am afraid. I’m scared of bullets and bombs and of violence. I’m scared of a war that involves the entire world and throws life as I know it into complete chaos. But what scares me more is that in the midst of it all we will lose our capacity for compassion and care.

What scares me more than bombs and beheadings is that we will treat each other as foe rather than potential friend. What scares me most is that we will allow fear to drive us to turning our backs on genuine need because we are so busy worrying about our own safety and security. What scares me most is that we will create a world where our children and grandchildren when finding themselves in need will not be able to reach out to others for help.

In 1939, a boatload of Jews set sail for North America looking for safety and security, only to be turned away by several countries before returning to Europe where almost one third of them were killed by the ones they were fleeing from in the first place.

I’m hoping that we can learn something from our shady past.

I’m praying a lot these days. I’m praying for those who find their lives turned upside down by war, bombs and violence. And while I’m praying that those I love remain safe and secure I’m also praying that hearts and minds are open in the midst of fear so that love and compassion for all others may flourish.

[1] Kogawa, Joy. Obasan. Markham, ON: Penguin Books, 1983.

Photo by Ram Dass.

We Sing

The following poem was written by Matthew Wang[1], one of the young authors published in the Legion’s 2015 publications of the poster, essay and poem contest.

THE SONG OF THE DEAD

The soldiers that fought,

Are very much gone,

Though their presence still lingers

And sings us a song

The screams of terror

Echo through a veterans head,

Though one thing they know is,

The soldiers are here, from A-Z.

The soldiers that fought,

Are very much gone,

Though their presence still lingers,

And sings us a song

The soldiers are here,

From dusk ‘till dawn,

So listen to their voices,

And hear out their song.

The soldiers that fought,

Are very much gone,

But their presence still lingers,

And sings us a song.

Music is not one of the things that we think of when we think of the war. We think of sounds like bombs shattering eardrums and people’s lives. We think of the whistle of bullets burning holes through tissue and bone. We think of the sound of weeping and of tears; of screams of terror and of the silence of too many lives lost too early.

We certainly don’t think of song.

Yet if one listened carefully there are songs that were sung as troops were entertained. There were the songs of the lives that continued to be lived in the midst of great tragedy as many young couples married and gave birth, as community was formed over supporting the war effort. There were songs of mourning and sorrow as no one was left unaffected by the loss of so many.

And the song of God’s heart beat in time with all people even through the violence that was ours that kept peace at bay.

It would have been easy at that time to decide not to go on. It would have been easy to ignore the song in the air during the war. It would have been easy to tune out the song of life that continued to be sung and lived after the war.

It would have been an easy thing to do and yet they didn’t.

Legions across Canada, like this one, continued to sing the song so that no one would ever forget the sacrifice that was given, so that no one would forget the destruction and death that comes with war, so that no one would forget the hard won peace that sings to us of another way.

As Matthew Wang describes, those soldiers “presence still lingers on and sings us a song.”[2]

So that today, we continue to remember that war steals the song from young people’s lives. We remember that war steals the dream from parent’s hearts.

We remember.

We also remember that beneath it all, there is a song that continues throughout all the pain, all the tragedy of our violence against one another as the song of the faithfulness of God still rings out.

Kurt Vonnegut says the following of “when [he] was a boy, [when] all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one and another. [He] had talked to old men who were on the battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God…some [could] remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.”[3]

After our own moment of silence that speaks to us of that moment when the silence spoke the word of God in peace, we still sing.

We sing to the God who is our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. We sing to the God whose mercies are new every morning. We sing knowing that God abides with us.

We sing.

We sing in the midst of fear and terror because there is always hope in the God whose steadfast love never ceases. Thanks be to God.

*This address was given at the Stockholm, SK Legion Service on November 11, 2015. Scripture texts read included Lamentations 3:21-24 and Matthew 5:1-12.

[1] http://www.legion.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/2015_WinnersBooklet1.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kurt Vonnegut, The Breakfast of Champions, 1973.http://

Desolate Roads

There are more kilometres of roads per capita in Saskatchewan than in any other province. Our visitors who reside in urban Ontario when visiting are amazed by the lack of traffic on the roads.

But when you do the math, it makes sense that driving on highways in Saskatchewan can be a lonesome experience.

After having lived here for over 10 years, you’d think I’d be used to it by now. But one day earlier this year, I found myself  on a new highway heading out to visit a friend.

As the kilometres passed me by and the van still hadn’t travelled through a town nor had another car passed our way, I began to become unsure.

As we got further away from familiar territory I became a little anxious. Was I going in the right direction? Would I get to where I was going? Did I take the right turn?

With no sign posts in sight confirming that I was on the correct course, I continued to drive with hope that I would get to my destination.

Sure enough, it didn’t take much longer when I found my destination.

It was a great visit. I’m so glad that I didn’t give into my anxiety turning around in order to make sure that I was headed in the right direction. If I had given into the anxiety it would have limited the precious time I had to visit with my friend and I wouldn’t have known the joy in the visit.

The last few months, life has felt a bit like that journey that day as the road our family is travelling on lately, seems to be a bit more barren.

There are times when it feels like we have taken a wrong turn and that the roads are deserted while other travellers are staying home where it is safe and warm.

