Pentecost 2 – June 18, 2017

Rev. Lyle McKenzie      Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Gen 8:1-15 21:1-7 Psalm 116:1-2,12-19 Rom 5:1-8 Matt 9:35-10:35

The new colour is green. And will be for more than half the year now. Following Pentecost red and celebrating the work of God’s Spirit in our lives and the world, and Trinity white and the communion of the triune God in communion with this world and us for God’s good purpose, it’s now the green season of the church, God’s people, and growing in the ministry to which we are called together.

And we’ll need to have faith. Because, according to the readings for today, and our own stories, this ministry and calling is as wild and crazy as a baby born to elders and all the laughing that goes with them. Or Jesus telling his first apostles and us that we have exactly what we need, to do exactly what Jesus does for the healing and liberating of scattered people of this world who are like sheep without a Shepherd.

Have faith. Elderly Abraham and Sarah offer hospitality to unexpected strangers, who seem like Godly messengers, promising Sarah will have a baby. She laughs. They/God question her laughter since nothing is impossible with God. And sure enough, nine months later they’re celebrating Abraham’s 100th birthday and their baby’s birth all at once. Look who’s laughing now. So they name their son, Isaac, which means, laughter, because they want everyone in on God’s laughable wonderful promise.

Have faith. I was present at the UVic Convocation last Monday to give the invocation as a Chaplain in Multifaith Services. Along with the degrees in Arts and Law, an honorary degree was presented to Joy Kogawa. Poet and novelist, born in Vancouver in 1935 of Japanese descent, her family were part of the forced internment of Canadians with Japanese heritage during the Second World War. She was instrumental in the Canadian Government’s acknowledgement of this injustice and formal apology to Canadian people affected by this racist policy. Her family home in Vancouver is now a Historic residence for authors and classes, recalling this struggle and encouraging cultural and ethnic diversity in Canada.

Following the granting of her degree, she was given the opportunity to address the convocation. Very small in stature and shy about the attention, she first expressed her gratitude for the honour. And then she took the opportunity to talk about the urgent and ongoing need to encourage greater acceptance of diversity in our country and world and her current project in Japan of working to see acknowledgement in that country of past injustices and apologies toward those affected. I sat amazed with others at this woman elder, standing on her toes behind the lectern, passionate about her current work toward a better, more just and accepting world being born anew.

Have faith. On this first green Sunday the Gospel reading is of Jesus’ ministry of going to cities and villages, teaching and proclaiming the good news of God’s dominion, and curing every disease and sickness, because Jesus has compassion on the people who are like scattered sheep without a shepherd. And in what seems almost like a flash of insight, Jesus says, “the harvest is plentiful,” meaning the need – is it aliments or oppression or both – is so great, “but the labourers are few.” – who will do this with Jesus, with God. So Jesus invites praying to the Lord of the harvest for labourers and names his own followers/apostles, and sends them out to – notice how exactly parallel the words are: “cure every disease and every sickness,” and “proclaim the good news, the dominion of heaven has come near.” to the scattered, harassed and helpless children of Israel. That’s where it begins, but we know, from Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the earth.

Have faith. Jesus’ faith is in his followers doing exactly as he is doing, including “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” The list of names of twelve apostles from various circumstances is not identical between gospels. Is it a sample list? Is it open ended? It expands in Jesus’ time to include many women, and then gentiles, and continues even up to our own time and names. Yes, our names, your names… among those Jesus is calling to proclaim the dominion of God is near and cure every disease and sickness, including cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.

Have faith? How are we doing? How is this ministry of healing and liberation that Jesus is calling us, you and me to do going? I get asked this question quite often. A colleague, in this building for the first time for a meeting about the National Worship Conference here in Victoria next summer, asked for a quick tour. I happily obliged and we walked around and I gave some basic information about dates of the buildings and flexibility of the worship space, and responded to her questions about ministries. She then said, “So, you’re thriving.” I hesitated. “Well, we’re doing okay in a tough market, I think.” We smiled together. She knew what I meant. “Thriving” in this ministry Jesus identifies for his followers of proclaiming the dominion of God coming near and curing every sickness and disease, I am not sure about that, but we are working at it.

Have faith. Maybe if I look back on this past week and the ministries of this community which I witnessed, I can have it, at least a little…

– The Shelbourne Community Kitchen: over 500 members now, participants and volunteers, numerous cooking programs, gardens in two locations and many people growing rows of food, bees and honey, preserves and a pantry of healthier foods and choices… but at a critical time now of needing more stable funding and careful work on a sustainable development plan, but operating costs continue…

– Refugee support: did you see in Crossroads that Ibrahim and Ranim whom we helped sponsor over a year ago have opened a small food business, Saraya Hot Bread, providing food for sale at the Oak Bay Red Barn Market… Diane is waiting for her final travel documents and pray she will be here within weeks… Feruz from Eritrea… and now a Father and son also from Eritrea – Truth and Reconciliation as indigenous and non-indigenous people together, a sermon from 2008 acknowledging Canada’s apology and appointment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, knowing how we need to keep working at this together, building relationships, and struggling with continuing racism in our nation and communities and in ourselves…

– Children’s summer day camp, all the preparations and efforts to invite children of the community and our communities of St. Luke and Church of the Cross to share in a week of activities and worship and snacks and caring and enjoying and fun and faith filled time together in the dominion of God being near…

– people who are sick and recovering, awaiting or following surgery, elders to great grandchildren, frail and strong – often at once, grieving and moving forward, struggling and in pain, in prayers and thoughts and visits, curing every sickness and disease? No, but working at it and healing, in body, mind and spirit, O yes! even raised to new life, and casting off demons…

– and more… learning opportunities for the fall, encouraging and inspiring our proclamation in words and acts of love that the dominion of God is at hand… ecumenical partnerships and Lutheran cooperation toward greater unity and effectiveness in ministry together… addressing affordable housing with Luther Court… newcomers and involving and including everyone in ministry as they are able… Student ministry and what looks like a full house again in September… our youth together playing laser tag last night… and perk-me-up with elders on Tuesdays…

These are examples, none is perfect, there is more to do, it is never about boasting, but working at it, and faith.

Have faith, because it seems clear, God has faith, Jesus has faith in us and this world. These are St. Paul’s words, that any faith we have is God’s, is Jesus’ faith in us and others, and this world for its good. Brain McLaren, author and passionate advocate for social justice, spoke at the Festival of Homiletics about the words of Jesus that we hear today as Jesus’ intentional organization of a social movement to counter the forces of violence and oppression, of injustice and power, with a non-violent spirit and ways of love and life that are God’s. Among a list of critical steps that include, “migrate your heart, find two or three others to share the vision, decide what’s doable this week, organize and delegate, identify and meet with allies, and go public,” he said, “work relentlessly toward alignment (with Jesus) in every sermon, song, prayer, benediction…” and word and act of love and healing, sharing the good news of God’s dominion being so close. That sounds like having faith, like God has in you, in me, in others and all of us together, for the good of this world. You have it. We have it. Thanks to God in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit ever near. Amen.