The Big Red Church

127 Cobourg Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba     R2L 0H4

2019 by The Big Red Church

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  • Curious George


I have been speaking of our need for change since the beginning of my service with the Church. Since our earliest days we have been conformed to the agenda of Capitalism. There is a clear sense in which we have been serving money when we should have been serving God. This service to money has led us to the place where we now are. It is a place of decision. Will we continue to act as if all is well with the world or will we recognize that the seed we have sown is set to bring us an unwelcome harvest?


Lent is a period of forty days and nights set apart for careful reflection on what matters to us as human beings and what does not. By the providence of God this season of Lent has forced us to withdraw from our regular habits and routines. Each day we have heard new announcements calling us to abstain from all unnecessary contact with family, friends and neighbours. We are being told to stay home as the primary way of avoiding contact with the virus spreading through the world. It is as if our Lenten journey has taken on a focus that is hard to imagine. We are actually being forced to look closely at what is going on in the world and what this is doing in our hearts and minds.


The Bible readings for this week speak about darkness being cast out by light. Jesus is presented as the light of the world. Wherever Jesus meets a person suffering from some circumstance or another he brings remedy. The story of Lazarus being raised from death to life offers us opportunity to notice the difference between material being and spiritual being. We are encouraged to root ourselves in spiritual life. This is the inner being which circumstance cannot overcome. It is the eternal image of God in us. The apostle Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Ephesians. We are made aware that focus on our material being leads to death. In contrast, focusing on spiritual being leads to life and peace. That life and peace being experienced while in our bodies on earth.


Much of the world is now in the grip of fear. This related to the possibility of sickness and death following infection by a contagious virus. I hope each of you is spending at least a small measure of time to pray, to study and to communicate with family, friends and neighbours. Each of these offers support and encouragement as we find our way forward in hope.


George


Here is a small prayer that I wrote some years ago:


Gentle Shepherd,


We have all wandered far from the safety of your word. Seeking greener pastures, we left the security of your rod and staff. Now we hear the wolves howling in the distance. We rush about in near panic. Which is the way home? Each new decision leads us deeper into the thorns and thistles of anxiety. Finally we cry out - save us, O God, or else we will perish.


Gracious God, you hear our cries. Leaving the ninety and nine, you come to bring us back to the fold. With compassion, you gather us into your loving arms. We find our peace in you strong presence.


Thank you Lord!




  • Curious George

We are now approaching the fifth Sunday in Lent. The world situation has brought us into a place of change. Each day the news seems a little darker than the last. Many of us are wondering where current events will lead us as persons and as a human family. It is my hope that the challenge facing us will lead us to an active trust in the God who made us and who loves us without reservation. The God who overcomes the fear of death by the promise of resurrection.


Leaders all over the world are encouraging their citizens to avoid contact with others. This is not going to be an easy task. As human beings we were made for companionship and community. Sunday morning at Church is one example of our gathering together to share in the singing of songs, reading of scripture and sharing of insights related to those scriptures and our life situation. What are we to do while personal contact is discouraged?


For my part I will be posting thoughts like this on a regular basis. They will present my experience with the lectionary readings which stand near the centre of our shared experience of worship. This week we have three texts which offer insight and encouragement as we go forward in faith. The first text is Psalm 130. It presents the longing of the human heart for right relationship with God. We notice the problem of persons not doing the right thing. While we often feel inadequate in the presence of God, the Psalm makes clear that God does not reject us because we are not perfect. We are accepted and loved. That acceptance and love offer the key to opening the way forward. Trusting in the love of God we are made able to face the challenge of our time with hope and confidence.


The second text is found in the gospel of John (11: 1-27). The author tells us a story about Jesus and some of his very close friends. Lazarus is seriously sick and facing death. Even so, Jesus seems in no hurry to be with him. He tells his followers that Lazarus will not be silenced by death. Hearing this the followers are uncertain about what Jesus means. They seem resigned to the fact that those with power will arrest and punish Jesus for his refusal of religious beliefs and practices. It seems quite clear that these men have no clear understanding about who Jesus is and what he represents. We may be surprised to learn that the women who know Jesus seem quite clear on who he is and what he makes available. They see him as the redeemer come from God to save us from the threat of death. Jesus affirms this by making clear that all who trust in the way of God will be raised from the dead and brought into everlasting life.