There are times when I would give anything to see sign posts from God that we are still located in the general vicinity of lighter days ahead.

But still we travel on.

We travel on, hoping that the scenery will become a little less barren. We travel on, hoping that this barrenness will give way to new life. We travel on, assured that God is in our midst.

The road might be a little more desolate these days but the hope never dims knowing that the journey isn’t the end of the story but only the beginning of abundant life in God.

Photo Credit: “Inner Journey”, © 2011 Hartwig HKD, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Come and See: An All Saints Sunday Sermon

Gospel: John 11:32-44

32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”   38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

            Rachel Held Evans in the book Searching for Sundays,[1] talks about her biggest regret while going through a period of intense doubt within in her congregation at the time. She regretted that her inability to be honest and to trust the good people of the congregation with her doubts, her questions, and her disillusionment, and that she didn’t allow the church to be the church during that time of great turmoil in her life.

The one thing that kept her going during her struggle was a group of young couples that had come together through that church in a group formed to support newlyweds. She describes their time together as holy.

She says, “it was in these late hours that we formed some of the most important friendships of our lives, the kind that go beyond small talk and beyond theological discussions to raw, unedited truth telling. We confessed our deepest fears and greatest doubts. We speculated endlessly about our futures and shared in one another’s joys and disappointments…This was our communion, our confession…No one felt the need to correct or understand or approve. We just listened, and it was sacred.”[2]

She goes on in the next chapter to talk about the honesty that is found at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and quotes Heather Kopp a Christian and an AA member who said that it took her a long time “before [she] understood that people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.”[3]

Bill W., founder of AA, wasn’t a perfect person, but he was a person that knew that his very survival depended on others with whom he shared honesty.[4]

So it is days like today, All Saints Day, that give us an opportunity. An opportunity to bring all of who we are to this gathering of Christ’s body. An opportunity to bring our grief, our sorrow, and our loss. An opportunity to open up in honesty bringing it to the One who wept at the grave of Jesus and share it with one another as the body of Christ.

The gospel today tells of deep pain and sorrow in both the disciples of Jesus and in Jesus himself as they faced the death of someone they loved. This body clenching grief resonates with those of us who have faced our own losses.

At one level, we find Mary blaming Jesus for not having come sooner. And can you blame her? Remember, Jesus when told of Lazyrus’ illness, delayed going to him, saying, “this illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory”[5] leaving them with cold comfort while he stayed where he was for another two days.

Upon his arrival, the disciples invite Jesus to come and see just how desperate their pain and sorrow was at their friend’s death. Here we see that even knowing that God would turn death on its ear; knowing that death was not the end; knowing that life and its fullness was God’s deep intention; kowing all of that at yet Jesus himself “was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.”[6]

Together, they bonded over the loss, and together they moved forward into the hope of new life that is known in God.

Years ago, I went to school with a young woman from Zambia. She was a beautiful woman and I think of her often. While we were at school together, her sister in Zambia died and this young woman was inconsolable. I remember not knowing what to say but I do know that our community of faith prayed with her and felt with her and then moved on expecting her too as well.

The thing is, in Zambia, grief and mourning is much closer to the surface and this woman didn’t know how to deal with a culture that expected you to cry for one week and then go back to living life as if it had never happened.

In this world where we are expected to go on with our lives as if there is no hole in our lives when someone we love dearly is gone, it is hard to open ourselves up and to be vulnerable. But as we see at this graveside, Jesus is present and feels with us the pain at these losses that we face.

So as the disciples did on that day that Lazyrus died, this day allows us to ask Jesus to come and see…

Come and see the pain in which we live missing this one that we love.

Come and see our regrets with which we live.

Come and see the mess we are in as we try to move on living while our hearts are heavy.

Come and see the beauty of the lives of the people we love who have died and how it brought us closer each other and to you

Come and see, Jesus, come and see.

And in those moments of absolute pain, sorrow and aching loss, we find that Jesus comes, weeps with us and draws us to him, reminding us of the hope that is to come as God makes all things new in the resurrection.

We are reminded of that hope we hear in Revelation promising that “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”[7] Promising that there will be a feast of love of which our communion that we share today is only but a taste. For as Isaiah reminds us that, ‘on this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples;”[8] those who have gone before, those that gather here, and those that are to come; God makes for all people “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine.”[9]

Even as we share the sorrow of our losses on this day,

Even as we know the world is not quite the same as it was before,

Even as we feel our losses deeply,

We can rest here with Jesus, knowing that his death is not the end of the story.

So while we wait a while together today with each other and with Jesus, in the honesty of who we are, we rest in these promises. The promises that through Jesus, we can face death in the hope that death has no more sting. The promises that the grave will be swallowed up.

And together we sing. We sing with all the saints in glory. We sing in the vulnerability of who we are with all the saints gathered here today. We sing: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Amen.

Photo Credit: “Resurrection”, © 2006 fady habib, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

[1] Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church. (Kindle Edition). Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2015.

[2] Ibid, Location 919.

[3] Ibid, Location 1070

[4] Ibid.

[5] John 11:4

[6] John 11:33

[7] Revelation 21:4.

[8] Isaiah 25:1

[9] Ibid.