Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Words of Welcome
“We begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. This territory is covered by the peace and friendship treaties which Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples first signed with the British crown in 1725. These treatiesdid not deal with surrender of lands or resources, but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq title and established rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.” May we honour the friendship, support and spirit of peace which was offered to our settler ancestors.
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl
Hymn God of the Sparrow VU 229
Call to Worship One: Sometimes we come to worship feeling joy. All: Sometimes we come to worship feeling angry. One: Worship is a place to come whatever your feelings might be. All: Come and give or come and receive the gifts of the Spirit. One: Come and worship. All: Come and worship.
Opening Prayer Spirit that soothes and rages, be with us and all of our feelings. May the Spirit’s presence in this hour uplift those who need to be uplifted, calm those who need to be calmed, and reassure those who need to be reassured. May it be so.
Hymn Love Us into Fullness MV 81
Theme Conversation Big Feelings
Hymn Jesus, Friend of Little Children VU 340
Readings John 2:13-25
Musical Response I Know Your Word MV 108
Sermon Be Grace-Filled When You Can’t Be Graceful
Remember back before Advent, the lectionary readings were all about the Hebrew people being held captive and building the Temple? Well, this is the Temple in the lectionary today. It was THE Temple. It was this big, magnificent building to show that the King’s devotion to God. People came from all over the land in the time before Passover to worship there…similar, I suspect, to the way many folks in Canada are currently travelling to see the arm of St. Francis Xavier. It was the opportunity to connect to the sacred past.
So Jesus and his followers have made this journey, and when they get there, people are selling doves in the area of the temple meant for everyone. You might wonder why this is such a big deal. I know at first I did, but when it was pointed out that doves were offered as sacrifices, I felt a little outraged too. This would be similar our council setting up in the lobby and selling the envelopes needed for offering or selling hymn books or the prayers of confession needed to participate in worship and you could only use the ones purchased in the lobby. Don’t bother trying to slip a plain envelope with your name on it in or you can’t sing in worship unless you’ve purchased the book they are selling in the lobby. On top of that they only accept certain coins, let’s say pennies, so you had to visit the money changer first before you can buy your expensive doves. The money changer, of course keeps a percentage of the money you exchange.
Not much wonder Jesus was angry. One of the things he preached frequently about was every person’s relationship with God not needing sacrifices. He preached about all people being able to approach God, regardless of their financial position. He preached about systemic corruption in the church and about priests being no closer to God than anyone else. So obviously even though he thought everyone had heard his message, they didn’t fully “get it”. And then Jesus lost his cool. He ended up doing something he sort of preached against. Jesus flipped the tables, he dumped the coins, he tore the place up with a whip. The man who preached passive resistance and non-violence got violently angry.
To me this isn’t a story about the “rules” of the temple or sacrifices. It’s a story about not being perfect and being ok with that. It’s about being grace-filled when you can’t be graceful. I noticed when I was searching for images of “flipping tables”, that there was a question about an Israeli idiom on a language website. The person looking for the translation explained that in Israel, to “flip a table” is to do something vulgar out of desperation. Reminds me of something one might do in a moment of traffic-induced desperation. Flipping tables during the time of Jesus or now certainly isn’t something to be considered graceful.
Because this particular incident is written about in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each in a different place in the story of Jesus’s life, it’s quite possible that the biggest part of Jesus’s teachings happened after this moment. In other words, even though Jesus totally lost it in front of a crowd of people, he still got up and taught again, something that would have required some grace with himself.
Have you ever acted out in desperation? Have you ever felt so misunderstood no matter what you said or how you said it? It’s usually at this point that I begin to cry. When I’ve said all I can say, when I’ve done all I can do, and the message I’m trying to communicate still isn’t understood, the tears come weather I want them to or not. Sometimes it works in my favor, but most of the time it just makes me feel worse.
I came across this fable told on a youtube video by a young woman. I can’t quite figure out where it comes from, but it illustrates my feelings quite well.
Once there was a carver who made a mistake. We don’t know if it was a big mistake or a small mistake, but it doesn’t matter, the story is still the same. The Carver felt so badly about the mistake, that the Carver made a little stone carving to remember what had happened. The Carver always carried it. But the carver had a lot of regret and the regret had a strange effect on the stone carving. The longer the Carver carried it, the bigger and heavier the carving grew. Soon the carver could no longer carry the stone in a pocket, so the Carver put the stone carving in a satchel. Soon after, the Carver stopped at an inn for a hot meal. When it was time to pay, the Carver reached into the satchel, but the stone carving had grown so large, that the Carver had to remove it to get to the money. The Inn Keeper looked at the stone with curiosity “What is that?” asked the Inn Keeper. “It is a symbol of a mistake I made” said the Carver, “I carry it with me to remember what I have done.”
“It seems like a very heavy burden,” said the Inn Keeper, “you may leave it here when you go, if you wish.”
“No, I can’t do that,” said the Carver “don’t you understand? I can never forgive myself for my mistake. If I leave my stone behind, I might forget what I have done.” So the Carver left, carrying the stone under an arm, as it was too big to fit in the satchel anymore.
After a couple of days, the stone carving was so large it needed to be carried with both arms. The Carver passed by a young person standing at a well. “Hello,” the young person called, “You look weary. Would you like a drink?” “Thank you,” said the Carver, “but I cannot lay down my stone, so I have no hands to drink with.” The young person replied, “But it looks like such a heavy stone, you can’t put it down even for a drink?” The Carver sighed. “I can’t put it down for anything. It’s a symbol of a mistake I made. I carry it to remember. If I put it down, it means I don’t regret it.”
So the Carver carried on, focused only on carrying the stone and regret. Eventually the stone grew so heavy with regret that the Carver, stooped over with the stone on their back that they shuffled along. Eventually the stone became so heavy with regret, that the Carver couldn’t move another step and was crushed beneath the stone.
Action (Put rock on the communion table)
I imagine a few of you are carrying some sort of stone. Even if you aren’t, I’m sure you remember what it felt like to carry around the burden of a mistake until you learned how to put it down, respectfully, or perhaps you know someone who desperately needs to let that burden go. Don’t let regret for something crush you. Jesus didn’t.
Do what you need to do to let it respectfully go. God is in that letting go process. That’s what grace is – the process of letting go. I invite you to join Laura Beth and I in a community art project to start your letting go process after worship. Together, we’ll grow as we release what we need to release…burden, shame, or prayer for those who need to let it go. In that letting go process, we’ll create something beautiful, an image of God’s grace, so that we can go on to offer grace to others. Amen.
Music Minstry Thank You For Your Grace
Minute for Mission
Thank you for your generosity. Today we are going to embark on an interesting combination of art, prayer and music together. We hope that this can be turned into something shareable that will reach many people, maybe even those outside of St. Luke’s! Your generosity makes this possible.
Offertory What Can I Do? MV 191
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.
Prayer Music Lord, Listen to Children Praying VU 400
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 Spirit Open My Heart MV 79
Commissioning & Benediction
Musical Blessing May The Love Of Our God MV 218