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  • Curious George

During the past five weeks folks gathering at the Big Red Church have been noticing the relationship of Jesus to the people of the land and also to those powers which rule the land. The general population feels supported and encouraged by the words and actions of Jesus. Not so with the religious and political leaders of the day. These begin to suspect that Jesus presents a threat to their way of thinking and acting.


This week we follow Jesus as he makes his way into the city of Jerusalem. He is riding on a donkey and surrounded by crowds cheering him on. They spread palm branches along the road and sing loud hosannas. This imagery is rooted in a Psalm (118: 1-2; 19-29) of thanksgiving. It is a celebration of God's love which will never let us down. This as long as we trust the word of God and follow in the way of Jesus.


We know where the story of Palm Sunday leads. Jesus will soon be arrested and crucified by the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem. This because Jesus presents an alternative to the way of power in the world. That alternative is the way of mutual regard and compassionate service to any and all met along the way. A remarkable contrast to the patterns of exploitation and oppression manifest among persons seeking power and refusing compassion.


The story of Jesus offers us opportunity to choose where we will stand. My hope is that each day one more person will determine to follow the way of God and reject the way of the world. Journeying along this way, one bit at a time, circumstances that we fear will be put aside and relieved by our determination to love God fully and to love our neighbours just as we love ourselves.



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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!




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  • 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.



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