Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3409

https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=3569

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlgregg/2012/03/jesus-subversive-donkey-ride-a-progressive-christian-lectionary-commentary-for-palm-sunday/

https://melissabanesevier.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/old-time-religion-meets-new-time-spirituality/

https://thelisteninghermit.com/2012/03/26/hosanna-save-us-from-self-interest-palm-sunday-b/

http://www.rexaehuntprogressive.com/liturgy_collection/year_b_liturgy_collection/year_b_lenteaster/palmsb142012.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)

Hymn And On This Path MV 8

Reading John 12:12-27
Response Sanna, Sannanina VU 128

Call to Worship
One: Jesus dared to live God’s way
in the midst of all the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of life.

All: We too are called to proclaim our faith faithfully
by the way we live, and treat one another.

Silence

One: Jesus wanted his disciples to live passionate,
justice seeking, God centred lives.

Silence

All: Jesus, as human face of God, shared his life
that others might sense the new signs of hope
in their everyday lives.

Silence

Hymn Tell Me The Stories of Jesus VU 357

Theme Conversation Bouquets of Hope
Blessing the Bouquets

Hosanna, Save Us

The crowd has gathered to celebrate their history, to wave their branches in worship and remember all that they have overcome.  They see Jesus, coming into the town to participate in the festivities, riding on a donkey.  Suddenly, the connection hits home.  They have always been able to save themselves by keeping it simple.  They can save themselves once more if they can just remember what Jesus had taught them.

So…the we’re back here.  Back at the parade.  We’ve talked a lot about the political climate at the time.  We’ve talked about the parallels between then and now.  We’ve talked a lot about the week that is to come.  The part of today’s reading that stood out to me was “Hosanna! Save us!”  When I looked a bit more into the word, I learn that it is said with a similar meaning to “God help us!”.  It is a prayer.  These are my 4 Hosanna prayers.

Unbalanced Power
Before completing my final year of studies at the Centre for Christian Studies, I had to take a global perspectives experience, also called a gpe.  A gpe is a minimum two week experience usually in a developing country, that explores the impact of power and privilege for the people of that country.  For my gpe I went to Guatemala with the Breaking the Silence delegation.  One of the places we visited was the “Million Dollar Road” that was home to the owners of major fruit plantations and to a make shift village of people set up to protest the disappearance of landowners and workers who questioned pesticide use, the ethics of acquiring land and in some cases even the disappearance of others.  We also visited the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala.  When we asked about what was being done to investigate the disappearance of a large number of people, we were given the runaround and told the plantation owners were wonderful people.  We didn’t ask about the plantation owners.  When we asked about impunity (or the corruption of the justice system I such a way that there is no punishment when someone undeniably has done something unjust) the official didn’t believe that existed.  It was very obvious to villagers who told us of the times they witnessed public torture, or were removed from their villages without any kind of compensation.  There’s no way to avoid situations of power, but what happens when power goes unchecked?

Hosanna – Save us from unbalanced power.  God I pray that our government and other governments remember the need for balanced power.  Power that acts for the good of everyone and not just a few.  I pray that I might have the courage to be a balancing voice.  Hosanna.

 Uncontentedness
Do you know the difference between happiness and being content?  A few years ago I read a book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin.  It was a series of twelve experiments researched and designed to increase her happiness.  I think my biggest learning from the book was that you need to be content in order to be happy and that contentedness is a mindset.  No one can determine my happiness or my contentedness but me.  Sometimes bad things happen in life.  Sometimes, if we let the bad things take over, they can swallow us up.  We can challenge this simply by finding one thing to be grateful for.  Personally, I think that is the mark of a resilient person: even in the worst situation, finding something to be grateful or content about.

Hosanna – Save us from our uncontentedness.  God, I pray that I might see things with a lens of contentment.  I pray that with practice, my happiness will increase and that my contentment and happiness will encourage others. Hosanna.

Polarization
It’s easy for me to spout things from this pulpit.  I say it’s easy because I have a lot of privilege.  I was born here in Nova Scotia, to heterosexual, married parents.  I am heterosexual, cis-gendered, of European descent, educated, employed by the largest protestant denomination in Canada.  English is my first language and I’m quickly approaching middle age.  So it’s quite easy for me to say with moderate confidence, to speak my truth and know it will be heard by some, if not all of you for what it is: my truth.  But for these exact same reason it’s also easy for me to assume my sometimes radical thoughts are the norm.  I find it utterly shocking when I meet someone who appears the same as me, yet holds a different set of values…and sometimes even just a different order of the same values.  Different values or a different order of the same values isn’t really a problem though.  It’s my assumption that everyone shares the exact same values and order as me, even though we’ve had different life experiences.  What’s even more problematic is when I assume that the right combination of values for me is the right combination for everyone else, even though we’ve had different life experiences.  This is polarization.  This is what starts wars.

