Pentecost 4 – July 2, 2017

Rev. Lyle McKenzie       Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Genesis 22:1-14 Psalm 13 Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42

– How many of you took in Canada Day events yesterday? Live or on television/radio/over the internet … How was it?

(Started with an annual Canada Day eve neighbourhood party… morning speeches from Ottawa… Prime Minister, Prince Charles, Governor General… some music on the main stage at the Legislature… and fireworks from in front of the Delta Hotel, so you can feel them in your chest and smell the gunpowder!)

Canada, 150 years since this confederation… much to celebrate and give thanks for in this nation… What do you give thanks for?

(Freedoms, natural beauty, diversity, security and stability, a level of prosperity for many, but not all… compassion, inclusion, evident in all the people gathered…)

– a few observations… the public narrative has changed… it was not just a celebration… recognition of significant failings/sins… especially in the relations as indigenous and non-indigenous people, as first peoples and colonizers… 150 is just a number… a history and people long before… and continuing struggles over land, inequality, racism, power, self determination…  The public narrative is changing… greater truth telling and work towards reconciliation…

– the recognition that Canada has not been, is not kind, fair to all

(The drive along Pandora to get downtown… the problem of homelessness, and issues of mental and physical illness and addictions (for some)… worsening…)

– that we need to do better was a word I heard more than once, more just, equitable, caring, compassionate…

(as we were walking to meet friends at the statue of Emily Carr, a man on the median, thin legs in shoes that were too large, dirty and tattered clothes, long beard and hair, weathered skin, saran wrap over his hands.. a woman holding his hands, looking him in the eyes, listening attentively, caring… )

Canada can be and do better for those who struggle…

And I wonder how many times we heard the word welcome… Canada is a welcoming nation… open arms of welcome to all… we know this is not always true… past and present… but this is part of a changing narrative as well… to be more welcoming, accepting, celebrating diversity… many stories and examples, and a goal we strive for together…that all are truly welcome…

Welcome, compassion, truth and reconciliation, laudable values of a nation, commemorating more than celebrating, 150 years of the most recent form of a confederation of people on this land… worthy of our continued work and even sacrifice together…

In the gospel reading today, welcome is the prominent word and image… Following Jesus’ sermon on the mountain, and instructing his disciples/followers on how and for what they are being sent, including very harsh words that we heard the last two Sundays about divisions and conflicts, including between families, over the words and ways of Jesus… Jesus concludes by making being welcomed or not, the essence… what leads to “reward” or the good God intends, or not… a welcome – just giving a cup of cool water… is Jesus’ measure of God’s desire.

The story of Abraham almost sacrificing his son as some kind of test, may be what one person I read this week called, “the worst story of the Bible,”  I’m not sure, there are others equally worse. What we do with this story is troublesome… maybe it is a testament that the sacrifice of children that may have been practiced in other cultures of the time, was not what the God of Israel desired… or this horrific story catches us in some of what I spoke of last Sunday, that we in our time and world, will by omission or commission, easily sacrifice children to lesser gods of war, the economy, lower taxes, individuality/responsibility, ambition, fear… even as God is shouting, “Don’t do it…”

Welcome, compassion, truth and reconciliation… the ways of Jesus and his followers, the ways of God for us and all God’s people, in God’s Spirit our work and sacrifice together…

Holy Baptism is a sacrament of welcome, compassion, truth and reconciliation in God’s grace… This is God’s gift to the young baptized today and every day after to life everlasting…

– God’s forever embrace of welcome in water and words…

– God’s love and care of them as God’s treasured little one…

– and the truth of brokenness in this world and humanity, around us and within us, unto death, but God’s gracious reconciliation in Jesus’ life and death struggle against sin and death, in the risen life, new life in Jesus, for this child, for all, forever…

God’s welcome, God’s loving compassion, God’s truth and gracious reconciliation in Jesus, in Holy Baptism and every day after, in God’s Holy Spirit, our work and sacrifice together…

Paul’s words to the community in Rome are difficult to hear and understand, with references to a culture of slavery and the body and its “members” as instruments of sin or righteousness…

But Paul’s expression of God’s desire for the people of Rome and all of us maybe more clear… that in the free gift of God’s grace, we can, we are able to give our whole selves, our lives for God’s righteous purpose/mission in the ways of eternal life, life in welcoming, and showing loving compassion, and in truth and reconciliation, life in Jesus, now and forever.

Holy Communion is a sacrament of welcome, compassion, truth and reconciliation in God’s grace. This is God’s gift to all of us today and every time we gather in word and sacrament, to life everlasting…

– in Jesus’ welcome to all to come and eat and drink…

– in God’s compassion that all eat and drink and have enough…

– in the truth of our brokenness, and the Spirit of God’s reconciliation, God’s communion, with us and all creation…

And maybe the measure of our calling, of our lives lived out of the water and bread and wine and word of God’s grace is, as Jesus said, the desire, the willingness, even the sacrifice – small and great, of offering a cup of cool water to anyone, to a world thirsting for it… Amen.