Then, in the reading from Romans (8: 6-11), we discover the difference between life in the flesh and life in the spirit. Those who see only the material aspect of human being are subject to death. This is not the case with those who are born again by the coming of God's spirit. We learn that living life to satisfy the body leads to death. It is those who live in service to the spirit that will not die but live eternally in the sight of God. Knowing this leads us to choose the way of the spirit over the way of the body. It is the way of the spirit which we now have opportunity to welcome and embrace. All who do so will be blessed by God now and for eternity.


I will end with a small video from some years ago. It speaks about our connection to God and one another. Though the divider seeks to separate us we are able to resist by the practice of love which unites us and makes us strong in the face of any challenge.



  • Curious George

Scripture Passages: John 9:1-16 / Ephesians 5:8-14 / Psalm 23

Lent is a season for looking closely at the meaning and purpose of our lives personally and as a community of faith. This year our Lenten journey has brought us into unexplored territory. With peoples all over the earth, we have been challenged by the appearing of a virus that is highly infectious. To resist the spread of this virus we are learning how to practice personal hygiene and avoid contact with others. This includes not going to Church on Sunday morning.


In conversation with others it was decided that I should send a few words related to the lectionary passages for this week. Sharing my thoughts on the texts will offer your imagination opportunity to think about your personal faith experience and also our shared experience. Should any questions or comments arise as you read, I will be happy to receive them and will do what I can to respond. You can send your thoughts by email or you can call me on the phone.


The Gospel of John is considered to be a book of signs. Jesus goes about doing amazing things and each of these points to a spiritual insight. The reading this week presents Jesus encountering a person who has been blind from birth. The disciples with Jesus ask a question about the cause of the blindness. They want to know whose sin caused the blindness. Jesus responds by saying that the cause of the problem is not at issue. Rather, the blind person presents an opportunity to see the grace of God at work. We also notice that the text includes us in the doing of works that bring grace into the lives of those we meet along our way.


Jesus is presented by John as the light of the world. Light allows us to see what is hidden by darkness. This is central to the opening of the blind person's eyes. Jesus performs a symbolic action and instructs the blind person to go to a pool and wash his eyes. Following the instructions leads to the blind person being made able to see. Those who are watching from the sidelines have different opinions. Some suspect that the seeing person is not the blind person but somebody else. The blind person tries to make clear that he has been healed by Jesus.


John then tells us that the person with recovered sight is brought to the Pharisees. These religious leaders want to know how the blind person's sight was restored. They discover that the healing took place on the Sabbath day. This leads them to question the legitimacy of Jesus. For them keeping religious rituals was more important that doing good for others. They conclude that Jesus is not rightly related to God. Their position leads to public debate with some taking Jesus as faithful to God and others taking him to be unfaithful because of the Sabbath violation.


For me, the main point of John's story is about light casting out darkness. Jesus is the light of God and makes it possible for one lost in the dark to be saved. This having to do with spiritual reality becoming visible to persons immersed in material darkness. The words and deeds of Jesus point to the presence of God at the very heart of our lived experience. That presence has been obscured by sin, understood as separation from the light of God which leaves us in the dark.


Paul's letter to the Ephesians talks about light casting out darkness. Light is here understood as the truth of God and darkness as the error of our ways. We have opportunity, through faith, to open our eyes and look at the world the way it really is. Paul makes clear that doing good is how we share the light of God with others. He encourages us to put away the works of darkness and expose them for what they are. We are called to wake up and go forward confidently in the light of God revealed in the gospel of Jesus.


Turning to Psalm 23 we discover a strong message of encouragement. God is the one who watches over us. We are provided with all the basic needs of our life and assured of protection regarding the negative effects of sin in the world. We are told that even when passing through great darkness we have no reason to be afraid. God's spirit is present to keep our spirit in the way of life. This not only as light in times of darkness but as well being at the heart of our being and in all of our relations.


We are now passing through the valley of dark shadows. By our trust in God's word we are encouraged and strengthened to make a positive difference as the days lead us forward. As children we sang songs about letting our light shine in the dark. This is the meaning and purpose of our life in this world and leads us confidently forward along the way opening to eternal life.