Hosanna – Save us from polarization.  God I pray that I might always be able to keep the life experiences of others in mind as I seek to understand their values and ethics.  I pray that I am able to speak in ways that don’t polarize. Hosanna.

Ourselves
As people lined the street that day in Jerusalem, waving their palm branches in a worship-filled ceremony, Jesus, the local celebrity, rode into town on a donkey.  And the people were reminded that they didn’t to be big and powerful to be happy and to have a good relationship with God and with each other.  All they needed was to remember to love and the rest would fall into place.  Maybe all they needed was to stop expecting so much from themselves.  Maybe that’s all we need to do too.  Maybe we need to be saved from ourselves.

Hosanna – Save us from ourselves.  God, I pray that I will stop sabotaging myself.  I pray that my expectations of myself and others will be reasonable and help me to grow in ways that benefit not only myself, but others as well. Hosanna, save us, Amen.

Music Minstry Hosanna (Praise is Rising)

Minute for Reconcilliation

Offering Invitation
We get through Holy Week because we know how the story really ends. We know about the resurrection. We have hope. Not everyone is able to see hope. Because we can see hope, we must share it, so the hope can continue to grow. The Mystery of Easter is hope. Reconciliation is hope. Our offerings have the possibility to become hope.

Offertory I Thank You, Thank You Jesus MV 188 v 1 & 3

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be A Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the sung Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Hymn All Glory, Laud and Honour VU 122

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing Wherever You May Go MV 216

Lent 5 – March 18

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/14/were-in-the-midst-of-an-apocalypse-and-thats-a-good-thing/?utm_term=.3507f1c48656

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3408

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pontius-Pilate

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_the_Great

http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Sparrows

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caiaphas

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn When Hands Reach Out Beyond Divides MV 169

Call to Worship
One: The closer we get to Easter, the harder it can be to hear the story of Jesus.
All: But we tell the stories to remember the past, with the hope that when we are faced with similar choices, we will choose differently.
One: Worship happens when we gather to learn from our collective past and dream into our expanded future. Let us pray:

Opening Prayer
Timeless Spirit, Be with us today as we reflect and as we dream. Encourage us to work towards the good of the whole people of God. Amen.

Hymn Precious Lord, Take My Hand VU 670

Theme Conversation

Readings John 18:28-40

Musical Response First-Born of Mary MV 110

Sermon

Roman officer takes Jesus to the high priest

A bit of overlap from last week: Jesus is arrested after Judas tipped off the authorities.  Jesus is taken to Annas, who was a higher up in the priestly order.  Annas questions Jesus, and Jesus responds that he has done nothing in secret.  The police officer guarding Jesus, strikes him across the face and asks him if that was anyway to speak to a high priest.  Jesus asks the officer what he did to deserve being hit.  Annas orders him to be bound and taken to a higher priest.

Peter denies three times

While this was happening, Peter was admitted entrance into the courtyard while Jesus was being interviewed.  Peter and another disciple had followed after Jesus’ arrest and the other disciple knew Annas and arranged for Peter to be let into the courtyard.  The gatekeeper who admitted him asked Peter if he was a disciple of Jesus.  Peter said no. Peter, for his part gathered around the fire meant to keep the guards and gatekeepers warm.  While around the fire, again Peter was asked if he was a follower of Jesus.  Peter said no, but another servant recognized him, and asked “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Jesus?” Peter denied being a follower of Jesus for a third time.

Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas

We aren’t really sure what happened with the high priest, Caiaphas, but by the time morning comes, Jesus has found himself in front of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate was the governor of the region.  The crowds who followed after Jesus left Caiaphas, waited outside, as it was too close to Passover for them to enter without becoming unclean.

Pilate questions the people

Goes out to the crowd that has gathered to question the people.  He asked the people why Jesus had been brought to him.  The people responded that Jesus was a criminal and that was why they had brought him to Pilate.  Pilate suggested that the people take Jesus and judge him by their own laws.  The people responded back that they were not allowed to kill anyone.  That was why they needed to bring him to Pilate.

