Lent 4 – March 11, 2018

Rev. Lyle McKenzie      Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

– Once again we hear it clearly said by Jesus, often called the little gospel or the whole gospel/good news in miniature: “For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

– There it is; like the light coming on… God loves the world; believe, look on it, and live.

– God loves, not hates, not indifferent to, not vacillating between;

– Jesus words are, God’s way, God’s attitude, God’s actions God’s commitment, is to love… believe, look on it and live.

– God loves the world… and everything that means

the world – beautiful and broken

the world – wonderful and tragic

the world – life giving and life taking

the world – all creation and every last microscopic part

the world – all humanity and each one of us

– God loves the world… it’s that simple and straightforward; everything else is details; like the light comes on…

believe, look on it, and live.

In the Call Committee as we were searching for information on individual candidates, one member came across a church sign pictured on a church’s website.

It read: “blah, blah, blah… just come to church.”

– These words of Jesus feel like that, are like that…

God loves the world… everything else is blah, blah, blah…

– Come to church, or not, but believe, look on it, and live…

Almost two weeks ago I left for National Church staff and Council meetings in Winnipeg, which also gives me the chance to see my Mom. It was good to see her, and my sister and family.

– Mom is okay, about the same, her memory may be a little more of a struggle, but it depends on the day and the hour…

– and the same for her physical health, and her coping in her mind and her spirit, all with their struggles and joys, often together…

– the most important thing is the chance to see each other, to hug, and talk, and to say and show, “I love you,” over and over…

– we can get caught up in other things, anxieties past or present…

– but then, like the light comes on, it’s clear and simple again: love one another, as God loves the world, believe, look on it and live.

And in the church meetings as well, the same truth is clear

– we have been working on a new strategic plan for the upcoming three years, 2019 – 2022. The four priorities, if approved, are:

courageous innovation, reconciled relationships, one body working together, empowered disciples.

– They are good words and worthy goals, that call us to important work together…

– but contained within in and more than these priorities, what I witnessed, as I have before, as I do here in this congregation, despite being lost in details and anxieties at times, is the simple truth and clear purpose, that God loves the world, and God calls us in everything we say and do, together and individually, to do the same… like the light comes on, love the world, believe, look on it, and live.

I went from Winnipeg to meet up with my spouse in Toronto to see our son, to Niagara Falls where we attended a conference, and back to Toronto for more time with our son..

– It was good to see him, where he’s living – right downtown, to see the University, his work space, meet his supervisor and colleagues… to be there together…

– On Sunday we worshipped at the Church of the Holy Trinity, an Anglican community in the heart of the city in all its contrasts… right beside Eaton Centre, beside evident homelessness…

– on plywood covering the old front entrance of the large stone church, at least a century old, there were words hand painted in the shape of heart about a community of welcome and inclusion and justice and peace seeking and caring for the earth…

– as we entered the quite dark and cavernous space we were warmly welcomed and instructed on what would happen this Sunday, to sit where we liked, and if we had any questions…

– the old long pews were pulled into a circle around a large carpet, a table at one end, a smaller low table in the centre with bowls and candles and baskets…

– a small diverse community gathered, there were more words in the worship folder about welcome and inclusion and information about possible disruptions, but not to worry, people trained in non-violent intervention would take care of whatever arose, not words we have in our bulletin, but good for them, and the reason;

– the space included banners high above in the balcony and on the walls, a number were a rainbow of colours, one with the words, everyday is pride day at Holy Trinity…

– and there were a series of images and words lower down on the wall on white cardboard, by an artist’s hand depicting various concerns, including a feather and the words, we are treaty people

– the Priest, unvested, stood up in the circle and introduced himself, acknowledged the indigenous lands, and gave us further  instructions about the day and their theme of covenant for Lent…

– He introduced the guest speaker for that morning, a Jewish Rabbi whom he’d ask to come speak on covenant from her Jewish perspective… As he spoke, and throughout worship, people came and went behind and around us, no interventions, non-violent or otherwise, were required this Sunday…

– We sang and heard scripture and a poem read…

– And the rabbi stood and spoke of her background as a person born in Ukraine, she spoke of the word covenant, an agreement binding on both parties, and the image of Moses returning with the stone tablets containing the ten commandments, showing the agreement between God and God’s people… but on seeing the people worshipping an idol, breaking the tablets in pieces, as the covenant with God had been broken by the people…

– And she went on to share personal stories of her family and history of trauma and loss during and following the second world war… and of strength and resilience and hope… she gave us the image of our hearts broken, and our hearts being whole at the same time, as is the heart of God, broken and whole in covenant with the world… broken and whole in covenant with one another…

– it was moving and beautiful and good in this community of evident love and brokenness… we sang more, shared the peace of Christ, and joined in the prayers of the people, witnessing people come forward and say their prayers into the microphone and then light a candle… the prayers for everything from the very personal to political and social concerns, pleas and thanksgivings

– after worship a woman came up to introduce herself who looked familiar and whose first words were, “you look familiar”… and then the light came on and I remembered, she is the director of Kairos, the ecumenical justice and peace collective in Canada, and we had met at church conventions, it was good to meet again…

– and then the priest approached and he said, “you look familiar,” and the light came on and I remembered we had worked together on a Catechumenate event in Vancouver a few years ago, most of our meetings over conference calls, it was his voice I most recognized, it was good to see each other again…

– at the invitation of many we stayed for lunch and visited with others, and the light came on how at home we felt among God’s community of covenant love, whole hearted and broken-hearted loving and living people. Believe, look on it and live…

There were and are many more moments of the light of Christ Jesus that came on… me, and I have no doubt on you too, revealing God’s love for the world and all it means to have the grace of God’s Spirit to believe, look on it, and live. Amen.