Pilate questions Jesus

Pilate then goes back in to question Jesus.  It’s a convoluted conversation that ends with Jesus saying “I was born to tell the world about the truth.  Anyone who knows the truth knows my voice.”  And Pilate responds with “What is the truth?”

Pilate finds Jesus not guilty of anything

Pilate goes back out to the people and tells them he cannot find Jesus guilty of anything.  He suggests that Jesus be the prisoner that is traditionally set free by the governor for Passover.  The crowd says no, and asks for Barabbas instead.

Pontius Pilate

Governor of Judea

Talk about a rock and a hard place.  Pilate was the governor of Judaea.  Pilate was notorious for being a strict leader.  His appointment to Judaea likely wasn’t coincidental to the climax of Jesus’ ministry.  Pilate’s authoritarian nature meant that rebel forces were not an issue.

Lived outside of Jerusalem

Pilate’s presence in Jerusalem that night likely wasn’t a coincidence either.   Jerusalem was and still is considered THE Holy place for many Hebrew people. Passover is a major festival in the Hebrew faith, so the city was fuller than usual.  Pilate, as the governor, lived outside of Jerusalem in Caesarea.  So Pilate would have been staying at the governor’s residence in Jerusalem on a somewhat local holiday – just to keep an eye on the situation.

Killed himself after being accused of not giving people proper trials before killing them

So the crowds likely would have been a bit intense, and we find our authoritive leader acting well, a bit mousy.  Oh that I could have been a fly on that wall!  So much of our history was passed along orally, and once things were written down, it wasn’t in English, where there was room for things to be lost in translation.  I wonder if Pilate really was mousy that night or if his trial and subsequent punishment of self-inflicted death a few years later for not giving people a fair trial before ordering their execution had anything to do with the portrayal we see of him in scripture.

Colonialism

Constantine and the Roman Empire

It’s important to remember that the political climate in the first few centuries played a huge role in the current Christian faith.  I was somewhat shocked in my Early Christian History class to find out that Christianity did not explode immediately after Jesus’ death.  It wasn’t until the ruler of the Roman Empire in the 300s, Constantine and his declaration of religious tolerance that the faith began to grow.  Constantine saw the opportunity for political advancement in his alignment with Christianity.  It’s a classic power move: united the minority or those who feel like they are the minority to make a larger majority and turn the power.  It was during this time that the line “suffered under Pontius Pilate” was officially added to the Nicene Creed.

Colonialism of North American

Unfortunately the idea of everyone NEEDING to be Christian stuck, and other leaders went on to use Christianity to their advantage, including the first settlers in North America.  Unfortunately somewhere along the way, people seemed to forget that the Bible is a history for the underdog.  It’s the story of oppressed people and how they over-came their oppression.  It’s a story intended to bring hope to the people.  It was written by the people, for the people.

Game of Thrones – The Sparrow

Cersey wasn’t in control

If you are still struggling to understand how people can use faith to influence politics, I’ll give you a toned down example from Game of Thrones.

Cersey, who I think of as the Evil Queen – sorry if you are team Lannister, wasn’t in control.  Her son was.  Even though she had a huge influence in his life, as King he held the control and the young king was infatuated with his wife.

The faith was corrupted

The faith leaders at the time were more honorary than functional, in fact they were somewhat corrupt and held almost no authority with the people.

There was a rebel uprising in the faith

Cersey, the Evil Queen heard of a group in the peasant class that were quickly gaining popularity.  Cersey knew that according to the beliefs of the Sparrows, her son’s queen would likely be arrested.

Tommen united the faith and the crown

So Cersey convinced her son that it was time for the faith and the crown to unite and it would be the faith who would hold people morally accountable.

The faith took over and the rebel uprising shifted power

The faith quickly took over and before long Cersey’s daughter in law in arrested.  Cersey too, is arrested, and both women “convert” in order to be released.

Cersey killed all the faith leaders and took power

Upon Cersey’s release, she stays in her room, as ordered by the High Sparrow, but she still manages to orchastate an attack that kills many of the Sparrows, including the High Sparrow and her son’s queen.  Her son is so upset upon hearing of his wife’s death, that he jumps from his mother’s tower.  This leaves Cersey with full control, but she loses her son in the process.

A love of power and control is the real problem

It was her love of control that cost Cersey the thing that she loved most.

I’m a compromiser by nature

I’m a compromiser by nature and really bothers me when people cannot come to a simple compromise in situations of conflict.  I just don’t understand how people can see winning or controlling as more important than the relationship between the people themselves.

What is the Antidote to all of the corruption?

What is an antidote?

Earlier this week, I read an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Nadia Webber-Bowlez.  In the article, she talks about the antidote for the times when religion is used to fuel hate.

Using religion to argue religion

It’s a brilliant idea really.  Instead of combating religiously affiliated hate, we fix it with an antidote.  This is how Nadia describes the current situation:

The venom of domination runs deeply in us as a country and a people. And it does so because the fangs that delivered it were given not the devil’s name, but God’s. When the subordination of women is established as God’s will, when slavery is established as God’s will, when discrimination against queer folks is established as God’s will, when the CEO of the National Rifle Association claims the right to buy a semiautomatic assault rifle is “not bestowed by man, but granted by God,” it delivers a poison that can infect the deepest parts of us. Because messages that are transmitted to us in God’s name embed far beneath the surface, all the way down to our original place, our createdness, our source code.

Pretty powerful stuff.  But there’s more.  Nadia goes on to say that we must dig deeper, we must recognize those moments in history when Christianity was used to hurt.  This is how she ends the article:

We must do this. The Bible, Christian theology and liturgy are too potent to be left to those who would use them, even unwittingly, to justify and protect their own dominance. And sometimes the origin of the harm can be the most powerful source of healing.

That’s how anti-venom works.

What are we worried about losing?

Here’s my question: What is so important that we are willing to risk losing a relationship than to admit we were wrong about?

What does reconciliation have to do with all of this?

This is what reconciliation is.  Recognizing that maybe, just possibly, even with the best of intentions we were wrong.  Step two is acknowledging that relationships are more important than being right.  We might not be able to do either of these things today and maybe not even tomorrow, but if we really listen to the message of Jesus, then we can’t ignore the truth forever.

Dance between church and state

The dance between Church and State has always existed, and quite frankly I’m glad.

It’s our job to challenge and it’s their job to challenge us

It’s our job to challenge the government, and it’s the government’s job to challenge us.  If we get too comfortable, we risk over-stepping and assuming control.

Here’s my invitation to you all.  If you see the opportunity in the upcoming weeks to inject a bit of anti-venom, be braver than Pilate.  Give reconciliation a try. It is the truth.

Music Minstry It is Well With My Soul

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Every day is a gift. This is an opportunity to share from our gifts because we truly are blessed with an abundance.

Offertory Ev’ry Day Is a Day of Thanksgiving MV 185 (just until the repeat)

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Make Me a Channel of Your Peace VU 684

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Hymn Lord Reign Me In

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing May the God of Hope Go with Us VU 424

Lent 4 – March 11, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/mindfulness-practice_b_4101536.html

https://thebibleproject.com/explore/john/

https://sixwaysfromsunday.ca/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/antigonish-school-graffiti-1.4565502

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/racism-school-black-students-name-calling-education-diversity-1.4564057

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn The Care The Eagle Gives VU 269

Call to Worship

Life is messy and complicated. Sometimes we think that society has progressed and we are sadly disappointed when we realize it hasn’t. So we take time to come together with people, willing to learn about themselves and others as we work together to follow the way of Jesus.

Opening Prayer

Spirit of compassion, surround us as we work to understand our role in society. Encourage us as we struggle to find the way of Jesus in our daily lives. Amen.

Hymn Abide With Me VU 436

Theme Conversation True Colors

Readings John 18:12-27

Musical Response Holy Spirit, Hear Us VU 377 v 1 &2

Sermon

After the ‘Hosannas’ were done
Jesus and his friends gathered round
Celebrations had begun
They were all ready to eat
Jesus had washed their feet
Judas left quietly
bringing back
the authorities
who were there to question
at Judas’ suggestion
The party broke
the disciples spread out
no one spoke
Peter left in a state of shock
some came up to him wanting to talk
was Jesus his friend?
and Peter denied him
Was this the end?
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
Then words came out
I don’t know him!
Peter began to shout
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
He said it once more
It just happened so fast
Though his heart was sore
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
they just arrested his leader
Peter  was in a strange town
Where did they take the preacher?
Would they come after him?
His choices were slim.
What could he do from prison?
His decision was fast
He had good reason
The crowds had been yelling
Hosannas to Jesus
the word was telling
Hosanna means “save us”
people said they needed Jesus
But when Jesus was arrested
Where were the people
who claimed the leaders were detested?
The High Priest tried
With the questions he asked
But Jesus never lied
Where were Hosannas then?
Nobody tried to help him

It’s been two thousand years
Somethings still haven’t changed
Silence still sears
Speaking out when something’s wrong
Requires you to be brave and strong
People speak out and they’re left alone
To defend themselves
right or wrong
The rooster crows
Self-doubt grows
Fear made some one act out
Graffiti sprayed on signs and busses
I just want to shout
The blame is in the wrong direction
Here’s my observation
A slur is used to divide
And to try to make people
Choose one side
But all it really does is isolate
The person already in a vulnerable state
The rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
But why do children feel the need to hate?
Kids shouldn’t even know
Words that discriminate
School should be a place where kids are free
To explore and learn about who they want to be
I thought that my generation
Had grown to appreciate
Diversity and decolonization
But the rooster still crows
And self-doubt still grows
The message’s always the same
And I’ll continue to do it
In Jesus’ name
But the rooster crows
And self-doubt grows
The message has always been the same
Since the time of Jesus
It’s gotten quite tame.
But something has gone wrong
Even though we sing the same song
Now when the word “unjust” comes up
People want to bring their fighting gloves up
Fixing your injustice makes it unjust for me
Or so they believe
And sometimes I’ll admit its true
You don’t always get yours exactly when’s due
The system the problem
Not the principle
There’s time to solve them
But we can only fix the system with an open mind
Time to listen and think we must find
A way to live with the rooster
And change the it sounds
To be a self-awareness booster
So when the rooster crows
Its self-awareness that grows

Hymn When We Are Tempted to Deny Your Son VU 119
Music Minstry True Colors

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation Each day we are given the opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes it’s obvious, like the passing of our plates. Othertimes it’s not so obvious. As we share our offerings today, let’s offer one another courage in those less than obvious moments.

Offertory I Thank You, Thank You Jesus MV 188

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing Take Up His Song MV 213

Lent 3 – March 4, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Jesus Christ Superstar 2000

Cartoon

Silent foot washing Loop

Silent Foot Washing Loop

Silent Forgiven Feet Loop

The Bible Project

Working Preacher

The Bible Project

http://www.macleans.ca/economy/business/in-a-fight-over-minimum-wage-at-tim-hortons-the-worker-loses/

http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-hypocrisy-of-a-tim-hortons-a-business-built-on-coffee-breaks/

http://www.macleans.ca/economy/money-economy/minimum-wage-in-canada-by-the-numbers

https://globalnews.ca/news/3828447/canada-middle-class-income-inequality/

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Halifax

http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

 

Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song) VU 595

Call to Worship
One: As followers of Jesus, we gather each week,
All: to celebrate, to remember and to learn what Jesus taught his followers.
One: This week we remember that Jesus was both a leader and a worker.
All: We want to learn about Jesus and a leader and as a servant.
One: Because of the way that Jesus chose to lead, today we celebrate that each of us has the possibility to be both leader and servant.
All: Today we worship Jesus the leader and Jesus the servant.

Opening Prayer
Holy Spirit, enter this space, energize our hearts, and open our eyes to the possibility that exists in each of us. May it be so. Amen.

Hymn How Lovely Are The Feet of Them A Laura Beth Original

Theme Conversation Washing

Readings
Jesus Christ Superstar 2000
John 13:1-17
Musical Response Holy Spirit, Hear Us VU 377 v 1 &2

Sermon The Love of a Leader

The last time we heard from the lectionary, we were hearing about the resurrection of Lazarus in the book of John.  Jesus had been away from his family and friends and was called back because his friend was very sick.  Jesus wasn’t able to make it home before Lazarus died.  Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha are angry with Jesus.  Long story short, Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb.  It’s at this point that the authorities begin to plan how to get rid of the problem that is Jesus.

Shortly after that is the monumental parade and protest that we celebrate on Palm Sunday, I’m not going to dig into this story today but I wanted you to be aware of where it fits in the timeline of the gospel of John.

After the big parade, one evening in the week before the Passover, Mary (Lazarus’ sister according to the book of John) comes in while Jesus and his boys are sitting around.  She cries as she washes Jesus’ feet, kissing them and drying them with her hair.  She pours an expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet and is rebuked by one of the disciples for wasting expensive ointment when Jesus didn’t need it.  It could have been sold to further their cause.  I suspect that it is at this point that Jesus gets the idea for what he does in the next chapter, but at the time he tells the disciple to let her be, she is living in the moment with him.  He won’t be around forever.  Jesus knows that things cannot stay as they are.

This next part happens sometime before Passover, but not the same night as Mary washed his feet, Jesus ties a towel around his waist and proceeds to wash the feet of each of the disciples.  They are a bit taken aback to say the least.  Jesus reassures them, they may not understand right now, but someday they will.  Jesus knows that he has to do something to get the disciples to understand that the good leader works along side and just as hard as the followers.  It’s not that the disciples deserve to have their feet washed, they do, but everyone deserves to have their feet washed.  Everyone deserves comfort when they are in need.  Everyone deserves the dignity of hospitality.

Washing feet in those days was a sign of respect and hospitality.  Usually a servant was tasked with the dirty, smelly job, so it’s somewhat surprising that Mary chooses to wash Jesus’ feet.  It’s even more surprising that Jesus chooses to wash the disciples feet.  The guest speaker, the celebrity even – washing the feet of those who were called to serve.

But this is what Jesus did.  He used his whole life to be a message of what God’s love is like and told the people that they were called to continue that message, a message of self-giving love.  A message of mutual relationships.

I want to be explicitly clear about this, because some folks are scared right now.  Some people are scared that if we recognize the rights, and maybe even the humanity of other cultures, races, genders, sexualities, ages, educations, languages, abilities, even experiences that “we will lose it all and we’ll be over-run with _____________________________.”  So I’m asking you, did washing the people’s feet take away Jesus’ credibility?  Did it make him less of a leader?  In washing the people’s feet did he lose their respect? All it did was prove his point.  If we all lead from a place of self-giving love, wouldn’t we be a lot better off?

I’ve flown a fair bit in my adult life.  A few times I’ve been upgraded to business class.  Once even on the right length flight, I received a pillow, my water in a real glass, two snacks, the paper and get this – steamy warm towelettes!  Who would have thought something so small as a warmed, toweltte, just moist enough to wipe the grime of a long day of travel off your face and hands.  It felt wonderful.  It wasn’t much more than a paper towel tablet rehydrated with hot water, but not only was it refreshing, but it probably kept me from accidentally ingesting a few extra plane germs.  I didn’t do anything other be in the right place at the right time, but there were probably 100 other germy and tired people on the same plane who didn’t receive a warm towelette.

A similar rehydratable towellette cost less than a quarter.  But they were only offered in business class.  It most likely saved me a cold, a certainly gave me a sense of respect and dignity.  Why is it that we treat some people with more respect than others?

The very first article in in the declaration of human rights is All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.  This was published in 1948 by the United Nations.  Equal dignity, equal rights.  No person is better than another person.

So when I ask myself, is my humanity tied to the amount of respect I give or the amount of respect I get? The answer is always yes.  They should be equal.  To be acknowledged as human is to be treated with dignity and respect.  To be treated to a day of pampering is nice from time to time but it should be reciprocated.

Good leaders and good followers give just as much respect as they get.  That’s what a mutual relationship.  Unfortunately there are some leaders out there that believe that submission and dictatorship is the correct way to lead. Everyone has had a horrible boss at some point.

I spent a very long two month working at Tim Horton’s after I started at AST.  It was interesting how many times I was called stupid, slow, incompetent or was met with sighs and eye rolls for asking a customer to repeat their order as I worked at a part-time job while also studying for my second degree.   It certainly gave me a new appreciation for fast food workers.  I admit, if I’m in line to order and the person ahead of me is rude, I’m going to be extra nice, and I’ll probably say something along the lines of “Jerks are jerks.  Don’t let that one ruin your shift.”

But back to the lectionary reading, what did Jesus mean by embodying God’s love by washing the feet of others?  What does that say about God’s love?  Well, I’ve talked a little bit about the social issues around washing feet.  It was one of those many “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” messages.  But it’s also an intimate act.  God’s love is a personal thing.

Jesus’ demonstration of an intimate, mutual and self-giving love speaks volumes about my understanding of God, but what do our lives 2000 years later say about God’s love?

To me, the message is clear.  We are called to be respectful and caring in all of our relationships.  To treat everyone with the same respect we would treat a beloved friend, and to accept nothing less in return.  We are called to speak up for those who aren’t being treat with respect and dignity and to recognize and deal with systemic injustice for others as if it were our own.  We are also called to recognize that sometimes people make mistakes and offer the same forgiveness that we would wish to be offered, if we had made had made the mistake.

This is what it is to be part of the kindom of God.  To wash and to be washed.  To Love and to be Loved. To invite and to be invited.  Won’t you join me?

Amen.

Music Ministry To Be Like You

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Since the message today was all about servant leadership. So today, allow my to put my PAR card in first.

Offertory I Thank You, Thank You Jesus MV 188

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing One More Step Along the World I Go VU 639